Beyond Development: Building collective futures in Guatemala October 23-25, 2009 – Santiago Sacatepéquez, Guatemala

With the signing of the Guatemalan Peace Accords in 1996, hopes were raised among many international and Maya scholars, activists, and community workers that the coming years would see new opportunities for the reversal of the profound health, economic, and social disparities between indigenous and non-indigenous Guatemalans. However, now more than a decade later, very few of these possibilities have materialized. Although there have been small advances in some areas, such as bilingual education, the continued implementation of neoliberal economic policies and the rapid erosion of the public service sector have had a stifling effect. Despite the promises of the Accords, Guatemala to date continues to have one of the lowest rates of social services expenditures in the hemisphere. Most indices of health and economic wellbeing have not improved in the post-war decade, and Maya in Guatemala continue to face the prospect of economic disadvantages, barriers to health care access, and food and water insecurity.

It is against this backdrop that the explosive growth of the development sector in post-war Guatemala must be analyzed. According to some estimates, the number of NGOs working in Guatemala has grown in the last decade from under 2,000 to more than 10,000. Although it is too early to know for certain what the full effects of this industry growth will be, the experiences of many community organizers and development workers, as well as an emerging anthropology and development literature, suggest that many development organizations in Guatemala have had considerable trouble building successful community movements and achieving lasting results.

In this conference, we will bring together international and national scholars, Maya community leaders, and members of the development community to discuss these and other issues related to development, civil society, and the creation of prosocial networks and alternative futures. In particular this gathering is envisioned as a “working conference” designed to foster exchange between local community based organizations and networks and international organizations and scholars. As such, preference will be given to proposals which address issues of accountability and collaboration, as well as those which have the potential to generate new ideas and partnerships.

To inquire about participation in the conference, please email us.