Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in Guatemala are organizing in light of new threats from their government. The authorities of the Mayan Ch’orti’, Q’eqchi’, Kaqchikel, and Ixil indigenous communities have petitioned the Guatemalan Constitutional Court to protect and publicly uphold the rights entitled to them as IPs. In 2015, a communiqué from RRI’s Collaborator the Coordinator for Associations and Communities for the Integral Development of the Ch’orti’ Region (COMUNDICH) revealed that municipality leaders revoked an agreement that acknowledged the Tachoche and Tizamarte communities as indigenous Maya Ch’orti’; an act which removed them from the government registry without prior notification. COMUNDICH along with RRI’s Collaborators FUNDAMAYA and Utz’ Che’ are now organizing a march on October 12 as part of their advocacy strategy to reinstate their historic and registered right to communal lands and territories, a right which has been disregarded by corruption within the national Registry for Property.

A large majority of Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala are not politically represented by their government; a reality that has led to human rights violations, especially with respect to territory natural resources. The Guatemalan government has systematically violated the territorial rights of these communities, with evictions from indigenous lands a common occurrence throughout the country. Most of these evictions are linked to oil and mining concessions, palm oil plantations, and other development projects. A lack of recognition and protection of Indigenous Peoples’ collective territorial rights act as a basis for these evictions, as the government continues to pursue an expansion of natural resource extraction and development projects. Even though much of the remaining natural resources in Guatemala are located within indigenous lands, the communities inhabiting on them often fail to receive the required prior consultation in regards to development projects that would affect their lands and territories.

Securing the collective territorial rights of Indigenous Peoples is an important path towards achieving sustainable development. A study conducted by the World Resources Institute and Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) found that legal forest rights for communities and government protection of their rights tend to lower carbon dioxide emissions and deforestation. In the current alarming context of global warming and intensification of global community efforts to mitigate climate change, it is more urgent than ever to recognize and strengthen Indigenous Peoples and local communities’ rights over their land.

RRI urges governments and their partners to help protect the forest and land rights of the Indigenous Peoples of Guatemala and to respond to the demands of the Mayan Ch’orti’, Q’eqchi’, Kaqchikel, and Ixil indigenous communities.