FIDH and APDHB call for the respect of the right of the TIPNIS indigenous communities to a prior, free, informed, concerted and good faith consultation

In a report published last Thursday, FIDH and the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights in Bolivia (APDHB), recognize the historic progress made in the area of the rights of the indigenous populations in Bolivia. Nonetheless, the same report advocates the Villa Tunari - San Ignacio de Moxos road works remain suspended as long as a proper consultation process is not undertaken with the communities of the Indigenous Territories of the Isiboro Secure National Park (TIPNIS) in order to obtain prior, free and informed consent.

FIDH and APDHB, upon the express request of the representative and grassroots organizations of the TIPNIS indigenous communities, took part in a fact finding mission from 29 November to 14 December 2012 in the area for the purposes of verifying the fulfilment of the right to prior consultation of the population within the framework of the Villa Tunari - San Ignacio de Moxos road project. In the report published last Thursday, FIDH and the APDHB express their concern about the lack of respect, protection and fulfilment on the part of the Bolivian authorities to the right to an informed and concerted consultation.

A consultation process with the TIPNIS population was carried out to abrogate the protection of the area, which is so far ensured by Law N°180/11, and for the construction of the road. The FIDH and APDHB report does not concur with the figures published by the government according to which, out of the 69 communitites consulted, 82% were against the protection of the TIPNIS and 80% approved the road construction. Indeed, of the 36 communities visited by FIDH and APDHB, only 19 stated having been consulted, and 30 communities rejected construction of the road. Three communities approved it on conditions that an impact assessment be carried out, the road path be changed, neighboring paths be opened and that a clean-up project for the neighboring river be put in place to improve river/maritime transport. An additional three agreed to the road construction plan.

The collected testimonies show numerous irregularities in the consultation process, specifically the lack of consultation prior to the decision making process: in fact, the memorandum of understanding for the financing was signed two years prior to the initiation of the consultation process. Furthermore, the communities consulted reported having received gifts, having been pressured or being imposed restrictions in exchange for acceptance of the consultation : some were coerced through the suspension of development projects in case of refusal. Similarly, the communities indicated that the authorities informed them that they could no longer use the natural resources if the TIPNIS were to remain a protected area despite the law. Additionally, the visits and procedures engaged turned out to be swift, bringing little explanation as to the positive or negative impacts of a project of this magnitude.

Therefore, FIDH and APDHB maintain that any and all major works in the TIPNIS, may they be current or happen in 2015, must be carried out after proper consultation with the TIPNIS indigenous population and include their prior, free and informed consent.

FIDH and APDHB call on the Government of Bolivia to follow the procedures for a prior, free and informed consultation as set forth in the Constitution of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, in ILO Convention No. 169, to which Bolivia is a State Party and in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that have all been transposed into law. Similiarly, they call on authorities to implement mechanisms to protect those in the communities who have given their testimonies to the mission as well as reestablish trust and unity of the social fabric of the TIPNIS communities.

Erratum : The numbers pages 7 and 13 of the report that state that out of the 58 communities consulted, 82% were against the TIPNIS territory protection and 80% approved the road construction are from the Government and not from the Electoral Supreme Court.

The report is available in Spanish.

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