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Guatemala: The Call for a Stronger, Representative Legislature

Monumental moments in a nation’s history are rare but when they do occur, they are difficult to miss. As tens of thousands of Guatemalans peacefully demonstrated their desire for change and action during the 2015 national elections, their government and perspective candidates did not miss this historical moment.  They heard the voices of their citizens and in return promised to deliver a more participatory and inclusive democracy.

 As a result, Guatemala has undergone a rapid democratic evolution as it has put into place legislative reforms that open the government to its citizens, became an active voice in the Alliance for Prosperity across the Northern Triangle and taken substantial efforts, in cooperation with the international community, to implement remarkable transparency and anti-corruption reforms.  The question remains, will these reforms continue and result in a stronger, more effective democracy that adheres to the will of the people?

In response to that question and to determine the sustainability of such change, IRI, on behalf of the House Democracy Partnership (HDP) and in collaboration with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) led an assessment to Guatemala in late October 2016.  IRI and HDP consistently work to foster relationships with 19 partner legislatures worldwide to ensure that democracy continues and flourishes.  Trough legislative exchanges with members of parliament and staff, and through technical assistance consultancies in our partner countries, IRI and HDP provide a unique platform for the sharing of best practices partner countries.  The purpose of the assessment was to determine if such a partnership between the U.S. House of Representatives and Guatemala would support the long term democratic development and focus on legislative strengthening occurring in the Congress of Guatemala. 

The assessment was comprehensive, as a team of delegates sought answers to questions pertaining to transparency, corruption, representation and the role of citizens in the government.  The delegates met and interacted with civil society, the international community, the executive branch and the legislature.  It became clear that there were significant opportunities as well as challenges in implementing a relationship between HDP and the Congress of Guatemala.  Yet there was a resounding notion that presented itself during the assessment: yes, this in fact a historical moment for Guatemala and the current and rapid evolution towards a more inclusive democracy presents a unique opportunity for programs like HDP to play a significant and beneficial role in strengthening the legislature. 

As a result of the assessment, IRI will partner with NDI, to conduct an extensive HDP technical consultancy with the Congress of Guatemala in early May.  Experts and staff from the U.S. House of Representatives will work with their counterparts in Guatemala City to discuss a variety of topics and practices that are vital to the support and sustainability of a truly representative legislature.  Best practices will be shared and ideas exchanged with the hope that this truly is a moment in the history of Guatemala that will result in a democracy that has answered citizens’ calls for change and action.