Ombudsman report points to deficiencies in control of illegal deforestation

10 July 2017

As readers of the PSG newsletter will be aware, the expansion of palm oil and cacao production in the Amazon has been giving grave cause for concern in recent years. So the report on the impact of such crops on deforestation just issued by the Ombudsman’s office (Defensoría del Pueblo) is of considerable significance.

It reviews in great detail the implementation of the key legislation intended to protect the forest and the rights of all those affected by deforestation, including future generations.

In Peruvian law, a vital element in fostering land use for sustainable development in such ways that it protects the rights of future generations is the concept of ‘capacidad de uso mayor’ (the most appropriate use of land). The 131-page report is strongly critical of the state’s implementation of supposedly protective legislation concerning the right use of land, and it ends with no less than 67 recommendations directed at all levels of government.

The report documents deforestation between 2010 and 2014 in the regions of Loreto, Huánuco, Ucayali and San Martín. This totals no less than 30,773 hectares, equivalent to 23 football stadiums a day, according to the Defensoría. It highlights the role of particular companies; the Melka group is presented as a case study, one that is already well-known and documented. The importance of the report lies not so much in the new information it presents, rather its meticulous critique of state failures at national and regional levels.

The current Forestry Law was passed in 2011 and the implementing decrees in September 2015. The text of the law itself is not criticised here, rather its inadequate implementation. In particular, the translation of the law into operational procedures is seen as having lagged badly in a number of ways.

Firstly, the legal redefinition of the land to be protected, incorporating lands appropriate for viable forestry products and/or land of especial fragility, has not so far been incorporated into the decrees. So evaluations are still being carried out based on the old classification. Earlier evaluation studies are still being used based on the previous definitions.

Secondly, the register of people qualified to do soil evaluations is woefully inadequate in the regions. Heavy investment is needed in qualified people, as well as an updating of regional governance procedures and classification systems.

Thirdly, the requirement to conduct prior consultation where indigenous populations are involved has been ignored. The Ministry of Culture has identified 13 such affected populations, and the report says these consultations should take place before the National Plan for Sustainable Development for Palm Oil is approved.

Fourthly, monitoring by state agencies, especially OEFA, has been inadequate or non-existent. The lack of resources for such monitoring is a point that is underlined.

Fifthly, coordination and communication between different administrative levels has been poor and needs to be improved, especially between OEFA and the Comptroller-General (Contraloría).

This is very far from the first example of the manner in which, in recent years, the Peruvian state can design nice laws but vitiate them in implementation and in the lack of oversight. The failures quoted in this instance have huge implications for the protection of human rights and for sustainable development.

The full report is available at
http://www.defensoria.gob.pe/modules/Downloads/informes/varios/2017/Informe-de-Adjuntia-001-2017-DP-AMASPPI.MA.pdf,
and the Defensoría’s summary at
http://www.defensoria.gob.pe/portal-noticias.php?n=18408.

For full background, see two reports one published by Oxfam
https://peru.oxfam.org/sites/peru.oxfam.org/files/
file_attachments/Hacia%20una%20ecolog%C3%ADa%20pol%
C3%ADtica%20de%20la%20palma%20aceitera%20-%20Resumen%20Ejecutivo%20Oxfam.pdf

and one from the Environmental Investigative Agency
https://eia-global.org/press-releases/eia-report-exposes-illegal-deforestation-of-peruvian-amazon-for-palm-oil-cu

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