Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management Launches Maya Lands Registry

Maya Village in Belize

Published August 9, 2017

Two Years After CCJ Ruling, Mayans Take Matters into Their Own Hands

CRIQUE SARCO, TOLEDO DISTRICT – BELIZE – Using Guatemala as a cautionary tale — where 50 percent of communal land and more than 200 sacred sites disappeared in one district alone — the Maya of Belize are taking matters into their own hands.

In 2015, the Caribbean Court of Justice ordered the Belize government to legalize their lands according to their traditional governance. Two years onward and nothing has happened.

On August 9, International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and the Tenth Anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management, a Maya-run organization, launched the Maya Land Registry of communal lands.

The Caribbean Court of Justice ordered the Belize government to “create an effective mechanism” to identify and protect Mayan lands in accordance with their traditional governance.

“Given the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the implementation of the Court order, Crique Sarco took the matter into their own hands,” said Tzalam.

“They identified traditional territorial boundaries and resolved boundary conflicts – creating a local model that can be applied nationally.”

SATIIM will continue to work with Crique Sarco to develop an inventory of their land usage and customary governance practices – which, along with the with maps will define Maya jurisdictional and individual land rights for a complete Registry listing.

“This is an historic moment, but it is just the beginning,” said Tzalam. “We celebrate that the Maya have taken the initiative to implement the CCJ order.”

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