Open letter regarding the first EU-Chile Association Council : The association agreement must also benefit the Mapuche minority


To : EU and Chile Foreign Affairs Ministers
EU High Representative for CFSP, Javier Solana
EU Commissioners, Chris Patten and Pascal Lamy
On behalf of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisation in Chile, the Committee for the Defence of People’s Rights (CODEPU), we address this letter to you in view of the 1st EU-Chile Association Council on 27 March 2003.

The FIDH and CODEPU sincerely hope that this first Association Council meeting will, as stated in the Communication on human rights adopted on 8 May 2001 by the European Commission, "…seek to ensure that the discussion covers issues of concern relating to human rights and democracy". It is time for the members of the Association Council to give the human rights clause in this agreement (article 1 of the EU-Chile Association Agreement) its full importance and to focus on the necessary "equitable distribution of benefits". Consequently, the issue on the rights of the Mapuche minority merits all of the Association Council’s attention.
The FIDH and CODEPU welcome the mention made to the Mapuche minority in the explanatory statement of the European Parliament assent given to the Association agreement (Mr. Salafranca’s report, n°A5-0017/2003), as well as the encouragement given to Chile to ratify the Status of the International Criminal Court. Nevertheless, in view of the situation of the Mapuche minority in Chile today, the FIDH and the CODEPU consider that human rights deserve a stronger commitment on behalf of the European Union.

Indeed, according to an international fact-finding mission carried out by the FIDH in Chile from April 21 to May 1, 2002, the situation of the Mapuche communities living in the IX and X regions is particularly preoccupying.

In its mission report entitled "Pueblo mapuche: entre el olvido y la exclusion", the FIDH examines the conflict between forestry and electricity-producing companies and the Mapuche people, who according to sources, make up between 4.4% and 13% of the Chilean population.

Forestry companies acquired ancestral Mapuche lands during Augusto Pinochet’s regime. After several years of waiting for results related to legal actions undertaken in the last decade to get these ancestral lands back, some Mapuches have begun occupying the lands in question in order to get them back.

Furthermore, the electric company ENDESA has undertaken the construction of a second hydroelectric dam in the upper Biobío river, which although not yet in operation, have already had disastrous consequences both for the Mapuche culture and the environment of the area.

In both of these situations, the authorities’ response has been to ignore the Mapuche claims and tacitly or actively support the private companies’ positions. As a result, Mapuche community members are subject to pressure and repression by the private companies’ security guards as well as by the police, which have resulted in several people being killed and wounded. Furthermore, legal action has been taken against the Mapuche people, especially the leaders, and several of them have been imprisoned after legal proceedings that were riddled with irregularities.

The Sustainable Impact Assessment

The FIDH hopes that the Association Council will take this information into account as well as the contents and conclusions of the study carried out at the request of the European Commission entitled "Sustainable Impact Assessment (SIA) of the trade aspects of negotiations for an Association Agreement between the European Communities and Chile" (final report October 2002) .

This study concludes that: "In terms of overall equity, inclusion in the usual economic processes through employment will be an important step for many people. However, existing inequalities in terms of practical rights and access to social and economic opportunities will not be challenged by the impact of the agreement. In some situations, such as small farming, artisanal fishing and forest-based Mapuches, there is a risk that their already precarious situation will be worsened. Women’s access to employment, to capital, to land rights on equal terms is not yet universally achieved. While employment in some sectors where women are employed, such as food processing, will increase, no necessary change is created by the agreement to the pre-existing inequalities. Indigenous peoples suffer from the same existing small farming problems as other people. Forest-using indigenous peoples consider that their lands are being encroached upon by increased commercial forestry, although the increase in forestry is expected to be modest. Depending on the electricity generating strategy chosen by Chile, they may or may not be negatively affected, although such a negative impact is not a necessary consequence of the EU-Chile agreement."

The FIDH warmly welcomed this impact assessment commanded by the DG Trade of the European Commission in 1999. The utility of such an endeavour however requires that its conclusions be taken into consideration by the parties to the Agreement and that they lead to an eventual reorientation of the policies carried out.

The Human Rights Clause

Finally, we would like to take advantage of this occasion to draw your attention to a series of proposals elaborated by the FIDH, in consultation with many other Civil society organisations, regarding the implementation of the "human rights clause". More particularly, we would like to draw your attention to the importance and possibility of setting up a human rights working group, in accordance with article 7 of the agreement, and the necessity of initiating a real consultation with civil society on the theme of human rights, in accordance with articles 10, 11 and 48 of the Agreement. A more detailed account of the proposals can be found in the attached document, which was presented by the FIDH during the Fourth EU Human Rights Forum held in Copenhagen in December 2002. We hope that you will also take them into consideration in view of the Association Council meeting.

Sincerely Yours,

Sidiki Kaba

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