Peru Society and Conflict: Consultation with Indigenous and Peasant Communities

Consultation with Indigenous and Peasant Communities

Ostensibly in an effort to address the marginalisation of its indigenous population, Peru ratified the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention 169 in 1993. The convention obliges the state to consult with indigenous peoples on any development or administrative decisions which may affect them. In approving this measure, the country committed itself to protect the social, economic and cultural rights of indigenous peoples while respecting their identity, customs and institutions.

However, having ratified the convention more than 15 years ago, successive Peruvian governments made little effort to ensure domestic legislation has reflected the country’s international commitments. Congress went some way towards addressing this shortcoming in May 2010 by approving a Prior Consultation Law (Ley de Consulta Previa). This called for the state to consult indigenous communities over planned investment projects, including mineral and hydrocarbon extraction. Yet in June the same year the bill was effectively vetoed by President Alan García, who claimed he would not allow indigenous groups to obstruct projects deemed to be in the national interest.

The law was eventually enacted in early September 2011 by Peru’s current president, Ollanta Humala. Though the move was widely welcomed by politicians, communities and NGOs, questions remain over how effectively the law will be implemented. Indigenous organisations such as AIDESEP have highlighted that the state retains the ultimate decision over projects under the new legislation. They have called for the government to go beyond ILO 169 and grant communities the right to veto investment projects. Given the importance of revenue from the extractive industries to the national economy and to the central government, the precise scope of consultation is likely to remain a matter of dispute.