|Abstract: ||Much of the natural resources in Latin America can be found in lands inhabited by the Indigenous peoples. Exploration and extraction of these resources have a significant impact on the lives of these peoples. Yet, despite the presence of international covenants such as International Labor Organization’s Convention 169 on free, prior and informed consent or consultation, the opinions and views of the Indigenous peoples are often ignored by the Latin American States in decisions regarding the exploitation of natural resources. This deliberate neglect has had serious negative consequences for the Indigenous populations.
The purpose of this research paper is to analyse the differential experiences of consultations among Indigenous groups, the State and extractive industries in three Latin American countries – Bolivia, Peru and Guatemala. The specific research question it seeks to answer is: What lessons can we learn from previous consultation experiences and other alternative models and literature on negotiations that can be used by the Indigenous peoples in Bolivia, Peru and Guatemala to ensure that the extractive processes result in benefits for them? These alternative models included the Canadian Indigenous community experiences, the deliberative democracy theory, the principles in business negotiations and negotiating guidelines for multinational corporations and international organizations in dealing with Indigenous peoples.
An analysis of sample consultation experiences in extractive industries in the three countries suggest that the practices that produced a positive outcome for the Indigenous groups are those that allowed the Indigenous groups to exercise the right of self-determination, afforded them decision making powers, and ensured that their voices were heard. However, in contrast to the Canadian experience, the Latin American situation was marked by a more unequal power relationship between the Indigenous groups and the governments. Achieving the Canadian model of legislated mandates and legally binding recourse mechanisms would be a long-term aspirational endeavour for the Indigenous populations in Latin America. In the meanwhile, these Indigenous groups could better their negotiating positions and make their voices count by finding influential allies that can sway governments and public sentiment including international and domestic civil society organizations as well as environmental groups. Involving the media in order to create a transparent consultation process can also push extractive industries and government departments to respect Indigenous rights and customs. Engaging the judicial process is another option as are public demonstrations.|