Natural Resource Management: Accord for a Firm and Lasting Peace

Agreement on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Mexico City, 31 March 1995)

IV. Civil, Political, Social and Economic Rights

F. Rights relating to land of the indigenous peoples

Land tenure and use and administration of natural resources

6. The Government shall adopt or promote the following measures:

(a) Recognize and guarantee the right of access to lands and resources which are not occupied exclusively by communities but to which the latter have historically had access for their traditional activities and their subsistence (rights of way, such as passage, wood-cutting, access to springs, etc., and use of natural resources) and for their spiritual activities;

(b) Recognize and guarantee the right of communities to participate in the use, administration and conservation of the natural resources existing in their lands;

(c) Secure the approval of the indigenous communities prior to the implementation of any project for the exploitation of natural resources which might affect the subsistence and way of life of the communities. The communities affected shall receive fair compensation for any loss which they may suffer as a result of these activities; and

(d) Adopt, in cooperation with the communities, the measures necessary for the protection and preservation of the environment.

Agreement on Social and Economic Aspects and Agrarian Situation (Mexico City, 6 May 1996)

III. Agrarian Situation and Rural Development: B. Access to land and productive resources

34. Promote the access of tenant farmers to land ownership and the sustainable use of land resources. To that end, the Government will take the following actions:

Access to the use of natural resources

(f) By 1999, allocate to small and medium-sized farmers’ groups legally incorporated as natural resources management ventures, 100,000 hectares within multi-use areas for sustainable forest management, the management of protected areas, eco-tourism, conservation of water sources and other activities compatible with the sustainable potential use of the natural resources of such areas

(g) Promote and support the participation of the private sector and grassroots community organizations in projects for the management and conservation of renewable natural resources through incentives, targeted direct subsidies or funding mechanisms on soft terms, in view of the non-monetary benefits that the national community derives from such projects. Given the benefit that the international community receives from the sustainable management and conservation of the country’s forest and biogenetic resources, the Government will actively promote international cooperation in this venture;

Access to other productive projects

(h) Develop sustainable productive projects especially geared towards boosting productivity and the processing of agricultural, forestry and fishery products in the poorest areas of the country. In particular, for the period 1997-2000, guarantee the implementation, in the poorest areas, of a Government agricultural sector investment programme in the amount of 200 million quetzals in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors;

(i) Promote a renewable natural resources management programme which fosters sustainable forestry and agro-forestry production, as well as handicrafts and small- and medium-scale industry projects that give added value to forest products;

(j) Promote productive ventures related, inter alia, to agro-processing industries, marketing, services, handicrafts and tourism with a view to creating jobs and securing fair incomes for all;

(k) Promote an eco-tourism programme with the broad participation of communities which have received appropriate training.

(i) Promote a renewable natural resources management programme which fosters sustainable forestry and agro-forestry production, as well as handicrafts and small- and medium-scale industry projects that give added value to forest products;

E. Legal framework and juridical security

37. Guatemala is in need of reform of the juridical framework of agriculture and institutional development in the rural sector so that an end can be put to the lack of protection and dispossession from which small farmers, and in particular indigenous peoples, have suffered, so as to permit full integration of the rural population into the national economy and regulate land use in an efficient and environmentally sustainable manner in accordance with development needs. To this end, and taking into account in all cases the provisions of the Agreement on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Government undertakes to:

Legal reform

(c) Promote the revision and adjustment of the legislation on undeveloped land so that it conforms to the provisions of the Constitution, and regulate, inter alia through incentives and penalties, the underutilization of land and its use in ways incompatible with sustainable natural resource utilization and preservation of the environment;

Prompt settlement of land conflicts

(f) To establish and apply flexible judicial or non-judicial procedures for the settlement of disputes relating to land and other natural resources (in particular, direct settlement and conciliation), taking into account the provisions of the Agreement on Resettlement of the Population Groups Uprooted by the Armed Conflict and the Agreement on Identity and Rights of Indigenous People. In addition, to establish procedures that will make it possible:

(i) To define formulas for compensation in the case of land disputes and claims in which farmers, small farmers and communities in a situation of extreme poverty have been or may be dispossessed for reasons not attributable to them;

(ii) To reinstate or compensate, as appropriate, the State, municipalities, communities or individuals when their land has been usurped or has been allocated in an irregular or unjustified manner involving abuse of authority;

I. Environmental protection

41. In this sense, and in line with the principles of the Central American Alliance for Sustainable Development, the Government reiterates the following commitments:

(d) To promote sustainable natural resource management programmes that will create jobs.

Implementation History

1997

Minimum Implementation

The Government of Guatemala established a coordinating body for compliance with stipulations from the Agreement on Social and Economic Aspects and the Agrarian Situation pertaining to land.1

  • 1. “United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala: Report of the Secretary-General,” United Nations General Assembly (A/51/936), June 30, 1997.
1998

Minimum Implementation

Hurricane Mitch ravaged much of Central America in October 1998, and the absence of plans for the comprehensive management of Guatemalan lands and natural resources exacerbated the effects of the storm.2

  • 2. “United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala: Report of the Secretary-General,” United Nations General Assembly (A/54/526), November 11, 1999.
1999

Minimum Implementation

Comprehensive land management plans were still lacking, leaving issues of conservation and sustainable use of natural resources ambiguous and perpetuating the risk of amplified damage in the event of another natural disaster like Hurricane Mitch.3

2000

Minimum Implementation

No major developments were reported related to natural resource uses.

2001

Minimum Implementation

The provisions in the Agreements for indigenous communities to own and manage their land were still not honored. While indigenous practices traditionally worked well for the sustainable use of natural resources, the Government's backward and ineffective rural development policies undermined both indigenous rights and a sustainable ecology.4

  • 4. “United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala: Report of the Secretary-General,” United Nations General Assembly (A/55/973), June 1, 2001.
2002

Minimum Implementation

The Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources was established. The National Forestry Institute began a program to manage municipal forests, but indigenous communities and small-scale farmers did not have access to benefits through the program. The National Council for Protected Areas granted some important forestry management concessions to rural communities in the north, but it did little to improve the enfranchisement of marginalized indigenous communities.5

  • 5. “United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala: Report of the Secretary-General,” United Nations General Assembly (A/55/1003), July 10, 2002.
2003

Minimum Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2004

Minimum Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2005

Minimum Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2006

Minimum Implementation

The Government agreed to step up efforts to preserve the nation's rain forests in exchange for debt forgiveness from the United States.6

2007: At most, the natural resource use provision of the accord was poorly implemented. Institutions established to redistribute land and provide indigenous people access to land were ineffective. Multinational corporations were established and exploited natural resources. These corporations, however, faced resistance in certain indigenous areas over the ownership and protection of natural resources.7  

  • 6. Marc Lacey, “U.S. To Cut Guatemala's Debt for Not Cutting Trees,” The New York Times, October 2, 2006, Section A:4.
  • 7. Maria Giovana Teijido and Wiebke Schram, "Guatemala’s Indigenous Women in Resistance: On the Frontline of the Community Struggle to Defend Mother Earth and her Natural Assets," PBI, May 2010, accessed May 29, 2012, http://www.pbi-guatemala.org/fileadmin/user_files/projects/guatemala/fil...17, 27.