The first steps towards the development of participatory democracy in Guatemala were taken long after the country's first transition to democracy. It was until the Constituent Assembly of 1945, which followed the Revolution of 1944, that efforts to include citizens in policymaking processes were implemented; giving rise, in turn, to the so-called "golden age," which ended ten years later with the overthrow of Jacobo Árbenz.

Thereafter, the notion of participatory democracy was replaced once more by a number of laws that restricted the inclusion of specific civil society groups. Despite the impact of the struggles of March and April 1962, in which progressive and student movements rose against the military regime, the democratic façade was legitimized by the Constitution of 1965. Its legacy represents one of the most significant obstacles to the processes of democratization and participatory development in the Central American country.

It was not until 1985 that the principle of subsidiarity started to be implemented once more. Alongside the process of democratization, the Development Council System was introduced, and a decentralization policy was implemented (Governmental Agreement No. 15-86). This process gave political and economic autonomy to the municipalities and is, to date, one of the cornerstones of various democratic innovations in the country. Since the institutionalization of participation, democratic innovations have increasingly emerged, focusing mainly on the rights of minorities, the protection of the environment, and, recently, on strengthening the Rule of Law.

A decade later, the 1996 Peace Accords, which ended the Civil War and the Ixil Genocide, delimited the legal framework of many participatory innovations that then became state policies. However, they did not frame a new constitutional regime nor consolidated the participation of minority groups - which was reflected, for example, in the high level of abstention during the constitutional referendum of 1999 (81.45%). This participatory process was strongly supported by the international community - especially UNDP and GIZ.

It is also worth mentioning the events surrounding the #15A (August 15, 2015), which are crucial to understanding contemporary democratic innovations in Guatemala. After the resignation of the former President Otto Pérez Molina, and even though the political changes expected from the so-called "Guatemalan Spring" have not indeed occurred, the discontent of the civil society gave rise to numerous initiatives of participation and innovation.

The support of International Organizations to participatory processes in Guatemala is evident, especially after the Peace Agreements. Perhaps the most explicit examples are the creation of the Intersectoral Boards in Washington during the Peace Accords and the establishment of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

The participatory spaces that have been created throughout the post-war years denote an active involvement of the civil society and especially of indigenous communities in the country. The vertiginous increase of participation of the Maya, Xinca, and Garífuna peoples initiates and becomes imminent after the Constitutional Referendum of 1999. Since then, numerous initiatives of citizen participation have proposed the inclusion of an indigenous agenda in government plans. Furthermore, the organized citizenry has denounced in multiple occasions the violation of ILO Convention 169, defending the right to prior consultation through the "Consultations of Good Faith," and promoted legal pluralism during the National Dialogue for the Reform of Justice in Guatemala.

In the environmental field, one of the most successful democratic innovations has been the "Forestry Communities," created in the framework of the community forestry concessions made by the Government. Community management promotes ecological sustainability and socio-economic development in the Maya Biosphere Reserve. In recent years, there has also been an increase in the number of e-participation initiatives, in particular through the concertation and promotion of Open Government and the Internet Bill of Rights.

Citizen Representation 82%
Deliberation 65%
Direct Voting 4%
E-Participation 31%



This graph indicates the percentage of each means of innovation adopted by all cases in the country. Each case draws on one (primary) or two (secondary) means of innovation; this graph reflects both. See our concepts page for a description of all four means of innovation.

Political Inclusion
Rule of Law
Social Equality



This graph indicates the percentage of each end of innovation adopted by all cases in the country. Each case draws on one or more ends of innovation (up to five); this graph reflects all of them. See our concepts page for a description of all five ends of innovation.

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Pogrebinschi, Thamy. (2017). LATINNO Dataset. Berlin: WZB.

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