Seminar opens up debate on extractive industries and socio-environmental conflict
23 September 2018
A welcome initiative by the Defensoría was to hold a seminar on 17 September in Lima that brought together some important voices, though others were notably absent. Here we report on the first panel; next week we will cover the second.
Ombudsman Walter Gutiérrez opened by the occasion. The five speakers were, in their order of presentation, Antony Bebbington (Clark University and the University of Melbourne), Rolando Luque (a long-standing official at the Defensoría who recently returned from a brief spell at the National Office of Sustainable Development, ONDS), Roque Benavides (president of Confiep and Buenaventura), Beatriz Merino (the former ombudswoman) and Miguel Incháustegui (the newly-appointed vice-minister of mining).
Of the many important themes touched upon in an hour (each panellist had ten minutes), we here highlight four:
• The most common theme was the need for Peru, while taking pride in being 'un país minero', to be a country where mining integrates into and leads development in the broadest sense. That probably meant different things to different speakers; to Roque Benavides it meant that Peru is also a country where agro-exporting, fishing and tourism are key sectors.
• The second common theme was the need to develop institutions that support this integration and also manage the resolution of conflict. This was developed by Gutiérrez, Luque, Merino and Bebbington. Bebbington made the salient point that Peru is perfectly capable of creating and sustaining strong and functioning institutions (he mentioned the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), the Central Bank and the Defensoría); what's important is to achieve political agreement and commitment to support institutions. He also argued for the importance of aligning goals; if a society has not worked out how to reconcile goals such as shareholder interest and genuine regional development, it becomes difficult to produce a sound approach to sustainable outcomes.
• A third topic was only really developed by one speaker, Merino. She pointed to cultural and ethnic diversity and how, over time, inadequate policy had led to poor outcomes by it failing to recognise and respect such diversity. Her language was eloquent on this score. Benavides' emphasis on the need for respect was implicitly along the same lines.
• The fourth theme was the focus for Incháustegui: implementation of the "Towards a New Vision for Mining in Peru in 2030" policy agenda. Launched in 2016, this is the important statement that arose out of the so-called 'Driving Group' of the Congress held in Lima that year with strong participation from the private sector and the ONDS. The document needs measures to implement it. Incháustegui emphasised in particular the making good of liabilities left by mining and the formalisation of illegal mining. His policy portfolio included the implementation of the Fondo Minero to encourage formalisation and the development of 'Rimay', the recently-announced initiative to create a Centre of Convergence and Good Practice in Mining. The Quechua name is designed to signal strong communication and convergence.
From the PSG perspective, it was disappointing to see no proper mention of the gaps we saw in the original Vision document, such as the use of the police by private companies and its consequences, and the need for proper consultation with communities affected by mining. However, the second panel contained a member from the Ashaninka, a welcome move.
Incháustegui’s plan is now for three months of follow-up, involving government, companies and the rest of civil society, in preparation for a statement by President Vizcarra on 24 January. We look forward to seeing further evidence of consultation and awareness of another absent theme: the difficulty of dialogue when key elements of civil society itself are themselves fragmented and fearful.