I just received this report:
President Alan García of Peru has refused to sign an historic new law that would have recognized Peru’s international obligation to consult with Indigenous peoples before proceeding with resource extraction projects that affect them.
This is despite broad appeal from the International Labor Organization of the United Nations, human rights groups and indigenous organizations. Garcia sent the law back to Congress with his objections just before the deadline late on June 21.
“President García has missed a huge opportunity to show Peruvians and the world that his government is willing to respect indigenous peoples rights and willing to bring Peru closer in line with international norms,” commented Atossa Soltani, executive director of Amazon Watch.
The consultation law, which was approved by the Peruvian Congress on May 19, would have required that affected Indigenous peoples be consulted in advance of any legislative or administrative measure, development or industrial project, plan or program that directly affects their collective rights.
García objects to the idea that Indigenous people can disagree with the government and proposes that the law should be modified to allow the government to override the result of any consultation process. In his letter to the Peruvian Congress he also says that national and regional development projects should be excluded from consultation for fear of holding up infrastructure development and that the law should not apply to “la comunidad Andina”—the indigenous peoples of the Andes.
Alberto Pizango, the President of AIDESEP, the country’s national indigenous organization commented that “the consultation law would be a positive step forward though it is still insufficient in protecting our peoples’ rights.” He further stated that indigenous peoples are not opposed to development but rather object to the “current model of development that destroys the rainforest for profit of a few individuals and companies. We seek development in harmony with the environment.”
The law would have brought Peru closer to long overdue compliance with its international legal obligations. In 1994 Peru ratified International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples which establishes the right of indigenous peoples to be consulted on matters affecting their territories and way of life. In February 2010, the ILO recommended that the Peruvian government “suspend the exploration and exploitation of natural resources which are affecting [indigenous peoples]” until the government has developed consultation and participation mechanisms in compliance with ILO 169. In a meeting just last week the ILO reaffirmed its concerns over the Peruvian government’s failure to implement ILO 169 and urged Garcia to sign the consultation law as an important measure to come into compliance with the treaty.
Last year thousands of indigenous people across the Amazon protested new laws aimed at “development” of the Amazon, which were passed without consultation. The protests came to a tragic end when a police clampdown in Bagua left 34 dead and over 200 injured. As part of the reconciliation process the government committed to developing a consultation law in consensus with indigenous and civil society groups. However the García government continues to ignore indigenous rights and undermine the reconciliation process.
The oil and gas leasing arm of the Peruvian government has opened dozens more new oil and gas concessions on indigenous lands without meaningful consultation, and President Garcia last week signed an agreement with Brazil to build six mega-dams in the Peruvian Amazon, many of which will flood indigenous lands in order to sell electricity to Brazil.