Peru adopts new law to protect indigenous peoples' rights and reduce resource conflicts

By jforres

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Washington, D.C. – International humanitarian organization Oxfam  applauds Peru’s new President, Ollanta Humala, for signing a new law  that will require the Peruvian government to consult indigenous peoples affected directly by development  policies and projects such as oil drilling, mining, roads and forestry.

The new law, passed unanimously by Peru’s National Congress in August and enacted by President Humala last week, could help reduce the number of violent conflicts that frequently emerge in the country’s oil and mining industries. Peru’s National Congress had passed a prior consultation law in 2010 following the Bagua incident where 33 people died in 2009. However, the Executive Branch had never approved it until now.

“Peru’s President and Congress have taken a major step in the right direction by passing a law that will help to protect indigenous peoples' rights and reduce social conflicts," said Keith Slack, manager of Oxfam America’s oil, gas and mining program. “Now that political will has been established, it’s time to implement the law and strengthen national authorities that will be responsible for enforcing it.”

Oxfam America, through its Right to Know, Right to Decide campaign, has been working with civil society organizations in Peru, as well as globally, to promote the right of communities to Free Prior and Informed Consent—a dynamic process ensuring communities have a meaningful voice in decisions about oil, mining and other development projects affecting them and their lands. For more than a year, Oxfam America has provided support to civil society groups for their advocacy work around the law.

“Approval of this law opens possibilities for a process of intercultural dialogue that respects the collective rights of indigenous peoples,” said Javier Jahncke, lawyer and member, of Fedepaz, a Peruvian civil society group that that supports indigenous people.. “A prior consultation law will help prevent social conflicts that occur throughout Peru and build a solid institutional framework that guarantees rights of indigenous people.”

The new law, which will go into effect 90 days after it’s officially published in the Peruvian newspaper, El Peruano, specifies that consultations on projects should aim to secure indigenous peoples’ agreement or consent. It also states that consultation processes must be respectful of different cultures, provide indigenous communities with adequate information and time for discussion, and be implemented in good faith.

“The struggle is far from over,” said Frank Boeren, country director for Oxfam in Peru. “There is still much left to do regarding legal, political, and social issues, given that populations have been historically marginalized from decisions that affect them directly.”

As the Peruvian government begins to write the rules to implement the new law, Oxfam offers the following recommendations.

  • The Ministry of Culture, and particularly its Vice-ministry of Intercultural Affairs, which will be responsible for regulating and overseeing consultation processes, should ensure that the elaboration of the law’s regulations is transparent, participatory, and consensus-driven, and incorporates the meaningful participation of indigenous organizations; nongovernmental organizations; oil, gas and mining companies and other relevant executive agencies. 
  • The Ministry of Culture should ensure that the regulations provide adequate time for indigenous communities to make decisions according to their traditional processes and incorporate the opinions of female community members.
  • The Ministry of Culture should ensure that the regulations allow access by indigenous communities to qualified independent technical experts, selected by the communities, who can advise communities' decision-making processes.
  • The Presidency of the Council of Ministers (cabinet chair) should allocate adequate funding to the Ministry of Culture for capacity building. This should include training public officials responsible for implementing the law and establishing a comprehensive registry of communities that should be consulted.
  • The Ministry of Culture should ensure that the regulations are consistent with International Labor Organization Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.