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Indigenous groups reach out to Caribbean Court of Justice after Government finalizes ‘Free Prior and Informed Consent Protocol’ without their consent

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Posted: Friday, January 28, 2022. 4:44 pm CST.

By Benjamin Flowers: The Toledo Alcaldes Association and the Maya Leaders Alliance have written to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and the Government of Belize (GOB) expressing their discontent with the recent announcement that GOB had finalized the “Free Prior and Informed Consent Protocol,” and submitted it to the CCJ without consulting them first.

The groups issued a statement and followed up with a media briefing today, stressing that they were not consulted for the finalized protocols, nor will they agree to the document that GOB has submitted.

Among the major points of contention, the groups note: A. That no agreement has been reached between the Parties on the FPIC Protocol as is required by the implementation process; B. That the Government of Belize, in particular the Office of the Commissioner in the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs, did not consult or seek agreement on its revisions to the filed Protocol; C. That, without any notice whatsoever to the Appellants, the Protocol purports to come into effect upon filing with the CC).

MLA President Christina Coc explained that consultation should be the means by which consent is obtained, but that the Maya people have the right to not give consent if they believe that whatever is being asked of them is not in their best interest.

“It is also important, then, to understand that consent is subject to Maya decision making processes. It is not for the government to decide what this process of decision making is,” Coc said. “It is not for the government to decide who they should talk to or who should be involved in the consultation. This is only for the Maya people and their villages to decide.”

The groups stressed that the act of filing a document they did not accept shows hubris on the part of the Commissioner and erodes the confidence in Government’s commitment to moving the implementation process forward.

The organizations are calling on Prime Minister John Briceño and GOB to address the problem and arrange for a proper and meaningful engagement with the Appellants on the way forward with the implementation process.

She noted that the organizations have asked that the CCJ and GOB give urgent attention.

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