Belize: SATIIM's Oil Summit
On Tuesday 8th and Wednesday 9th March the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management held a district summit. It was a huge success with an excellent turn out from indigenous and local community leaders across the district, as well as representatives from numerous local and national organizations. The decision was made to make a united stand and a People's Position Statement was collaboratively written and put forward to the public, Government of Belize and the International Community.
The summit is the latest advance in SATIIM's ongoing advocacy program to raise public awareness on the consequences of oil drilling and to ensure Government listens to the voice of the Sarstoon Temash Peoples. SATIIM says no to drilling in the Sarstoon Temash National Park, other protected areas and the lands and territories of Indigenous Peoples of Southern Belize.
SATIIM's advocacy actions have instigated much media interest and national debate. A recent Channel 5 poll showed that 79% of viewers did not think that the Government should grant licenses for oil exploration or drilling in any protected area or national park. So we know we are having an impact, but we need the Government to listen and take heed.
A People’s Position Statement was prepared by indigenous community leaders and members at the summit this week after a unanimous vote to make a stand. It raises concerns from all communities in Toledo in 4 key areas: Human Rights Issues, Environmental Issues, Economic Equality and Rule of Law. The next day after the Position Paper was read aloud by a community member, the Amandala Newspaper repeated the vote. All except one of the community leaders raised their hand to pledge their support of the People’s Position Statement.
The report can be read by following the link: http://www.amandala.com.bz/index.php?id=10974. The press release is detailed below.
Further coverage surrounding the event that hit headlines across all the major media outlets are below:
Links to other recent news pieces surrounding SATIIM’s activities:
Belize Coalition Press Conference 28th January
A video report from the press conference can be viewed at
Interview regarding Ecuador’s oil proposition 18th February
Response to PM quarterly conference 11th February
Response to PM 21st January:
SATIIM is asking the Belizean people to be aware, informed and proactive in this debate so they are able to make a conscious decision regarding oil development in protected areas and on the lands and territories of Indigenous Peoples. They are joined by multiple organizations that are calling for a National Referendum. Only then can the Peoples of Belize democratically and collaboratively decide upon their future. In order for a referendum to take place, 17,000 signatures must be gathered. The people of Belize are being encouraged to sign the referendum petition and have their voices heard. To sign, contact SATIIM at email@example.com or call 722-0103 to request a copy of the petition.
To pledge your support and follow our progress please visit:
Also released is a Position Paper from SATIIM that outlines our stance on oil development with particular focus on the Sarstoon-Temash National Park and the lands and territories of Indigenous Peoples in Southern Belize. We recognize the consequences of oil development on Indigenous and Local Peoples, the environment and the nation’s economy and ask for all decisions to be made in accordance with the law of our country and respecting the customary law of our communities. SATIIM's position paper is also attached alongside an executive summary.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and welcome your support.
SATIIM’s Executive Director Greg Ch’oc
Interviews, photographs and video footage of our recent events are available.
PRESS RELEASE: 9th March
United decision put forward at SATIIM’s Oil Summit
Today, Toledo residents are announcing a People’s Position Paper at the Parish Hall in Punta Gorda Town. The paper outlines the shared values and principles of the people in the Sarstoon-Temash region regarding oil development. It was produced collaboratively at SATIIM’s oil summit after a unanimous decision to make a stand and to raise numerous concerns.
The two-day summit featured a wide array of speakers with specialized knowledge regarding the legal, environmental, human rights, and economic aspects of oil development. A series of round-table discussions were also held with community leaders and members to facilitate participatory consensus building. At the end of the day the outline for the position was collaboratively put forward. A unanimous show of hands declared their support.
The People’s Position Paper raises concerns from communities in Toledo in 4 key areas: Human Rights Issues, Environmental Issues, Economic Equality and Rule of Law. As well as uncertainties about the consequences of oil development, the paper lays out the commitment of SATIIM and the Mayan Peoples to work together with all Belizeans for a better future.
The summit provided a space for Mayan and Garifuna community leaders, community members, local NGOs and other interested Toledo residents to discuss oil development issues in the District and the country. Specific focus was given to concessions permitted off-shore, in protected areas and on lands traditionally used by Indigenous Peoples. It provided the opportunity for civil society and Indigenous Peoples to have a voice in the national consensus on oil development.
Greg Ch’oc, Executive Director of SATIIM said: “We wanted to provide a forum where people whose lives are built in the Sarstoon Temash region could come to learn about the consequences of oil development and to have their voice heard. Together we have written the People’s Position Paper. It involved community participation from villages across Toledo and is the result of much discussion to reach a united stance. We demand that the Government listen to us and address our concerns.”
Calling for all Belizeans to protect their country, the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM) is joined by the Association for Protected Areas Management (APAMO), and the Belize Coalition to Save Our National Heritage. The issue of oil development, specifically in fragile ecosystems, is a national issue with far-reaching impacts.
SATIIM is asking the Belizean people to be aware, informed and proactive in this debate so they are able to make a conscious decision regarding oil development in protected areas. They are joined by multiple organizations that are calling for a National Referendum. Only then can the people of Belize democratically and collaboratively decide upon their future. In order for a referendum to take place, 17,000 signatures must be gathered. The people of Belize are being encouraged to sign the referendum petition and have their voice heard. To sign, contact SATIIM at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 722-0103 to request a copy of the petition.
Also released today is a position paper from SATIIM that outlines their stance on oil development with particular focus on Sarstoon-Temash National Park. It recognizes the consequences of oil development on local people, the environment and the nation’s economy and asks for all decisions to be made in accordance with the law of our country. This will soon be available at www.satiim.org.bz and can be provided on request.
** ends **
Gregory J Ch'oc
Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management
81 Main Street
Punta Gorda Town, Toledo District
Belize, Central America
Photo: Gregory J Ch'oc speaking at the summit