Mexico and Unesco sign collaboration agreement on Mayan Train project

Unesco will accompany the integral project of the Mayan Train since it comprises six World Heritage sites and 35 sites with exceptional universal value

Mexico and Unesco sign collaboration agreement on Mayan Train project
English 21/12/2019 10:08 Newsroom & Agencies Mexico City EFE & Alexis Ortiz/EL UNIVERSAL Actualizada 10:32
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On Wednesday, Mexico signed a framework collaboration agreement with Unesco to accompany the integral project of the Mayan Train that will be built in the southeast of the country and that involves six sites declared as World Heritage and 35 more considered with universal value.

The director of the National Fund for Tourism Promotion (Fonatur), Rogelio Jiménez Pons, and the representative of the Office of Unesco in Mexico Frederic Vacheron signed the agreement in the Mexican capital, authorities said.

Through this agreement, Unesco will support the Mayan Train’s integral development project, which will connect the main cities and tourist centers of southeastern Mexico and that seeks to improve the economy of the region.

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The cooperation with Unesco will commit Mexico to align all its work programs, including the Mayan Train, to the goals of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development with the environment and placing people in the center, the authorities said.

The Mayan Train project is up to Unesco by involving six World Heritage sites: Palenque (Chiapas), the fortified city of Campeche, Chichén Itzá (Yucatán), Uxmal (Yucatán), the Biosphere Reserve of Sian Ka’an (Quintana Roo), and the Tropical Forests and Ancient Mayan City of Calakmul (Campeche), said Vacheron.

In addition, the UN official explained, the project involves 35 sites with exceptional universal value that Mexico preserves for the benefit of all mankind and five Unesco Biosphere Reserves.

Unesco "will promote the integration of scattered Mayan communities in Tabasco, Chiapas, Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo through projects and strategies of education, culture, and communication, supported by scientific information and decided based on participatory processes", declared.

Did you know there was a Mayan train referendum in indigenous communities?

Jiménez Pons stressed the strategic importance of the region, so he considered that the accompaniment of the United Nations agency is essential for the Mayan Train project.

"It is not just about seeking international agencies' prestige, the importance of the region demands it, both socially and environmentally and culturally," said Jiménez Pons.

With a total investment of about USD $6.3 billion, the Mayan Train will start operating in 2024 and will travel 1,460 kilometers in the five states of southeastern Mexico, a region with 12 million inhabitants and 17 million tourists per year.

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For its part, the Office of theUnited Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico (OHCHR) rejected the Mayan Train referendum organized by the federal government since it not fulfilled international standards on the matter.

The agency criticized that the referendum only mentioned the benefits of the project and there was no information regarding the negative impacts. Likewise, the OHCHR observed that people agreed with the project only to receive attention to basic needs like water, health, education, work, housing, environment, and culture.

It also regretted that the communities that will be affected did not participate in the planning of the referendum, which caused times to be very short, translations to be inadequate, many people could not move for the referendum due to a lack of resources, and those who participated were mainly members of municipal governments.

The OHCHR stressed the low representation of indigenous women in the process, in addition to a lack of transparency in some communities regarding the creation of monitoring committees.

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“The referendum process with indigenous groups about the “Mayan Train development project” (…) has not fulfilled all the international standards in the matter (…) International standards on human rights establish that the referendum and the consent of indigenous people must be prior, free, informed, and culturally adequate,” said the agency in a statement.

The OHCHR monitored four of the 15 regional informative assemblies in Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo. Likewise, it was present in eight of the 15 consultive regional assemblies in Chiapas, Campeche, Yucatán, Tabasco, and Quintana Roo.

The agency performed these activities invited by the National Institute of Indigenous People, the National Fund for Tourism Development, and the Sub-Ministry of Democratic Development, Social Participation, and Religious Matters of the Interior Ministry.

Despite rejecting the referendum, the OHCHR celebrated the government’s commitment to carry out additional processes and to expand the participation of the communities that could be affected by the project.

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