Civil Peace Service: Dealing with the Past and Promotion of Human Rights

Project description

Title: Civil Peace Service: Dealing with the Past and Promotion of Human Rights
Commissioning party: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Guatemala
Lead executing agency: Civil society organisations and state institutions
Overall term: Since 1999; currently: 2013 to 2016

Guatemala. An artistic interpretation of the trauma of war, created as part of a psychosocial support process (partner organisation: ECAP) © GIZ


Even after the signing of the peace accords to end the civil war in 1996, violence, poverty and extreme inequality with regard to the distribution of resources are still prevalent in Guatemalan society. Ethnic and cultural discrimination go hand in hand with the social, political and economic marginalisation of the majority indigenous population. Political structures leave little scope for active civic engagement and genuine co-determination.

State institutions are weak and unable to safeguard the basic needs and rights of citizens to a sufficient extent. Serious shortcomings with regard to public security and crime lead to low conviction rates (30 per cent). Violence influences the structure of social relationships and undermines social cohesion. The state has little scope to peacefully resolve emerging conflicts.

Violations of human rights, both past and present, are rarely pursued. Defenders of human rights are increasingly finding themselves threatened in their work.


State and non-state institutions in Guatemala are increasingly able to safeguard human rights. Violations of human rights, both past and present, are addressed. Dialogue processes to promote the establishment of non-violent individual and social relationships are initiated with the involvement of the majority indigenous population.

Guatemala. A workshop on the prevention of violence with representatives of state institutions and civil society (Fundación Propaz) © GIZ


The programme deploys peace experts to advise Guatemalan institutions and supports their work through relatively small financial contributions. The work of GIZ’s Civil Peace Service (CPS) focuses on two areas.

  1. The programme advises state and non-state actors committed to protecting, respecting and safeguarding human rights and addressing violations of these rights, both past and present.
    Among other things, psychosocial support is provided for victims of serious human rights violations. The capacities of relevant actors are strengthened with a view to improving the registration and documentation of human rights violations as well as the archiving, qualitative processing and use of related data within the context of legal regulations.
  2. The programme promotes projects which address the effects of the culture of violence on individuals and social relationships, reduce fear, build trust and act as a catalyst for social dialogue and reconciliation processes.
    This work includes the promotion of dialogue processes among various actors addressing the culture of violence, its effects and possible intervention strategies. These offer a secure environment in which participants can reflect on the establishment of non-violent social relationships, and serve as a testing ground for innovative measures aimed at preventing violence.
    Dialogue processes on experiences of violence during the civil war are also initiated. These encourage the development of new perspectives on historical processes and enhance the potential for social reconciliation. Members of indigenous communities are offered assistance in initiating social processes that will help them to work through past experiences of violence and to (re)discover traditional values and forms of interaction. New forms of community organisation which focus on peaceful co-existence and non-violent conflict transformation are also encouraged.

The deployment of peace experts in and through partner organisations provides proximity to programme partners and direct access to target groups. Thanks to the process-oriented approach, projects can be supported on a longer-term basis.

The programme’s partner organisations include Fundación Propaz, the Guatemalan State Ombudsman’s Office (PDH), the Historical Archive of the National Police (AHPN), the Human Rights Office of the Archbishopric of Guatemala (ODHAG), the non-governmental organisations Centro de Análisis Forense y Ciencias Aplicadas (CAFCA) and Equipo de Estudios Comunitarios y Acción Psicosocial (ECAP), and Ajkemab’ Rech K’aslemal.

The activities of the CPS programme are closely coordinated with other GIZ projects.

Results achieved so far

Guatemala. Burying victims of the civil war following an exhumation (partner organisation: CAFCA)

An example from the field
The programme has supported the partner organisation ECAP since 2008. The Breaking the Silence project supports women who suffered serious human rights violations during the civil war. The psychosocial support provided encompasses the processing of traumatic experiences, networking of victims, support for restitution processes, provision of information on women’s rights, awareness raising processes within a social context, working with future generations and liaising with relevant local institutions. The programme was awarded third place in the 2012 GIZ-wide Gender Competition.