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Jun 18, 2021

Free, Prior and Informed Consent

Is there discord within the Maya community and the various organizations that represent them?  Earlier today, SATIIM issued a statement celebrating the Supreme Court’s recent confirmation of Maya customary land rights in Jalacte village.  While the Sarstoon and Temash Institute for Indigenous Management saluted the legal victory, it has also issued a release calling for other representative organizations, including the Maya Leaders Alliance to conform to the consent order issued by the Caribbean Court of Justice.  That is, to allow for input from other Maya groups.  We’ll get to that shortly, but first we begin with the need for a toolkit designed to provide guidance on how to implement Free, Prior and Informed Consent, a specific right that pertains to indigenous peoples and is recognized in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  FPIC, as it is otherwise known, allows the Maya communities to give or withhold consent to a project that may affect them or their territories.  The development of a set of guidelines known as the Free, Prior and Informed Consent Protocol ought to have been carried out by representatives of the indigenous community and the Government of Belize.  That document, which follows the C.C.J.’s consent order of 2015, has been long in the making, despite the efforts of the Toledo Alcaldes Association and the previous administration.  That is because government, irrespective of the party in power, is seemingly of the position that the protocol should not incorporate the traditional system of governance of the Maya communities.  Cristina Coc, spokesperson for the Toledo Alcaldes Association and the Maya Leaders Alliance, explains why the FPIC Protocol is yet to become a reality.


Cristina Coc

Cristina Coc, Spokesperson, TAA/MLA

“Over the last six years that we have been trying to implement the Caribbean Court of Justice’s order, we made some headway in 2018 when an agreement was signed between the parties, between the Maya communities and the Government of Belize.  This came to be known as the December 2018 Agreement which sets out the roadmap for implementation.  One outcome of this roadmap was to develop a Free, Prior and Informed Consent Protocol and since that time we have been working with the Government of Belize to develop that protocol.  That protocol was in its final draft even before this new administration took office and consistent with what the previous administration had issues with, this new government has also indicated that it has issues with the fact that the process for decision-making rests with the Maya villages, represented through their alcaldes which is the customary elected leaders of the Maya villages and on matters where it concerns the broader Maya community, they are represented collectively by the Toledo Alcaldes Association.  Both the past administration and this new administration seem to think that an FPIC Protocol should not include the traditional governance system of the Maya communities.  Of course, that is contrary to self-determination and the process by which indigenous communities are afforded the rights to determine their own representations and so the FPIC Protocol seems to us, from our side, that the government is unwilling or reluctant to adopt the FPIC Protocol.”

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