Peru passes “historic” indigenous rights law

On Aug. 23, Peru’s Congress unanimously approved a new law that guarantees indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent to any projects affecting them and their lands. President Ollanta Humala says he supports consultation, and has 15 days to sign the bill into law. The “Prior Consultation Law” complies with commitments set out in ILO Convention 169, the only international standard designed to protect tribal people’s rights.

Peru ratified ILO 169 in 1993 but has failed to pass legislation enacting it until now. More than 70% of the Peruvian Amazon has meanwhile been divided into oil and gas concessions, often without the consent of the indigenous inhabitants. Amazon indigenous organization AIDESEP welcomed the government’s decision, but warned this is just the first step to ensure indigenous rights are guaranteed. “We mustn’t fall into false triumphalism,” the group said in a statement. “It is now up to the government to form a national indigenous organization… that will uphold strict compliance with this new law.”

Survival International director Stephen Corry said of the new law: “There are two factors at stake here. Firstly, Humala should support the decision of Congress to approve the Prior Consultation Law. Secondly, the Peruvian government must commit to upholding it.”

James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said in a statement that the new law is “an important step forward.” He added: “I hope that this is indicative of a strong commitment by the Peruvian State to respond to the demands of indigenous peoples to be consulted about measures that directly affect them, and in particular about extractive industry projects in and around their territories.” (Spero News, Aug. 25; Survival International, Aug. 24)

See our last posts on Peru and the struggle for the Amazon.

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