International Labor Organization raps Brazil over Belo Monte dam

The UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO) released a report by a committee of experts March 3 finding that the Brazilian government violated the rights of indigenous people by moving forward on the massive Belo Monte dam without consulting native communities. The report follows a request last year by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) for the Brazilian government to suspend the dam, which is currently being built on the Rio Xingu River in Pará state, in the Amazon Basin. It has met with repeated angry protests by the Kayapo and other local indigenous peoples.

The Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations in its report questioned whether Brazil has complied with ILO Convention 169 on the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, which calls for consultation of native people on development projects that would affect their territory. Brazil ratified Convention 169 in 2002.

The Belo Monte dam is also expected to displace 16,000 people, according to the Brazilian government; although environmentalists estimate that 40,000 could be forced to move. It will flood an estimated 40,000 hectares of rainforest. But the report found that the impacts of the multi-billion dam would would “go beyond the flooding of land or displacement of these people” by changing the flow of the Xingu river on which communities have long depended.

“This is yet another blow against the reputation of the Dilma Rousseff government,” said Christian Poirier, Brazil program director for the organization Amazon Watch, referring to the president of Brazil. “It highlights her government’s ongoing abuse of indigenous rights and negligence in adhering to a treaty to which it is a signatory.” (Indian Country Today, March 10; Mongabay, March 7; GALDU, March 6)

See our last posts on Brazil, the Amazon and regional struggles for control of water.

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