Guatemala: UN official says benefits of peace must reach entire population
Addressing members of the international community concerned with the situation in Guatemala, a senior United Nations official has emphasized that the fruits of the country’s peace accords must reach all of its people.
“The holding this new Consultative Group for Guatemala more than five years after the signing of the Peace Agreements provides the opportunity to encourage the signatories, especially the Government, to finally turn into reality the benefits which appropriate implementation of the Peace Agreements should mean for the entire Guatemalan population,” Gerd Merrem, the Head of the UN Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA), told participants in Washington, D.C. on Monday.
The Consultative Group, organized by the Inter-American Bank, brought together interested donor States, the Guatemalan Government, the UN system as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Its two-day meeting was also attended by Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo.
Mr. Merrem pointed to ongoing gaps in access to education, justice and health, especially between the indigenous and non-indigenous populations and between the urban and rural populations. “Faced with this challenge, the Government must ensure that its policies are comprehensive and sustainable and make sufficient resources available to combat these inequalities,” he said.
The MINUGUA chief hailed Guatemala’s Agreement on the Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples, “Unfortunately,” he added, “little progress has been made and there is still a vast gap in participation and in enjoyment of the full range of human rights. It is necessary to strengthen and institutionalize the participation of the indigenous population in decision-making, including positions of responsibility in the Government.”
Mr. Merrem also pointed to deteriorating human rights conditions. “The climate of threats and intimidation, the actions of illegal groups and clandestine security structures, the persistence of lynching and the lack of security on the streets exist in a context of systematic impunity that traverses society and continues to seriously affect the population,” he said.
While lauding the signing of the Peace Agreements, he cautioned that “their
implementation and sustainability are challenges which the Guatemalans should continue to confront with determination.”