Prior consultation: how it has worked in practice

17 February 2018

 A workshop has been meeting in Lima to look at implementation of prior consultation (consulta previa) procedures. No less than 36 representatives of national indigenous organizations were present at the meeting, representing the regions of Amazonas, Ancash, Apurímac, Cajamarca, Cuzco, Huancavelica, Junín, La Libertad, Lambayeque, Lima, Loreto, Moquegua, Puno, San Martín y Ucayali. Their task: to evaluate the use of the prior consultation (consulta previa) over the six years since it became law.

The 'material' for discussion was the 37 instances of consulta previa held to date. Two strong conclusions emerged:

    • The most disappointing results come precisely from the sectors where prior consultation is most important: mining and hydrocarbons.

    • Consultation has, in practice, not been 'prior' at all, but at the end when key decisions have already been taken.

    The most positive results emerged from the consultation over national policies in areas such as indigenous language and the regulation of the Forestry Law. Here the leaders were clear that there had been an important recognition of indigenous organisations and that their proposals were listened to. In some cases, these were incorporated into legislation.

    By contrast, with mining and hydrocarbons consultations, these occurred late in the process and focused on administrative decisions with regard to investment projects. They left aside aspects that affected community life most deeply, such as the contents of environmental impact assessments (EIAs).

    In a particularly difficult case (Block 192), David Chino of the Federación Indigena Quechua del Pastaza said: "We were hoping to achieve a good dialogue with the state, but found we could not do it through the consulta previa. It hasn't served to defend our rights". 

    These criticisms echo those highlighted in the Twitter-Facebook campaign launched by Oxfam and Cooperación. We look forward with interest to the publication of their joint study.

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