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IDB President calls for quicker implementation of Guatemala peace accords

At the opening of a consultative group meeting for Guatemala organized by the Inter-American Development Bank, IDB President Enrique V. Iglesias today urged the Guatemalan government, political parties and civil society and the international community to speed up the implementation of the Central American nation’s peace accords.

"Guatemala’s peace process needs to be accelerated. Guatemala’s government and its civil society must join efforts to strengthen their institutional and political reforms, as well as mobilize domestic and foreign resources to achieve peace, democracy and equitable growth," Iglesias said in a speech at IDB headquarters, where the two-day meeting is being held.

"What is needed now is the political will and the economic resources to be able to speed up the whole peace agenda," he added.

Iglesias took part in the opening ceremony of the fourth consultative group meeting on Guatemala since the peace accords were signed in 1996. Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo and Organization of the American States Secretary General Cesar Gaviria also addressed the delegates.

In his speech, President Portillo said that the meeting offers Guatemala an opportunity to take stock of its peace process and rekindle its commitment. He also underscored the participatory nature of his country’s delegation, which includes representatives from a wide spectrum of public life and civil society.

"We have come here to talk about our achievements, some of them perhaps modest but others significant and even historic. We have come to acknowledge shortcomings, difficulties and frustrations, even hindrances, that allow us to understand the complexity of achieving peace," Portillo said. "However, building peace is an obligation that no country can renounce."

In turn, OAS Secretary General Gaviria exhorted Guatemala’s leaders to seek consensus through dialogue, adding that the international community stands ready to help Guatemala implement its Peace Accords. "For that purpose there must be a climate of tolerance and consensus, so that public policies may serve as a catalyst of the population’s well-being and as an instrument to consolidate national unity," he said.

The meeting brings together leaders of Guatemala’s government, political parties and civil society organizations and high-level delegates from donor countries, multilateral organizations and international aid agencies.

During Monday’s sessions, Guatemalan officials briefed participants on the progress made and the challenges pending in the implementation of the peace accords, the country’s economic performance and the outlook for reducing poverty through a strategy that focuses on the poorest segments of its population.

Top officials of the Guatemalan judiciary and Congress will also address the meeting, as will leaders of indigenous, labor, human rights, women and private sector groups. Following discussions, donors will explain how they plan to support Guatemala’s peace and development efforts.

The 1996 Peace Accords were signed by all sectors of Guatemala as a commitment to achieve national reconciliation, political stability and social justice; to end authoritarianism and discrimination; and to pursue equitable economic growth to reduce poverty.

However, Iglesias noted in his speech, the pace of implementation of the peace accords must be accelerated. This consultative group meeting, he added, offers Guatemala a chance to give fresh impetus to the process so that, with the international community’s help, the country may meet the goals of the 2000-2004 implementation agenda.

IDB support for Guatemala

The IDB supported Guatemala’s efforts to achieve peace even before the accords were signed. Over the past few years it has approved over $533 million in conventional loans, soft loans and grants for Guatemala.

These resources have helped finance the implementation of the peace accords and launch economic and social development projects in sectors such as basic education, low-income housing, rural development, roads, judicial reform and reconstruction after Hurricane Mitch.

The IDB’s tentative pipeline of loans for Guatemala includes projects to strengthen its financial system, encourage domestic savings and increase access to credit for small- and medium-size businesses. Other projects are aimed at urban poverty reduction, environmental management and conservation, rural electrification and the modernization of the electoral tribunal and the national congress.

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