26, July, 2012

Indigenous People, Conflict and Extractive Industries: Latin American Approaches

In Latin America, recognising indigenous cultural, land and consultation rights is going a long way towards reducing conflict over extractive industry projects.

Exploration and exploitation activities have already advanced into remote, resource-rich lands inhabited by indigenous people across the southern hemisphere. Developing extractive projects in indigenous territory is especially challenging and frequently triggers social unrest and conflict. Drawing on Latin American experiences, this Brief outlines three successively implemented policy packages that have strengthened indigenous peoples’ cultural, territorial and consultation rights, recognising them as key stakeholders and partners in sustainable extractive development. In particular, this Brief discusses how the recognition of these rights has supported conflict management efforts, outlines the challenges that remain and describes the broader social contexts that have framed these processes.

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Key Lessons:

  • Latin American governments and private extractive industries companies are beginning to learn that it is better to work with, rather than against, indigenous people in the quest to develop extractive activities. In many cases, they have seen that it is necessary to negotiate instead of imposing extractive projects in order to avoid conflicts that can make extractive industry development socially unfeasible.
  • The commitment of Latin American governments to international agreements regarding indigenous peoples’ rights - such the ILO 169 Convention or the UN Indigenous People Declaration – has provided legal tools that indigenous leaders have used to successfully demand cultural, territorial and political rights.
  • An active civil society movement can facilitate the adoption of more progressive legal frameworks regarding indigenous people’s rights and help to ensure that these rights are respected, thereby both preventing and managing extractive industry conflicts.
  • (Español) Una sociedad civil activa puede facilitar la adopción de marcos legales progresivos en materia de derechos indígenas y contribuir a que estos derechos sean respetados para prevenir y manejar los conflictos con la industria extractiva.

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