The International Foundation for Electoral Systems’ (IFES) first project in Guatemala began in 2010, providing technical assistance for the implementation of a more effective and transparent results tabulation system by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (Tribunal Supremo Electoral, TSE), the country’s main election management body. In 2014, IFES returned to the country for a more specific project dedicated to preventing electoral violence and ensuring the political and civil rights of the Guatemalan LGBT community. The joint effort of IFES and the TSE in those projects guaranteed their enormous success.
In 2016, the Guatemalan Congress passed legislation aimed at reducing corruption, improving electoral management, and democratizing political parties. The TSE is devoted to achieving these goals by increasing accountability, enhancing the transparency and inclusivity of Guatemala’s electoral system, and expanding its own capacity to regulate political financing. The country has made unprecedented progress in strengthening its democracy, but much more work is yet to be done.
Electoral Governance and Reforms Project
In 2017, in partnership with the Consortium for Electoral Processes and Political Strengthening, IFES started the implementation of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Electoral Governance and Reforms Project. This three-year program aims at improving governance in Guatemala’s key electoral institutions and increasing civic participation. Capitalizing on its long-term partnership with the TSE, IFES is now committed to supporting the implementation of the recent reforms to the Law on Elections and Political Parties (Ley Electoral y de Partidos Politicos), approved in 2016.
IFES is working with the TSE to establish a Control, Oversight and Accountability Unit and a Media Monitoring Unit within the electoral management body to allow for more transparent and accountable electoral processes. These units will capitalize on the relevant expertise and existing relationship with Mexico’s National Electoral Institute to facilitate information and peer-to-peer exchanges.
The IFES team in Guatemala is also prepared to support the country’s democratic institutions during new political developments. In April of 2018, IFES provided technical assistance to the TSE during the preparation for a national referendum regarding a long-standing territorial dispute with Belize. IFES supported the TSE with drafting and revising the TSE’s Manual for Domestic and International Observers and the Manual for the TSE Departmental and Municipal Delegates. IFES also conducted workshops to promote the participation of people with disabilities in the referendum and produced public service announcements to support the TSE´s educational campaign targeting youth.
Furthermore, IFES and the TSE strive to promote the inclusion of groups that are often marginalized in Guatemala, including people with disabilities, indigenous groups, and women. It is also part of the partnership between IFES and the TSE to make it easier for Guatemalans living abroad to exercise their right to vote.
Participación Cívica Project
Another project currently being implemented by IFES in Guatemala is Participación Cívica, a subaward from Counterpart International funded by USAID. This IFES project seeks to build the capacity of civil society organizations to play a constructive role in policy reforms processes, create policy communities and networks to conduct social auditing, and engage citizens in the implementation of national-level initiatives, such as the Open Government Initiative.
In February 2018, IFES was selected by the Guatemalan government to become one of the official certified facilitators in the Open Government Initiative, working with public officials and representatives of civil society in the process of co-creation of the IV National Action Plan to increase transparency and citizen engagement in the country.