Bolivia's Successful Consultation with the Guaraní Indigenous Peoples

October 20, 2016

The Communications and Transport Secretary in Mexico has proposed a regional rail project, the Tren Transpeninsular (TTP), to connect major beach resort areas and several major archeological sites in the Yucatan Peninsula. A GSPIA capstone class taught by Marcela González Rivas, Policy and Planning in Development Countries, is working with a local non-profit in Mexico, Foro para el Desarrollo Sustentable, who has been hired to conduct a preliminary assessment of the potential social impacts of the TTP. Students in the capstone will identify best practices on the implementation of informed consent protocols—which are increasingly more commonly used in infrastructure projects– and create a literature review of similar infrastructure cases to understand the process of consultation with indigenous communities. Free, prior, and informed consent protocols aim to assess the wide-ranging impacts that projects will have in communities, including economic, environmental, social, and cultural. A group of students will be traveling to the Yucatan Peninsula over spring break to meet with members of the indigenous communities that will be affected. The paper we wish to present at the 2014 Center for Latin American Studies Conference will be a compilation of our initial findings. The following case study is an example of what will be included in our final report to Foro.

 I.  INTRODUCTION

The consultation process and participation of the Guaraní indigenous peoples of the Tierras Comunitarias de Origen (TCOs) of Charagua Norte and Isoso, exemplifies how indigenous communities can succeed in setting their demands through a free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).1 The project, "Exploración Sísmica 2D Campos Tacobo y Tajibo, Bloque San Isidro," located in the Santa Cruz region of Bolivia, refers to the exploration of the Tacobo and Tajibo gas fields in the San Isidro Block.2 Ultimately, the process resulted in an agreement between the Asamblea del Pueblo Guaraní (APG) and the Bolivian Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Energy (MHE).3

The positive outcome between the government and the indigenous group was largely due to the fact that the Guaraní people were well-organized and trained on technical and legal issues by the Centro de Estudios Jurídicos e Investigación Social (CEJIS), a local non-governmental organization.4 According to Iván Bascopé Sanjines, the regional coordinator for CEJIS, “strengthening the technical and political capacity of indigenous peoples is an essential prerequisite to developing an appropriate consultation process.”5 The following paper describes the project’s context; the consultation process; and concludes by identifying best practices.

II.  CONTEXT

The project consists of a 2D seismic survey6 by Pluspetrol Bolivia Corporations (PBC), in cooperation with Bolivia’s national oil company, Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB), to explore gas fields. According to the project’s Documento de Información Pública (DIP)—a resource developed by a consulting firm hired by PBC—the project is located in the Municipality of Charagua in the department of Santa Cruz within the TCOs of the Guaraní people of Charagua Norte and Isoso.7

Charagua is the country's largest municipality, covering approximately 23% of the department of Santa Cruz and representing 6.5% of Bolivia.8 According to the 2001 census, of 88.80% the population lives in rural areas and 60% is Guaraní.9 Charagua Norte is located in the western sector of the municipality, where there are 30 Guaraní communities with a population of 7200 people.10 The project affects 20 of these communities, with 90% of the seismic lines located inside the Charagua Norte TCO and 10% in the Isoso TCO.11

III.  PROCESS

As a result of Bolivia’s extensive regulatory framework, consultation rights often intersect with extractive industries, since gas fields are often located in areas inhabited by indigenous communities within TCOs.12 As mentioned before, the Guaraní communities are well-organized and have their own local assemblies, which in turn, gather in zonal assemblies. There are three zonal assemblies in the municipality of Charagua: APG Charagua del Alto y Bajo Isoso, APG Charagua Sur, and APG Charagua Norte.13 The three assemblies combined comprise the Guaraní People Assembly of Bolivia (APG Bolivia).14 In addition, CEJIS, has helped the communities of Charagua Norte “to build a network of socio-environmental monitors and trained the community on technical and legal issues”15 since 2007. Other actors involved were the Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Energy and the oil companies (PBC and YPFB).16

A. Initial Attempt

On December 2009, officials of the MHE, YPFB and representatives of Charagua Norte held a preliminary meeting. On January 2010, a statement of understanding was signed by representatives of Charagua Norte—without participation of the APG—concerning the consultation process.17 In the following months, the MHE conducted two workshops consisting of PowerPoint shows. However, these were conducted in only four communities and were mainly of an informative nature.18

The APG took a stand against the consultation process and asked for respect of traditions and indigenous institutions.19 The MHE recognized that “indigenous communities received only partial information, which did not include up-to-date maps of the communities, areas of possible impact, socio-environmental prevention and mitigation measures, or information on planning for the consultation process.”20In addition, indigenous leaders requested to modify the timetable and asked that coordination and participation be improved within the communities.21

B. Redirection of the Process

In response to these complaints, the MHE redirected the consultation process so that it would be acceptable by the Guaraní people.22 A first assembly was held on April 2010, where the MHE and the communities agreed on the essential principles that should guide the consultation process.23 Assembly participants reached an agreement on the following points: consensus at each stage of the process; the territorial integrity and institutional structures of the Guaraní people must be respected; and democratic participation should be encouraged.24 A second assembly met on May 2010, to deal with information sharing and possible socio-environmental impacts of exploration activities.25 With the help of CEJIS, Guaraní indigenous leaders incorporated information acquired through earlier work done by a local Guaraní community-monitoring network—The Socio-environmental Monitoring Network of Charagua Norte—started in 2007.26

On May 20 and 21, the field inspection began with participation of the Socio-environmental Monitoring Network of Charagua Norte, MHE, and CEJIS, which consisted of inspecting and evaluating possible damaging effects that could result from exploratory activities.27 A final assembly was held on June 2010, where the MHE and the communities eventually reached a prior consent, which included the “translocation of seismic lines in order to protect water resources, the restriction of water use by the corporation to one specific well, and the implementation of more rigorous monitoring programs.”28 There is no evidence about benefit sharing mechanisms, since activities were only related to exploration of resources, which do not generate direct profits.29 Regarding monetary compensation, the APG originally demanded 580,000 USD but ended up accepting an offer of 100,000 USD.30

 IV.  BEST PRACTICES

 

  • Strengthening the technical and political capacity of indigenous peoples: The previous training on technical and legal issues by the local NGO CEJIS was vital for the community. As a result, the Guaraní people were well-organized and had relevant experience and skills that proved to be essential in shaping the consultation process.31
  • Complete, truthful, and adequate information: The information presented by MHE during the first consultations process was insufficient. However, the Ministry addressed the concerns and collaborated closely with the APG to provide the missing information.32
  • Respect the traditional forms of participation and decision making of indigenous peoples: To reach a legitimate agreement, it is necessary to cooperate with all representative institutions and respect their traditional norms, practices and decision-making procedures.33
  • Operate with openness and good faith: The MHE recognized the flaws in the initial consultation process and was able to redirect the process. The Ministry’s openness and receptivity to indigenous concerns allowed for a free, prior, and informed consent.
  • Get planning right: The experience of Charagua Norte shows that a flawed initial approach can create additional costs and delay the process.34

 

 


 

[1] Bascopé Sanjines, I. (2010). Case study: Bolivian government consultation with the Guaraní indigenous peoples of Charagua Norte and Isoso. Oxfam, Retrieved from http://www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/research-publications/case-study-bol...í-indigenous-peoples-of-charagua-norte-and-isoso/

[2] Bascopé Sanjines, I. (2010a). Lecciones aprendidas sobre consulta previa. Centro De Estudios Jurídicos E Investigación Social (CEJIS), Retrieved from http://cejis.org/publicaciones/libros/

[3] Bascopé Sanjines, I. (2010). Case study: Bolivian government consultation with the Guaraní indigenous peoples of Charagua Norte and Isoso. Oxfam, Retrieved from http://www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/research-publications/case-study-bol...í-indigenous-peoples-of-charagua-norte-and-isoso/

[4] Snoeck, S. (2013). What does it take to make local consultation a success?. BMZ/FCPF/UN-REDD joint expert workshop.

[5] Bascopé Sanjines, I. (2010). Case study: Bolivian government consultation with the Guaraní indigenous peoples of Charagua Norte and Isoso. Oxfam, Retrieved from http://www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/research-publications/case-study-bol...í-indigenous-peoples-of-charagua-norte-and-isoso/

[6] Seismic surveys are used to locate and estimate the size of underground oil and gas reserves. Seismic images are produced by generating, recording and analyzing sound waves that travel through the Earth. These sound waves are generated by explosives or vibrating plates.

http://www1.lstargeo.com/our-business/what-is-seismic-surveys

[7] Bascopé Sanjines, I. (2010a). Lecciones aprendidas sobre consulta previa. Centro De Estudios Jurídicos E Investigación Social (CEJIS), Retrieved from http://cejis.org/publicaciones/libros/

[8] Portal Territorio Indígena y Gobernanza. Territorio indígena originario campesino Charagua Norte: Una experiencia de monitoreo socioambiental para la gestión de los recursos naturales en Bolivia. Retrieved from http://www.territorioindigenaygobernanza.com/bov_17.html

[9] Vadillo Pinto, A., & Costas Monje, P. La autonomía indígena tiene su propio sello en Charagua.

[10] Portal Territorio Indígena y Gobernanza. Territorio indígena originario campesino Charagua Norte: Una experiencia de monitoreo socioambiental para la gestión de los recursos naturales en Bolivia. Retrieved from http://www.territorioindigenaygobernanza.com/bov_17.html

[11] Bascopé Sanjines, I. (2010a). Lecciones aprendidas sobre consulta previa. Centro De Estudios Jurídicos E Investigación Social (CEJIS), Retrieved from http://cejis.org/publicaciones/libros/

[12] Pellegrini, L., & Ribera Arismendi, M. (2012). Consultation, compensation and extraction in Bolivia after the 'left turn': The case of oil exploration in the north of La Paz department. Journal of Latin American Geography, 11(2), 103-120. doi: 10.1353/lag.2012.0045

[13] Snoeck, S. (2013). What does it take to make local consultation a success?. BMZ/FCPF/UN-REDD joint expert workshop.

[14] Ibid

[15] Ibid

[16] Bascopé Sanjines, I. (2010). Case study: Bolivian government consultation with the Guaraní indigenous peoples of Charagua Norte and Isoso. Oxfam, Retrieved from http://www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/research-publications/case-study-bol...í-indigenous-peoples-of-charagua-norte-and-isoso/

[17] Bascopé Sanjines, I. (2010a). Lecciones aprendidas sobre consulta previa. Centro De Estudios Jurídicos E Investigación Social (CEJIS), Retrieved from http://cejis.org/publicaciones/libros/

[18] Bascopé Sanjines, I. (2010). Case study: Bolivian government consultation with the Guaraní indigenous peoples of Charagua Norte and Isoso. Oxfam, Retrieved from http://www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/research-publications/case-study-bol...í-indigenous-peoples-of-charagua-norte-and-isoso/

[19] Snoeck, S. (2013). What does it take to make local consultation a success?. BMZ/FCPF/UN-REDD joint expert workshop.

[20] Bascopé Sanjines, I. (2010). Case study: Bolivian government consultation with the Guaraní indigenous peoples of Charagua Norte and Isoso. Oxfam, Retrieved from http://www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/research-publications/case-study-bol...í-indigenous-peoples-of-charagua-norte-and-isoso/

[21] Bascopé Sanjines, I. (2010a). Lecciones aprendidas sobre consulta previa. Centro De Estudios Jurídicos E Investigación Social (CEJIS), Retrieved from http://cejis.org/publicaciones/libros/

[22] Ibid

[23] Snoeck, S. (2013). What does it take to make local consultation a success?. BMZ/FCPF/UN-REDD joint expert workshop.

[24] Bascopé Sanjines, I. (2010). Case study: Bolivian government consultation with the Guaraní indigenous peoples of Charagua Norte and Isoso. Oxfam, Retrieved from http://www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/research-publications/case-study-bol...í-indigenous-peoples-of-charagua-norte-and-isoso/

[25] Snoeck, S. (2013). What does it take to make local consultation a success?. BMZ/FCPF/UN-REDD joint expert workshop.

[26] Bascopé Sanjines, I. (2010). Case study: Bolivian government consultation with the Guaraní indigenous peoples of Charagua Norte and Isoso. Oxfam, Retrieved from http://www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/research-publications/case-study-bol...í-indigenous-peoples-of-charagua-norte-and-isoso/

[27] Ibid

[28] Schilling-Vacaflor, A. (2012). Democratizing resource governance through prior consultations? lessons from Bolivia’s hydrocarbon sector. German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA), Retrieved from www.giga-hamburg.de/workingpapers

[29] Snoeck, S. (2013). What does it take to make local consultation a success?. BMZ/FCPF/UN-REDD joint expert workshop.

[30] Schilling-Vacaflor, A. (2012). Democratizing resource governance through prior consultations? lessons from Bolivia’s hydrocarbon sector. German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA), Retrieved from www.giga-hamburg.de/workingpapers

[31] Ibid

[32] Bascopé Sanjines, I. (2010). Case study: Bolivian government consultation with the Guaraní indigenous peoples of Charagua Norte and Isoso. Oxfam, Retrieved from http://www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/research-publications/case-study-bol...í-indigenous-peoples-of-charagua-norte-and-isoso/

[33] Snoeck, S. (2013). What does it take to make local consultation a success?. BMZ/FCPF/UN-REDD joint expert workshop.

[34] Bascopé Sanjines, I. (2010). Case study: Bolivian government consultation with the Guaraní indigenous peoples of Charagua Norte and Isoso. Oxfam, Retrieved from http://www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/research-publications/case-study-bol...í-indigenous-peoples-of-charagua-norte-and-isoso/

About Author(s)

M. Soledad Calvino
M. Soledad Calvino is a second year graduate student majoring in International Affairs at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at The University of Pittsburgh. She holds a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Central Florida. She is studying international political economy with a focus on human security.