While promoting a broad range of indigenous rights, the Indigenous Rights Accord also establishes five official commissions, made up of government appointees and representatives from COPMAGUA, which guarantee indigenous participation in the implementation phase of the peace process.
The official joint commissions include:
* The Commission for the Officialisation of Indigenous Languages
* The Commission on Sacred Places
* The Commission on Reform and Participation
* The Commission on Communal Lands
* The Commission on Educational Reform
The commissions on participation, land and educational reform are officially designated bipartite commissions, which means that government and indigenous representation must be equal. This does not apply to the commissions dealing with language and sacred places. All commissions will make recommendations to Congress on legislative reforms, functioning, in effect, as parliamentary sub-committees.
"We understand autonomy as the possibility that every Maya can obtain a share in decision-making within the country, a say in political decisions which directly affect them ...as a people we are ceding a little of our independence, of our autonomy, to unity. It is a contribution to the task of constructing the state."
Alvaro Pop, Decenio Maya. Personal interview, Guatemala, 9 June 1997
COPMAGUA has also set up eight permanent committees of its own. Through these, it aims to continue its co-ordination of the different Mayan organisations and to facilitate the participation of all indigenous communities, including the Xinca and Garífuna, in discussing, analysing and formulating proposals to the official commissions.
The eight permanent committees set up by COPMAGUA will consider:
• indigenous women's rights;
• indigenous law;
• participation at all levels;
• officialisation of indigenous languages;
• educational reform, and;
• constitutional reform.
The official joint commissions on sacred sites, educational reform and the officialisation of indigenous languages began work in April 1997. In July, the Commission on Communal Lands was also inaugurated. Unlike their government counterparts, COPMAGUA representatives on these commissions receive no payment for their time and face a conflict between the demands of participation and keeping in touch with their support bases. These factors, together with the general shortage of qualified personnel and resources, limit the capacity of the indigenous sector to present its demands effectively and to lobby for their adoption. As a result, any claims to 'parity' with government representatives are something of a legal fiction.
Holding out the prospect of becoming more permanent fora for national level consultation, the joint commissions could constitute an innovative development for the effective, ongoing articulation of indigenous demands. For the above reasons, however, and considering Congress has no mandated obligation to adopt anyone's recommendations, it seems that COPMAGUA's extensive investment in the implementing commissions could prove a high-risk strategy.
"Land is the key to power in Guatemala. By not allowing the Mayan people the means to feed themselves or providing them with work, little by little you destroy their culture... In the long term, this constitutes ethnocide."
Juan Tiney, coordinator of National Indigenous and Campesino Co-ordination (CONIC). Personal interview, Guatemala, 12 May 1997