Indigenous Communities Reject Prior Consultation Law Rules

Indigenous leaders on Wednesday came out against the regulations of the Prior Consultation Law, enacted Tuesday, daily El Comercio reported.

One of the main reasons why some indigenous community organizations are against the law, which is intended to provide the communities with better consultation rights on natural resource projects, is that the legislation is not binding.

Instead, the government has reserved the right to make the final decision on whether a project will be developed if the indigenous communities reject it in the consultation process. The law is intended to prevent social conflicts by improving dialogue with communities. Conflicts have been a concern for authorities and companies because they have led to violent clashes and delayed numerous projects worth billions of dollars.

“[The executive] creates distrust that is surely going to provoke more conflicts in the petroleum, gas and mining areas,” said Lorenzo Ccapa, a representative of the peasant farmers’ organization, the Confederacion Campesina del Peru.
Ccapa added: “Why do we have consultation if it is not binding?”

CEPES, the Peruvian Centre for Social Studies, called the discussions leading up to the regulations a “blind and deaf negotiation” between 18 ministries and only two indigenous organizations.

At the Legal Defense Institute, IDL, Juan Carlos Ruiz said the regulations present several ambiguities that could lead to arbitrary interpretations and loopholes. The way the document is written, says Ruiz, indicates that the consultation will only begin at the moment of the exploration, i.e. after the concession has already been granted.

“This has to be discussed, it is a complicated issue,” Ruiz said.

He also believes that the 120 day limit on the consultation is too rigid, given the complexities and distances in the Amazon region.

“It’s not a question of permanent, eternal, interminable consultations, but I think terms of 15 or 30 days should be established for notifications; one thing is being in Lima where you can find out about State decisions quickly, but I think in these cases the State should be required to ensure that the validity of decisions be subordinate to the effective notification,” Ruiz said.

Peru’s largest indigenous association, Aidesep, said it will seek to have the law repealed.  In a statement, the organization said it regretted the government had enacted the regulations without taking Aidesep’s observations into account, namely seven articles they consider limiting (such as recognizing only collective and not individual indigenous rights in consultations, and only direct and not broader impacts of any given project).

However, Eduardo Nayap, a lawmaker of Awajun ethnicity, said the law has at least put the “indigenous issue on the national agenda.”

“[The regulation] is an advance for improving the quality of life of the indigenous people,” he said. The regulation took effect on Wednesday.

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