SweFOR's mandate work and presence in Guatemala

SweFOR’s mandate in Guatemala: nonviolent work and presence – a clarification

Date: October 15, 2021 | Category: Announcements

The Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation (SweFOR) is a Swedish nonviolent organization working for peace, justice, a world without violence and a sustainable way of life. It is an ecumenical organisation established in 1919 and a member of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), which has consultative status with the UN.  Through our Peace Service Program, we provide international accompaniment to human rights defenders in Latin America, specifically in Guatemala, Colombia and Mexico. We believe it is important to clarify our mandate due to the misinformation circulated in recent days about our work and presence in Guatemala.

SweFOR’s mission within the framework of the Peace Service program is to provide protection and amplify the space of action for human rights defenders (HRDs). Under the auspices of the Guatemalan government and in accordance with the laws in force, we are legally registered with governmental bodies. We work on the basis of the laws, international human rights law and conventions ratified by the Guatemalan government, recognizing the mandate, function and authority of state institutions of the country.

Our activities are financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) through the Swedish Mission Council, which provides funding for development operations in Sweden and worldwide. The aim of our work is to contribute to just and sustainable global development based on human rights.

SweFOR’s mandate is to provide international accompaniment to human rights defenders* and, through this, to processes towards peace and justice, a society without violence and a sustainable way of life. Our presence is based on the requests of  Guatemalan civil society organizations and individuals. We reject violence in all its aspects and we have chosen the method of international accompaniment as a nonviolent method of protection. In this sense, based on our mission, nonviolence is both the end and the means of our work. We only collaborate with organizations that share these values of nonviolence. We are members of Acoguate, a project formed by international civil society organizations, which shares the same principles of nonviolence.

International accompaniment is a nonviolent method used to increase the protection and space for action of accompanied people. It is based on the methodology of preventive presence, developed by Liam Mahony, Luis Enrique Eguren, Brian Martin and others. SweFOR develops the method through four axes: physical presence, political accompaniment, strategic communication and capacity building in nonviolent, differentiated and collective self-protection.

Based on our mandate, in our international accompaniment we are guided by two key principles: non-intervention and impartiality. They are fundamental to avoid creating dependencies and power relations. The principle of non-interference also reminds us that we are a foreign organisation, with foreign staff, and that that we have to fully respect the democratic structures of the host country as well as its customary systems. It also implies the recognition of the autonomy of local actors and the exercise of their rights without taking sides or interfering in their messages. In accordance with these principles, we do not finance either the organisations we accompany or their activities to which we provide international accompaniment. We do not seek to bring about changes that do not come from local civil society and we always respect the democratic structures of the state.

*Human rights defenders are individuals, groups and institutions that contribute to overcoming violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of peoples and individuals. According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the advocacy work of human rights defenders must be peaceful in nature and respect the universality of human rights, regardless of whether their arguments in defence of a human right are legitimate or not.

Therefore, the concept encompasses anyone, including civilians and victims, who has organized to demand justice. Human rights defenders are sometimes referred to as social leaders or other designations. The Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation recognises all the definitions in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (1998).