On February 11th, 2020, the Congress of the Republic of Guatemala approved, in third reading, the final drafting of the bill number 5257 which intends to reform the regulatory framework to which Non-Governmental Organizations -NGOs- are subject in Guatemala. The bill includes amendments to the Law on Non-Governmental Organizations for Development, Decree 2-2003 of the Congress of the Republic of Guatemala, and the Civil Code of Guatemala, Decree 106.

Currently, the bill is in the Executive Branch, which must sanction, promulgate and publish it, as a condition for its entry into force. Pursuant to article 178 of the Political Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, prior to the enactment of the law, the President may return it to Congress with the observations he deems pertinent, in the exercise of his right of veto. Therefore, the approved initiative must pass one more step before entering into force. It is important to note that constitutional injunctions (in Spanish, amparos) have been presented with regards to this bill.

Among the amendments contemplated by bill number 5257, is the definition of NGOs, as well as their nature and purpose. In addition, it intends to provide for their categorization in accordance to their orientation, area of action and constitution. The bill further intends to reform the process of constitution of NGOs, establishing that, apart from its registration in the in the Registry of Legal Entities from the Ministry of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (REPEJU), they must be registered also in the Secretary of Planning and Programming of the Presidency (SEGEPLAN); and, in the case of NGOs constituted abroad, they must also register with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the same manner, this initiative implies a greater control of the resources, donations and other means of financing obtained by the NGOs; as well as modifying the degree of responsibility to which the NGO associates are subject, indicating that they are responsible for the obligations contracted by the NGO with their own assets.

In case the bill is sanctioned, promulgated and published as a law, there would be a 6 months’ period (from its publication in the Official Gazette) so that all NGOs currently registered and operating in Guatemala can update their information and comply with the requirements that this initiative contemplates.