The Sistema Nacional de Consejos de Desarrollo (SISCODE) is the main means of participation of the Mayan, Xinca and Garífuna and non-indigenous populations in public management to carry out the democratic development planning process.
Problems and Purpose
After nearly half a century of civil war, it was finally in 1996 that peace accords were signed in Guatemala between the government of the day and the guerrillas. Supported by the international community, the negotiations between the two belligerents were concluded with the signing of the agreements, a document aiming at the end of the conflicts but also opening the way to the democratization of the country. Heavily influenced by neoliberalism, the Peace Accords led to a series of processes and mechanisms aimed at good governance and government effectiveness. The decentralization of power and communities becoming more important entities in the political arena is one example. We are witnessing the creation of a national system of decentralized and multi-tier councils, the Sistema Nacional de Consejos de Desarrollo (SISCODE).
In 1996, after several years of negotiations, peace accords ending the conflict were signed between the guerrillas and the Guatemalan government of the day. International pressure and the lack of funding encouraged the signing of the agreements. Unfortunately, the biggest victims of the conflict, the Aboriginal people, were not signatories to these agreements and did not participate in the negotiations, where only the guerrillas and the government were at the table. The indigenous claims of the communities are therefore not taken into consideration during the negotiations. The latter are once again left aside and the relationship of domination is only reinforced. Many communities will not see the Peace Accords as an end to tensions with the state. Rather, the conflict was a representation of the many structural violence suffered by indigenous communities. Violence is expressed not only through conflict, but also through the political, economic and social exclusion of indigenous communities. The state structure itself produces public policies that fuel discrimination at the societal level. Ultimately, reconciliation cannot take place until there is full integration of indigenous communities into political, economic and social life.
Background History and Context
In Guatemala, communities are produced and defined in relation to the state. To understand the state-society relationship and the political participation of indigenous communities, it is necessary to understand the dimensions of the exclusion of indigenous populations. The exclusion of Mayan communities from the political and economic arena is not recent. While it can be traced back to colonization to witness it, the second half of the 20th century remains an important period for understanding state-society relations in Guatemala. In 1954, following a coup that overthrew the ruling left-wing populist government, an armed group formed of guerrillas. Faced with increasing conflicts between the national army and the guerrillas, a national security policy was formulated in the 1960s, engaging the national armed forces in a series of counterinsurgency actions. It will be the start of a civil war that will not end until 1996.
In 1996, after several years of negotiations, peace accords ending the conflict were signed between the guerrillas and the Guatemalan government of the day. International pressure and the lack of funding encouraged the signing of the agreements. Unfortunately, the biggest victims of the conflict, the Aboriginal people, were not signatories to these agreements and did not participate in the negotiations, where only the guerrillas and the government were at the table. The natives were indeed accused of being affiliated with the various guerrilla movements and many policies were developed to dissuade these communities from supporting the guerrillas. For example, the national army was burning farmland under the order of scorched-land policies. This tactic served to intimidate indigenous communities by attacking one of their main sources of income. The second part of the 20th century was also very violent. In addition to policies aimed at intimidating the population, the Guatemalan army has carried out several massacres of civilians under the policy of national security. The civil war claimed nearly 200,000 lives, where 83.3% of these were of Mayan origin. The majority of these crimes were perpetrated by the Guatemalan National Army under national security policy. This period established a relationship of domination between the state and indigenous communities. To protect themselves, many communities have excluded themselves from any participation in the conflict, and more broadly, from political life.
The indigenous claims of the communities are therefore not taken into consideration during the negotiations. The latter are once again left aside and the relationship of domination is only reinforced. Many communities will not see the Peace Accords as an end to tensions with the state. Rather, the conflict was a representation of the many structural violence suffered by indigenous communities. Violence is expressed not only through conflict, but also through the political, economic and social exclusion of indigenous communities. The state structure itself produces public policies that fuel discrimination at the societal level. In the end, reconciliation cannot take place as long as there is not a full integration of indigenous communities into political, economic and social life and the Peace Accords stipulated it: the transition from war to peace would only require a transition from uncontrolled power to representative governance - the Sistema Nacional de Consejos de Desarollo.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
In order to promote distributive justice, the Sistema Nacional de Consejos de Desarollo (SISCODE) has been strengthened. These councils exist at different levels: national with the Consejos Nacionales de Desarrollo Urbano y Rural, regional with the Consejos Regionales de Desarrollo Urbano y Rural, departmental with the Consejos Departamentales de Desarrollo, municipal with the Consejos Municipales de Desarollo and finally community with the Consejos Comunitarios de Desarrollo.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Communities wishing to organize a development council at the community level must meet certain criteria: the community must have characteristics of permanence in a determined territorial space with a population of at least 250 inhabitants aged 18 and over. The council is made up of an assembly of residents as well as an executive committee.
Methods and Tools Used
To understand the change in state-society relations through SISCODE, one must first understand the nature of the system. The national participation structure was set up by the state. While there was certainly a demand for participation in decision-making, the bottom line is that it was the state that drew up the advice. It should also be mentioned that SISCODE is not an idea that stems from the Peace Accords, although the latter encouraged such forms of participation. Indeed, development councils are basically a tactic of community control during the civil war. The decentralization of spaces for participation made it possible to contain popular movements at the local level and thus prevent the escalation of popular mobilization on a larger scale. The SISCODE derives from the same system. Only the community level was added to the system after the Peace Accords. The processes and mechanisms have therefore remained largely the same. State-Society relations do not change, and SISCODE is a set of invited spaces, where the state invites citizens to participate in regularized spaces. The SISCODE allows participation but through delimited spaces, where they “minimize their expressive reach to be as instrumental as possible”. In a context of neoliberal multiculturalism, these spaces are ruled by the state, which is itself dominated by traditional Guatemalan elites. The participation spaces are fragmented on “ethnic, corporate or sectoral” bases.
Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction
The objective of development councils is to organize and coordinate public administration on development issues but also on public programs and policies through citizen participation. The community level is a direct result of the Peace Agreements, wishing to promote the participation of the Mayan communities but also the Xinca and Garifuna. These communities live in more remote regions and therefore far from decision-making bodies. The Peace Accords recognize that the participation of indigenous communities in decision-making is necessary to ensure their development in an inclusive manner.
The national development advice system, SISCODE, is a chain. In fact, the projects are developed and written at the local level, in the consejos comunitarios. The files then go up to different levels, from municipal to national. Each time a case is approved, it is sent to the next level. The Consejos Nacionales de Desarrollo Urbano y Rural are the last level and are those who allocate funds to regional and local councils. The central government, however, remains the funding body for SISCODE. Thus, when the projects are approved by all the development councils of the national system, the funds are disbursed to the regions, through SISCODE, where they will go to the municipal and community councils for their projects. Each tier makes sure to redistribute funds to the lower tier. The projects therefore come from citizens at different levels and the funds come from the central government. Such structures of citizen participation are then supported by the international community and the United Nations. Indeed, the councils are seen as tools for good governance in addition to ensuring redistributive justice. SISCODE is indeed based on principles of equality and dignity between all actors of civil society, regardless of their status. Decree number 11-2002 of the Congress of the Republic of Guatemala of the Ley de los consejos de desarrollo urbano y rural is the legal text that governs SISCODE. In the latter, indigenous communities are presented as the greatest beneficiaries of advice. While they were excluded from the negotiating table, many policies will aim to include different indigenous and marginalized communities in Guatemalan political, economic and social life through participatory processes. Development councils will become the primary medium for the participation of indigenous communities.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Despite the fact that the national participation structure was set up by the state, indigenous communities will still succeed in reclaiming development councils, mainly at the community level and changing the relationship they maintain with the state. Decentralization has had the advantage of strengthening the power of municipal authorities but also allowed the creation of councils at the community level. The creation of this tier was one of the demands of the Peace Accords. Although several levels intervene and can come to block a project at the community level, the latter has all the same gained legitimacy during the presentation of projects.
In addition, indigenous communities recognize the potential of the system to bypass elites. Indeed, many will use law enforcement to make their voices heard and ask what is promised to them. SISCODE then becomes “a legal vehicle for indigenous claims”. Indigenous leaders are succeeding in taking over the legal language surrounding the National Development Council System Decree to take over the spaces for participation. As it has been presented, the national system of development councils is built in such a way that the projects come from the communities. On the other hand, when communities are not organized around councils, requests come from mayors, often from traditional elites. By forming citizen councils, communities ensure they can present projects to higher levels, thereby bypassing the elites. While there are limits to this process, with traditional elites interfering with council formation, indigenous communities still use reforms to participate. Several communities use community development councils to present their projects but also to block national development projects such as the sale of land for mining projects for example. As SISCODE is anchored in the Guatemalan legal system, it becomes a political tool.
Even with the limitations imposed by traditional elites, education for political participation occurs through council formation. A culture of participation is developing around SISCODE. Indeed, the creation of development councils becomes an apprenticeship in participation. Many indigenous local leaders emerge from these learning processes. They become spokespersons for their community on political and economic issues. Martin Hébert, an anthropologist who has studied the reappropriation of consejos comunitarios de desarrollo in Guatemala, asserts that while several projects fail because of the limits imposed by traditional elites, "the policies of the state, and especially the system of democratic participation that the federal government is trying to put in place, become resources for the indigenous struggle ”.
In addition, indigenous communities will reclaim the language of citizenship, which had previously excluded them from many spaces of participation, to secure a place in the political sphere.
In the end, SISCODE and mainly the development councils at the community level changed the state-society relations between the different levels of government and the indigenous communities. By participating through development councils, Guatemalan indigenous communities engage in debates and conflicts with the state, but through mechanisms pre-established by the latter. Through this engagement in daily hegemonic battles, relationships evolve and influence policies. Advice creates a space for interaction between state and society.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Several limits arise from the pre-existing barriers to indigenous reappropriation of SISCODE. Traditional municipal elites still control payment transfers. Municipalities are the last players to transfer funds to a lower tier. As a result, some communities still do not receive the funding promised by the development council system since the municipalities keep them. Competition between the different levels also compromises the participation of Aboriginal communities (Hébert 2011). Indeed, community and municipal councils have similar issues and share the same population, the municipality including a few communities. Due to their pre-established power and knowledge of the rules of the game, in addition to a larger population, municipal councils are sometimes favored in contrast to community councils.
In addition, many internal dynamics within communities slow down decision-making. Indigenous communities are not homogeneous among themselves and power struggles occur within the communities themselves. The issues are different between different citizens within a community itself depending on their gender, income, education, etc. Internal power struggles can therefore affect the decision-making process which is based on consensus. Additionally, indigenous leaders emerging from community councils are often approached by political parties and political elites. As Martin Hébert (2011) puts it, “in such cases, even COCODES with a truly representative base can become double-edged structures as their community legitimacy can be hijacked by a few indigenous leaders for the purpose of advancement. staff ".
Finally, an asymmetry of power also exists between SISCODE and the institutional decision-making bodies. For example, state institutional actors, such as municipal governments, often have a university degree while 90% of community representatives have only a primary level (Flores and Gómez-Sánchez 2010). Unfortunately, this impacts citizens' councils when it comes to seeking resources from outside SISCODE, since they do not necessarily have the tools to understand the national bureaucratic structure. In addition, the opportunity costs of attending meetings are much greater for board representatives than for institutional representatives. Official meetings of formal institutional bodies often take place in representatives' buildings, while development council meetings are often further away from homes. In fact, Aboriginal communities are often in rural areas where the population is more dispersed. The cost of transport and travel time can block political participation (Flores and Gómez-Sánchez 2010). This power asymmetry influences citizens' trust in SISCODE and more particularly in community-level councils.
Despite the limitations, SISCODE and the consejos comunitarios provide a participatory space that was previously not available to indigenous communities. However, from the boundaries, lessons can be learned that may improve the future political participation of indigenous communities. One of the lessons learned is that SISCODE often competes with local and regional governments in addition to different levels of the national system. Unfortunately, the community level, where Aboriginal communities participate the most, is often the one that is disadvantaged by this issue. It would therefore be necessary to strengthen the capacity of community councils to ensure full confidence of citizens. In addition, the cost of participation is much higher for rural indigenous communities. SISCODE and community development councils aim to foster indigenous political participation following their exclusion and persecution. Therefore, it is essential to find a solution to reduce the cost of community participation in development councils.
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Sistema de Consejos de Desarrollo: http: //sistemas.segeplan.gob. gt / siscodew / ddpgpl $ modulo.indice
Original author: Camille Nadeau, University of Montreal
Lead image: Asociacion Nacional de Municipalidades de la Republica de Guatemala https://goo.gl/qJ5RDr < / p>
Secondary image: Asociacion Nacional de Municipalidades de la Republica de Guatemala https://goo.gl/qgWbFn < / p>