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Logging concessions in Mayan territory, Belize


In 1993, the Government of Belize began granting logging concessions in Mayan territory to foreign companies without consulting with indigenous (Yucatec, Mopan, and Q’eqchi’ Maya) neither afrodescendant communities (Garífuna).

In 1996 the Ministry of Natural Resources granted to a Atlantic Industries (a malasyan timber corporation) for log over 200,000 hectares of rain forest in the Toledo District. Following the concession, the Toledo Maya Cultural Council (TMCC) (representing 37 Maya indigenous communities), filed a claim in the Supreme Court of Belize. As a result of the failure of domestic litigation the Maya communities submitted a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in 1998.

The IACHR resolves that “the State of Belize had violated the Maya communities’ rights to property by not recognizing their communal property right to their ancestral lands and territories” and recommended the government “to delimit, demarcate and title the territory through a free, informed, prior consultation, and to abstain, until then, from any act that might affect this territory” in the national court the case has been unresolved and the Government of Belize continues granting concessions not just for timber but also for oil exploitation in Mayan territories.

Further, others projects such as a sawmill and a paved road into the forest are been built.

The local people demand to be involved in decision-making and be recognized as subject of rights.

In 2000 the government and the Mayan communities signed the “Ten Points of Agreement” for the recognizing the Maya rights for their traditional lands and resources. Those agreements have been ignored by the State.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Logging concessions in Mayan territory, Belize
State or province:Toledo
Location of conflict:Toledo
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Logging and non timber extraction
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Timber

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Around seventeen concessions for logging on lands totaling approximately 194000 hectars in the Toledo District (Southern Belize)

Project area:194,000
Level of Investment for the conflictive projectunknown
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:20000-23000
Start of the conflict:1992
Company names or state enterprises:Atlantic Industries from Malaysia - owner
Atlantic International from Malaysia
Relevant government actors:Government of Belize, Supreme Court of Belize,Forestry Department,
International and Finance InstitutionsInter-American Commission on Human Rights
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:EJos: Toledo Maya Cultural Council (TMCC), Programme for Belize (PfB), Kekchi Council of Belize (KCB), Toledo Maya Women’s
Council (TMWC), Toledo Alcaldes Association (TAA)
Supporters: Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Indian Law Resource Center (ILRC),

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Arguments for the rights of mother nature


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Desertification/Drought
Potential: Global warming, Noise pollution, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Displacement, Land dispossession
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Other socio-economic impacts


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
Proposal and development of alternatives:-Promotion of the ecotourism industry and sustainable forest management
-Mayan communities have asked to have rights to their lands
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The Mayan communities have strengthened their participation and juridical knowledge about their territorios. They have submitted an international demand where they obtained a victory. But the State of Belize continues granting concessions and jeopardizing the mayan livelihoods

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man


References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Litterer, Juliet (1997) Belize Logging Conflict to ICE Case Studies

James Anaya (1998) Maya Aboriginal Land and Resource Rights and the Conflict Over Logging in Southern Belize

Chapter Three: The Struggle for Land Tenure and Resource Control in Southern Belize

IACHR Urges Belize to Guarantee the Rights of Maya Indigenous Communities

"Ten points of agreement" between Mayan communities and the government

Maya indigenous community of the Toledo District v. Belize, Case 12.053

The rights of Maya indigenous communities not guaranteed

Reports of more illegal rosewood logging in Toledo

Meta information

Contributor:Grettel Navas, Fundación Neotrópic
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1812



Rosewood logging in Belize