Thursday, 29 March 2012

"Another one bites the dust And another one gone and another one gone"

Last week the Chilean Supreme Court held a verdict in favor of a Huilliche-Mapuche community . The community was trying to stop the company Ecopower from building 56 wind turbines on the island of ChiloƩ under the grounds (inter allia) that they were never effectively consulted about the project. Moreover, they argued that the said project would have a negative effect on Mapuche ceremonial sites and burial grounds.

The Supreme Court agreed that consultation had not occurred and ordered the company to stop the project until consultation has been done.

Here we can notice several arguments based on the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169 (ILO 169). Firstly, the right that indigenous peoples be consulted about development projects that directly affect them (Art 6). Secondly, according to the Mapuche community the project will affect their cultures and spiritual values – a violation on Art 13.

Chile ratified ILO 169 in 2008 and recently we posted a similar decision hold by Temuco Appeals Court regarding the same situation: indigenous peoples no being consulted in projects that may affect them.

Yet, the defendants argued that COREMA (the Regional Environmental Commission) approved the environmental impact study and so allowing the wind farm project to move forward. Moreover, it is also argued that COREMA held meetings and invited citizen participation to occur before reaching its final decision. However, the Huilliche community argued that because such consultation did not occur when it was supposed to. The Supreme Court agrees with the Mapuche community establishing that “COREMA’s actions did not amount to meaningful consultation with the Huilliche community, in part because even if the community had fully participated in such meetings they still lacked any meaningful opportunity to influence how the project would ultimately move forward.”

The title today comes from the song 'another one bites the dust' written by John Deacon and sung by Freddie Mercury...that was the feeling I got. The message that the Chilean courts are sending is pretty clear: listen and learn (but mostly consult with the right people!)

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