BELIZE CITY, Mon. Dec. 7, 2015–The Maya Leaders Alliance (MLA) and Toledo Alcaldes Association (TAA) today received recognition in Paris, France, as the 2015 recipients of the prestigious Equator Prize in land rights, as part of the Climate Change Conference.
The award was received by MLA spokesperson, Cristina Coc, and MLA chair, Alfonso Cal.
The Equator Initiative has received hundreds of nominations for the Equator Prize 2015 as part of an extensive partnership effort underway to strengthen and highlight the role of indigenous peoples and local communities at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP21), the organizers explained.
They said that following a global call for nominations, the Equator Initiative received a record-setting 1,461 nominations from 126 countries around the world.
“A Technical Advisory Committee comprised of international experts guided a rigorous, months-long peer-review process to select the 21 winning initiatives,” the organizers revealed.
On the occasion of today’s award, it was noted that the MLA and TAA had worked in a decades-long struggle “securing fundamental rights and livelihoods,” while achieving sustainable development goals on an international scale.
They were lauded for “protecting and securing rights to communal lands, territories and natural resources.”
It was noted, in a video feature at the event, that “customary rights to over 65% of the world’s land area is held by indigenous people and local communities,” and that only 18% of that land is protected by government-recognized rights; so 1.5 billion people lack legal rights to three-quarters of their land.
The Maya, described as stewards of Belize’s forests, were recognized for their recent victory at the Caribbean Court of Justice, a landmark victory of 2015, securing rights for 39 Q’eqchi and Mopan Maya villages—a victory cited as the first for the Caribbean.