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The legal reform of Guatemala that limits the work of NGOs

Tuesday, 19 February 2019
Rosa M Tristan


Reform called Decree 5257 puts at grave risk work that Alliance solidarity carried out in Guatemala. A country where 83% of the population is in a situation of extreme poverty, according to UN data. This reform, approved in the Congress of Deputies, primarily hinder the activities of human rights NGOs at a time in which the Guatemalan Government is being questioned, accused of corruption, and that many leaders and human rights defenders leaders are persecuted, harassed, criminalized and even killed.

This Decree 5257, already included in the agenda of parliamentary work, is supported by the conservative majority. For this reason, Suns organizations have sent a letter to all parliamentarians of Guatemala where asked to withdraw this reform forever. The UN, through the rapporteur Michel Forst, has expressed concern about the negative impacts that will be for the NGOs.

Reform will require NGOs to register for a series of types, which do not include the existence of organizations of defending human rights. Also forced to confine his work exclusively to putting in their statutes and in a particular territorial area, aside from the unpredictable events that may occur, with the risk of being suspended if they violate these limits.

In addition the possible cancellation of the NGOs will be established if their activities are "contrary to the law and public order". In other words, a mere failure to comply with administrative registration obligations could be cause of its closure. On the other hand, as regards the "order public", in Guatemala is defined in a law of 1970 the qualification as violations of that order the defence of human rights. With this new reform, not is clear or which authority will decide on the dissolution of NGOs or under what conditions, giving go-ahead to arbitrariness.

Another controversial point is the one that is It challenges economically to all members of an NGO in the case of institutional problems, forgetting that many of the people who work in them are voluntary and do not receive any salary.

The situation that arises complicates maintenance agreements with international cooperation, largely Spanish, given that NGOs such as Action Aid and Alliance work with national organizations that could be closed due to intrinsic to your human rights advocacy work. All this in a context where the current Government, headed by Jimmy Morales, fails to run their annual budgets, so it is precisely this international co-operation which replaces the State offering services to the population.

For partnership and Action Aid, this legislative initiative not only violate universal principles of Association, but will limit the freedom of expression and leave social organizations subject to official ministries, with a character fundamentally null and welfare capacity in reaction to events affecting rights of the Guatemalan people.

Therefore, Action Aid and Alliance for solidarity, as organisations working for decades in Guatemala, both in the improvement of the conditions of its population and promoting sustainable development, as in the defense of human rights:

  • We alert cutout of freedoms that this legal reform for our work and that of our organizations may be local partner and the serious impacts that will take in its population.
  • We denounce this initiative violates rights inalienable and recognized both in the country's Constitution and article 16 of the American Convention on human rights and article 22 of the International Covenant on civil rights and political, in relation to the freedom of Association.
  • We call for the international community and, especially, to the Spanish Government that put pressure on the Government of Guatemala to make both national and international NGOs working in the country to further develop its work in defence of human rights Regardless, without limitation and without limits.

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