Indigenous peoples of Latin America demand respect for their right to free, prior, and informed consultation and consent

November 21, 2017
  • Consultations are being carried out as an administrative step and are failing to guarantee Indigenous peoples’ rights
  • International standards regarding indigenous peoples’ rights must be respected

Mexico City, November 14, 2017 – Indigenous peoples and communities of Mexico and Latin America, in conjunction with civil society organizations, demanded today that the governments of the region guarantee the legal security of their territories, in the context of constant violations of indigenous peoples’ rights during consultation processes.

Latin America is the region that has seen the greatest progress of norms and jurisprudence regarding the right to free, prior, and informed consent and consultation (FPIC). 14 of the 22 state parties to Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO) are Latin American. “It should be emphasized that state institutionality over consultation and FPIC can be achieved not only through the adoption of laws and regulations. Indeed, it is not possible to impose the same conditions and procedures on all indigenous communities, as they do not share the same forms of decision making, worldview or legal-political institutions,” explained Daniel Cerqueira, Senior Program Officer for the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF).  

In Mexico and other countries of the region, the enactment of laws that favor large-scale farming, energy, and extractive industries over the rights of indigenous peoples and their communities, generates an imbalance of power. Although there are international norms, such as the ILO Convention 169, as well as national protocols and frameworks regarding FPIC, States are not taking these instruments into account to guarantee these rights or to avoid social conflicts.

Honduras is an emblematic case, where FPIC has been ignored in various situations. Olivia Zúñiga, a representative of the Lenca ethnic group, and daughter of Berta Cáceres, environmental defender who was murdered in 2016, argued that in her country the political elites and businesses have prevailed over the right of indigenous peoples. “It is no coincidence that after the 2009 coup, more than 300 concessions have been awarded to extractive projects, without carrying out the free, prior and informed consultation processes established in ILO Convention 169.” Her mother, Berta Cáceres, spoke out against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project that would divert water from the Gualcarque River, a sacred place for her indigenous group. That opposition cost Cáceres her life.

“The rule of law is usually diminished by the political and economic elites, who concentrate the wealth and exert an excessive influence on different public policies. This realty allows them to keep their privileges at the expense of others, including through the processes of land grabbing and limiting access to natural resources,” argued Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva, Executive Director of Oxfam Mexico. “The lack of consultation with indigenous peoples, or the use of this process as a mere administrative step, deepens inequality gaps in the region,” he concluded.

Furthermore, beyond the legal framework of FPIC, States also have an obligation to guarantee human rights over any economic interest. Thus, it is necessary that state decisions, including the design of economic policies and governance over natural resources, are respectful of the self-determination, ways of life, and development priorities expressed by indigenous peoples and communities.

To see the announcement by indigenous communities, please visit:

The following organizations are co-organizers of the International Forum on “Free, prior and informed consultation and consent and self-determination – Critical perspectives on implementing laws and mechanisms”: Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente (AIDA), Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental, A.C. (CEMDA) Derecho, Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (DAR Perú), Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF), Oxfam México, Proyecto sobre Organización, Desarrollo, Educación e Investigación (PODER), Proyecto de derechos Económicos Sociales y Culturales A.C (PRODESC), Servicios y Asesoría para la Paz, A.C. (SERAPAZ).