Prior consultation in oil block 192 gets under way, but with serious shortcomings

10 August 2019

The prior consultation of indigenous communities potentially affected by the contract renewal of Block 192 in the Amazon for another 30 or 40 years has gotten under way with information workshops between the state and indigenous federations. 

These are designed to present the consultation procedures to the local populations, describe the measures subject to the consultation (i.e. the supreme decree authorising consultation and the contract to be signed between the state and the oil company), and to assess the likely impacts on their lives and territories.

PUINAMUDT, the coordinating body of the indigenous federations representing the affected communities, has published a critique that points to some serious shortcomings.

These include the absence of representatives from government agencies who could explain the likely impacts of hydrocarbon exploitation on the communities; the failure to take into account cultural differences and sensitivities in the explanations given; a lack of proper coordination between state representatives; the lack of an independent supervisor to oversee the process; and the failure to prepare written records of the information provided, doubts expressed, and the proposals made by the communities themselves.

Representatives from indigenous communities had prepared and presented a list of concerns. However, state official taking part issued a twelve-point proposal that failed to take into account all these concerns. Furthermore, some officials came ill-prepared without relevant information. There were no representatives from key ministries, such as health, who could present the results of toxicology and epidemiology studies. And there was no continuity in those officials present in different workshops, which meant that they were not necessarily informed about what had been discussed or decided in previous workshops.

According to PUINAMUDT, “In some cases, the presentations were confined to naming some collective rights that would be affected, without any details about what activities would affect them, how they would be affected, nor what measures would be taken to prevent them, mitigate them or compensate them.” Also lacking were instruments and methodologies for working in an intercultural setting. Most functionaries employed technical and bureaucratic terminology with the culture ministry playing only a minor role. Finally, some state representatives in the workshops were former oil company employees responsible for the devastation of the communities over previous decades.

This is a consultation that will be emblematic for the future of oil exploration and exploitation in the Peruvian Amazon. It is therefore to be hoped that the state agencies responsible will take into account these critical observations and learn from the errors committed.

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