Strengthening the regional strategic and operational cooperation for the protection of the Selva Maya

Project Description

Title: Strengthening the regional strategic and operational cooperation for the protection of the Selva Maya
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Belize, Guatemala, Mexico
Lead executing agency: Central American Commission for Environment and Development (CCAD)
Overall term: 2020 to 2022

The Selva Maya landscape-Selva Maya Programme


The Selva Maya lies between Belize, Guatemala and southern Mexico. Spanning over ten million hectares, it is the largest contiguous tropical forest area in Mesoamerica. With 23 different ecosystems in over four million hectares of protected areas, it is a hotspot of biodiversity. Its ecosystem services of water storage and supply in the region and its function as a carbon sink are threatened by unsustainable land-use, population growth and migration, illegal logging, flora and fauna illegal trade, oil extraction and ecosystem fragmentation. Furthermore, the degradation of ecosystems reduces their ability to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change. In addition, environmental governance in the Selva Maya region is weak, and cross-border cooperation and coordination for the effective protection of the Selva Maya requires additional efforts to implement common mitigation strategies. 

In view of this challenge, the Strategic Coordination Group of the Selva Maya (GEC) was founded in 2015 as a joint effort of various actors from the three countries. It is composed of high-level representatives of the institutions responsible for the protection and conservation of protected areas, and acts as a platform for political advocacy and decision-making. In addition, at the operational level of the protected areas, the Operational Coordination Group of the Selva Maya (GOC) was established, involving directors and deputy directors of protected areas in the Selva Maya. This group operates as a technical-operational interest representation platform, which coordinates and implements activities of cross-border cooperation. However, the GEC cannot conclude formally binding agreements on the three countries and the GOC is based on the voluntary commitment of the protected area directors. Furthermore, no formal, functioning local cooperation mechanisms exist to address threats in a joint effort. The central challenge in the region is therefore the inadequate coordination of regional cooperation to protect the Selva Maya. 


The regional cooperation at strategic and operational levels between Belize, Guatemala and Mexico for the protection of the Selva Maya is improved.


Recognizing that one of the central challenges in the area is the protection and conservation of the Selva Maya, the project seeks to strengthen adequate coordination and regional cooperation that allows to consolidate the conservation of this cross-border region through the sustainable use of its natural resources in the long term.

The project operates in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico, where it cooperates with the institutions responsible for the protected areas, as well as with other governmental and civil society organisations whose aims include the protection and sustainable use of the Selva Maya. National counterparts are the Forest Department in Belize, the national nature conservation authority CONAP in Guatemala and the national nature conservation authority CONANP in Mexico. 

To promote the cooperation between the three countries and its institutions in order to foster the protection of the Selva Maya region, the project promotes activities along three thematic lines:  

1.    Enhancing the strategic coordination 
2.    Strengthening of the operational cooperation 
3.    Implementing local cooperation mechanisms 

In this sense, the project seeks to foster the coordination and cooperation capacities of the Strategic and Operational Coordination Group of the Selva Maya (GEC and GOC), and to develop and strengthen coordination mechanisms between selected adjacent protected areas of the Selva Maya, and other relevant actors through capacity building measures. Furthermore, the project aims to strengthen the communication capacity of the institutions to position the Selva Maya on a national, regional and international level, and to raise awareness of its value locally.

Operational Coordination Group-Selva Maya Programme_ Jorge Uribe