Guatemala is the most populous country in Central America, counting more than 16 million inhabitants. Despite housing the region’s largest economy, 59 % of Guatemalans live in poverty and 24 % in extreme poverty. This poverty takes place primarily in rural, Indigenous areas, and affects women and youth the most. Guatemala also has one of the highest levels of income inequality in Latin America, and one of the highest levels of chronic malnutrition in the world, and the highest in the Americas.

As is the case in other Northern Triangle countries of Central America (Honduras and El Salvador), the rule of law in Guatemala is challenged by the:

  • activities of illegal networks,
  • presence of widespread poverty, and
  • insufficient capacity of state institutions to address these challenges.

As a result, the country faces an extremely high rate of impunity and corruption, which threatens citizen security and contributes to systemic human rights violations.

More than 20 years after the signing of the 1996 Peace Accords ending 36 years of internal armed conflict, there is a political will for change. Recent commitments by the government to strengthen its justice system and increase active citizen participation demonstrate Guatemala’s commitment to democracy and transparency.

Our international development program in Guatemala

Canada’s international development program in Guatemala responds to the country’s priorities, especially as indicated in its long-term national development plan known as K’atun 2032. The plan has five components:

  • integrated rural and urban development
  • social well-being
  • wealth for all
  • natural resources for today and the future
  • the state as guarantor of human rights and a driver of development

Canada’s international assistance work in Guatemala aims to address the root causes of poverty, inequality and insecurity and improve the lives of the most vulnerable, including youth, women and Indigenous groups. It focuses on three following areas: 

  • Governance, pluralism, diversity, and human rights
  • Clean economic growth
  • Health and rights of women and children

In the context of the International assistance review launched by the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, Canada conducted consultations in Guatemala to help guide Canada’s future programming. 

The consultations were held with the Government of Guatemala, local civil society organizations, cooperatives, think tanks and other stakeholders, as well as with the general public through a country-specific online survey. The information gathered through these consultations is feeding into the broader global analysis led by Global Affairs Canada to develop new international assistance policies and programs.

Governance, pluralism, diversity, and human rights

Canada will help to strengthen the capacity of government and civil society institutions to promote and protect human rights, particularly for Indigenous women and youth and other marginalized populations.

Key anticipated results

  • Enhanced rule of law. The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) will be the Public Ministry’s principal collaborator and will co-prosecute at least three new formal accusations in high-impact criminal cases in Guatemalan courts.
  • Enhanced equitable and inclusive participation in democratic decision-making processes, especially by women and marginalized groups, through the use of technology.
  • Increased use of technology by people, especially women and marginalized groups, to hold the Government of Guatemala to account.
  • Increased responsiveness of public institutions to human rights and to the diverse needs of people, especially women and marginalized groups, through the use of technology.

Clean economic growth

Canada will help to promote clean economic growth and respond to the challenges of climate change by:

  • increasing equitable access by micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), particularly those led by women, to business development services, trade and value chain opportunities, as well as tools for building climate resilience; and
  • improving workplace and entrepreneurial skills of women and youth.

Key anticipated result

  • Increased by a minimum of 5 % the annual agricultural productivity of 3,300 small-scale farmers, especially women.

Health and rights of women and children

In Guatemala, Canada is delivering on its promise to support global efforts to reduce chronic malnutrition and end the preventable deaths of mothers, newborns and children younger than age five.

Key anticipated results

  • Enhanced capacity of health personnel and community health care workers to use a community e-health system to improve delivery of maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) and nutrition services.
  • Increased access to and awareness of nutritious food services for mothers, fathers and their children. A minimum of 17,500 children ages six to 23 months are reached through nutrition programming per year.
  • Increased capacity of Indigenous and poor women to participate equally in decision making and management of local MNCH services, thus ensuring services meet the unique needs of Indigenous women.

Progress on aid effectiveness

Guatemala adheres to the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the Accra Agenda for Action (PDF, 317 KB, 23 pages) and has expressed commitment to poverty reduction and collaboration with donors. The donor community is able to work together to implement aid-effectiveness measures and help Guatemala meet its Paris Declaration commitments, particularly through the G13 group (in Spanish) of which Canada is an active member. Both Canada and Guatemala are committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda.



Achievements 2015-2016


  • Criminal investigations led by CICIG, in coordination with Guatemala’s Public Ministry and funded by Canada and other international donors, culminated in arrests of government officials, members of Congress, judges, mayors and business people in major cases of corruption, fraud, money laundering and influence peddling. The most famous of these cases was “La Linea.” This customs fraud and corruption case resulted in the resignation of Vice President Roxana Baldetti on May 8, 2015, and President Otto Pérez Molina on September 3, 2015, as well as numerous other high-level government officials.
  • Out of all the public prosecutors working in the Public Ministry’s investigation unit against impunity with CICIG accompaniment, 82 % have strengthened their capacities in criminal analysis, preparation of investigation plans, analysis and interpretation of data, use of special investigation methods such as wiretapping and video evidence, processing and presentation of evidence, and preparation of process and litigation strategies and judicial arguments.
  • CICIG advanced results related to legal and policy recommendations and public information with thematic studies on illicit financing of political parties (timely given the electoral campaign that was underway), human trafficking with the purpose of sexual exploitation and links between violence against women, organized crime and impunity. A national dialogue on judicial reform has been launched in coordination with the government and with participation from all sectors of society engaged in the justice sector.

Sustainable economic growth

  • In all, 27 farmers’ organizations now have stronger internal operations and structures in place, including having a working board and surveillance commissions, and 25 of these organizations also now have a gender commission in place and 12 have established a commercialization commission. 
  • In all, 240 agriculture demonstration plots were implemented with best practices such as minimum tillage, green manure, irrigation and contouring, and 100 % of farmers’ organizations established at least one demonstration plot for women and one for men for each crop (maize and beans).
  • In all, 17 farmers’ organizations have improved their capacity to negotiate on fair terms, 17 have commercialized maize and 12 have commercialized black beans. These farmers’ organizations sold 280.2 metric tons of black beans and 1,154.05 metric tons of maize to the World Food Programme and 22.6 metric tons of maize to the local industry.
  • Out of the 375 families in targeted municipalities, 180 women (48 %) and 195 men (52 %) received food assistance in exchange for improving community resilience. Moreover, 100 % of these families have been trained on nutritional practices. The food distributed went to families that worked in soil and water conservation measures and natural resources management to better protect the environment in the communities.

Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health

  • The Basic Indicators Report from the National Survey on Maternal and Child Health 2014 to 2015 revealed that Guatemala has achieved the Millennium Development Goals to reduce the under-five mortality rate. It also showed that the country has made important progress toward the reduction of the under-one mortality rate. Likewise, the report showed important progress toward the universal access to reproductive health.
  • The Basic Indicators Report has been important for the newly elected government that took office in January 2016. The report provides the Guatemalan government with up-to-date data, which provides reliable and relevant information in order to coordinate and evaluate national policies, plans, budgets and strategies, mainly those related to maternal, newborn and child health; food security; and nutrition.
  • In all, 15,009 children (ages six to 24 months) improved the quality of their nutrition in the departments of Sololá and Chimaltenango through the delivery of a complementary cereal called “Mi Comidita.”
  • A total of 694 women were trained as peer mothers in Sololá and Chimatenango, surpassing the target of 300 women per department.
  • In all, 4,026 of women who were pregnant in Sololá and Chimaltenango visited health centres where they had access to complementary foods.
  • Global Affairs Canada approved four new projects that will help to improve maternal, newborn and child health in Guatemala, through the following partner organizations: Action Against Hunger, CAUSE Canada, Horizons of Friendship and TULA Foundation.

Achievements 2014-2015


  • CICIG worked on 24 new criminal investigations and provided follow-up to 180 criminal investigations undertaken in previous mandates. High-impact arrests in 2014 included a criminal network that controlled the penitentiary system and one of the oldest organized criminal structures that controlled the drug trade and terrorized populations in the north of the country. 
  • CICIG developed criminal investigation procedures that strengthened the Public Ministry’s units for money laundering, human trafficking, extortions, crimes against life, administrative crimes, organized crime, narco-activity and corruption. An operations and methodology manual containing a critical path of action was developed for the new criminal investigations police force. A proposed curriculum of study for the investigative police was also provided by CICIG to national authorities.
  • CICIG developed a system to measure impunity, which will improve national monitoring and create a reliable baseline. Four reports were presented to commissions appointed to select senior justice and governance positions in 2014, including the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, the Attorney General, Supreme Court judges and Appeals Court judges. These reports provided clear evidence to the need to reform the judicial selection process.

Sustainable economic growth

  • Improved efficiency of agricultural chains in the department of Sololá. For instance, 2,888 producers (1,332 coffee producers and 1,556 horticulture producers) have improved their coffee and vegetable production through the use of better crop techniques, resulting in an increase of 87 % in productivity for coffee and 25 % for horticulture; producers who have introduced parcels of vegetables within their coffee plantations have seen noticeable growth in additional income.
  • Leveraged $3 million in public-private investments in infrastructure for economic development in the department of Sololá; two municipalities incorporated economic investments in their public development plans that are also integrating gender-equality aspects; 12 municipalities trained technical personnel in economic development; three municipalities conducted pre-investment studies for water treatment plants; and technical and financial support was provided to the construction of a wholesaler market in Sololá municipality.
  • Contributed to a 15 % growth in tourist numbers to Sololá; 18 organizations improved their capacity to develop a community-based network to provide essential services for tourists, economically benefiting 344 persons; and a total of 2,075 people (56 % of which are women) received training in tourism development through the Guatemalan Tourism Institute.
  • In all, 1,729 small entrepreneurs in Sololá (83 % of which are women) were trained in sectors such as agriculture, coffee, vegetable, honey, textile, handicraft and tourism: 700 entrepreneurs received financial services to develop or grow their businesses, resulting in 1,484 new jobs; and a youth entrepreneurial system involving business planning, access to credit, skills training and coaching during the first months of business operations was implemented, whereby 244 young women and men improved their business skills, and 198 of them have started their businesses.
  • Identified 29 farmers’ organizations with more than 3,893 members (1,856 women and 2,037 men) located in 19 municipalities in the northeastern region of Guatemala. Their technical, marketing and management capacities were fully documented in a baseline study to design a capacity building and technical-assistance program through the Purchase for Progress and Scaling Up Nutrition program. During fiscal year 2014 to 2015, 107 members of the farmers’ organizations were trained in agribusiness plans and cost analysis, and 375 people participated in two agriculture fairs and exchanges of experiences.
  • In all, 1,058 metric tons of maize from eight farmers’ organizations were sold to the Ministry of Agriculture (MAGA), through a trust fund signed between MAGA and the World Food Programme, for its humanitarian programs (food for assets and food for work for the families affected by the drought and coffee leaf rust disease that affected smallholder coffee producers).
  • In all, 7,479 families in 153 communities of Zacapa and El Progreso received food for assets: 66 % of the food distributed went to families that worked in soil and water conservation practices, 27 % went to families that worked in agroforestry projects, 6 % went to families working in the rehabilitation of rural roads and 1 % went to families constructing community assets (e.g. latrines); 153 home gardens were established in the resilience-building communities in Zacapa and El Progreso, whose inhabitants also received nutrition training.

Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health  

  • In all, 41 community counsellors were trained on infant and young-child feeding practices. These counsellors then facilitated information sessions for 224 mother-to-mother support groups, reaching more than 1,200 women with children under two years of age. The main topics shared through the support groups were exclusive and continued breastfeeding, timely and adequate introduction of complementary foods, using foods available at home and fortified complementary foods, access to health services and feeding in emergency situations, such as during disease episodes or acute malnutrition.
  • Advanced fieldwork for Guatemala’s National Survey on Maternal and Child Health: 311 people (152 women, 159 men) were trained to implement the data collection phase. In all, 100 % of the cartographic map was completed, with 71 % having had a quality review. Approximately 61 % of sample households have already been surveyed. Equipment and materials requested by the Ministry of Health were procured.

2014-2015 international assistance disbursements to Guatemala (in millions of dollars)

Global Affairs Canada7.56
Other departments and sources0.6