Luque reflects on his time as head of ONDS
25 March 2017
As he prepares to leave his job as head of Peru’s National Office for Dialogue and Sustainability (ONDS), Rolando Luque told the PSG that some significant changes have been made in the short time since he took over last October. But, he argued, there is still an enormous amount to do in building institutional capabilities at the grass-roots level.
Responsible directly to the prime minister, the ONDS is the government department responsible for dealing with social conflict. It therefore sits across a fault line in government, under pressure on the one hand from human rights and other organisations which seek to stand up for the rights of communities against the activities of extractive industries, and equally under pressure from mining and other companies who demand political stability in the areas in which they operate.
Luque was appointed by the incoming Kuczynski administration to build an institution capable of managing the sort of conflicts that have raged in recent years and which have (in some cases) delayed important mining projects. He comes from a human rights background, having worked previously in the ombudsman’s office (Defensoría del Pueblo). His departure from the ONDS is to be regretted.
Luque sees as positive the creation of a vice-ministry with a territorial remit, but worries that the role of the ONDS in conflict management will be “diluted” in the new hierarchy. The new vice-minister is Javier Fernández Concha Stucker, a lawyer with close mining industry connections.
Under Luque’s tenure, the office has been much involved in two areas of conflict, namely the oil spills in the Amazon and the conflict in and around the giant (and strategically key) mine at Las Bambas in Apurímac. Both have resulted in dialogue round tables in which issues of contention can be thrashed out.
But at the same time, the ONDS has consolidated itself institutionally. “There was no proper staffing or systems of information” he recalled. This made it difficult to liaise properly with other ministries and departments in seeking to manage conflict. “How can you coordinate activities when you lack even the most information and data?” he asked. The ONDS has managed to build up an early-warning system that can warn of upcoming conflict. It has also established protocols with other departments as to who does what when a conflict breaks out.
Luque was clear that managing conflict case-by-case is not a satisfactory option, and that a wider ‘territorial approach’ is needed. The conflict in Las Bambas has spawned conflict along what he called the “mining corridor” of Apurímac and southern Cuzco. “You cannot think about Las Bambas only thinking about one or two districts” he says “there is constant movement within and between districts and provinces, and resentments are quick to build up”. Mining companies “can only negotiate on an individual basis” and this contributes to local inequalities, he said.
He was critical about the role of the police in confronting conflict. “They are poorly equipped materially and lack the information to understand complex situations”. He noted that what is required is a specialised training so that the police do not resort to undue force in seeking to maintain public order. There have been 250 deaths and some 4,000 people injured as a result of conflicts over the past ten years.
Luque was also critical of the way in which mining companies and state institutions enter into agreements with communities which they do not honour. The ONDS has made a register of some 2,500 agreements (actas), identifying the relatively small number which have been fulfilled.
Reflecting on his resignation from ONDS, Luque said “my intuition tells me that things could go in a direction that go against my principles”. He went on: “I just hope that the attempt to unblock (destrabar) mining projects or the presence of manipulative or corrupt social actors does not make us lose sight of real social demands”