The creation of “protected areas” poses a second threat to the Maya Q’eqchi’s rights of self-determination and ownership of their lands and natural resources. These protected areas—some proposed and some already established—transfer the control and management of lands from the Q’eqchi’ to private institutions, most of which are non-governmental conservation organizations.
We presented this information at a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in March 2008. We have since developed legal arguments to support indigenous control of such protected areas, drawing upon environmental law and human rights law and, most importantly, maintaining an indigenous point of view. Relevant research and findings have been included into one of our most recent publications on this matter: Conservation and Indigenous Peoples in Mesoamerica: A Guide. We continue to work with the indigenous leaders of these communities to monitor the situation and develop a plan of action.