Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage called on Government to ensure Free, Prior and Informed Consent for the Communities of the Toledo District

Belize City, Belize, October 16, 2012 - - The Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage supports the communities of the Toledo District and the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM)with their call on Government to reschedule the planned public consultation for the US Capital Exploratory Drilling Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on October 25, 2012 for November 22 or at a later date. The Coalition has been informed that the EIA was deposited in the advertised communities on Sunday, October 6, 2012, which is only 2 ½ weeks to review a highly technical document.

If the communities are to be meaningfully consulted, and their free, prior and informed consent gained, then sufficient time must be given to review the Environmental Impact Assessment. It is noted that the EIA is in the English Language which is not the first language of the primarily affected communities and therefore translation into appropriate languages will be required to ensure meaningful, effective consultation.

Belize signed on to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIPS) which states in Article 32 (2): “States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.”

Furthermore, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) ruling in 2004 and the Supreme Court ruling of 2007 and 2010 reaffirmed the rights of the 38 communities to meaningful and effective consultation as well as the right to free and informed consent or the right to informed rejection of any development projects on communal lands.

The Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage urges the Government through the Department of the Environment to reschedule the public consultation and ensure that the communities most likely to be affected by the proposed exploratory drilling by US Capital are meaningfully consulted as part of the EIA process.