Indigenous peoples can enforce their rights with clear and timely information

Lima, May the 5th, 2017. - Through the statement titled “Indigenous peoples demand transparency and no more corruption in regard of public tenders and megaprojects in indigenous territories of Latin America and the Caribbean” promoted by civil society, indigenous and peasant organizations in the framework of the Pan-American Social Forum held in Tarapoto on 28th April to May 1st. The need to count on information as a fundamental tool in the defense of their collective rights is emphasized.

With more than 80 signatures - from indigenous peoples, peasants, national and international civil society - it is once again highlighted how the right to access to public information is vital for citizens, and especially those vulnerable to extractive and infrastructure projects, such as indigenous peoples, can learn firsthand about their potential impacts. In the same way, demand high socio-environmental standards, if it not exists yet in their countries, and anti-corruption locks.

Latin American and Caribbean countries have been pursuing policies to accelerate external investments facing a low mineral prices situation, without taking into account the direct and indirect impacts on the environment and historically disadvantaged populations, even at the expense of the respect for indigenous territories, peasants and natives. In this regard, the question arises if this improved their quality of life, under their own conditions.

In addition to this, the multilateral banking model with lax safeguards, where transparency and access to information are not prioritized as tools to prevent corruption and socio-environmental conflicts, and allows,  -thanks to clear, timely and systematized information- an horizontal dialogue, under the same conditions in decision making. This way, the peoples can be part of the decisions of the State and access to the benefits that are obtained by extractive and infrastructure activities.

The defense against environmental pollution has made indigenous peoples, peasants and natives be vigilant in of any irregularities produced in projects carried out near or in their territories. As a result, more and more rely to transparency and access to information mechanisms for the proper supervision of these projects, so it is urgent that such mechanisms have an intercultural approach.

The pronouncement also proposes a series of conditions towards a new socio-environmental standard referred to: previous consultation, intercultural policies, pre-feasibility studies and strategic environmental assessments, remediation, sustainable local development programs, investments with participatory processes in public tenders, contracts and evaluation processes of environmental impact studies (EIA), publication of timely and up-to-date information about environmental assessment processes and concessions, disaggregated information on environmental penalties and fines, and socio-environmental information, among others.

They also demand greater indigenous participation in international initiatives that promote transparency. Thus, the countries with indigenous presence, members of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), the Open Government Partnership (OGP), the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Environmental Justice in Latin America and the Caribbean (Principle 10) have good reasons to incorporate their approach into their process.

In addition, international human rights organizations such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) can participate in these international spaces as a guarantor of the incorporation of transparency and right of access to information on socio-environmental issues.

Access the full statement to strengthen the work of surveillance, self-government, protection of territories and indigenous rights here.


Versión en español aquí.

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