The Role of Civil Society in Peace Processes – A Case Study of Guatemala: Ethical Reflections


Executive Summary

Brief Points

  • Civil society organizations in Guatemala participated in the peace process between the government and the URNG with their inputs through the Assembly of Civil Society (Asamblea de la Sociedad Civil [ASC]).

  • The ASC’s work had an important impact on several issues on the negotiation agenda, but less so on the most controversial ones, such as the establishment of a Truth Commission.

  • The Guatemalan case is an important illustration of the challenge in having to prioritize between different norms in a peace process – and in this case, ending violence came before important implications of inclusivity on other issues on the negotiation agenda.

  • The international community could focus more on the implementation of peace agreements and follow up on the norm of inclusivity by supporting the role of civil society in the implementation process.

The Guatemalan peace process from 1990 to 1996 represents an early example of the inclusion of civil society in a negotiation process. However, once included, what role could civil society play – and in this case what role was it allowed to play? Clearly, civil society had an influence on the negotiations between the government and the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG), but on some sensitive and critical issues civil society was prevented from exerting pressure on the parties. This case brief looks at the ethical implications of this situation.