Chile Fails to Meet International Obligations Towards Indigenous Peoples, Human Rights Experts Find
Book by international team of human rights experts documents violations of indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consultation
September 9, 2013, Santiago, Chile – Nearly five years after ratifying the International Labor Organization Convention 169 (“ILO 169”), Chile continues to violate indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consultation, according to a book released today by human rights experts in the Consorcio Norte-Sur. The Consorcio is a partnership between Harvard Law School, Stanford Law School, the Universidad Diego Portales (Chile), and the Universidad de Los Andes (Colombia).
The Spanish-language book, titled “No Nos Toman en Cuenta” (“They Don’t Consider Us”), provides the most comprehensive review of the consultation rights of Chile’s indigenous people to date. The book examines several ways that the Chilean government has failed to guarantee indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consultation, including the government’s failure to implement international norms within its domestic legal system. The book also features in-depth case studies that document specific rights violations caused by salmon farming projects in indigenous territory in the south of the country.
“Indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consultation guaranteed by ILO 169 is intended to ensure that these historically marginalized groups are able to participate in a meaningful way in decisions that directly affect them,” said Jorge Contesse, former director of Universidad Diego Portales’ Human Rights Center, now a law professor at Rutgers School of Law-Newark. “The failure to implement this right not only violates Chile’s international legal obligations, but also perpetuates distrust between indigenous peoples and the Chilean government, fueling conflict between the two.”
The case of the salmon hatcheries studied in the book highlights this dynamic. Researchers found that often the only consultation-like procedures were conducted by private investors, who provided special benefits for select members of indigenous communities in return for their support. Community members told investigators that this impermissible abdication of the state’s obligation to consult created conflict and upset traditional leadership structures and decision-making processes.
A “Consensus Committee” comprised of government and indigenous representatives made some progress towards developing national standards for consultation procedures earlier this year. Since June, however, the negotiations have stalled. One of the key sticking points is what consultation procedures should apply to investment projects, like the salmon farming installations that form the basis of the book’s case studies.
“Our research shows that the consultation procedures used for the salmon hatcheries, which are very similar to the procedures the government continues to use for investment projects, do not meet international standards,” said Cristián Sanhueza, one of the primary authors of the book for the Universidad de Diego Portales.
“The Chilean government cannot wait indefinitely to implement the right to free, prior, and informed consultation,” stated Daniel Saver, a graduate of Harvard Law School and the other principal author of the book. “Given the recent progress made by the Consensus Committee, there is no better time than now for Chile to uphold its international obligations and establish a consultation procedure that itself is a product of adequate input from indigenous peoples.”
The book will be launched at an event hosted by the Universidad Diego Portales, in Santiago Chile, starting at 6:30pm. More information about the event is available in Spanish here. For an electronic version of the book, see here. For inquiries, please contact Cara Solomon or Susana Kuncar.