Editorial: International and Peruvian NGOs under fire
Update 112. 30 November 2005
When established interests find themselves under attack, it is becoming increasingly common for them to reach for the 'T' word, and accuse their opponents of being part of some international web of terrorist intrigue. A television documentary, aired in Lima last month on the programme 'Panorama', accused Peruvian peasant communities, NGOs, churchmen and their international backers - among them Oxfam America - of forming part of such a 'web', insinuating that they are part of the new face of terrorism in Peru.
The relationship between NGOs (both local and international) and the Peruvian government has become increasingly fraught, as the latter does its utmost to attract foreign investors, often oblivious to the interests of other stakeholders.
Among those most concerned to lay out the red carpet to foreign multinationals is Prime Minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. He has even suggested that in areas where state power is lacking, investors should be allowed to take law and order into their own hands. The rule of law would thus be 'privatised'. Many of Peru's key mining concessions are in extremely remote places, far from centres of administration or political power.
The row in the Panorama programme centres on the Majaz mining concession in northern Peru, close to the border with Ecuador. Here, the exploration concession is in the hands of a British firm, Monterrico Metals, which is prospecting for gold. For months, there have been demonstrations and other protests against the Majaz concession, involving (amongst others) CONACAMI, a Peruvian grassroots organisation that seeks to protect the interests of peasant communities threatened by mining activities.
The PSG deplores the fact that such important issues are being debased in the Peruvian media, and is concerned about the possible reprisals for locally based NGOs and the communities with which they work. We believe that a modus vivendi can be created that protects the legitimate rights of investors as well as established communities. Unfortunately, the lack of an authoritative state means that rights - on either side - are difficult to protect. And where there are huge asymmetries of power - mining concessions can be worth billions of dollars per annum - it is even harder to find impartial arbiters.