Ending the armed conflict in Guatemala


Negotiations mediated by the UN resulted in the signing of the Accord for a Firm and Lasting Peace in 1996, ending the armed conflict in Guatemala after 36 years.

The Guatemalan Civil War was fought between an authoritarian military government and a coalition of armed opposition groups gathered under the banner of the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (Unidad Revolucionario Nacional Guatemalteco, URNG). Beginning in 1960, the conflict went through myriad phases until the 1990s, when an emergent civilian administration was able to curtail the political power of the military after the US Government withdrew its support for that regime. Facing international and domestic pressure (led by individuals such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú) to end the conflict, the new Government of Guatemala entered into UN-mediated negotiations with URNG representatives in Oslo in March 1990.1 The talks continued for many years, with the US Government and the Organisation of American States voicing their support for the process, but little progress was made. A series of attempted coups d’état and autocoups threatened to undermine both the democratisation and peace processes in Guatemala until 1993, when Ramiro de León Carpio was elected to the Presidency by the Guatemalan Congress after the incumbent fled the country, providing a level of stability to the situation.2

In cooperation with the Guatemalan Congress and the Catholic Church, de León developed a package of comprehensive reforms and injected new life into the UN-mediated talks.3 In January 1994, the UN hosted a fresh round of negotiations in Mexico City, culminating with the signing of a Framework Agreement, which established a structure for the ongoing negotiations to take place.4 Two months later, the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights was signed, strengthening the rule of law and inviting the UN to deploy a verification mission to Guatemala.5 Additional agreements were signed in the ensuing months, with provisions addressing the plight of refugees, indigenous peoples, and victims of human rights violations. In 1996, a newly elected government took over from de León’s caretaker administration. Negotiations between the URNG and the new government proceeded rapidly, with additional agreements being signed throughout the year until, on 29 December 1996, the peace process culminated with the signing of the Accord for a Firm and Lasting Peace.6 The Accord re-iterated all previous agreements and provided a comprehensive roadmap for Guatemala’s post-conflict transition, formally

1 Rachel Sieder & Richard Wilson. Negotiating Rights: The Guatemalan Peace Process. (London: Conciliation Resources, 1997)

2 Fernando Orgambides. “'Human rights President' tries to win over the army: Ramiro de Leon Carpio talks to Fernando Orgambides of El Pais about his hopes for Guatemalan democracy.” The Independent. (1993) Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/human-rights-president-tries-to-win-over-the-army-ramiro-de-leon-carpio-talks-to-fernando-orgambides-1490492.html (Accessed 10/11/2020)

3 Burgerman. “Building the Peace by Mandating Reform: United Nations-Mediated Human Rights Agreements in El Salvador and Guatemala.” Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 27, No. 3. (2000) pp.75-6

4 Framework Agreement for the Resumption of the Negotiating Process between the Government of Guatemala and the Unidad Revolutionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG), 1994. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/guatemala-resumptionnegotiationsurng94 (Accessed 10/11/2020)

5 Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights, 1994. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/guatemala-humanrightsagreement94 (Accessed 10/11/2020)

6 Agreement on a Firm and Lasting Peace, 1996. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/guatemala-firmlastingpeace96 (Accessed 10/11/2020)

Start Year


End Year




UN Regional Group

Latin America and the Caribbean

Type of Conflict

Vertical (state-based) intrastate conflict with foreign involvement

Type of Initiative

Mediation of a peace agreement

Main Implementing Organisation(s)

The UN




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