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Maya to give Free Prior Informed Consent on issues affecting their communities

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Posted: Thursday, January 27, 2022. 11:37 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: In furtherance of the Government’s commitment to the implementation of the 2015 Consent Order of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Cabinet has approved the Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) Protocol that will guide consultations with Maya communities, whether by government or private entities.

In 2015 the Maya of southern Toledo District were recognized by the CCJ as having the right to communal ownership of land and related property within their 38 villages and the Government was tasked with maintaining boundaries within the villages and managing the activities therein, including but not limited to oil exploration, logging, farming, and others.

The parties have regularly been back before the CCJ to check on the progress of implementing the order. At the last such hearing in November, CCJ judge Jacob Wit observed, “My impression is that although it’s slow – but progress is made. Nothing is perfect in this world, but I think we can say that we are doing – at least the system is doing better than it used to.”

A Dispute Resolution Authority has been established, chaired by Professor Rosa Celorio who cited as “positive steps” the number of cease-and-desist orders, for example, that the Government has been issuing, and also the non-renewal of licenses or authorizations that could be contrary to paragraph 4 of the CCJ consent order.

In discussing the need for an FPIC now approved, Professor Celorio told the court that, “I continue receiving reports of third-party activities in Maya lands without consultation and consent. This is an ongoing problem, and it does underscore the need to have an approved FPIC protocol, and I believe that this is something that probably the parties will brief you in terms of where the FPIC is. And it’s very important that when this FPIC protocol is adopted that this also serves as a way of building trust between the parties. A lot of what I see is that we still need confidence-building measures. And at the end of the day, this is very important for any solution to this matter to really work and that the FPIC protocol does reflect not only the Government’s interest but also what is very important for the principles of self-determination of the Maya. This is extremely important when discussing the provisions of the FPIC.”

Attorney for the claimants, Leslie Mendez, added in regard to disputes with third parties, “The third parties need to consult, need to approach, and need to work with the communities to try to get to a sort of interim measures, which we repeatedly mention, even at the meeting that we had with the representatives of the third parties is that the communities are open to considering what they want to propose. Propose to us exactly what is it that you want so that we could get to some sort of agreement. But what has been repeated, and what has been emphasized is that I have a legal title. And when the government does not clearly refer to paragraph 4 and the obligation to consult, even when there are third-party rights, which has been repeated in several of the reports from the authority that creates unnecessary confusion. And, it makes the process even more complicated because, with much sincerity and frankness, it’s not that complicated.”

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