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Home - Interpeace : Interpeace

Resilience and peacebuilding in Guatemala

March 18, 2015
Est. Reading: 2 minutes
Photo credit: Interpeace

Interpeace's past 20 years of peacebuilding efforts have shown that, in order to transform conflict, it is necessary not only to identify its causes and triggers, but also to strengthen existing capacities to address conflict in societies. Identifying these sources of resilience, which are specific and unique to each society, is thus the first essential step in Interpeace's Frameworks for Assessing Resilience (FAR) project. From this, we can then explore how to strengthen sources of resilience, and how these can help build peace.

FAR is based on a participatory methodology which enables people to voice their opinion about how they deal with conflict. This approach is grounded in Interpeace's core values of inclusivity and local ownership as keys to sustainable peace. FAR is currently being piloted in Timor-Leste, Liberia and Guatemala.

The project in Guatemala

Experience has shown that every conflict has a peaceful solution, and that each society holds the keys to its own peace. Guatemala was chosen as a pilot country for the FAR project because it contributes a unique perspective. Guatemalan society still suffers from high criminality, distrust in public institutions and social conflicts over natural resources, despite a peace agreement in place for over two decades. This has given rise to considerable challenges in preserving life, family, property and institutions. "Resilience is the capacity to turn adversity into an opportunity," explains Ivanova Maria Ancheta Alvarado, Guatemalan Vice-Minister of Energy and Mines.

The aim of the project in Guatemala is to identify existing capacities of resilience. Following an extensive consultation phase in 11 of the 22 departments of country, the FAR project delivered the first findings on how Guatemalan society deals with conflict. During this stage, the FAR team traveled across the country and interviewed people from diverse backgrounds. "We were keen to record the diverse voices existing in society, in particular women, indigenous people, youth, the private sector, political parties and resistance organizations, as these groups are key actors in Guatemala" shares Mariel Aguilar, FAR Coordinator in Guatemala.

The preliminary results from FAR underlined three main sources of conflict against which Guatemalans are resilient: security and violence, socio-environmental conflicts and the fragility of public institutions.

Conflict is natural in society and can lead to positive change, but in order for it to do so, it must be non-violent. With this in mind, Interpeace seeks to develop innovative ways to manage conflict non-violently. FAR highlighted three ways how resilient societies deal with challenges:
• Absorption (groups absorb a given problem into their own group dynamics)
• Adaptation (groups adapt to a particular problem and learn to coexist with it)
• Transformation (groups resolve the issue so that it no longer poses a problem)

Next steps

With the consultation phase completed, the project will now proceed to the next stage. This phase involves the establishment of a National Group, and of thematic working groups. The National Group is responsible for conducting the FAR process, and is composed of leading representatives of the state, civil society, the private sector, and local experts in each of the themes from the preliminary results. Both the National Group and the two working groups involve national actors to ensure the ownership and legitimacy of the FAR process. This establishes the basis for relevant and viable actions for social change and sustainable peace.