The construction of the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam during the Guatemalan civil war in the late 1970s and early 1980s resulted in severe impacts on the lives of the Maya Achi’ Indigenous communities forcibly displaced out of the Chixoy Dam and reservoir areas. The Chixoy Dam project was built with financial assistance from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank (see Martínez Estrada 2004; Aguirre and Bird 2005; Johnston 2005a, 2005b, 2005c). 1 For over 30 years, the affected Indigenous communities fought to obtain reparations from the Government of Guatemala (GoG), a campaign that recently culminated in their success. During this long post-displacement process, new collective identities emerged among the communities, reconfiguring local governance dynamics; significant changes have also occurred in the domestic political macro-structures of Guatemala at the national level. The new power dynamic between local people and national governance structures must be considered to explain the recent adoption of solutions to the complex legacy of the Chixoy Dam project.

In November 2014, due to the long and tenacious struggles of the Chixoy Dam affected communities, the GoG adopted breakthrough Chixoy-relevant legislation: Governmental Decree 378–2014, which for the first time in Latin American history institutionalized a public policy on reparation for dam-affected communities. The issuance of this legislation is a foundational milestone in finding solutions to legacies and in changing one crucial element in the paradigm of development-caused forced displacement and resettlement (DFDR) in Guatemala. The adopted decree states that the GoG will repair the damages (economic, social, cultural, and environmental) caused to 33 communities displaced for the Chixoy Dam project.

202The Chixoy Dam project case offers key lessons on how to conduct DFDR in future projects from the outset, so as to prevent and avoid altogether the need for post-project reparations. This refers to two distinct aspects: (a) how to design the indispensable pre-project Resettlement Action Plans (RAPs); and (b) the need to define and include provisions in advance, in the project’s legal agreement, on the obligation to negotiate, design, and implement post-project legacy solutions, in case legacies are left to be solved after project completion.