The Government of Belize recently sold off most of the country to oil companies, including concessions given in protected areas and on traditional lands. Oil development is a huge threat to the Toledo District, the region wtih the most biodiversity and highest popluation of Indigenous Peoples. Environmental and human rights organizations, along with Indigenous Leaders, are working together to ban drilling in protected areas, as well as educate and mobilize communities to defend their rights.
The recent political corruption regarding the large-scale leasing of petroleum/minerals contracts throughout Belize, including a large portion within protected areas, has triggered a heated national debate. This represents a critical moment to join forces (environmentalists, Indigenous Leaders, and human rights defenders) to mobilize social protest with the aim of addressing structural inequalities and demanding a more equitable, just and sustainable development model for the country.
Signatures are currently being collected (17,000 needed) to take the issue of off-shore drilling and in protected areas to referendum. Through this project, over 200 Indigenous Leaders throughout the Toledo District of Belize informed about the impacts of oil development, who will, along with national environmental and human rights organizations, assert political pressure to halt extractive industry in protected areas and on indigenous lands.