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Enterprises in focus for new delegation to Guatemala
Working for Human Rights in Guatemala can be life threatening. For the second year running, a Swedish delegation carrying representatives from the business, church and non-governmental sectors, travelled to the country in order to highlight the situation. This year, focus is being put on the responsibilities of enterprises and their potential for advocacy.
During the previous year, 493 attacks against defenders of human rights were recorded in Guatemala. This is a decrease from the year prior to that, but still a very high figure. Not rarely, these incidents can be related to corporations being given free hands by the government to make large-scale investments in, for example, mining- or dam-building projects. These projects often affect nature and the lives of the indigenous people negatively. Protesters, having worked the land for generations, are brutally silenced.
During the trip, which takes place April 4-7th, the delegation will meet representatives from the government, hopefully the President. They will also meet with attorneys and lawyers working to defend human rights. In addition, delegates will meet with representatives from various sectors such as church, business and farmers organisations.
Anders Wejryd, Archbishop emeritus at Svenska Kyrkan (the Swedish Church); Anneli Rogeman, CEO at We Effect; Bo Forsberg, Secretary General for Diakonia; Ann Svensén, Secretary General for IM (Individuell Människohjälp; Tommy Ohlström, CEO at KF and chairman of the board for We Effect; Camilla Wagner, Journalist; Christian Åhlund, consultant in Human Rights-issues; Gunilla Hallonsten, acting International Manager at Svenska Kyrkan, and Pia Carlsson Thörnqvist, Director of Communications at Folksam form part of the delegation.
- People standing up for their rights in Guatemala do so putting their lives at stake. That is simply not acceptable. Through this delegation, we want to raise our voice against those responsible, but also provide examples of how the social responsibilities of enterprises can play an important role in improving the situation. Not only does it benefit the country, it also benefits their business, says We Effect CEO Anneli Rogeman.
- Central America is in a post-conflict situation where everyday violence, especially involving light weapons, is becoming an increasingly large problem. Sweden plays an important part in building inclusive and safe communities. This, for example, can be done by finding innovative forms of cooperation between commercial interests and civil society, says Ann Svensén, General Secretary of IM (Individuell Människohjälp).
- Murder and violence against women has reached extreme levels in Guatemala. Women are being exposed to violence in their relationships; criminal gangs use violence against women to get revenge on their enemies or simply to display power. The violence targeting women often remains uninvestigated; the perpetrators never face trial. This delegation wants to raise the issue about how to work against gender-based violence, and we want to make it clear that Guatemala must assume responsibility for the human rights of women, says Gunilla Hallonsten, International Manager for Svenska Kyrkan (the Swedish Church).
- We are worried by the development. That many European countries are losing interest in Guatemala, while at the same time corruption and violations of human rights are increasing in the country. Swedish organisations and enterprises must pressure the Guatemalan government while also being supportive in creating a democratic society, says Bo Forsberg, General Secretary at Diakonia.
The situation in the region has dramatically deteriorated recently, with the murders of human rights activist Berta Cáceres and her colleague Nelson García, in Honduras.