As the pressure for reactivation grows in Peru and throughout the world, the dangers for human rights and equity-focused institutional development become clearer.
In Peru, 50 large mines were authorised on 3 June to re-start operations, having presented their plans for health and safety. NGOs concerned with extractives have been rightly concerned as reactivation measures include the removal of elements in the legislation that seek to protect citizen participation and the environment.
We have given space over the last month to the important analyses from the NGOs DAR (Derecho, Ambiente y Recursos Naturales) and Red Muqui. A recent decree (published on 2 June) reinstated certain measures such as the processing of environmental evaluations, but there has been no action to reverse the institutional impact of removing or delaying, for example, fines and taxes which are the crucial funding for regulatory environmental agencies like OEFA. Measures seeking to protect civil servants from dangerous fieldwork have not been replaced by any alternative oversight.
At the same time, a possibly important institutional development is taking place as the ‘regional Covid Commands’ get set up. Under the aegis of the Ministry of Health, these play a role in overseeing local management of the response to the virus. Such ‘Commands’ are typically comprised of public sector representatives; this is true at the national level but regional Commands appear to be drawing in civil society, including the mining corporations, and also the military. In some regions, including Arequipa, Lambayeque and Loreto, members of the military have been appointed leaders.
Concern over developments is growing, mainly among a swathe of environmentally concerned NGOs, and not just in Peru. In Brazil, a video released in the third week of May by the Supreme Court showed Environment Minister Ricardo Salles urging the government to push through further weakening of environmental policy while people’s attention is focused elsewhere. In Canada, Alberta’s energy minister, Sonya Savage, says in an interview that “now is a great time to be building a pipeline because you can’t have protests of more than 15 people.”
Whether such views are cynical, obstructionist or simply practical, they need to be taken seriously. Even where new institutional arrangements may not work well, they need to be improved, not sacrificed on the altar of economic recovery.