Maya Leaders Alliance of Southern Belize Wins Prestigious Equator Prize

May 7, 2016

Left - Ms. Cristina Coc, Maya Leaders Alliance's Spokesperson, Right - Christian Salazar Volkmann, UNDP Resident Representative

The Maya Leaders Alliance of Southern Belize are being celebrated locally as a winner of the Equator Prize 2015 at a ceremony to be held in the Toledo District on the 7th of May 2016.  The Maya Leaders Alliance of Southern Belize was one of twenty-one community initiatives from across the world that were awarded the prize in 2015, and was selected from among 1,461 nominations submitted by communities in 126 countries. The ceremony, to be held at the Nim Li Punit Archaeological Site, follows an event held at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in December 2015 in Paris, France.

The coalition of Maya organizations and leaders works to promote the long-term wellbeing of the Maya people and to defend collective rights to their territories. The alliance achieved a landmark legal victory in 2015, which affirmed that the 39 Q’eqchi and Mopan Maya indigenous communities of southern Belize have rights to the lands that they have historically used and occupied. This historic legal affirmation – which states that traditional land rights constitute property, equal in legitimacy to any other form of property under Belizean law – is the first indigenous peoples land rights victory in the Caribbean region. In addition to providing mobilization, outreach, advocacy and legal support on customary land rights, the Maya Leaders Alliance is active in sustainable forest management and environmental conservation efforts. Village funds are used to improve services in education, health, and infrastructure for Mayans living across 39 villages.

The Equator Initiative is a partnership that brings together the UN, governments, civil society, businesses and grassroots organizations to advance local sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities. Since 2002, the partnership has awarded the prestigious Equator Prize to 208 local and indigenous communities around the world.  The Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) was Belize’s first winner in 2002.

The Equator Prize, which has been endorsed by former Heads of State Gro Harlem Brundtland and Oscar Arias, philanthropist Ted Turner, a host of Nobel laureates, UN Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall and celebrities Alec Baldwin and Edward Norton, was awarded for the eighth time in 2015.  Each winning organization, including the Maya Leaders Alliance of Southern Belize, received a grant of USD $10,000 to support its continued works.

A complete list of Equator Prize 2015 winners can be found at


Current partners of the initiative include: Government of Norway; German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development; Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA); United States Agency for International Development (USAID); Conservation International; Convention on Biological Diversity; Eco agriculture Partners; Fordham University; International Union for Conservation of Nature; The Nature Conservancy; PCI Media Impact; Rare; UNEP; UN Foundation; and UNDP.


Contact information

Karen Bernard, Tel: +501 822 2688 or

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