Remarks by Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg at the LOU Signing Event to Inaugurate the USAID Security and Justice Sector Reform Project

Friday, December 14, 2012


Thank you to your Excellency Dr. Gabriel Medrano, President of the Supreme Court; Excellency Mauricio Bonilla, Minister of Governance; Honorable, Claudia Paz y Paz, Attorney General; and Distinguished Blanca Stalling, Director of the Public Defense.  It is a pleasure to be here with you today and to see first-hand the impressive work that the government, legal community, and civil society are undertaking to strengthen rule of law in Guatemala. 

The demand for justice and security is what brings us here today.  In Guatemala and other Central American countries, the United States has long emphasized the importance of institutional capacity building. Today is an opportunity to reaffirm our partnership with Guatemala to improve citizen security and bolster the rule of law.

The USAID Security and Justice Sector Reform Project works hand-in-hand with the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Governance, the Public Ministry, the Institute of Public Defense and the National Forensic Institute to improve internal systems and processes thereby building more effective institutions.

USAID also provides technical assistance to implement approved security and justice sector legislation. Prompt implementation and enforcement of laws after they’ve passed is critical to improving citizen’s confidence in the justice system. As the jurist William Gladstone once noted, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

The Letter of Understanding we are signing today demonstrates the commitment of both the United States and the security and justice sector institutions of Guatemala to work together to respond to

the demand for justice and the construction of a peaceful society.

The Security and Justice Sector Reform Project also contributes to President Obama’s Central America

Regional Security Initiative.  This initiative has five goals:  create safe streets; disrupt the movement of criminals between the nations of Central America; support strong, capable and accountable governments; re-establish effective state presence, services and security in at-risk communities; and foster better coordination and cooperation between nations of the region, international partners and donors to combat regional security threats.

The gal of these efforts is to create a justice system that is equally responsive and accessible to the needs of the powerful and disempowered alike.  Similarly, the work of building this justice must draw on the talents of all stakeholders as a whole-of-society effort.  In particular, previously marginalized groups such women, young people, persons with disabilities, the LGBT community, indigenous populations, and religious and ethnic minorities need to be not only beneficiaries of improved justice institutions, but also help plan and implement necessary changes. 

At USAID, we have an expression:  “Nothing about them without them.”

In this regard, I was honored to visit today with the Attorney General the newly established 24-hour courts and the High Impact Court.  These institutions are addressing vital needs and demonstrating that no one is above the law.  In particular, I was impressed with the support provided to victims of gender-based violence and domestic violence, including not only legal support, but medical treatment, psycho-social services and physical protection.

These changes are not easy to implement and often require great courage from judges, prosecutors, other justice officials, civil society advocates, and citizens making use of the system.

Let me assure you that the U.S. government, including USAID, will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Guatemalans standing up for justice and rule of law for all.  Thank you. 


Guatemala Supreme Court, Guatemala City, Zone 1

Last updated: December 21, 2012

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