Guatemala has been identified as one of the planet’s richest and highly threatened biodiverse regions, making it one of the world’s top 25 biodiversity conservation hot spots, according to USAID. The Maya Biosphere Reserve (or RBM), covering 19% of Guatemala, is a jewel of natural beauty located in the heart of Guatemala. Under UNESCO protection since 1990, the lush rainforests of the Reserve have earned world fame, with visitors pouring in each year to see its exquisite array of breadnut and bullet trees, its stunning lakes and natural mountain ranges, as well as extraordinary animal life such as the Morelet’s crocodile. Unfortunately, even with the protection of UNESCO and Guatemala’s National Council of Protected Areas, the Reserve continues to be plagued by illegal natural resource extraction, from pillaging of its flora to poaching of its animals. The forest area of the Reserve has shrunk by 13 percent in the last 21 years, representing 8% of the entire reserve. Again, though, the people of Guatemala have come together to protect this precious national treasure. The Asociación Civil Foro de Justicia Ambiental de Petén, literally the Environmental Justice Forum of Petén (FJA) was created to address these threats and to strengthen the rule of law in the Reserve. FJA’s mission is to use strategic litigation of environmental crimes to improve environmental justice and protect the Reserve’s threatened natural resources. The FJA will use NED support to continue pursuing strategic litigation in emblematic cases of crimes against Mayan cultural heritage and illicit environmental exploitation within the Mayan Biosphere Reserve. The FJA will also train and improve their capacity to investigate and prosecute criminal cases within the Mayan Biosphere Reserve.
To support Guatemala’s citizens in building a strong, lawful and peaceful future, NED has focused on three key strategic objectives: strengthening civil society groups who advocate for political, electoral and judicial reform; fostering greater citizen oversight of institutions and engaging diverse stakeholders to combat corruption; and empowering citizens to help address insecurity and impunity that has long threatened democratic governance. Watch Spotlight: Guatemala, a video highlighting a few of NED’s Guatemalan grantees.
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