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Peru: UN Working Group statement raises concerns about social conflicts associated with large-scale business operations

Following a country visit to Peru, UN Working Group experts raised concerns about the high number of social conflicts related to large-scale business operations and noted that the majority of cases are related to protests by local communities against adverse impacts caused by operations in the mining, hydrocarbon, and energy sectors. Experts highlighted abuses related to environmental contamination, criminalization and violence against human rights defenders, lack of meaningful participation and consultation with communities, indigenous rights, and labor rights. 

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19 July 2017

Statement at the end of visit to Peru by the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights

Author: UN Working Group on business & human rights

During our visit, we met with Government officials from [10 ministries and several regional governments]..., as well as members of parliament (Commissions dealing with indigenous peoples and with energy and mines), and representatives of the Supreme Court and the Ombudsman’s Office...In addition, we met with representatives of indigenous peoples, local communities, civil society organizations, trade unions, academia, the United Nations system, the diplomatic community, as well as business associations...and individual business enterprises... Social conflicts & human rights due diligence: When looking at business and human rights landscape in Peru, one feature that stands out is the high number of social conflicts related to large-scale business operations [particularly the mining, oil & gas, and large-scale agricultural sectors]... Environmental and social impact assessments: One main concern fuelling social conflict relates to the contamination of soils and water sources, adversely affecting a range of human rights... Concerns were raised about the ability of the current system of environmental impact assessments to prevent and mitigate such adverse human rights impacts... Prior consultation and other forms of public participation: The lack of meaningful participation and consultation with communities affected by business operations is another main source of social conflict... Human rights defenders and civic space:...People who had participated in social protests against business-related human rights impacts, explained how they faced criminal charges, and how they had been subjected to various forms of intimidation and were being stigmatized as terrorists who are against development... Access to remedy - Judicial mechanism: It was notable from our meetings with civil society groups and local communities across the country that the formal judicial system was generally presented as being on the side of the more powerful. [also reviews Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman, OECD Guidelines National Contact Point]... National Action Plan: We were pleased to learn that the Government has committed to developing a National Action Plan in Business and Human Rights.

 [refers to Petroperu, Minera Yanacocha (joint venture Newmont & Compañía de Minas Buenaventura), Pluspetrol]

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Article
19 July 2017

Peru needs new thinking on business conflicts to improve human rights – UN experts

Author: UN Working Group on business & human rights

The Government of Peru and big businesses need to break with past methods of dealing with social conflict to improve the country’s human rights record, a team of United Nations human rights experts has concluded after a 10-day visit. "Peru has become used to a situation of constantly simmering social conflicts, with more than 100 active situations in any given month,” said Michael K. Addo, one of the experts from the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights..."The majority of these conflicts relate to large-scale business operations in mining, hydrocarbon and energy."... In the past five years, social conflicts had caused 70 deaths... The conflicts stem from concerns about water contamination, pollution and other issues affecting people’s human rights, caused by large mining operations, repeated oil spills in the Amazon region, or deforestation for palm oil and cocoa plantations... Experts called for a new mechanism to protect human rights defenders, including environmentalists and indigenous leaders... [and] underlined the importance of meaningful, informed consultation at the earliest stages of large-scale business operations... [The experts also said they] "welcome the Government’s commitment to the business and human rights agenda, and the announcement of the first steps towards a National Action Plan on business and human rights."

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