LL#1 – The 1996 Guatemala Peace Accords

Dear reader.

Good to have you back for our first Lesson Learned. This time, we are looking at the milestones of the 1996 Guatemala Peace Accords.

The negotiations for the Peace Accords were remarkable in the sense that the negotiating parties agreed on a complex agenda which also included the sincere and honest undertaking to address the underlying root causes of the conflict. The agenda entailed a range of themes and topics, from security sector reform, agrarian reform and the role of indigenous people and their cultural identity in a democratic society. Through a first agreement (Agreement on the Procedure for the Search of Peace with Political Means, Mexico, April 26 1991), parties decided on the content of the agenda. substantive issues first (democracy; human rights; refugees; truth commission; indigenous rights; economic, social and agrarian situation; role of the army; strengthening of civil authorities and institutions; constitutional reforms) and procedural issues afterwards (cease fire, demobilization of the insurgents and their rejoining of legal life). They also agreed in the nature of functions to be fulfilled by the mediator (called “conciliator”) Monsignor Rodolfo Quezada Toruño and those of the UN observer. While the parties agreed on defining the terms of democracy and the role of the rule of law (Agreement of Queretaro, Mexico, July 25 1991), the negotiating parties fell into a 2-year negotiation deadlock, mainly due to internal governance issues, the clinging on to power by spoilers from the military and further human rights abuses which posed a predicament to all parties involved. In 1994, parties resumed talks with the UN as the moderator of the talks and with the previous conciliator, Monsignor Quezada as the Go-To person to interact between the negotiation parties and Civil Society through the ASC (Framework Agreement to Resume the Negotiations between the Government of Guatemala and UNRG, Mexico, January 10 1994). Another innovation of the Framework Agreement is the decision to call upon the governments of Colombia, Spain, the United States, Mexico, Norway and Venezuela in order to constitute a “group of friends” of the Guatemalan peace process with the aim to give the necessary support to the UN moderator in view to speed up the process and to give it “security and firmness,” acting -at request of the parties- as “witnesses of honour” at the signature of the agreements, which -by the way -they did only at the signature of the final peace agreement held in Guatemala City last 29 of December, 1996. Following the Calendar Agreement (March 1994), parties engaged in comprehensive talks to tackle the first set of identified, substantive issues. The negotiation of this accord took more than two years and it provoked -along with the attempt of a coup d’ état by former president Jorge Serrano in May 1993- the paralyzation of the negotiations for almost six months in 1993. It also calls for the UN verification of the provisions and clauses of the Agreement, that allowed the installment since November 1994 of the UN mission for Guatemala, called MINUGUA. Following a range of other substantive and procedural accords, the final Peace Accord was signed in Guatemala City in December 1996 (Accord for a Firm and Lasting Peace, Guatemala City, December 29 1996). The Central American case of Guatemala clearly demonstrates that UN intervention in internal armed conflicts both as mediator and as monitor of the peace accords in order to verify the fulfillment of the agreements is a fundamental role of the UN that, as we have already mentioned, must be enhanced and promoted in the future. In other words, peace making – peace through negotiation and mediation- and peace building –peace through development and democratization- must be emphasized in internal armed conflict resolution.

The case also emphasizes the need to properly understand and map out the conflict dynamics and structures taking place at the state level in order to allow for the state to rethink its role as a guarantor of security and the enabler of a conducive peace building environment. Furthermore, the innovative regional cooperation and the range of agreements brought about an effective conflict prevention mechanism, ensure the protection and rights of the indigenous minorities and populations. Finally, special attention must be given to power-sharing arrangements if the analysis of the conflict reveals that at the core of the conflict it has been the contested space and power of the state in the first place. Without addressing these issues at the state level, institution-building will rather be ineffective in the sense that actual peace dividends and benefits are not felt.

Thank you for checking in today!

Author: nakawashi9

International mediator, professor, corporate trainer!

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