The main strategy of the Civic Engagement Alliance program in Guatemala is to bring together urban youth organizations, youth committees of trade unions and rural (indigenous) youth movements to empower and support them in policy influencing on issues which are in youth’ interest. Within Civic Engagement Alliance, there is close cooperation with the National Youth Front, a national platform for advocacy for youth rights, where several civil society organizations converge, including partners of the Alliance in Guatemala (SODEJU, MTC and CGTG).
Capacity strengthening, using the Change the Game methodology, is one of the intervention strategies. In addition to capacity strengthening for lobby and advocacy, youth organizations are supported in stronger organizing themselves to have greater impact, and they are trained in democratic and political issues. At different levels, from local to national, youth are supported to lobby for specific issues, to improve their living and working conditions.
The intervention strategies, supporting youth voices, are gender sensitive, focusing in particular on women’s rights and promoting women’s participation. Alliance partner MTC, for example, plays a crucial role in the emancipation of indigenous girls and young women. Women are usually disadvantaged because of their lower education levels and cultural patterns, which form an obstacle for them to take independent decisions, travel independently and speak out in public. However, in MTC there are empowered groups of young indigenous women who study at university, work voluntarily with MTC in their spare time and are role models for other girls and women in their communities. This is a direct result of the work of MTC and the more recent support from the Civic Engagement Alliance, which has created more possibilities for young women from indigenous backgrounds to acquire knowledge and experiences on several topics, among others on leadership and policy influencing.
The overall strategy of Civic Engagement Alliance has been well chosen and has generated very positive results. However, the political developments in Guatemala during the program period have been a challenge and have urged the program partners to be flexible. For example, lobby at national level became extremely difficult and even impossible when almost the whole national parliament was involved in corruption scandals and trials. Therefore, the partners of the Alliance decided to focus more on lobby, advocacy and campaigns at local and regional level, while the National Youth Front continued to lobby at national level. This strategy - focusing at the local and regional level - resulted in a growth in the number of youth participating actively in Civic Engagement Alliance program. At the local level authorities show more willingness to meet the demands of young people.
Since democracy is more and more at risk, it has been extremely difficult to obtain the final adoption in Parliament of the law on inclusion of youth. Faced with a political scenario of instability and the weakening of the rule of law in Guatemala, new spaces were sought to influence youth inclusive policies. The political situation in 2018 led to diversion of the attention of public officials and authorities in other matters, ignoring the demands of youth sector representatives. But we see for example youth organizations taking advantage of the reconfiguration of political leadership with regards to the 2019 electoral process, to promote the youth’s agenda and proposals.
Summarizing, we learned - due to the political developments in the country, especially the corruption scandals in Parliament - to prioritize and assign greater resources to advocacy actions and strengthen the base of the youth movement at the municipal level, instead of focusing on lobby and advocacy at national level. In order to obtain greater credibility and collegial support, alliances with educational, academic and research institutions are being created and strengthened.