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Transforming Socio-environmental Conflicts by Building Inter-cultural Relations: examples from Venezuela and Argentina



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Photo: FFLA, Ecuador
Case Study on Prior Citizen Participation
as a Strategy to Transform a Conflict
Dominant Culture and Dominated Culture
in Land Conflicts: Cases of the Quiché, Guatemala
Transforming Socio-environmental Conflicts by
Building Inter-cultural Relations: examples from
Venezuela and Argentina
Iokiñe Rodriguez and Juliana Robledo with input from Rolain Borel, Antonio
Bernales and Mirna Liz Inturias (Grupo Confluencias)
Antonio Rubio and Mitzy Canessa 6
Miguel Angel Ajanel de León and Elisabeth Giesel
Marina Irigoyen A.
An inward look: The Mining and Sustainable
Development Dialogue Group and its interventions
in Socio-Environmental Conflicts
Since the first Forum in December 2005, up to the present, the Regional Forum on Transforming Socio-
environmental Conflicts in Latin America has been consolidated as a regional benchmark, oering a valued
space for debate, exchange of experiences, lessons learned, methodologies and strategies, connecting Latin
American stakeholders and transforming lessons and local knowledge into constant collective construction.
The First Regional Forum (December 2005) was called to discuss “Challenges for Transforming Socio-
environmental conflicts in Latin America”. Forty scholars and practitioners cloistered to discuss the scope and
constraints of conflict transformation strategies for three days of reflection and experience exchange.
In November 2006, the Second Regional Forum was entitled “The Challenge of Prevention”. This gathering
displayed an excellent sampling of the significant conflict prevention and management initiatives under way
in Latin America. Its 60 participants felt the lectures met such high standards and the experiences presented
were so innovative that they expressed their desire to meet again to continue exchanging lessons learned at
the next event.
The Third Regional Forum on Transforming Socio-environmental Conflicts, “Toward an Agenda for Capacity-
building” (February 2008) revealed the consolidation of partnership among organizing agencies – German
Cooperation (DED), Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano (FFLA), Plataforma de Conflictos Socioambientales
(PLASA), and Friedrich Ebert Foundation (ILDIS) – and incorporated new stakeholders such as the Universidad
Andina Simón Bolívar (UASB), Inwent and the Confluencias Group. While maintaining past events’ high
quality and well-recognized experts in this field, new methodologies were also included. While 60 people
interested in these issues met in 2005, approximately 180 experts and other people from the region gathered
for the Third Forum, including representatives of social organizations and communities , non-governmental
organizations, government institutions (local and national), universities, research centers, multilateral and
cooperation agencies.
The conclusions of the Third Regional Forum have shown that constructing a Regional Agenda for capacity-
building is not a matter of simply mapping stakeholders or assessing their needs or demands. It was
concluded that the theoretical foundations, policies and practices of any capacity-building proposal must be
critically questioned, to make sure it is constructed to suit the complexity of the local and regional context.
The Third Forum generated a concrete output, publishing a detailed compilation of participants’ papers,
lectures and experiences1.
The Fourth Regional Forum, on “Inter-cultural Relations and Transforming Socio-environmental Conflicts”
(November 2009) reinforced the Organizing Committee by incorporating German cooperation’s PROINDIGENA
Program. Further, a strong communicational strategy positioned and publicized the event regionally.
The Fifth Regional Forum’s theme, “Good practices in Transforming Socio-environmental Conflicts” (October
2011) was held in the UASB’s facilities. The main conclusions of the Fifth Forum called for updating theories and
methodologies. Displacements by climate change, organized crime, drug trac and construction of political
hegemonies have configured a new typology of conflict. Present-day conflicts are marked by strong asymmetries
of power and are heavily nuanced pluri-culturally. In this context, conflict transformation work must be enhanced
by including gender and inter-cultural approaches.
1 See www.
Case Study on Prior Citizen Participation as a
Strategy to Transform a Conflict
Antonio Rubio and Mitzy Canessa
Complementarily, this has led to urban sprawl, degradation of
the territories that used to be for agricultural use, problems
with connectivity, access to basic services, and environmental
pollution, among other impacts. Definitely, this local planning
process has left the big decisions to the market, with the
consequences of social disintegration and territorial inequity.
In this framework, among others, two parallel,
complementary processes have arisen in the region, which
are at the foundation of the present conflict. One of them is
privatization of water supply service (in 1998), along with a
plan for cleaning up the pollution of sewage in the Santiago1
Watershed; and the other is the search for new sites to
deposit municipal solid wastes from the city of Santiago2.
Both industries have located in low-income outlying urban
areas or rural settlements. At present, the locality of
Montenegro has a neighboring landfill that has operated
for over a decade, receiving nearly 63% of Santiago’s solid
wastes, this has resulted in a number of conflicts. In 2006,
this community was threatened by installation of the
“El Rutal sewage treatment plants Integrated Bio-solids
Management Center” project, under the responsibility
of the Water Supply Company3. This made a new conflict
“resurface”, so their long-standing demand for water
supply reappeared, along with their great dissatisfaction
with local planning, which residents said treated them as
“the region’s backyard”.
The water supply company faced, in 2003, an
environmental incident in one of its sewage treatment
plants located in another sector of Santiago, which
triggered a conflict with nearby communities that
lasted for several years. This experience highlighted the
importance of incorporating the concept of Corporate
Social Responsibility (CSR) into the organization as
a strategy for relations with communities near their
operations. Up until then, CSR had been understood as
a process to pursue within a company as a philanthropic
action, with social investment, and without considering
any holistic management overview. As a result of these
environmental incidents, the company decided that
it would have to establish direct relationships with
communities. Accordingly, the strategy proposed by
Casa de La Paz would establish an ongoing relationship
with communities aected, from a local development
standpoint rather than an attempt to minimize conflict.
1.2 Zone where the conflict
The conflict developed in the metropolitan region, in
the community of Til Til, a locality in Montenegro. The
locality is 65 kilometers north of downtown Santiago and
bounded to the north by the Montenegro Estuary, which
flows southwest to south. At the foot of a mountain range,
1 From the late 1990s until 2012, this process has tended to clean 100%
of sewage from the Metropolitan Region, which used to be dumped into
the Mapocho River, which has been achieved by building three sewage
treatment plants in dierent communities of the region.
2 During the same period, the State has promoted the opening of three
sanitary landfills and closing of illegal dumps.
3 The Water Supply Company (catchment, production, distribution,
consumption, sewerage and treatment).
1. Context
1.1 Issue involved in the conflict
Land use and the potential socio-environmental impact of
sanitation infrastructure projects in the zone under study
are the main issues involved in the conflict.
In the metropolitan region of Santiago, Chile, since the 1980s
a series of changes in land use have happened. These include
zoning which has resulted in unequal distribution of the
benefits and costs derived in those territories, generating
mainly negative impacts in those territories that are social
and economically most vulnerable.
Photo: Antonio Rubio, Chile
- Municipality of Til Til
Allies of the main parties, who are aected by their
well-being, but otherwise less directly aected by the
- Environment Committee of the community
- Organizations from the locality of Rungue
- Other organizations (community of Maipú and
2. History
2.1 Beginning and dynamics of the
In 2003, the Water Supply Company, owner of the La
Farfana Sewage Treatment Plant (PTAS La Farfana)
inaugurated the most modern plant in Latin America. That
same year, there was an environmental incident obliging
the Company, with a sanitation authorization to dispose
the plant’s bio-solids, to find a site by the year 20048
for temporary sludge disposal. They were authorized to
dispose of sludge in the landfill located in the locality of
Montenegro. This situation led to the founding of an inter-
community organization among the communities near the
La Farfana PTAS. Further, the community of Montenegro,
although not informed directly about this situation, found
out from landfill workers who live in the community.
A bit irate about this development, they began demanding
explanations from the local authority and began mobilizing
to express their dissatisfaction by blocking roads and
appearing in the news, among other ways. Accordingly,
in 2006, the Water Supply Company established an initial
contact with the community through a meeting with the
leaders of the locality’s organizations. At this time, leaders
expressed their rejection of the project, expressing their
mistrust, and the experience they had had previously with
other projects having similar characteristics.
Leaders asked the Company to attend an Assembly to
discuss with neighbors and the community. They reported
on the project idea in general terms.
Meeting participants were very angry, and expressed their
rejection of the project, which ended the possibilities
for dialogue. After this episode, Casa de La Paz proposed
for the company to implement a strategy of citizen
participation prior to the project, beginning to hold
constant meetings with leaders to set up dialogue
arrangements, which subsequently led to a Working Group
that is still operating.
Other activities informed the community in greater detail
of the waste water treatment process.
In 2008, the project entered the Environmental Impact
Evaluation System (SEIA) to be assessed and obtained its
favorable environmental resolution in 2009.
8 Sanitation Resolution N° 7988 of 19 March 2004. (
digital_451753_451756_1000099.doc )
this locality features Chile’s main highway, Route 5 North,
along the piedmont. The origins of this locality date back
to the construction of the railway, in the mid-19th century,
where families named Montenegro (among other names)
built the first homes in this settlement, alongside the
railroad tracks. Similarly, some of the ancestors of current
residents may have originally lived further in the mountain
areas. Up to a few years ago, Montenegro was to be split
by expansion of Route 5 North, so the community was
transferred to its current location.
The people have lived in the town for an average of 35
years. Most households are in socio-economic strata D4
(52.9%) and E5 (25.7%), with a predominance of women,
most of whom cannot access employment6. According to
the last census, in 2002, Montenegro’s population was 695
1.3 Primary and secondary
For stakeholder analysis, the primary and secondary
actors must be identified. This identification is based on a
number of criteria such as:7
a) Those who have influence in decision-making about the
b) Those who will be aected by project implementation,
c) Those external parties who could pressure for the
process to fail,
d) Those who could influence building of an agreement or
decision-making; and finally
e) Those who can favor implementation.
The primary parties in this conflict are:
• Decision-makers seeking agreements
- Neighbors’ Committee of Montenegro, who have led
in dealings with the sanitation company
- Water Supply Company, environment area and
communications area (Department of Corporate
Social Responsibility)
• Those aected by the project
- Local organizations of Montenegro: Sports Club,
Labor Workshop, Senior Citizens Group
- Locality of Montenegro with its almost 700
• Authorities involved
- Ministry of Environment
Secondary parties:
• Those whose interested are aected, indirectly
4 Lower medium level. Households from this socioeconomic level have an
income ranging from US$420 to US$ 620.
5 Lower level. Households in this socioeconomic level have income ranging
equal to or less than US$ 300.
6 Study of perception about the transfer and gathering of sludge and
impact on the locality of Montenegro. IPSOS January 2007.
7 Analysis of the “stakeholders involved” in participatory processes. Gra-
ciela Tapia. Year?
manner regarding the project, its associated impacts, or
compensation and mitigation measures.
So, the arrival at the landfill of a “new product” such as
the sludge in 2004, because of the health resolution by
the Authority for the Water Supply Company, led to citizen
demonstrations by the community to protest that decision
by the Authority. They blocked Route 5 North, chained up
the corporate building of the Water Supply Company, and
coordinated with other local societal organizations and
communities, such as Pudahuel and Maipú.
In Montenegro there were several landmarks in the
escalation factors that help understand what happened:
Lack of confidence in formal channels: In the case
of the landfill, no timely information was provided,
which would have build trust and relations, to enable
those involved to express their positions, concerns and
contributions for the project in a context of relations,
but rather developed a process of negotiating for
compensations behind closed doors with old societal
leaders. This generated mistrust when the Water
Supply Company came along, preventing any formal
relationship be set up. The above is explained as
follows by current societal leaders: “(…) When the
landfill was set up, relations were manipulated. The
agreement was made through the Municipality and
the former Neighborhood Committee. We couldn’t
find anything legal about that, nothing that was not
crooked, so to speak (…)”9. Further, there was a lack of
trust in the public services evaluating the project, since
there was the perception that the initiative, given
the governmental mandate to complete sanitation
for 100% of the Santiago watershed in approximately
10 years, it would necessarily be approved anyway in
order to reach that goal.
Ineectiveness of prior experiences with
participation: As outlined above, Montenegro’s
experience with the landfill entailed implementing
an ineective participation process, which did not
allow the community to express their concerns,
apprehensions and anger with the late 1990s project.
Nor did the Company take these concerns into account
in order to eectively implement their project. “(…) It
was too much work to deal with them (Water Supply
Company), since previously we had such humiliations,
the townspeople couldn’t trust what had happened, or
was going to happen (…)”10.
Mistrust in fulfillment of commitments: In the case
of the landfill, the community declared that, when
the Company came along, it promised contributions
for the community, which have to some degree been
provided, but no agreements were made to formalize
Company executives’ declarations, so once the Water
Supply Company contacted the community the first
issues brought up by leaders were non-fulfillment
of commitments, based on the experience they had
previously had.
9 Internal document. Systematization and Analysis, Community Relations
Groups, Urban Maipú – Montenegro. Good Neighbor Program – Water
Supply Company Casa de la Paz. January 2012.
10 Ibid.
2.2 Factors leading to escalation of
the conflict
Under Chile’s Environmental Law (LGBMA 19,300) in
1997 the Environmental Evaluation System (SEIA) began
operating. Therefore, by 1996 the landfill had voluntarily
entered and began operating among number of similar
projects programmed for the zone. This gave the
community of Montenegro the perception of being the
backyard trash heap for the Metropolitan Region.
The community’s experience with major projects in their
area had been with the landfill project, with inecient
citizen participation, in a context where Chile’s incipient
environmental institutions were only beginning to get
organized properly, so companies were not obliged to
enter the Environmental Impact Evaluation System.
From this perspective, setting up the landfill in the
community did not become a conflict generating a crisis,
but did set the factors in motion that later escalated.
A number of societal leaders felt it bothered the
community not to have been consulted with in a timely
Timeline of the conflict
Opposition by the community to the formal Citizen
Participation Process regarding the sanitary landfill.
The community was divided by building the landfill.
The sanitary landfill had an environmental incident
and the estuary of Montenegro was polluted, which
is where the town gets its drinking water.
Environmental incident of PTAS La Farfana, the
company faces a conflict with the neighbors of other
The sanitation company, as a result of the conflict in
La Farfana, decided to translate sludge from the
plant to the sanitary landfill located 5 km from
The Community of Montenegro opposed this and
generated a citizen movement: “The Doodoo Route”.
They asked for advisory support from the Casa de la
Paz Foundation, to analyze the conflict generated by
the plant by transferring the sludge.
The first meetings between the sanitation company
and the community began, through CDP facilitation.
The sanitation company began a plan for relations
with local leaders. A Prior PAC strategy was
proposed, beginning a relationship with key
community stakeholders.
In January, a Prior PAC was conducted in the
community. In June, the EIA entered environmental
evaluation. The community made 628 observations.
The sanitation company obtained a favorable
environmental approval for the project.
2.3 External interventions
Interventions by agencies external to the conflict, such as
the Casa de La Paz Foundation, hark back to late 2004 and
early 2005, with the assessment and socio-cultural profile
of societal organizations in the urban and rural sector of
La Farfana, as a result of the occurrences in the La Farfana
PTAS during 2003 and 2004, leading to Water Supply
Company’s initial contacts with Montenegro. In 2006, the
Casa de La Paz Foundation began working to build trust,
to establish a Company-community relations process
focusing on Prior Citizen Participation in the El Rutal
Integrated Bio-Solids Management Center Project.
The incident at the La Farfana PTAS led to an
Environmental Monitoring Committee (comprising
representatives of municipalities and societal
organizations from communities neighboring the plant)
whose members began interacting with the leaders of
Montenegro, to convey the experience of the conflict,
which triggered dialogue when sludge was transported
from that plant to the landfill in Montenegro, grouping
all the stakeholders present in communities along what is
colloquially known as the “Doodoo route”11.
2.4 Current status of the conflict
So far, the Water Supply Company has represented an
impact of minor scope for persons living in the locality
during the construction stage, since the stage with greater
impact for the community (smells, flies and truck trac)
has not yet begun. This situation has led leaders to discuss
issues with the Company oriented toward the project’s
social responsibilities, such as: resources contributed
on a competitive basis and contributions to community
infrastructure for the locality, without neglecting issues of
mitigation the eects of the operation. The scenario has
enabled the Company and community to interact on the
basis of collaboration and work. Despite initial rejection
by these same leaders, they have achieved low-conflict
interaction between the parties.
3. Intervention
3.1 Reasons for the institution’s
intervention in the conflict
The Casa de La Paz Foundation decided to intervene for
the following reasons:
Experience in assessing the La Farfana PTAS conflict
and overall in Prior Citizen Participation processes,
providing knowledge about the root of the problem
and a team with expertise to address the proposed
Request by the Water Supply Company, to advise in the
process due to their experience with Casa de La Paz
in other projects and in establishing an incipient CSR
11 Colloquial name with which excrement is known in Chile. (“caca”).
Dierent social stakeholders were considered that might be aected by
taking sludge from the community of Maipú, passing through Pudahuel,
Renca, Quilicura, Lampa and Til Til.
High value for confrontational leadership: When
the Water Supply Company came along, a couple
of societal leaders appeared in the community of
Montenegro with fiery rhetoric about the El Rutal
Integrated Bio-Solids Management Center. These
societal leaders were invited constantly by the Casa
de La Paz to meet with the Company and be part of
the process of relations and prior citizen participation.
After participating sporadically a few times, they left
the process, as it was advancing toward consolidation.
Photo: Antonio Rubio, Chile
dialogue by establishing favorable conditions, enabling
the parties to reach agreements.
Public policies: though the impact on public policies
regarding Prior Citizen Participation has not been
profound, the intervention has reflected the some
companies’ voluntary intention. Over the years, there
is an increasing trend to share information prior to
formal deadlines under Chile’s environmental norms,
to elicit and satisfy the concerns of the community
potentially aected.
3.3 Results and Impacts
3.3.1 Total or partial agreements on the
From the beginning of the intervention, partial and total
agreements regarding dierent issues placed on the
agenda at each meeting held from 2006 to date, which are
systematized and registered in the minutes of meetings
shared among the dierent participating stakeholders.
The most important of the agreements attained among
the parties has been the Memorandum of Social
Compensations between the Water Supply Company and
the Locality of Montenegro, based on the work by societal
leaders, the Company and Casa de La Paz during 2009 to
negotiate participatorily for social compensations that the
community set as priorities in terms of their perceived
3.3.2 Levels of communication among
During the relationship from 2006 to date, communication
between social leaders has significantly improved,
empowering new leadership and existing leadership and
generating networks with other community and inter-
community organizations.
Communication between the Company and leaders has
also acquired a new direction, reducing initial gaps and
asymmetries in information and power, determining more
horizontal relations.
3.3.3 Access to information for stakeholders
As explained above, implementing this process
contributed significantly to improving access to available
information for the community of Montenegro in general.
This has given the Company a new image, as a valid party
to negotiations and the Casa de La Paz Foundation is seen
first as an intermediary is now is being valued as a third
3.3.4 Reducing violent actions and taking
the law into one’s own hands
Development of the intervention has appreciably curbed
all manner of violent actions or actions outside the law by
the community.
Program in the urban sector of that locality.
An opportunity to change the way things are done in
this country.
Thematic anity with the institutional mission of
sustainable coexistence and the possibility of linking
with emerging issues in Chile at the time, such as
socio-environmental conflicts.
3.2 Main activities implemented
Situational analysis, socio-cultural diagnostic: first,
an analysis of the existing situation covered: factors
influencing the conflict, identification of stakeholders,
positions, local interests and needs, as well as
recognition of the socio-cultural environment that the
Casa de La Paz and the Water Supply Company were
getting into, to provide a complete panorama of the
reality of Montenegro and the community of Til Til.
Building trust: ongoing, constant discussions with the
stakeholders identified, from the outset, to achieve
rapport and trust with each in terms of the role of
Casa de La Paz as creator of conditions for dialogue
between the Company and the community. They
discussed the Company’s strategy to approach this
intervention, on a consensus basis with the community
and its leader, once basic trust was attained.
Information and sensitization: this stage was
based on the premise that, to establish collaborative
relations over time, existing information gaps
between the Company and the community must be
compensated for, so thematic work groups, discussed
leaders’ concerns and interests regarding the project.
Field trips were also organized to the sludge project,
to the Company’s operations (treatment plants
for sewage water) with the intention of building
images and perceptions regarding the reality of the
operational processes to be implemented. Similarly,
open houses, newsletters and assemblies enabled the
community to approach Company professionals to
listen, ask questions, and discuss project ramifications.
Dialogue: establishing channels for ongoing dialogue,
so far by institutionalizing the Montenegro Working
Group, which gathers nearly 90% of local societal
and functional organizations existing in the locality.
Along with the above, there is the implementation
of competitive bidding for project funds and of
plans to hire personnel during the construction stage
and training in building trade skills for interested
community members. In this process, the Casa
de La Paz’s role has been to facilitate dialogue by
establishing favorable conditions, enabling the parties
to reach agreements12 and of plans to hire personnel
during the construction stage and training in building
trade skills for interested community members. In this
process, the Casa de La Paz’s role has been to facilitate
12 Whose criteria for eligibility for the projects presented are: Community
Participation, Associative Enterprises, Gender and Age Equity,
Complementary Contributions, Sustainability and Budget Structure. It is
relevant that the Casa de la Paz Foundation advises each of the projects
during the profile development and project stages.
Elections of community authorities (mayor and council
Although elections always pose a threat of conflict
because of possible politicization, stakeholders of the
locality were empowered with the idea of not letting the
conflict escalate and reach agreements, without involving
the current candidates in the conflic.
4.2 Factors in the context that have
made intervention dicult
Information imbalance
On the one hand, the community had little technical
knowledge about the project’s environmental issues
and the Chilean environmental norms (considering that
when the Company found out about the project idea,
it was already going to be implemented without any
environmental permits, and was only beginning to abide
by existing norms). The community, in turn, began seeking
technical information from the municipality to understand
the project being questioned.
Environmental incident in the La Farfana PTAS
As a result of the environmental incident, the Company’s
credibility was jeopardized, as was that of environmental
institutions, in the eyes of community perceptions and
the public opinion, so the project proposed certain
environmental measures to mitigate environmental
and social impacts, as a way to generate trust among
5. Good Practices
In the case at hand, the good practice involves
implementation of a process of Prior Citizen
Participation in the relations between the company
and community, to be able to make early contact with
societal stakeholders and leaders of Montenegro in
order to build trust and establish a mutually beneficial
relationship between the Water Supply Company and
the community, thinking that both stakeholders must,
if the project is environmentally approved, coexist
sustainably for at least another 30 years.
Around Montenegro during the last few decades,
nearby land has become the new choice for setting
up industries with impacts for communities. Before
the Water Supply Company project came along, the
community of Montenegro had sporadic contact
with certain companies (mining and landfill) based
exclusively on compensatory measures and handing
out resources. The Casa de La Paz team generated
an ongoing linkage between the parties in conflict
(Company and Community), addressing dierent
situations that have arisen (smells, flies, truck trac
and water use, among others). Setting up the Working
Group has strengthened the linkages created among
the organizations existing in Montenegro, which
operated isolatedly prior to the Group’s creation.
This isolation no longer exists, because alliances
3.3.5 Better balance of power
Along with the above, access to information as a form of
power transfer has helped reduce existing asymmetry,
attaining a balance that has led to a harmonious
relationship among parties so far.
3.3.6 Improved state responsiveness
Action by local government has been to let private
enterprise make the required investments in the
community, reducing some government contributions
to the locality, asserting that the companies are playing
government’s role in local territory. At the same time,
the Water Supply Company has made alliances and
agreements, at the Municipality’s request, which have
not resulted in the synergy expected by the community
and Company. On the contrary, the consequences are
discontent and disappointment in the community
regarding their political leaders, and the sanitation
company has had to reinforce its contributions.
3.3.7 Level of organization and capacities
of local stakeholders
Throughout the intervention, relations with groups outside
the community have changed, because the Working
Group is cohesive and aligned, for example, involving the
authorities or other companies in the sector.
4. Factors
4.1 Factors in the context that have
facilitated intervention
The factors facilitating the intervention have several
Metropolitan Region Sanitation Policy
The need to implement a plan to treat sewage water in
the region is considered a priority under the Authority’s
policy. Currently, the sewerage network receives 99% of
sewage from homes and industries; before 2001, only 3%
of that water was treated or purified before returning to
the watershed. The Sanitation Plan was proposed as an
environmental need. So, the sanitation company’s project
is one of the region’s needs. This issue is understood by
the local community in general, since this community is
outside the Water Supply Company’s area of influence
and service, and therefore the need for sanitation benefits
the region’s urban sectors, but the project will benefit the
region as a whole.
Openness to dialogue
Despite the pre-existing crisis because of an incident by
the Company in another community, the scenario for
Montenegro was expected to be more complex. Despite
the existence of mistrust between the two parties, both
stakeholders (community and Company) maintained
their willingness to engage in dialogue, no acts of
violence occurred during the whole process, and this was
acknowledged and valued by both stakeholders.
community and great concern for reaching formal
agreements among the parties.
It is eective, since it has enabled both parties to learn,
analyze and discuss the project two years in advance of
the date when the Environmental Impact Assessment was
submitted, which resulted in 628 citizen observations on
the document, which were discussed and considered by
the relevant public services who evaluated the project.
The above entailed a process that has so far managed to
minimize the negative impacts of the project construction
and design stage, which has considered maximizing
benefits in the relationship and the Company’s presence in
the local territory.
It is sustainable, since it has enabled institutionalization
of a new way to implement a company-community
relationship procedure by maintaining a Working Group
that has remained active on a monthly basis since
June 2006, which has enabled them to continue the
relationship independently of the project’s environmental
evaluation since both stakeholders expect to continue
it over time, which is reinforced by the Environmental
Approval Resolution, which states that they are committed
to an ongoing relationship throughout the project life
The above would not have been possible without the
parallel process of management strengthening to
empower both partners to exercise citizenship in this
relationship through the Working Group.
of collaboration among them have been set up for
compensation and joint community activities.13 The
experience of these organizations in working together
enables them to submit projects for community
improvement to private and government funders, in
addition to establishing relations with other companies
for local development, which is an important process in
strengthening existing social capital.
The proposal to intervene in the conflict, suggested
to the Water Supply Company, is grounded in the
strategies that Casa de La Paz had been pursuing, of
Prior Citizen Participation (Prior PAC) in infrastructure
projects. This strategy has the purpose of building
communities for a process of local development, by
providing tools to become an active part of the citizen
participation process established by the environmental
law. This experience shows how communities face
these agencies in a fragmented fashion, with little
technical, environmental or social information
and knowledge, so they are weak versus the State
or private stakeholders, unable to prepare citizen
observations about a project that is being evaluated
environmentally, about to enter the evaluation system,
which prevents any changes to make it acceptable to
the citizenry. Casa de La Paz proposed for the Water
Supply Company to approach the community, with
emphasis on community relations, with a Prior PAC
strategy (two years before the project began being
evaluated environmentally), and timely information
on the project to learn about the perception of key
stakeholders regarding potential socio environmental
eects. This made it possible to provide the Company
with feedback on ways to adjust the initial project,
considering the concerns proposed, as well as the
opportunities that the project has to contribute to local
development, detected through dialogue. This was
proposed as a strategy to strike a balance regarding
knowledge, power and organizational facets of the
communities directly aected. This strategy was well
received in the Company and with some cautiousness
by the community.
Accordingly, Prior Citizen Participation for the El Rutal
Integrated Bio-Solids Management Center project
meets the four qualities of good practices because:
It is innovative, since during the past decade few
companies in Chile had engaged in early participation
processes, due mainly to unfounded fears that
the community might stop or complicate projects’
environmental evaluation. There was another group,
no smaller, that settled self-servingly simply with the
participation timelines set by Chilean environmental
norms (60 working days from the Environmental
Impact Assessment’s entry into the system).
Further, there are features unique to interventions
by Casa de La Paz, making a dierence from other
consultant companies such as that each of their
interventions entails high commitment to the
13 Internal document. Systematization and Analysis, Community Relations
Groups, Urban Maipú – Montenegro. Good Neighbor Program – Andean
Waters. Casa de la Paz. January 2012.
Photo: Mitzy Canessa, Chile
It is replicable, since it has configured a model of
intervention in Casa de La Paz, which has been adapted
and implemented in other realities and contexts of
companies and communities due to benefits and
contributions generated by that experience to develop
internal learning processes that have enabled this
institution to evolve toward developing new intervention
strategies with a local territorial approach.
6. Challenges posed by the
• Role of Casa de La Paz as a multi-party stakeholder in
the conflict.
The leaders were still cautious about the role of Casa de
La Paz, arguing that, being funded by the Company, they
would not address the issues involved objectively, and
would be inclined toward decisions in the interests of
the Company’s expediency rather than the community’s
requirements. One leader said “It was too much work to
deal with them, since previously we had such humiliations,
the townspeople couldn’t trust what had happened, or was
going to happen (…)”.Despite the mistrust prevailing at
the outset, leaders opened to the possibility of generating
dialogue and collaboration between parties, which
ultimately enabled success in the process, which has been
maintained to date..
• Impact on public policy about eective participation
in designing high-impact projects.
Prior Citizen Participation strengthens all stakeholders
in a local territory, since it contributes to thinking about
local development and in future challenges that calls for
relationships among stakeholders. Private enterprise
cannot come into a territory without establishing
a relationship with the local players: both the local
government, which has to safeguard common well-being,
and the empowered community, which has the challenge
of defining a vision of the community’s future. Therefore,
Prior Citizen Participation provides the guidelines to
build development at the local level, bringing together all
existing interests for that local territory.
Maintaining the relationship with the operating
In 2012 it will be vitally important to analyze this case,
because after almost six years of work, the project that
brought the Casa de La Paz to the local territory will
start operation during the second quarter of that year.
The challenge from this perspective is twofold, because
it implies for the Company to mitigate and manage its
impacts and that the community must be sure to call
for a Citizen Impact Monitoring System to concretely
acknowledge the perceptions that will emerge once
operation begins.
Photo: Mitzy Canessa, Chile
Dominant Culture and Dominated
Culture in Land Conflicts:
Cases of the Quiché, Guatemala
Miguel Angel Ajanel de León and Elisabeth Giesel
1. Context and historical
roots of the conflicts
The Department of Quiché is in western Guatemala and is
eminently rural. 90% of the population of almost 800,000
is indigenous. 84% of this indigenous population is poor
or extremely poor, while this applies to 51% of the non-
indigenous population14.
These figures showing the relationship between ethnic
status and economic status reflect Guatemala’s history of
social inequality, exclusion, racism, and concentration of
the ownership of wealth, especially land, in hands of the
few, which lasts to this day. This dates back to the violent
Spanish conquest: “The initial clash resulted in a Spanish
military victory and the consequent trampling of the native
This began the colonial plundering of indigenous lands
by the Spaniards and locally-born accompanied by the
indigenous people’s forced labor. The colony set up a
socio-political system separating Spaniards from , mixed-
blood mestizos and indigenous people, ideologically based
on the superiority of the Spaniards and their descendants
over the indigenous. The indigenous population was
concentrated into “Indian towns” under strict control
to ensure submission and taxation of the indigenous
population. They were given land in the commons
surrounding town, for the purposes of indigenous peoples’
subsistence. The indigenous could also get or legalize
community land16. Regulation of internal coexistence and
administration of common land was under indigenous
cabildo boards, with the restriction of not interfering with
Spanish interests.
A second wave of plundering of indigenous land came
during the liberal period of the Republic, beginning in
1871. The nation’s coee-growing campaign and the
corresponding liberal agrarian reform “drive a process of
private accumulation of land at the expense of indigenous
community property…In ten years, the country was turned
into an array of coee plantations”17. The ideological
rationale for this takeover of indigenous land and labor
was that only and mestizos, and foreigners, were able to
use the land to generate national well-being and progress.
Farms ran on the basis of work by mozos colonos (literally:
“colonist kids”), primarily indigenous families living as
serfs on farms: in exchange for a borrowed plot of land
14 Program to Support the National Peace and Reconciliation Process
(PCON-GTZ): Preventing and Transforming. Social Conflict in the
Departments of Huehuetenango, Alta Verapaz and Quiché. (Programa de
Apoyo al Proceso de Paz y Conciliación Nacional PCON-GTZ: Prevenir y
Transformar. Conflictividad social en los departamentos de Huehuetenango,
Alta Verapaz y Quiché) Guatemala 2008, p. 86.
15 Carlos Guzman-Böckler and Jean-Loup Herbert. Guatemala: Una
interpretación histórico-social [A Historical and Social Interpretation].
Eighth edition, 1995, p. 33.
16 Ernesto Palma-Urrutia: Una mirada a la historia agraria de Guatemala
[A Look at Guatemala’s Agrarian History]. 2006. http://www.slideshare.
net/140969neto/una-mirada-a-la-historia-agraria-de-guatemala, accessed 3
March 2012, slide 13.
17 (Ernesto Palma-Urrutia: Una mirada a la historia agraria de Guatemala
[A Look at Guatemala’s Agrarian History]. 2006. http://www.slideshare.
net/140969neto/una-mirada-a-la-historia-agraria-de-guatemala, accessed 3
March 2012, slide 25.
In this article, we describe three cases of land conflicts
in the North of the Department of Quiché in Guatemala,
highlighting how intercultural relations are part of the
configuration of these conflicts, starting from their roots,
all the way through to attempts to resolve them.
• The San Siguan – El Molino conict (case 1) starts
with peasants against a large-landowner family and
turns into a conflict by the peasants against the
The El Astillero conflict (case 2) is peasants against
the Municipality.
• The Poblaj conict (case 3) involves two opposing
groups of peasants.
Photo: Elisabeth Giesel, Guatemala 17
themselves. However, negotiations between the peasants
and the owner got nowhere, because she wanted to sell
only the least fertile land. The criterion of most indigenous
peasants was that they had a moral right, acquired over
long years of working for the farm for free, and they did
not have to settle only for the stony, rugged land. .
The peasants turned to the Rural Unity Committee (CUC)
for support. A CUC adviser discovered, in legal research,
that although the farm-owning family had possessed
the land for decades, legally the land was part of the
commons of the Municipality of Cunén. The CUC asked for
the Governmental Secretariat of Agrarian Aairs (SAA) to
conduct a study on this land to confirm the above. Then
the peasants negotiated with the Municipal Mayor to
legally award the land, and he agreed.
However, a new conflict arose: The peasants´ group
divided, and a minority continued negotiating with the
owner to purchase part of the land, which the Municipality
had already allocated to the majority group. The
overlapping of the “purchased” land with the “recovered”
land is now the cause of hostilities and problems between
the groups that crop up when community development
projects are to be implemented (for example, a road)
or when day-to-day controversies arise between
neighbors belonging to the two dierent groups. External
interventions are limited to meetings and dialogues held
by the Departmental Governor who exhorts them to
eschew violence and wait for new technical studies to
solve the problem of overlapping land tenure rights.
The indigenous peasants of El Molino, when they found
out about the questionable legality of the large-owners’
land rights, stopped paying rent for the land. Later, an
indigenous woman appeared, arguing that the land was
her property, and sent the police to evict the peasants. In
view of this conflict, the CUC asked for a study by the SAA,
which concluded that the land was part of the municipal
commons of Cunén. The CUC also provided legal services
to the group of peasants accused by the Public Ministry
of aggravated usurpation, and threatening the Authority;
this latter accusation refers to their resistance to obeying
police eviction orders. The defendants were acquitted
because the woman was unable to prove her property
claims. So then the conflict became a matter between the
peasants and the Municipality. The latter did not want to
award them the land, saying that some day it might be
needed for some municipal infrastructure.
2.2 El Astillero
Rights to control and use the land in the municipal
commons are also the crux of the conflict between the
numerous peasant group living in “El Astillero”, and
the Municipality. This conflict was triggered in 2005
when the Municipality attempted to impose new rental
modalities. Peasants who had already lived on and farmed
this land for decades refused to pay rent. They asked to
be awarded ownership of the land they were using. A
series of negotiations followed between local politicians
and peasants. Sometimes they reached no agreements
and other times the commitments they undertook were
to grow their own subsistence fare, they were forced to
work free for the farm-owner. All rural adults involved in
the conflicts we describe clearly remember their suering
under this form of exploitation.
Commons, and what the community retained from the
Indian towns before, were transformed under the new
arrangement of the municipality into municipal commons.
Local indigenous leaders undertook the defense of
indigenous land, through lengthy paperwork with the
national government to legalize the land as municipal
commons. However, the indigenous were losing power in
the local municipal governments and criollo and mestizo
families managed to take over parts of the municipal
A reform-oriented national government in 1952 enacted
agrarian reform that, before two years had gone by, was
frustrated by a de facto “counter-revolution” government.
In subsequent decades, attempts were made to find an
“alternative” solution to the land problem, i.e., a solution
that would not involve expropriating farmland, mainly
by dividing up national and un-owned land. This attempt
did not address the structural problem. The Poblaj conflict
we will describe below originated at this time when the
National Institute of Agrarian Transformation (INTA) gave
farmers land and legal title to it.
The lack of a genuine solution to the structural conflict of
the racist, exclusive system provoked the nation’s armed
conflict. This scourged the department of Quiché in the
1980s with a strategy of genocide by the Government
against the indigenous population, which suered
massacres, forced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial
executions, etc. This destroyed much of the social fabric
of the communities where the victims of this State
terrorism must live alongside those who collaborated in
the aggression.
The 1996 Peace Agreements defined several measures to
improve indigenous and non-indigenous rural people’s
land tenure. However, most of these measures have
not been fulfilled to this day. Nationwide, 1.8% of all
landowners currently own 57% of agricultural land area.
67% of landowners have micro-farms under 1.4 hectare,
i.e., not enough to eke out a living, totaling 7.8% of the
nation’s agricultural land area.
2. The dynamics of the three
2.1. San Siguan and El Molino
Rural indigenous families from San Siguan and El Molino,
at the time when the conflicts arose, lived on the landed
property of a very wealthy criollo family. Their status had
already changed from serfs to tenants on the land. In the
case of San Siguan, in the late 1990s the woman who
owned the large landed property notified the rural families
that she wanted to sell the land, so they should evacuate
their homes, located on the plain part of the property. The
peasants organized, and oered to buy the land from her
people. We fight to uproot injustice and the oppressive,
exclusive system” 19. They want to defend and recover
land and territory, with integrated agrarian reform and
the enjoyment of economic, political and social rights
by the indigenous peoples. As an organization of action,
its function is to intervene in conflicts, representing and
defending the rights of their grassroots groups. Therefore,
they are not impartial or “third-party”.
Intervention, in all the described cases, combined dierent
19, accessed 7 March 2012
not fulfilled. At present, peasants are measuring and
drawing the land in their possession, to provide accurate
information for future negotiations, within a clear
technical proposal.
2.3 Poblaj
The Poblaj conflict is located in the Municipality of
Uspantan. It began in the days of the 1953 agrarian reform
when a group of peasants, led by mestizos, demanded
for the large farm’s land to be divided. Subsequently,
the Government declared the farm to be the Nation’s
property, because the large owner did not meet the legal
requirements to prove his property right. After peasants
vied with each other strongly with the National Institute
for Agrarian Transformation for 20 years, it awarded the
large farm in 1987 to one of the competing groups, led by
indigenous people. However, there was no resolution for the
other former serfs, organized into another group, supported
by mestizos from a neighboring municipality, who were
located right in this land award. A series of mutual
accusations in the courts ensued, with threats and violence,
for example: destruction of crops. In 2004 the group
holding property title from the INTA evicted the other group
from part of their land, taking the law into their own hands.
Several government institutions have been dealing with this
conflict for years, mostly through dialogue and studies that
yield no solutions but do bolster the hopes of both groups
to ultimately own the land. Confrontations, sometimes
quite violent, spread to personal hostilities among members
of the two groups. The CUC is advising the group holding
title awarded by INTA, while Social Pastoral advises the
other group. By mid-2011, a meeting between these two
advisory groups proposed, after the many abortive attempts
by non-indigenous bodies, to approach the conflict through
an indigenous authority, according to their wisdom and
world-view. The Indigenous Mayor18 of Momostenango (a
municipality over 100 km away) was invited to conduct
this process, currently under way since late 2011.
3. Intervention
The CUC’s intervention in each of the three conflicts
began at the request of one of the parties to the conflict,
seeking support to defend their interests. CUC decided to
intervene because they saw that the conflicts pitted the
indigenous peasants against the typical representatives
of injustice: against the economic power of large owners
(cases of San Siguan and Molino), against municipal
political power (El Astillero), against powerful local
mestizo collaborators with the government military
repression from the civil armed conflict (Poblaj).
CUC was founded in 1978 – in the context of the policy of
counter-insurgency – by peasants from northern Quiché
and migrants to farms in southern Guatemala. They were
persecuted and many leaders were assassinated. CUC
describes itself as an “ample, pluralistic rural grassroots
organization of peasants, the poor, and indigenous
18 In Guatemala, indigenous municipalities exist alongside several regular
municipalities. These Mayors are traditional authorities representing
indigenous society and applying the indigenous system of justice to minor
problems and disputes among individuals and communities.
Photo: Elisabeth Giesel, Guatemala
Since 2009, under a project to strengthen CUC’s capacities
for alternative land conflict transformation21, work began
on participatory conflict analysis methods. In meetings
between CUC technical sta and community leaders,
talking maps were made to clarify the complexity of
current rural holdings. Other participatory analysis
instruments were applied, such as a timelines, stakeholder
mapping, analysis of their positions, interests and
needs, contexts and attitudes, to better understand the
situation. These provided the grounds for rethinking
and dierentiating the claim strategy. Immediately after
applying each participatory instrument, a list of tasks
was made, to obtain more information, contact possible
allies, and find elements of the strategy to follow. So, the
position regarding the Municipality changed from a simple
demand for land award, to proposals for procedures of
how to do this.
At the same time, this project prepared a study regarding
the overall problem of municipal commons land22 which
was distributed and discussed, enhancing the knowledge
base of the people involved in the conflicts.
3.2 Training
CUC held several training events for community leaders
regarding their rights to land, based on national law
and international conventions, above all Agreement 169
by the ILO on Indigenous Rights. Training also included
information and interpretation of the Municipal Law,
which empowered leaders in their negotiations with
Municipal Mayors. Community leaders were included in
training for promoters of community rights and conflict
transformation covering legal and historical issues, as well
as alternative conflict resolution methods such as non-
violent communication and other tools for negotiation.
Trained leaders, with stronger negotiating skills and
knowledge, achieved partial agreements through dialogue
on a procedure for land award.
3.3 Legal defense
Legal defense included rebuttal of accusations for
usurpation of land and others resulting from the land
conflicts. These included forest-related crimes (cutting
trees on disputed land) and a series of personal complaints
among individuals of the dierent farmer groups vying
for the land, such as threats, injuries, illegal detention,
attempted homicide, and rape. Legal defense by the
CUC attorney for these accusations attempted to defuse
tensions between the clashing groups, ensuring their
right to due process and encouraging them to seek
reconciliation between individuals, according to Mayan
principles of justice, in which compensation is very
important. Thus, one complaint, regarding alleged
witchcraft between individuals was settled by mutual
The project on “Land, Conflict and Rural Development” is implemented by a
consortium of two peasant organizations, an NGO and the Civil Service for
Peace of German Cooperation (GIZ), in western Guatemala.
22 Pressia Arifin-Cabo: Conflictos de Tierras Municipales [Municipal Land
Conflicts]. Historia, Realidad y Tendencias [History, Reality and Trends].
Publ.: GIZ, IDEAR-CONGCOOP, CUC, CCDA. Guatemala 2011.
3.1 Analysis and studies
Analysis first involved the historical and legal status of the
land rights in dispute. In meetings with the communities;
CUC leaders and technicians listened to the community’s
versions and then researched community documents
and Property documents regarding the legal situation.
However, checking the technical details went beyond
CUC’s possibilities20, and anyway, to have impartial studies
of the dierent parties’ claims, CUC requested property
registration studies by the governmental Secretariat of
Agrarian Aairs, the institution responsible for dealing
with land tenure conflicts by providing advisory assistance
and alternative resolution methods. These studies were
especially relevant as they proved the status as commons
20 Most of Guatemala has no cadastral property records, and property
registers often do not have location maps or diagrams, or they are very
inaccurate. Therefore, legal research on land rights is quite dicult and
unaordable for a peasants’ group or organization.
Photo: Elisabeth Giesel, Guatemala
their approach. They invited an indigenous authority, the
Momostenango Indigenous Mayor, to provide mediation.
This has been under way since late 2011, seeking to help
the rival groups understand each other, to at least put
an end to the constant hostilities. Clearly, reconciliation
is quite dicult, requiring psycho-social work, since
the hatred and mutual attacks are major. This element
was never considered in previous dialogues conducted
by government agencies. It is encouraging that the two
supporting agencies are seeking ways to overcome the
confrontation by agreeing that both groups are victims
of the big-farm system’s history and the exclusive State,
whose policy of “awarding” land without considering
historical rights caused such dispute among indigenous
brethren. The agreement about the process also calls for a
study of the possibilities of holding the Guatemalan State
responsible for the mistaken award of the Poblaj farm to
only one of the serf groups, ignoring the other group’s
historical rights. If they jointly achieve this recognition of
the State’s error, this should lead to reparations.
4.3 Access to information for
Access to information improved in three aspects:
• In the peasant groups, participatory conict analysis
methods enabled all the participants to increase
their knowledge about a conflict. In such groups,
only a few people usually know the history and the
multiple elements of the conflict in greater depth. In
the participatory work groups, they taught what they
knew to the other persons.
• As for new information on political, legal and
institutional contexts, the CUC as a national rural
organization contributed their knowledge to the
groups they represent, especially through training.
Organizing the groups in the CUC also provided them
with knowledge from the experiences of other rural
people in similar situations.
• Similarly, opposing parties of the rural indigenous
groups improved their access to information, above
all through SAA’s technical studies requested by the
4.4 Reducing violent actions and
taking the law into one’s own hands
Legal defense was able to keep leaders from being
imprisoned and from the peasants in the El Molino conflict
from being evicted. In several cases of confrontations
derived from land conflicts, legal assistance and defense
were able to relieve tensions and end or prevent acts of
violence among groups and individuals.
4.5 Improved State responsiveness
At the local level of the Municipality, State responsiveness
improved, as the municipal Mayor agreed to negotiation.
However, as recent elections have brought a new Mayor,
3.4 Representation
CUC leaders and technicians represented the groups in
dealings with municipalities, the departmental governor,
the SAA and government judicial bodies, both in meetings
/ “ocial” appointments and in multiple informal contacts.
In dialogue or negotiation, above all among various
stakeholders and in situations of great tension, CUC
representation strengthened their group’s position, thanks
to CUC’s extensive experience with this kind of events.
More informal communications with municipal politicians
and ocials from dierent government agencies helped
defuse a number of high-tension situations and reach
partial agreements.
3.5 Advocacy
At the departmental level, a Forum was organized with
government and civil society stakeholders, on conflicts
involving municipal land, since this issue is commonplace
throughout the Department. On another occasion, the CUC
organized a press conference and demonstration by their
grassroots communities to move the court to rule about
the alleged usurpation of land. Regarding the municipal
commons land, the CUC advised its groups to get this
issue on the agenda of the Municipal Development Council
(COMUDE), an ocial citizen participation body.
3.6 Systematization
In late 2010 a systematization of the complicated conflict
in Poblaj began. This systematization went beyond the
analysis of the conflict itself to include learning about the
role of CUC in the course of the conflict. The lesson learned
was that CUC’s understanding had been insucient up
until then, too simplistic, neglecting solidarity with rural
brethren in the opposing group. This internal learning
moved leaders and technicians to begin listening to (not
just hearing) the other party’s proposals.
4. Results of the intervention
None of the conflicts has been solved, but there is
substantial overall progress.
4.1 Partial agreements
In all the conflicts described, there is basic recognition
among the parties of the historical rights of indigenous
peasants’ land possession, as a basis for negotiating the
details now. Therefore, the clearest result for the peasants
on the municipal commons is that the Municipal Mayor
has acknowledged their right to greater legal security
as owners of the plots they hold. Once they reached this
agreement, negotiations could move on to basic criteria to
apply regarding the technical and legal details of land title,
on the basis of the group’s detailed proposals.
4.2 Agreements regarding the
process of addressing the conflict
The Poblaj conflict reached an innovative agreement in
revenge, the Mayan legal system emphasizes agreement
and compensation. Interventions working to keep conflicts
from worsening, and in general to advance toward self-
determination by indigenous peoples, are facilitated by
the provisions of Agreement 169.
The indigenous movement over the last few decades,
with its actions and discussions, has also facilitated
strengthening awareness, organization and collective
decision to oer resistance to the model of racist
domination and recover land. So, the under-the-surface
conflict blew up openly. Community leaders and CUC
interventions, geared toward structural transformation for
greater equality and enjoyment of rights, are supported by
this movement.
An important factor facilitating intervention by the CUC
was the funding for analysis and training activities, legal
defense and advocacy, from international cooperation
projects. Land conflicts are complicated, long-lasting and
full of potential for violence, so without funding it would
be more dicult to address them peacefully.
The SAA, as a government institution, conducted
the studies of land registration that yielded valuable
information for these interventions. A number of
governmental human rights agencies23 provided support
at times of great tension to maintain communication
mechanisms and prevent violent reactions.
6. Factors that impeded
Intervention in conflicts between indigenous peasants
and the municipality becomes very dicult because of the
dierent cultural visions regarding their land. Indigenous
people interpret the municipal commons as “the people’s
land” (i.e., the indigenous population as a whole) for the
people to use for their livelihood. This concept means
that the commons have historically been administered
by the indigenous cabildo board and defended by
indigenous authorities. Therefore, indigenous peasants
now demanding title to the land they possess have
sought support from COMUDE, comprised by indigenous
authorities from communities in the municipality.
The Municipality as a government body feels that the
commons belong to them, and therefore the Mayor has
exclusive decision-making prerogatives. While this vision is
similar to the absolute private property model, indigenous
peasants’ view stresses that their rights are derived from
the fact of use by persons belonging to the collective of
the people.
Reaching an agreement between these two visions is
further complicated by indigenous mistrust of the political
system and municipal public institutions. The logic of
power through the political parties system is alien, and for
many years they have witnessed municipal mayors and
other ocials use the municipal commons as a source of
private income and a political plum.
23 Government Attorney for Human Rights, and Presidential Human Rights
Commission. Their activities above all consisted in observing judicial
processes and participating in dialogues.
future progress is uncertain. In the Department and with
the central Government, not much attention has been
given to these conflicts.
4.6 Better balance of power
Legal defense and assistance achieved more balanced
relations with the judicial authorities. At the local municipal
level, the commons land claim was able to gain support of
COMUDE – as an agency of citizen participation –, which
gave it greater weight.
4.7 Level of organization &
capacities of local stakeholders
Organizing the groups under CUC enabled them to
emerge from their isolation and belong to a large national
organization. Being backed by CUC’s reputation and
contacts helped them to get a hearing with relevant
governmental agencies. Organizational interaction
not only contributed new knowledge but also enabled
discussions with local groups that put their individual
demands into context. Internal learning through the
systematization strengthened reflection about the
perspective of solidarity among rural indigenous brethren,
which made it possible to invite the Indigenous Mayor of
Momostenango to mediate.
4.8 Sensitization of public opinion
The written and oral press has devoted space to land
issues, sensitizing public opinion, which was achieved
through the Forum on Municipal Land, and through a press
conference and demonstration in front of a courthouse.
5. Factors that facilitated
Progress by the indigenous movement in recent decades
has helped lay the legal foundation, internationally and
in Guatemala, for recognizing fundamental indigenous
social, economic and cultural rights. Guatemala recognizes
ILO Agreement 169 on the rights of indigenous peoples
including “the rights of ownership and possession ...
over the lands which they traditionally occupy” (Art.14).
The National Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala
also protects the lands of indigenous communities
(Art.67). Interventions by the CUC in land conflicts are
grounded in these legal provisions that legally and
politically strengthen the “struggle” to reach a genuine
transformation of the conflicts consisting in recovery of
land for indigenous communities.
Recognition of indigenous rights to keep and apply their
own customary law (Article 8 and 9 of ILO Agreement 169)
and that governmental justice, when applying penalties,
must bear in mind the cultural and social conditions of
indigenous persons (Art.10) facilitates work to relieve
tensions in conflicts, especially among brethren indigenous
groups. Whereas State justice emphasizes punishment
and therefore often increases disputes and feelings of
overcome these confrontations. They have almost no
access to institutions that might be allies for undertake
psycho-social consciousness-raising and reconciliation
The diculty in achieving reconciliation or at least
mutual understanding based on indigenous values and
procedures is seen in the process of addressing the conflict
in Poblaj by the Indigenous Mayor of Momostenango.
So far, they have only attended meetings to listen to the
dierent positions. These meetings were accompanied by
ceremonies. The CUC group has already expressed great
lack of confidence in the process because most of their
members belong to modernistic religious groups that
deny the validity of ceremonies and some parts of the
Mayan world-view. Afraid that the process is not part of
the legality of the State legal system that granted them
ownership of their land, but also seeks to recognize other
indigenous elements that legitimize rights to land, the
group is now oering resistance to the process.
Political clientelism and squabbles for municipal power
are factors that also make interventions more dicult.
Municipal elites incorporate indigenous groups in their
networks of clientelism to elicit indigenous support
in their competition for power. In exchange, they are
promised support in their land claims. Then accusations
arise among rival rural groups that they are “manipulated
by the ladino24 people” and ignoring their own indigenous
eorts. Furthermore, one of the land conflicts is overlaid
and interfered by a dispute on municipal territorial
boundaries, which complicates possibilities for solutions.
Mistrust of public institutions makes it quite dicult to
reach agreements, along with institutions’ own technical
incapacities. Although the SAA studies are partly elements
helping substantiate rights, they are also incomplete
because of under-funding. Municipalities do not have
qualified personnel to measure or accurately locate land
rights, or even keep clear records of the land in their
commons. There are no legitimate government institutions
with the power or capacity to settle conflicts. Then the
opposing parties can only turn to the judicial system,
which lacks legislation and operators specializing in
agrarian issues, and is organized to decide that one party
is right, to the detriment of the other. Therefore, this
system is normally unable to achieve joined solutions, and
conflicts become endless. The State fails to perform its
function of guaranteeing its indigenous citizens’ rights,
but rather continues to follow the approach of benefitting
some without providing structural solutions. Most
agricultural land in Guatemala is owned by the few, while
the poor compete, in order to survive, “against each other,
their families, peers and neighboring communities.25
A socio cultural factor that makes the intervention much
more dicult is diversity and internal contradictions
within indigenous society, regarding attitudes and
positions about their own subordination. In conflicts
between brethren indigenous groups, domination by the
colonizing power over rural indigenous people not only
causes liberating resistance but also the position of allying
with or submitting to the powerful representatives of
the dominant system to get a piece of land. In the Poblaj
conflict one group chose to ally with the “ladinos” in the
neighboring municipality. And in the course of the San
Siguan conflict, one group held on to the option of buying
from the large land-owner, acknowledging her rights,
although the other group had already launched the radical
challenge to this subordination and had discovered that
legally the land was a municipal commons.
Although the CUC recognizes that the dominant racist
system generates these contradictions among groups, it
is very dicult to address these conflicts among brethren
without driving them deeper. The CUC tends to favor the
group in these conflicts that they feel are working toward
a structural transformation. Despite the recognition
that all indigenous groups are victims of the domination
and subordination mechanisms, they have no tools to
24 The term “ladino” is used for mestizos: non-indigenous culturally mixed
25 Pressia Arifin-Cabo: Conflictos de Tierras Municipales [Municipal Land Con-
flicts]. Historia, Realidad y Tendencias [History, Reality and Trends]. Publ.: GIZ,
IDEAR-CONGCOOP, CUC, CCDA. Guatemala 2011, p. 33 Photo: Elisabeth Giesel, Guatemala
parties will trample the interests of the weaker. It is then
highly important to emphasize the work of strengthening
internal democratic organization in indigenous groups,
with transparent, participatory leadership and a clear
awareness of the needs for structural transformation to
maintain unity and patience.
The other challenge is to develop, in reflection and in
practice, viable indigenous approaches to resolve conflicts
among brethren. This makes it necessary to strengthen the
legitimacy of indigenous mediation and arbitration entities
and procedures, which presupposes:
• Before beginning with an indigenous approach to
conflict resolution, everyone involved must engage
in reflection and consciousness-raising about
the usefulness and criteria of indigenous conflict
resolution, so each party, including the one which
according to the criteria of national law is in a
stronger position, to really accept this process, and so
that indigenous individuals with a more modernistic
orientation will accept it.
There must be support for indigenous conflict
resolution entities, to make them stronger, so their
procedures can be adapted and renewed as needed.
• Judicial and other governmental entities relevant to
a conflict must recognize and be coordinated with
the indigenous conflict resolution entity27 If this
doesn’t happen, the process will have the weakness
that, at any time, either of the parties may turn to
government agencies, seeking decisions in their
In cases of heavy, long-lasting conflicts among indigenous
rural brethren, work must include psycho-social healing
of the wounds suered, including consciousness-raising
about structural causes of conflict including mechanisms
of domination and subordination.
A single institution’s eorts are not enough to achieve
all of this. The challenge is to establish alliances with
institutions and individuals who will contribute their
capacities to creating the conditions and pursuing the
processes for indigenous conflict resolution.
27 This means nothing more than applying the provisions of ILO Agreement 169.
There is also another contextual factor that makes it quite
dicult to address conflicts among brethren: the social
fabric that has been damaged by the country’s armed
conflict. Mistrust, divisions, hatred and also lethargy
are the outcomes of the war that even today confronts
victims with those who collaborated with the aggressors
in many communities. Poisoned coexistence does not
allow genuine dialogue, and negotiations are normally
a haggling in which the stronger or more astute wins.
A study about the conflicts including the department
of Quiché found “that dialogue and alternative conflict
resolution methods are still mechanisms used little as
alternatives to judicial means or even violence”26.
7. Good Practices
The only eective way to deal with the complexity of the
conflicts described was to combine the various activities
mentioned: legal defense and advisory support sought
opportunities in legislation favoring the indigenous groups
represented; taking advantage of the few opportunities
provided by the State in the studies conducted by its
institution, the SAA; the impact of advocacy on public
opinion and the COMUDE agency; and measures to
empower groups such as participatory analysis of conflicts
and training of leaders on their rights and on alternative
methods for addressing conflicts.
Application of participatory methods in conflict analysis,
in interventions with a peasant organization, is innovative
in Guatemala. This helped participants better understand
the complexity of the situation analyzed, to design a
dierentiated strategy and proposal instead of simply
making demands. Application of methods of analysis is not
complicated, requiring almost nothing of expenses, but
only the time and dedication of the people directing them.
It can be replicated in all land conflicts.
It was quite innovative to systematize the question of
the role played by the CUC in the Poblaj conflict. An
analysis of the conflict itself and the CUC’s interpretations
and activities led to the openness to take the risk of
seeking indigenous alternatives with the intervention
of the Indigenous Mayor of Momostenango. At this
time, it is unknown whether this approach will be
eective. However, what has been eective so far and
can be replicated is learning about the role of a peasant
organization in a conflict, which leads up to correct and
enrich strategies.
8. Challenges to confront
None of the conflicts regarding municipal lands has yet
been fully resolved. The challenge is for indigenous groups
not to give way to despair, which could lead to violence.
Further, there is great competition for land among the
poor, and there is always the likelihood that the stronger
26 Program to Support the National Peace and Reconciliation Process
(PCON-GTZ): Preventing and Transforming. Social Conflict in the De-
partments of Huehuetenango, Alta Verapaz and Quiché. (Programa de
Apoyo al Proceso de Paz y Conciliación Nacional PCON-GTZ: Prevenir y
Transformar. Conflictividad social en los departamentos de Huehuetenango,
Alta Verapaz y Quiché) Guatemala 2008, p. 8
Photo: Juan Batz, Guatemala
An inward look: The Mining and Sustainable
Development Dialogue Group and its interven-
tions in Socio-Environmental Conicts28
Marina Irigoyen A.
Peru is considered as a phenomenal success story in
the world’s economy. Right in the middle of the crisis,
according to the National Statistics Institute (INEI), in
2011 Peru had logged 13 years of uninterrupted growth.
Peru came in fourth as ranked for entrepreneurs28 in Latin
America with an average inflation rate of 2.3% during
the past decade, the lowest inflation in Latin America
and one of the lowest rates in the world. Nationwide
private employment increased by 5.4% during 2011,
according to Ministry of Labor statistics, also increasing
its international reserves.The Central Reserve Bank (BCR)
indicated that Peru’s trade balance was positive by US$
9.302 billion in 2011, thanks to improved terms of trade.
An important part of this economic growth is particularly
due to mining investment. In fact, the mining sector29
has consolidated as the greatest generator of foreign
currency for Peru in 2011. Mining exports neared 26 billion
dollars. Mining activity has attracted over 6 billion dollars
in investments, which represents approximately 50%
growth over 2010. These resources have enabled a range
of projects during the period, from expanding existing
operations, including exploration and studies for over
400 mining prospects and, of course, increasing national
mining production. Peru produces 125% more copper
and iron than in 2000, 44% more zinc, 35% mores silver
and 13% more gold. Peru’s gold production currently
represents 7% of the world total and is around 47% of
total mining sector exports. Further, Peru is the world’s
foremost producer of silver and the sixth-largest gold
The National Society of Mining, Petroleum and Energy
(SNMPE), the national mining guild, also reports that the
sector’s portfolio of projects amounts to over 52 billion
dollars, with some 9 billion dollars in expansion projects,
almost 18 billion dollars in projects with Environmental
Impact Studies approved, and nearly 25 billion dollars in
exploration projects, according to the Ministry of Energy
and Mines. It is estimated that about 10 billion dollars of this
portfolio could be implemented over the next two years,
with expansion of existing projects and startup of new ones.
However, there is serious concern, because although ore
prices have held since 2010, mining production has dropped
in most products except molybdenum and iron. The mining
sector feels it is urgent to increase levels of mining reserves
currently identified in Peru, which have been held up by the
various socio-environmental conflicts that have arisen over
the last few years.
The mining sector points the major eorts made in the
fight against poverty, thy, trough the Mining Program of
Solidarity with the People (known as the mining bonus
or Voluntary Contribution). This Program was signed by
39 mining companies and the Government, in view of the
high international market prices their ores reached, as a
result of negotiation with President García’s government
in regard to the tax stability contracts signed during
President Fujimori’s government. During its five years,
28 This document is the outgrowth of a reflection exercise under the
auspices of FFLA, under the author’s responsibility.
29 Memoria Anual 2011. Sociedad Nacional de Minería, Petróleo y
Energía,January 2012.
1. Economic scenarios in Peru
and mining
Is dialogue only a means of preventing conflicts?
• Dialogue is a means and methodology to transform
• It is an end: a society of free people, engaged in
dialogue, tolerant, peaceful and respectful.
• It is an attitude that nourishes a culture: the culture
of dialogue.
Photo: Marina Irigoyen, Perú
have been assumed, and civil society itself is also playing
a more active role to defend the sustainability of the
environments where they live, which is putting together a
new scenario.
At the same time, Peru started a substantial shift
regarding environmental standards in the early 1990s. The
Environmental Code, the Environmental Adjustment and
Management Programs (PAMAs) and then Environmental
Impact Studies (EIAs)36 , began becoming a positive
constant in the dierent mining sector investment
activities calling on companies to become more open and
better prepare aected communities.
At the same time, silently, on 27 June 1989, Agreement
169 on indigenous and tribal peoples in independent
countries, was adopted by the ILO General Conference
(International Labor Organization), and was ratified by
Peru’s Government in 1993. Agreement 169 calls on the
State to make a series of commitments to the indigenous
peoples, including prior consultation before taking
administrative or normative action aecting them. Despite
years in eect, it was not until the occurrences in Bagua
(June 2009 – see below) that ILO Agreement 169 became
well known for Peruvian public opinion. Then, people
realized that no actual eorts had been made to consult
about mining or hydrocarbon standards or investments
located in indigenous territories.
2. The Mining Dialogue and
Sustainable Development
Group (GDMDS)
We could define the Mining and Sustainable Development
Dialogue Group (GDMDS or Dialogue Group for short)
as a collective process. They met for the first time on 21
February 2000, to discuss the mining canon. Initially,
Group participants were representatives of NGOs, but later
included companies, communities, and the Government’s
dierent levels37. The Dialogue Group is based on its
participants’ “free, voluntary association”. Most are
individual persons and some are NGOs, whose strength
lies in their capacity to formulate recommendations and
issue opinions grounded in transparency, technically
rigorous, taking into account the opinions of all parties
and seeking coherence with the country’s development
goals. This definition of the GDMDS has been achieved
after its first three years of meetings, according to
repeated statements by its national coordinator, José Luis
López. He also says that the Group does not defend the
interests of any of the participating institutions, or seek to
undermine the “specific aims” of any stakeholder38.
36 The Environmental Impact study is mandatory for all activities causing a
significant impact on the environment. An EIA combines a sort of baseline
of the environmental and social situation, as a function of the project’s
plans, entailing a forecast of possible impacts, both positive and negative,
and the measures to be taken. The EIA is the companies’ commitment to
mitigate or remediate – or if worse comes to worst, compensate. Not only
environmental aspects are examined, but aspects of culture, of the social
environment, etc. The Ministry of Energy and Mines is responsible for
reviewing and approving the sector’s EIAs.
37 Bulletin 4, GDMDS 2008
38 José Luis López says: “The innovative element of the Dialogue Group
consists in the rules adopted for its operation: Undefined situations are
40 mining companies contributed a total of 852.6 million
dollars to implement programs, projects and works in nine
lines of action, including nutrition, education and health.
However, poverty continues to prevail in mining areas.
Along with the Voluntary Contribution, there has been
the Mining Canon since early 2000, with the nationwide
transfers (canon and royalties) increasing from over 234
million dollars in 2001 to 2.939 billion dollars in 2010,
over a twelve-fold increase30. Despite this improvement
in the economy, the nation’s poverty and social gaps
remain. According to the UNDP Report for 200831 the
levels of extreme poverty in Peru were reduced from 23%
in 1991 to 12.6% in 2008, and the goal of reducing overall
under-nutrition had been 81% attained, according to
the Millennium commitments. However, chronic under-
nutrition aects over 20% of girls and boys under age
5 and 30.9% of the population has a caloric deficit32.
While the per capita GDP increased by 88% between
2003 and 2011, real income for Peruvians rose by only
12% and only 28% of the citizens earn enough to cover
their own needs33. Poverty in Peru had dropped from
31.3% in 2010 to 28.4% at year-end 2011, according to
the BCR report34 but 41% of children remain in poverty
and 21.6% of children under age five suer from chronic
under-nutrition35. Many of the poorest, most under-served
population groups in the highlands live around mining
This overview gives rise to greater concern for Corporate
Social Responsibility and environmental respect.
Although corporate social responsibility strategies
comprise a strong current of opinion in the countries of
the North, in Peru the process has been slower because
of the government’s own weakness and certain business
inertia, often maintaining philanthropy actions associated
with their public image. Progressively, initiatives have
emerged such as Peru Siglo 21 [21st Century], the adoption
of ISO standards has spread, and international standards
30 The canon and royalties are administered by public entities and the
voluntary contribution by a private entity designated by the mining com-
pany, including NGOs such as Caritas, Prisma, DESCO, CARE Peru and
many others. Importantly, the amounts of the canon and royalties, and the
mining bonus, depend on companies’ profits, varying according to market
behavior (demand, international pricing, financial crises, etc.) and internal
measures by mining companies (agreements for future sales, eciency
in production costs, etc.). Along with the canon there are other resources
from mining, so we have the Canon, the Sobrecanon, Royalties and Shares
(CSCRP) which includes the six types of canon (mining, gas, petroleum,
hydropower, forestry and fishing), mining royalties and other participation
mechanisms such as the regional trust, for example. This situation has
some variants under the current government of President Humala, since
Law No. 29789 of 28 September 2011 creates the Special Mining Tax (which
since then has been amended and adjusted several times) on metallic ores
in whatever state, as well as self-supply and unjustified removal of such
ores, and the Voluntary Contribution is almost finished.
31 2008 Report on fulfillment of the Development Objectives in Peru. UNDP.
32 The BCR has indicated, at various times, that the major development of
Peru’s economy over the 2000-2009 period (55% growth) led to a 43% re-
duction in total poverty, a 60% reduction in extreme poverty, and the Gini
coecient, as an indicator of inequality in income distribution according to
household surveys, was reduced by 14%. That is, the poor have benefitted,
in relative terms, from the economic growth. BCR and Ministry of Econo-
mics and Finance (MEF), op. cit.
33 Study of Socio-economic Levels in Peru, 2001, IpsosApoyo, Opinión and
34 Working document on Poverty and Economic Growth: Trends during the
2000s. BCR and Ministry of Economics and Finance (MEF).
35 Statements by the World Bank Director of Poverty Reduction, in Por-
tafolio Económico, supplement to daily newspaper El Comercio, Lima, 19
February 2012.
contacts and building consensus around key issues
regarding mining and development to influence public
policy-making. Therefore, the GDMDS has developed as
a platform coordinating multi-stakeholder encounters
and social dialogue among leaders. This could be defined
as a group process. It is also equally clear that the group
is not for negotiating local conflicts, or a political or
institutional setting for consensus-building”. In accordance
with this approach, practical activities are geared to
foster understanding and coexistence. For example,
many meetings of the Forum begin with little relaxation
and reflection exercises, with sessions about working for
peace, etc.
There are dierent motivations to participate in the
group, such as establishing contacts with a diverse range
of stakeholders, generating trust, keeping abreast of key
information and processes, and generating elements to
promote consensus regarding the fundamental agenda
issues. However, not all stakeholders are “stable”. Some
sectors have moved away as a result of exchanges over
the virtual network, and a lack of interest from some
representatives of companies who perceive little support
for their initiatives at times of conflict. There are also
sectors who are critical of participation by certain business
stakeholders and the relationships made41.
It is particularly important to establish the Forum’s
Agendas. For the last couple of years, these agendas seem
to reflect the major issues of the country’s development
regarding mining and sustainable development, but
in a climate of changes and greater reflection about
development models and natural resources. Where socio-
environmental conflicts arise, these issues become more
41 A topic not addressed in this document involves the sustainability of the
GDMDS regarding financing and administrative management, on the basis
of recognizing that the Dialogue Group has no legal status.
Various analyses of GDMDS agree that it is largely
perceived as an open network linking persons forming
a diverse, plural group, coming from dierent sectors
(company, civil society, communities, government,
international cooperation, media, consultants) involved
with issues of mining and sustainable development. Our
surveys and direct knowledge of the GDMDS agree with
these perceptions.
The GDMDS networks by interacting in various ways:
(1) there are direct, “face-to-face” gatherings, such as
the full meetings and Forum;(2) the Direct Dialogue
Group (GDD), a subcommittee of a dozen people from
the Forum who discuss certain issues in greater depth
and provide suggestions for the agenda;(3) Work
commissions are established on topics of interest, such
as EIAs and participation, Consultation, and Water; the
GDD and the Work commissions exist since four years
ago; and (4) A range of events have also been promoted
as outgrowths of the Group’s dynamics (internships,
meetings of participatory environmental monitoring and
surveillance committees, meetings with authorities, and
training workshops, among others).A related eort that
is acquiring some momentum is the Network of Social
Leaders39, which gathers leaders associated with mining
projects, especially from Arequipa, Moquegua, Tacna,
Apurímac and Cajamarca. These dynamics are interwoven
with virtual exchange, with debate and information with
direct stakeholders, above all in situations of conflict,
taking special care for communications to be respectful
and plural.
At the same time, some of the Group participants interact
with each other. There are about 400 participants in the
virtual network, and about 100 who attend the forum
held about seven times a year. Although there is a sort of
“hard core” who attend most meetings, some 30 persons,
there are various “rings” of participants who are more
or less close and gather around the forum. The Forum
expresses the group’s core identity, although direct, active
participation by the most influential stakeholders in
mining dynamics and development is not stable, according
to a number of participants.
A working document from the Dialogue project40,
mentions that “regarding the group’s purpose, according
to its nature, although there are dierent emphasis, there
is a shared idea, quite well established, about working to
bring leaders together, listening to and sharing points of
view on a non-binding basis, improving trust and relations
among stakeholders, sharing information, generating
acceptable, formality is avoided, and the Group waited to see what might
happen in this mixture, where it is not a friendly get-together, but neither
is it an institutional meeting. Chaos in motion shows a direction amidst the
disorder and uncertainty. The aspiration is to get away from convergent
thinking (i.e., choosing a vantage point and on that basis discarding the
other alternatives) in favor of divergent thinking - listing to all viewpoints,
attempting above all to understand the reasons and perspectives of those
positions dierent from one’s own... “page 20. José Luis López. LEADERS
ENGAGING IN DIALOGUE (Glimpses of change on the basis of the MINING
DIALOGUE GROUP experience). Unpublished essay. 2009.
39 A promoter in the Leaders Network says: “In the South, as in other
zones, there are no federations to represent the public. Therefore, the
defense fronts arose, as a check and balance and in view of the absence of
political institutions, the Network of Leaders emerged. Leaders intervene in
these conflicts with an informed opinion, they have more information and
analytical capacity.”
40 Internal document, Dialoga project, consortium of NGOs comprising
CARE Peru, Prodiálogo, SASE, Labor Civil Association and Social Network.
Lima, December 2011.
Photo: Asociación Civil Labor, Perú
backed by some NGOs and Cajamarca priest and leader
Marco Arana, and after distributing an internal report by
the Ministry of the Environment including observations
on the project, the Government reinforced this request,
negotiating with the company to stop activities. The most
outstanding grounds for this activity shutdown was the
environmental impacts, particularly four lagoons located
in the high headwaters of the watershed, where two of
them will be aected by mine excavation, and two would
be used to dump cleared material Although the Company
claims that this environmental impact will be oset,
the public will not accept it. In late February 2012, an
international inspection was conducted regarding the EIA,
with three experts.
c. Quellaveco and Michiquillay - Angloamerican Projects44.
Anglo American, the world’s fourth-largest diversified
mining company, is pursuing the Quellaveco copper-
mining project located in the southern region of
Moquegua, for about 3 billion dollars. This project
has been pending for quite a while because of social
opposition. Recently, the International Finance
Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, a
minority shareholder in Anglo American, sold its stock to
Mitsubishi. Quellaveco faces protests because of concerns
about water supply. The company expects to begin
building the project in 2012 with an eye to producing
some 220 thousand tons of copper a year and beginning
operation in 2016 after 44 months of construction.
However, the Moquegua region expressed its concern
about water use, environmental impacts and the social
background, which led to dialogue lasting a year already,
involving provincial and district municipalities, and the
Regional Government, led by the Ministry of Energy and
Mines. One victory is that the Company has committed to
building a larger dam than initially planned, to make more
water available, and has clearly stated that this will not
aect the special Pasto Grande (agricultural) project. Anglo
American also controls the Michiquillay copper project
located in Cajamarca, which requires an investment of 1
billion dollars. Michiquillay was granted its concession in
2007 and since then has suered several setbacks because
neighboring communities rejected the project with the
greatest social investment. However, there has been a
great eort to approach the two communities directly
aected. The Company has decided to resume the huge
project, which had been suspended in 2009, with an eye
to achieving full production of 300 thousand tons a year
in 2018.
d. Expansion of Toquepala – Southern Copper Corporation.
Southern is facing rejection of the project to expand their
Toquepala mine, in the southern region of Tacna, because of
a dispute over water supply. The residents ask for the 800
million dollar project to be implemented with desalinated
sea water, claiming desertification of neighboring
agricultural zones. Southern has stated that it is open to
dialogue and has reiterated that it will not use a drop of
additional water for expansion, but water recycled from
washing tailings. By March 2012, dialogue was resumed.
44 On the basis of statements by Luis Marchese, Angloamerican General
Manager, El Comercio daily newspaper, 16 February 2012.
As a Dialoga Project document puts it42 “although the
Forum is not for resolving conflicts that may arise in
concrete mining contexts, the agenda does include reports
on local cases and promotes joint reflection from dierent
standpoints, to analyze in greater depth and contribute to
glimpsing peaceful solutions”. These agendas then flood
out into the virtual platform, which is strongly dynamic,
with groups of opinion leaders continually presenting
their viewpoints, which are sometimes controversial.
The national coordinator moderates the group and
focuses on well-grounded dialogue and construction of
proposals, highlighting agreements and issues requiring
more work. The GDMDS is working toward the approach
of Transforming Conflicts rather than merely resolving
conflicts at a given juncture. They recognize that work is
required on types of changes, patterns of relationships,
which sometimes calls for long timeframes and dierent
3. Main socio-environmental
The arena in which GDMDS has performed has featured,
in these last few years, various socio-environmental
conflicts43, especially the following important ones:
a. Protests by the indigenous peoples in Bagua against
99 legislative decrees aecting them, issued by the
Executive Branch without any consultation, which lead
to confrontation and deaths. This unleashed design of
the Law on Prior Consultation with Indigenous Peoples
approved in 2011 and also – indirectly – resulted
in rejection of mining projects by communities.
Communities’ rejection of mining interventions was
because they considered that their water sources would
be aected, their natural resources polluted, and their
land lost to large mining concessions, displacing their
agricultural activities and even displacing them from
their homes. However, also because as they live alongside
mining they realize the extraordinary profits that mining
companies receive, and they want better redistribution of
b. Minas Conga – Newmont Mining Project, which mines gold
and copper, a 4.8 billion dollar project in the northern
region of Cajamarca facing rejection by neighboring
communities fearful of being left without water when
production begins, hypothetically, by late 2014. This
undertaking by US Newmont and Peruvian Buenaventura
seeks to produce from 580 thousand to 680 thousand
ounces of gold per year. Residents demanded project
shutdown when the EIA had already been approved and it
was under construction, blocking access to the highway,
burning machinery and demanding a societal agreement
for 73 million dollars. After many days of shutdown,
42 Internal document, Dialoga Project.Op.Cit.
43 The Ombudsman Function issues a Monthly Report on Socio-
Environmental Conflicts with the information provided by the stakeholders
involved in societal conflicts, through the 28 Ombudsman Oces and the
10 public service modules that the Institution operates, complemented by
and contrasted with other sources. Specific information at www.defensoria. In December 2011, there were 223 conflicts, 126
of which were considered socio-environmental conflicts by the Ombudsman
residents of the Valley of Tambo, the province of Islay and
the region of Arequipa, in that order. The Company has
also calculated that the region will receive between 126.5
billion and 130 billion dollars a year.
The Project EIA envisioned two major stages. The first
stage (from year 3 to year 15), an open pit will extract the
mineralized deposit from La Tapada. The second stage
(from year 15 to year 21) will extract, also from an open pit,
the mineralized deposit from Tía María. The project will
operate for nearly 18 years. The sea water supply system
involves intaking water from the sea on the coastal edge,
constructing the desalinating plant, and implementing a
system to dispose of the brine generated.
Southern Peru attempted to get the public attention
through a series of activities to generate environmental
awareness in homes and institutions of the city. These
activities include Organic Agriculture and Sustainable
Tourism46, in addition to workshops on urban
development, housing and soils, projects on sanitation
and improved disposal of solid wastes, organizing training
workshops on soil management and conservation for
farmers and residents. To improve their image and
minimize fears of serious pollution, the Company began
a campaign asserting that the mining extraction would
fully and totally respect national and international
environmental standards, with no risks for the people or
for agriculture in Tambo. The Company tried to explain to
the citizens that the Tía María Project would not generate
tailings.“That will not happen, because copper will be
extracted from the deposit by the chemical process of
leaching, which does not produce any tailings at all.
Therefore, we guarantee that Tía María will have no
harmful euents”, asserted the Company’s Environmental
Services Director47. He also mentioned that modern
technology would control water leakage, so “we are in
a position to foresee that there will be no water, air or
soil pollution”, adding that, to prevent any damage to
the zone’s environmental quality, the Environmental
Impact Assessment had been conducted. However, it was
precisely an exhaustive analysis of the EIA that showed
that environmental issues had not been suciently
The public hearing to discuss the EIA had already
been postponed several times (since August 2009), as
discussions continued between the Company and the
public and authorities of the towns of Cocachacra and
Dean Valdivia, located in the zone of influence. One
possible solution was to arrange for dialogue but leaders
refused to take part. Even the Regional Government
committed to provide support by technical sta paid by
them to provide opinions about the EIA but this was not
accepted. The authorities of Cocachacra represented by
their mayor, Juan Guillén-López, did not want dialogue
46 Source: La República daily newspaper. Lima, 31 August 2010
47 Environmental Services Director of Southern Peru, Rodolfo Vicetti,
stated: “That will not happen, because the copper will be extracted from
the deposit by the chemical process of leaching, which is a process that
does not product any sort of tailings. Therefore, we can guarantee that
at TíaMaría there will be no harmful euents”. Noticias Arequipa daily
newspaper. Arequipa, 27 August 2010.
4. Intervention by the
GDMDS regarding the Tía
María Project
The Tía María Mining Project owned by the Southern Peru
Copper Corporation is located in the district of Cocachacra,
Province of Islay, in the southern region of Arequipa. This
950 million dollar project faces rejection by the public,
who are afraid it will use the water they need for their
The Environmental Impact Study for the Tía María project
states that it is an extraction and processing project for
oxidized copper ore planning to extract the ore from two
open pits45. Its commissioning will enable Southern to
raise its production by 120 thousand tons a year and work
exhaustively, according to the Company, with vertical
Southern Peru appears to be one of the most vertically
integrated companies in Peru. By mining high-grade
copper sulfides in its Toquepala and Cuajone mines,
Southern produces copper concentrates which are then
transported by railway and smelted and refined in Ilo. As
a consequence of melting these concentrates and thanks
to the new furnace installed in Ilo, Southern recovers heat
from the foundry to generate steam and produce electrical
energy and captures 92% of the sulfurous fumes to turn
them into sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid is the main raw
material to recover copper from the increasing deposits of
low-grade copper generated in the two mines, to produce
high-purity copper cathodes in the facilities for extraction
using solvents and electrical plating in Toquepala.
In 1996 Southern constructed this solvent extraction and
electro-plating plant (in English, SX/EW).This process has
the advantage of generating very low production costs
because it saves the traditional processes of floating,
smelting and refining, no tailings are produced, nor are
reagents used to float the copper, or sulfurous fumes,
making it possible to make a profit extracting from
low-grade copper deposits with very low impact on the
environment. Southern Peru now intends to develop
Tía María, a very low-grade copper oxide deposit that
can be commercially recovered only by the SX/EW
process, for which there is surplus production of sulfuric
acid generated in the Ilo Foundry by its Environmental
Adaptation Program.
(Institutional Journal of the Peruvian Chamber of
Construction - CAPECO, 2010).
The project has stated that, when the Southern Peru
company begins constructing its camp in Tía María this
will generate some 3 thousand temporary jobs, over
650 workers will be employed directly when the mine
operates, and another 3,250 indirectly, with priority for
45 It was also stated that the ore will be processed using the leaching
method, with extraction by solvent and electrolytic deposition to obtain
high-purity copper cathodes. Information provided by Schlumberger
Water Services, August 2010. Executive Summary, Environmental Impact
Assessment, TíaMaría Mining Project, owned by Southern Peru Copper
Corporation, Peru Branch (SPCC).
major part of the founders of the GDMDS, including the
team from an NGO Labor, Doris Balvín, José Luis López,
and others50.
Further, the lack of water in the zone and throughout
the South is critical, and Tambo Valley is an agricultural
production area for the large city of Arequipa but
faces constraints in water supply. This is aggravated by
inadequate water management practices and inadequate
irrigation management organization.
We examine below an analysis by the Land and Liberty
movement, a political group that is strongly opposed to
mining, led by Father Marco Arana, stressing the Valley’s
agrarian potential and the people’s fears.
Tambo Valley
Speaking of the Tambo River Valley means speaking
of an agrarian breadbasket providing food not only for
the district of Cocachacra, but for the whole region of
Arequipa. Tambo Valley produces sugar, vegetables,
potatoes, alfalfa and other farm products, even shrimp.
However, this valley suers from an evident water
imbalance that prevents it from strongly maintaining
its varied production, since the water from the Tambo
River watershed (with its headwaters in Puno) is scanty,
especially during the dry season. This is why, in April
(2010), the people mobilized and organized into a defense
front. Further, for several decades, the Southern Peru
Copper Corporation has been systematically polluting
this valley’s air and soils with its fumes, and refusing
to acknowledge their responsibility. The people of Islay
are well aware of the powerful mining company’s pushy
Initially, they proposed to obtain the water required
for operations in Tía María from wells in the Tambo
River Valley, in the Cocachacra zone, which would have
worsened the valley’s water imbalance. However, after
the conflict that shut this project down in early this
year, Southern changed its proposal to building its own
sea water desalination plant. Although they would no
longer use up all the Tambo River’s water, the problem of
pollution remains, by this open pit mining project.
Last September, the residents of Islay said “no” to the
Tía María project, but the authorities not only ignored
this democratic consultation, but called a public hearing
to approve the Environmental Impact Assessment
(EIA) prepared by the Company and endorsed by the
However, in April hundreds of farmers and residents of
the zone blocked the Pan American South highway for six
days, protesting that the EIA did not ensure environmental
care of the valley. The Defense Front of the People of Islay
made nearly 3000 observations on the EIA.As a result, the
Government declared the surface and underground waters
of the Tambo River untouchable – out of bounds for
50 López, José Luis and Balvín Doris.Environment, Mining and Society. A
dierent perspective. Lima 2002, Labor.
and refused to engage in technical discussions with
government representatives and the mining company,
all in a context of turnover in municipal and regional
The ocial spokesperson of the Company declared
insistently that the Tía María mining project would
use desalinated sea water to work the mine, rather
than surface water from the Tambo River or the zone’s
water table. That communication was sent ocially to
the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MINEM). He stated
that, under the “Water Culture”, water and drainage
projects would be promoted for the public to expand the
consumption of quality water and sanitary disposal and
treatment of used domestic water. He proposed social
investment projects as part of the plan to “Promote
Development” for the province of Islay, based on the
principle of Responsible Mining, implementing investment
projects with four pillars: Environment, Health, Agriculture
and Water, considering that these are the main issues that
Islay aspires to in order to improve their quality of life48.
The President of the Council of Ministers “sent letters to
the authorities of Islay and the institutional leaders of
Cocachacra and other districts, assuring that sea water will
be used for the Southern mining company extracting from
Tía María without taking any of their water resources for
agriculture. He said it is not true that the government is in
a rush to begin extracting from Tía María, but he cannot
leave an investment of a billion dollars, employment, fiscal
resources and development on reserve indefinitely. He
asked for representatives to be appointed immediately,
to participate in negotiations, which must be of a strictly
technical nature”49.
Nonetheless, the members of the Tambo Valley Defense
Front continued their opposition and brought legal action
against Southern Mining, for having attempted to continue
with the Tía María copper project. The Front was going to
begin attaining legal status, to be able to represent Tambo
legally, to bring suit against anyone jeopardizing their
interests. Throughout the conflict, arguments referred
to the environmental impact, water use, etc. but then
incorporated the issue of possible economic impacts and
compensations, and dierences began to arise among
the leaders and authorities themselves regarding how to
confront the Company.
With the prospect of having a large mining project, with
millions of dollars in investments, proposed environmental
practices, very large future profits... one wonders: Why do
the people (or a large part of them) and their authorities
reject this investment?
Southern had a serious prior track record because of poor
performance in Ilo, Moquegua, where only the organized
public and their municipal authorities were able to get the
Company to change its technology and process strategic
changes in their relationship with the authorities and
people, the environment, economic compensations,
environmental remediation, etc. These leaders were a
48 Statements by Guido Bocchio in La Voz daily newspaper, Arequipa, 7
August 2010.
49 El Pueblo daily newspaper. Arequipa, 25 August 2010.
After 18 days of violent protests, blocking highways,
marching in the city of Arequipa, burning a pickup truck
and confronting police, causing three deaths and some 50
injured persons, the Ministry of Energy and Mines ordered
a six-month shutdown to evaluate the Environmental
Impact Assessment that Southern presented for the Tía
María project. In practice, this ruling by President García’s
government left the final decision on whether to grant
the project concession or not for the next administration.
In view of this situation and the announcement by the
Regional Government of Arequipa, to prohibit extractive
activities in Islay51, the Tambo Valley Defense Front
suspended their blockades and protests. Finally, this
decision was made on the basis of a meeting among the
relevant Minister, Pedro Sánchez, and the Minister of the
Interior, the Regional President of Arequipa, the leader
who led the protests in Islay, Pepe Julio Gutiérrez, and
other leaders from Tambo Valley. In a press conference,
Minister Sánchez concluded that “given the situation the
project is in, we have had to move forward the evaluation
and review the EIA documents, concluding that there are
some elements in this project that cannot be resolved, so it
is declared null and void”. The arguments proposed by the
Minister included:“This decision is because of the current
situation of social unrest, violence and instability in the
province of Islay, which is the Tía María project’s zone of
impact or influence, yielding an indefinite strike, as well as
acts of violence toward public and private property…”.
After the Project was suspended, public sectors organized
under the Macro-Regional Defense Coordinating Group
began a campaign to stop mining investments, calling on
President Ollanta Humala to shut down mining concessions
in southern Peru. Otherwise, they would organize an
indefinite national strike. As some media have state52,
the President of that Coordinating Group, who was Vice
President of the Tambo Valley Defense Front, said that,
with backing from leaders in Arequipa, Moquegua, Tacna,
Puno and Andahuaylas, he was in a position to give such
an ultimatum. They also stated that, just as they gave him
their backing, yielding his winning majority in the elections,
they can get him ousted if necessary. There seems to be
agreement among leaders from various defense fronts,
in October (2011) to reject the Quellaveco and Tía María
mining project, and call for a shutdown of operations in
Toquepala, Cuajone and Cerro Verde. Further, in a press
conference, they warned that if Southern insisted on
continuing the Tía María project, they would destroy the
Company’s camp in Tambo Valley. Fortunately, these threats
have not been fulfilled so far.
The Company did not forfeit the concession, so the
Executive President of Southern Peru Copper Corporation,
Óscar González-Rocha, in several statements to the press
over these last months, has said the Company plans to
resume with the project, looking to collaboration from
the new Government to get it going. So, in February 2012
the Company once again stated that, if the new EIA that
51 The President of the Regional Government of Arequipa, Dr. Juan Manuel
Guillén-Benavides, said on 7 April 2011 that “THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT
ISLAY”. (Press release printed on 8 April 2011).
52 El Comercio daily newspaper. Lima, 24 November 2011.
mining use.There was a decision on technical grounds.
Although this is a victory for the farmers of Arequipa, a
social conflict remains, because the TíaMaría project is still
being promoted. So, at the same time as one calculates the
millions of investments and tax payments, one must also
value economically the impact of an open-pit project.
(Published by Tierra y Libertad Arequipa, 11 January 2011).
While this conflict was arising, the Ministry of Energy
and Mines was trying to speed up processing of the
Environmental Impact Assessments, and asked for support
from UNOPS (United Nations Oce for Project Services)
with whom they signed an agreement. UNOPS was to
design a procedure to analyze the EIA. On the occasion
of the mining investment boom, there was an explosion
of mining projects applying for approval of their EIAs.
Between 1993 and June 2010, the General Directorate of
Environmental Mining Aairs (DGAAM) of the Ministry
of Energy and Mines received 3966 EIAs, of which 2259
were approved and 378 projects were sent for revision,
according to an assessment by UNOPS. However, these
revisions took a long time, as much as five or six times
longer than the 90 days set by the environmental
protection regulations for mining activities.
UNOPS was also charged with reviewing the EIA for the
Tía María project. The results of the UNOPS examination
(delivered on 16 March 2011) were quite hard on the
project. UNOPS made 138 observations on the Tía María
mining project’s EIA, at least three of them quite serious:
1) The EIA had no hydro-geological study (water and
soil) although this was essential to detect the impacts
of mining activity; 2) the water used for processing was
not to be taken from the sea, as had been promised, but
from an estuary, where the river meets the ocean and
mixes with sea water, which was therefore highly sensitive
because of the diverse species it contains and its shallow
depth; 3) The EIA slipped by the possibility that Southern
would extract not only copper but also gold, without any
reference to the processing for extracting it, which is
fundamental since gold ore requires hazardous mercury
for processing.
Among other observations, the environmental study
presented by Southern did not consider the zone’s
regional or local history or the latest conflicts, to better
interpret that locality’s reality. In addition, under “Socio
Economic Aspects”, no mention was made of “poverty”,
to discuss employment generation by the mining project
for local people. Further, the EIA ought to present detailed
information on the state of agricultural and livestock
activity in the zone, the size of properties, the percentage
of the population mostly devoted to farming, and so on.
The report did in fact call for rethinking the project. In this
context of protest, the population learned of the report
and continued with their protests, becoming more radical
in blocking highways other circulation. The Ombudsman
Function, which had been following the conflict for some
time, also raised its warning.
and community, and even municipal authorities, but the
company has not shown much interest, and it was given
only passing attention. We see that, if there is no explicit
decision, the Group has not intervened to generate
dialogue about highly polluting projects or the medium
companies that generally participate very little.
GDMDS intervention in conflicts is quite particular, as
José Luis López tells us54: “We don’t meet to negotiate
solutions for certain conflicts. What is more, there is no
obligation to reach agreements on certain local conflicts.
What we may agree on in meetings is not binding, no one
is obliged to abide by these decisions, and therefore no
memoranda are signed. The Dialogue Group as such makes
no pronouncements, nor any activities and no one can
represent it or speak on its behalf. There is a coordinator
who calls and chairs meetings. We meet just to engage
in dialogue, exchanging qualified information, listing
to stakeholders about given cases of conflict, as agreed
beforehand, and arranging meetings among those who
wish to meet, to go more deeply into various topics”.
So, at the sixth meeting of GDMDS in 2009, the Tía María
situation was part of the reports on processes under way.
After Humberto Olaechea, coordinator of the Network
of Leaders, spoke about the Tía María project, the Group
discussed water and the various alternatives as well as
the demand for Southern not to touch underground water.
This called for clarifications by Carlos Aranda of Southern
and Clara Chávarri, advisor to MEM, all calling for dialogue
and for suspension of violent acts of protest.
Humberto Olaechea (societal leader) reported on the Tía
María problem in Arequipa:“I would like some clarification
of the Southern Company’s position, who announced
that it would analyze the dierent alternatives for water
use, and then – without any explanation – decided to use
underground water. There will be no solution as long as
the Company insists that the best alternative is to use
underground water because most of the people are sure
that, because the ocean is so nearby, the best alternative
is a desalination plant.”
In reply to Humberto Olaechea, Clara García (MEM advisor)
said: ”On the basis of the same information, the Energy
and Mines Sector, strictly pursuant to the standards, went
to hold the public hearing and, in view of the way the
public hearing was handled by the zone’s stakeholders,
they lost their valuable opportunity to present their
viewpoints serenely, equanimously and technically. I
attended and witnessed the violence that public ocials
had to put up with, who go with all due transparency and
good will to work in these zones. Through GDMDS we
must convey to community stakeholders that we must not
lose these opportunities for public hearings, but express in
an organized, legitimate, formal manner to the Authority
what the people really want, because violence will get us
nowhere. And regarding what Mr.Olaechea has said, the
Company is certainly evaluating new ways to use water,
and therefore it is clear that the only reason for this
protest was that the Company was using water without
54 López José Luis, 2009. Page 20.Op.cit.
Southern is pursuing for its Tía María copper project is
approved by both the government and the people, this
deposit will begin operating in 2015, which would be the
third commencement date that Southern has had for
this project. The Company has expressed confidence in
receiving approval, because this new EIA, to be presented
in the coming three months53 “follows the Peruvian
Government’s recent guidelines for this type of studies”.
4.1 The GDMDS and the Tía María
In this process, the GDMDS has acted in the conflict
pursuant to its mission of fostering relevant information
and dialogue. The GDMDS agenda for conflicts begins by
setting priorities that reflect the interests of stakeholders;
if any brings up an issue of direct interest to them, and
there are other stakeholders also interested in generating
that dialogue, it happens. Further, if there are several
stakeholders, as in the case of Michiquillay, involving the
Angloamerican Company, the community, NGOs, and the
municipality, the issue acquires more importance. There
have been cases such as Xstrata, supported by NGOs
53 Gestión dailynewspaper. Lima, 02 February 2012.
Photo: Marina Irigoyen, Perú
wish to state the following:
• We express our solidarity with the families of the
persons who have lost their lives, been injured or
suered aggression.
• We emphatically reject all kinds of violent action,
intimidation and damage to property and call on the
various institutions so that such actions will never
again happen in our country.
• We demand for the relevant authorities to investigate
in depth the occurrences to determine the relevant
liabilities and apply the corresponding penalties.
• We call on presidential candidates and societal and
political organizations to express their rejection
of the violence, as well as their commitment to
development and democratic governance in Peru.
• We commit, on behalf of the GDMDS, to continuing
to build bridges among the Government, companies
and civil society, to generate consensus-based
proposals and initiatives that contribute to the
country’s sustainable development.
• Finally, we call on the institutions, companies and
organizations involved in the occurrences in Islay to
begin reflecting profoundly and extracting lessons
learned, preventing new situations of violence and
implementing processes to ensure a shared vision
of mining activity in a framework of social and
environmental responsibility, fundamental rights,
respect for democracy and governance of Peru.
Peru, 18 April 2011.
4.2 Results of the process
In the case of Tía María, several stakeholders are
interested: the Southern Company, social leaders
including the Network of Leaders and others, NGOs, the
Municipality, and the Regional Government of Arequipa.
Priority was given to this situation on the agenda
although Southern was not so active on the GDMDS
because on several occasions the other stakeholders
brought it up, and in view of its national impact it was
discussed. Dialogue and subsequent work by social
leaders, authorities and local NGOs have contributed
to bringing various stakeholders closer to the Company
and to commitments with the national Government. The
Regional President – who works closely with the GDMDS
and is open to dialogue – is one of the players actively
driving it. Local NGOs such as the Labor Association
(one driver of the Dialogue project) promote a multi-
stakeholder, non-sectorial approach broad enough to
influence other stakeholders; local reflection groups have
been encouraged to form; consensus has been reached
on what to analyze (for example, technical issues such as
the composition of tailings or air, with specialist settings
and stakeholders);it has been identified that mistrust
was at the grassroots, so a local regional approach will
be required. It is recognized that there are radical groups
among the public and in the Company itself, who used to
be the stakeholders who appeared publicly. A third public
prior consultation with the people”
Finally, Carlos Aranda (Southern) commented on the
Tía María project: “What has been said about the
alternatives is not true. Prior to the hearing there were
three information workshops. At the three workshops
there were no problems at all. At the first workshop,
the basic ideas were proposed of what was going to be
done with the Environmental Impact Assessment and
what the project would contain. The second workshop
presented the three options for project water use. The
third workshop established the reasons why it was decided
to use underground water, and everything was fine up
to that point, no protests, people were not complaining.
Unfortunately, when there were three more slides
remaining, to explain this issue specifically, it became
practically impossible to speak, because of the shouting
and flying chairs. It should not be said that the Company
pulled this idea out of its sleeve, without explaining it
beforehand, because it was explained”.
(Notes from the sixth meeting of the GDMDS in 2009, on 9
November 2009 at
On 28 April 2010 the EIA issue and the Tía María case was
taken up again in the session on “Environmental Impact
Studies, Hearings, and Citizen Participation. A Review that
Cannot be Postponed”. The Group session in early 2011
also discussed the UNOPS report, noting the deficiencies
found in the EIA. By coordinating with the Network of
Leaders has attempted to discourage violent actions, but
some leaders dominating the stage refused to engage in
dialogue and worked for the strike. Some communications,
reflections and comments were also exchanged via the
electronic network.
When the conflict broke, in April 2011, 65 leaders of
companies, communities and NGOs, as well as consultants
participating in the Mining and Sustainable Development
Dialogue Group55 expressed their rejection of the violence
in Islay and the importance of promoting agendas for
dialogue. Who signed this statement? Those who signed,
in their own personal right, come from companies such
as Yanacocha, Antamina, Buenaventura, Gold Fields,
Minsur, Lumina Copper, Río Tinto, and Norsemont
Mining; from NGOs such as CARE Peru, SASE, Red Social,
Labor and Prodiálogo, in addition to consultants and
community leaders from Arequipa, La Oroya, Ancash and
Cajamarca. They called for the institutions, companies
and organizations involved in the occurrences in Islay to
begin reflecting profoundly and extracting lessons learned,
preventing new situations of violence and implementing
processes to ensure a shared vision of mining activity in
a framework of social and environmental responsibility,
fundamental rights, respect for democracy and
governance of Peru.
In this regard, the statement reads:
Regarding the lamentable occurrences recently in the
province of Islay (Arequipa), resulting from the Tía María
mining project; the undersigned members of the GDMDS
55 Press release dated 25 April 2011, on
have little water, struggling against the desert that
threatens to spread, facing the small valleys and
underground water. Water has been positioned as
an issue of conflict in the South as elsewhere in the
world. And companies have no alternative than to
propose other ways to supply themselves with water,
such as by desalination and recycling. Leaders of the
GDMDS propose debate about how mining projects
are involved in localities or the region to contribute
to coping with the lack of water, to work on reducing
river pollution, treating sewage, etc. Increasingly,
such reflections mean that the dierent mining
interventions have to revise their proposed water
usage. For example, the main impact of the EIA for
the Cerro Verde mining company is the use of an
additional 1000 l/sec. of water, above the 1160 l/
sec. the mine currently uses. Now the Company is
proposing to obtain it by treating waste water from
the drains of the city of Arequipa, by constructing a
waste water treatment plant. Although this proposal
has not been made by the GDMDS as such, many of
its leaders have influenced decisively to promote and
materialize it.
• Regarding citizen participation and consultation
with indigenous peoples, this topic has become
increasingly powerful. The Bagua conflict provided
a particular boost, by uncovering the existence
of Agreement 169 and its non-observance by the
Peruvian Government. This issue was not only placed
on the agenda of national meetings of the Dialogue
Group, but on successive meetings of the GDD, work
commissions, bilateral dialogues and local agendas.
In 2010 the EIA and Citizen Participation Commission
and in 2011 the Consultation Commission, have
each produced documents with working proposals.
However, rich debate among representatives of
companies, NGOs, consultants and social leaders has
made them more aware of the need for intercultural
dialogues, capacity development and openness.
The Consultation Commission is processing
recommendations for the Vice-Ministry of Inter-
Cultural Relations on implementation of consultation,
agreeing to advance in consultation procedures,
holding intercultural dialogues and higher profiles for
procedures for recognition of indigenous peoples and
their organizations, issues that are being worked on
in the Regulations for the Law on Consultation and
formulation of guidelines.
Analyzing this experience leads us to think that there are
several elements involved. On the one hand, this process
could not happen if Peru had not developed an increasing
degree of maturity in certain companies that seek to make
social responsibility a concrete practice, beyond altruism.
However, companies are run by leaders, and many of those
leaders approach the GDMDS. Various leaders in diverse
sectors propose a relational approach to strengthen
relationships among persons with the understanding that
voice appears through the GDMDS, seeking to raise up
other voices such as users’ boards, professionals, etc56.
So, the GDMDS analyzes at meetings of the Forum, at the
Direct Dialogue Group, and in small voluntary working
groups. At the same time, the GDMDS and particularly the
members of the GDD and the GDMDS’ electronic network,
generate first-hand information, which improves linkages
between government advisors and multi-stakeholder
leaders to intervene in. Interested parties establish or
reinforce relations with social leaders to find ways to
intervene, encouraging dialogue rather than “harder” and
even violent options. This reflection on practices improves
discussions with companies.
However, if it does not intervene as a Group, what good
does it do to make eorts for dialogue in the highest
conflict situations?
There is ample consensus that it is more complex to foster
dialogue in a situation with conflict escalation. In general,
the GDMDS does not intervene at the peak of conflict,
during crises, although its members do, whether involved
as direct stakeholders or as facilitators. In some cases,
NGOs seek to play a third-party role in conflict situations,
such as in Mina Conga. However, the GDMDS does
generate interventions in the conflict cycle, contributing
to generating this culture of dialogue, encounters among
stakeholders, learning and working groups57. Further,
dialogue about conflicts, at dierent points in their
process, has contributed to discussing transcendent issues
for sustainable development and mining. There have
been generated complex reflection and contributions
have been generated regarding issues such as: water
management and the watershed, Environmental Impact
Studies, consultation with indigenous peoples and citizen
participation and social funds.
Some reflections on these processes are contributing to
policy-making involving various stakeholders; we stress
the EIAs, water, participation and consultation.
• Regarding Environmental Impact Studies on this
sector, responsible institutional arrangements are
discussed. Regarding the Ministry of Energy and
Mines, which both promotes mining investment
and approves EIAs; there is a current of opinion in
the GDMDS that feels this dual role could lead MEM
to favor investment and neglect analysis of EIAs.
Therefore, a reorganization of the Government is
proposed, particularly Ministry’s role in approving
EIAs, and ways of processing citizen participation
or consultation about it. Additionally, the Strategic
Environmental Evaluation, provided for by law but
not applied, must not only review the immediate
impacts in a given area, but also in the broader
contexts, especially as mining expands through much
of the territory in various regions and provinces.
Although not yet defined as policies, there is
reflection under way.
• One issue stressed in EIAs and of widespread concern
is treatment of water. The Southern regions of Peru
56 Reflections by Edwin, leader of the Labor NGO, Arequipa.
57 Statements by IvánOrmaechea, President of NGO Prodiálogo, interview
on 8 March 2012.
conflicts can be addressed better when leaders recognize
each other58. Further, the style of conducting meetings
seeks balance, diversity of opinions, having much to
do with the charisma and personality of the leader
coordinating the GDMDS and most recently strengthened
by the coordinating team, encouraging mutual respect and
However contexts have also changed, the report by the
Commission of Truth and Reconciliation that analyzed
the period of terrorism in Peru, published in early 2000,
showed an unimagined situation of marginalization and
exclusion among Andean and Amazonian population
groups. In recent years, major mining investments were
recognized, their benefits enhanced by the international
context, while becoming increasingly aware that the
excluded population was not being suciently served, at
a national or sub national level. Protests combined fear
of pollution and visualization of inequities by the people
who bitterly view the hefty profits companies make and
the meager improvement in their own quality of life from
many mining investments. These protests have not only
called for more, better benefits, but have also questioned
the investment itself. From the denial of investment
in Majaz and Tambogrande in Piura up to the current
conflicts in the South and in Mina Conga, Cajamarca,
there is a situation of rejection of mining, which requires
systematic treatment. Therefore, many companies
and other stakeholders consider that the minimum
legal requirements are a basis for their intervention in
development but other eorts must also be made, aspiring
to improve standards in accordance with environmental
principles and respect for HR.
Now the Dialogue Group faces the challenge of diverse
perspectives regarding (a) mining, but with environmental
quality and participation; or (b) no more mining – enough
is enough. Respect for the people is at stake, particularly
for indigenous peoples whose territories hold most mining
areas, but also at stake is the country’s and excluded
people’s need for resources to develop. Extractive activity
must be developed that is neither polluting nor predatory,
to develop a sustainable economy that is less dependent
on commodity fluctuations. This orientation assumes,
among other things, continuing to work seriously and
openly, generating trust among its members, continuing
to appeal to diverse stakeholders and respect for partners,
putting factors together to achieve development.
58 One of the approaches that is ever-stronger - explicitly promoted
by inter-NGO projects such as Dialoga – considers that there are four
dimensions to a conflict: Personal (physical, emotional); Relational (risk of
polarization, emphasis on communication); Structural (favoring analysis
of societal and institutional structures – traditionally, the most common
dimension); and Cultural (referring to ways to understand coexistence).
According to the Lederachschool, it is considered that “face-to-face”
relations can open minds and hearts to other proposals and points of view.
Transforming Socio-environmental Conicts
by Building Inter-cultural Relations: examples
from Venezuela and Argentina
Iokiñe Rodriguez59 and Juliana Robledo60
with input from Rolain Borel,Antonio
Bernales and Mirna Liz Inturias
(Grupo Confluencias)61
Iokiñe Rodriguez59 y Juliana Robledo60 con
aportes de Rolain Borel, Antonio Bernales
y Mirna Liz Inturias (Miembros del Grupo
The cultural dimension is recognized in conflict
transformation theory as one of the four key dimensions
that can give rise to conflicts, and consequently, that
can generate constructive long-term changes in them62.
Likewise, the recognition of cultural dierences is seen
as one of the three fundamental components for the
achievement of greater social and environmental justice63.
However, this is the component least addressed in
interventions that seek to resolve, manage or transform
environmental conflicts or implement local territorial
policies. There is a tendency to grant priority to the
communicational and structural dimensions of conflicts
as well as to the distributive and participatory aspects of
social and environmental justice.
Opening up room for building inter-cultural relations in
the implementation of public policies, as well as in the
process of development under way in the region, is no
easy task. On the one hand, the rapid pace of planning
and development processes and the deeply-rooted
dominant values of nature, development and authority
in government institutional cultures often oer little
opportunity to consider and engage in dialogue with
other forms of knowledge and cultures, even within
pluri-cultural Nation-State models such as those existing
at present in Venezuela and Ecuador, among other64.
However, on the other hand, and perhaps more alarmingly,
many local and indigenous communities are caught up in a
process of such fast cultural change that they have begun
to lose their own sense of identity, which puts them at
a great disadvantage when negotiating development or
conservation projects. Achieving greater environmental
justice involves not only recognizing “otherness” but in
many cases that indigenous communities and peoples
themselves can reconnect with their own identity as a
basis for negotiating visions of development and desired
This paper presents two cases, one in Venezuela and
another in Argentina, where conflict transformation
interventions have focused on the cultural dimension.
The first case refers to an experience under way in the
59 Researcher, Center for the Study of Social Transformation, Science and
Knowledge, Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research (IVIC) and founding
member of the Confluencias Group.
60 Independent consultant. The contents of the article, in the case of
Argentina, does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the National Parks
61 Grupo Confluencias is an action-reflection group formed by experts,
researchers and Latin American institutions which seek the transformation
of environmental conflicts through addressing issues of social justice,
equity and environmental sustainability in Latin America.
62 Maiese, M. � J.P Lederach (2004). “Transformation”. In: Beyond Maiese, M. � J.P Lederach (2004). “Transformation”. In: Beyond
Intractability, H. Burgess y G. Burgess, eds. University of Colorado Conflict
Research Consortium.
63 Pérez de la Fuente, O. (2010) Escalas de justicia y emancipación: [Scales
of justice and emancipation:] Inclusión, redistribución y reconocimien-
to [Inclusion, redistribution and recognition]. Astrolabio. International
Philosophy Journal. En Le, E. (2001). Los Derechos del Ser Colectivo y la
Reapropiación Social de la Naturaleza: [The rights of collectives and socie-
tal reappropriation of Nature:] A Guisa de Prólogo [a stab at a foreword].
In: Le, E. (Ed), Justicia Ambiental: [Environmental Justice:] construcción
y defensa de los nuevos derechos ambientales culturales y colectivos en
América Latina [construction and defense of new cultural and collective
environmental rights in Latin America]. Environmental Forum and Debates
series, No 1. UNEP / PNUMA – Autonomous University of Mexico.
64 García, F. (2010). Retos de la diversidad: [Challenges of diversity:]
el reconocimiento y aplicación de los sistemas de derecho indígenas
ecuatorianos [recognizing and applying Ecuadorian indigenous legal
systems]. Íconos. Social Science Journal. 38: 9-16. Quito.
1. Introduction
Socio-environmental conflicts are by nature multicultural.
They arise largely as a result of symbolic struggles over
dierent meanings and values of nature and local territory,
as well as over dierent notions of development, authority
and governance; especially in Latin America where many
environmental conflicts occur in territories occupied
ancestrally by indigenous peoples.
Photo: Iokiñe Rodriguez, Venezuela 39
Photo: Juvencio Gomez, Venezuela
Canaima National Park, a UNESCO World Natural Heritage
Site and part of the ancestral territory of the Pemon
People, where a series of inter-connected processes, some
emerging from the grassroots and others facilitated by
external actors, have focused on cultural rearmation as
a strategy to strengthen the Pemon’s capacity to enter
into dialogue and negotiation with other actors regarding
visions of conservation and development. The second case
refers to a pilot experience under way in Argentina, taking
place as part of the implementation of the Conservation
Corridor Strategy in the Gran Chaco65 which is identifying
and generating socio-political conditions to make planning
(with an intercultural approach) viable in one of the local
territories of the corridor. These experiences tell us about
two dierent starting points for addressing the cultural
dimension in environmental conflict transformation: while
the Venezuelan one makes a case for opening space to
culture in an existing protected area management process
where there has been long-standing conflict (for 30 years);
the Argentine case makes room for this dimension before
defining and implementing conservation and development
policies, favoring therefore a conflict prevention approach.
65 “Designing a Regional Strategy for Conservation Corridores in
Argentina’s Grand Chaco” Project. Implemented by the National Parks
Administration jointly with the Provinces of Chaco, Formosa and Santiago
del Estero.
2. Canaima National Park
2.1 The context
The Canaima National Park (hereinafter, PNC) is located
in southeastern Venezuela, near the border with Brazil
and Guyana and protecting the northwestern portion
of the Guyana Shield, an ancient geological formation
shared with Brazil, the Guyanas and Colombia. The PNC
was created in 1962 with an initial area of 10,000km2,
which was extended to 30,000km2 in 1975 to protect its
watershed function: the Guri Dam, which generates 70%
of Venezuela’s electricity, is located 300km downstream
of the northwestern border of the PNC. The best-known
landscape components of the PNC are the “tepuyes”,
very old mountains in the form of a plateau, receiving
their name from the indigenous word tüpü. The PNC’s
vegetation is markedly divided between a forest-
savannah mosaic in the eastern sector known as the Gran
Savana, and an evergreen forest in the western zone. In
recognition of its extraordinary landscapes and geological
and biological values, in 1994 the PNC was registered on
the list of UNESCO Natural World Heritage Sites.
A wide variety of heterogeneous and conflicting demands
enter into tension in PNC, largely because the protected
area was established on a territory occupied ancestrally
by the Pemon people, who are the main occupants of
this vast area. With an estimated population of 18,000
persons, most of the Pemon people in the PNC live in
settlements of 100 to 1000 inhabitants, although some still
maintain the traditional system of scattered nuclear family
settlements. Their lifestyle is based largely on traditional
activities: agriculture, fishing, hunting and gathering,
although there is more work in tourism and activities
associated (for example, handicrafts) and increasingly
the new generations occupy public administration posts
(teachers, nurses, community police, municipal sta, etc.)
Despite the strong cultural bonds that the Pemon have
with their land, their relationship with the National
Park has not been a happy one. The very name of the
Park symbolizes a long history of antagonism between
the Pemon people and the environmental managers of
this area. To the detriment of the Park management,
“Canaima” in Pemon means “spirit of evil” and “refers to
[a person who perpetrates] sourcery, using secret methods
that we call witchcraft”66.
A much more appropriate name would have been
Makunaimö National Park, or “Makunaimö Kowamüpö
Dapon”, which means “the Land of Makunaimö” (the
supreme cultural hero of the Pemon).
A lack of sensitivity to the meaning of the Park’s name has
been one of the many ways in which the Pemon have been
made to feel as strangers in their own land. Although the
Park figure has helped protect this part of the ancestral
Pemon territory, they have largely experienced the Park
as a threat to their existence. This is due to a style of
environmental management and development planning in
66 Butt-Colson, A. (2009). Land. Its occupation, management, use and Butt-Colson, A. (2009). Land. Its occupation, management, use and
conceptualization. The case of the Akawaio and Arekuna of the Upper
Mazaruni District, Guyana. Last Refuge Publishing, Somerset, UK.
2.2 The approach: laying the
foundation for intercultural
dialogue in conditions of equity
In order to deal with this context of conflict and rapid
cultural change, since the mid-1990s the Pemon have
addressed the need to clarify their visions regarding land
use and the future, by building a “Pemon Life Plan”. While
territorial property rights is conceived of as the primary
material basis for cultural survival, the Life Plan is viewed
as its ideological, spiritual and philosophical foundation.
The Life Plan will help them visualize and define a future
based on historical reconstruction and cultural identity.
Thus, territorial property and the Life Plan have become
the two mutually interdependent pillars upholding their
struggle for cultural rearmation, environmental integrity
and defense of their territory67.
The Pemon Life Plan is viewed as a critical self-analysis of
their current situation, their changes but also their cultural
values, in order to help them reflect about who they are,
and who they want to be in the future, as a people. By
providing them with a clear vision of their identity, needs
and desires, it will help them negotiate more strategically
in their dealings with the institutions that are present in
the area:
“Our own Life Plan will not only strengthen us
as a people, but will also facilitate the necessary
interactions with the institutions with which the
Pemon interact, helping those institutions structure
their initiatives and activities with the communities”.68
An imperative to move forward in constructing a Pemon
Life Plan has been developing capacities and participatory
methodologies for community analysis and planning. For
this purpose, they have been supported by a series of
collaborations by external actors who have introduced the
agenda of constructing Life Plans within their research and
management projects and initiatives, thereby generating
dierent approaches for articulating traditional and
scientific/technical knowledge.
The first collaborative experience among the Pemon
and external stakeholders to construct a Pemon Life
Plan arose in 1999 while the first author of this paper
was preparing her doctoral thesis. At the time, Juvencio
Gómez, formal leader (chief) of Kumarakapay, one of the
largest Pemon communities in the PNC, requested support
for a community reflection process on Pemon identity and
a vision of the future. He said, “we – the Pemon - don’t
know where we are going, because of all the projects
imposed on our territory; we are totally disoriented. We
need to be clear about who we are and who we want
to be”. This initiated a process of self-reflection and
participatory research lasting a year, regarding the past
(historical reconstruction), the present (socio-cultural and
environmental changes, visions of development, main
community problems and ways to solve them) and the
67 García J. (2009). Materiales para una historia Pemon [Materials for a García J. (2009). Materiales para una historia Pemon [Materials for a
Pemon History]. Antropologica. 52 (111-112):225-240.
68 World Bank (2006). Annex 20. Project brief on a proposed grant from World Bank (2006). Annex 20. Project brief on a proposed grant from
the Global Environment Facility Trust fund in the amount of USD 6 million
to the government of Venezuela for a Venezuela-expanding partnerships
for the National Parks System Project. World Bank, May 2006.
the southern part of the country, which has systematically
excluded the Pemon’s cultural values, knowledge and
notions of authority and territorial property.
The result has been local territorial management with a
high level of conflicts. On the one hand, there are long-
standing conflicts over land use, fundamentally due to the
use of fire in conucos (slash and burn) agriculture and in
savannah burning, both indigenous practices considered
by environmental managers as a threat to conservation
functions in the watersheds of the PNC. Despite a
variety of strategies developed by the government to
change or eliminate the use of fire in agriculture and the
savannahs (repression in the 1970s, and starting in the
1980s environmental education, introducing new growing
techniques, and a fire control program), many Pemon,
especially the elders and those living in more isolated
communities, have continued using fire extensively.
By contrast, younger Pemon generations have become
gradually more critical to the use of fire and, as a result,
inter-generational tensions are increasingly common on
this topic.
Tourism activities have also generated major
confrontations between the Pemon and the Government,
fundamentally because of pressures by non-indigenous
tourism companies to establish themselves in the
protected area. By political demonstrations and taking the
law into their own hands, so far the Pemon have managed
to retain their right to provide tourism services in the
National Park, especially in the Gran Savana. However,
conflicts over tourism management have continued, due
to unresolved struggles over dierent notions of authority
and land ownership with the National Institute of National
Parks (INPARQUES). Furthermore, there are conflicts over
projects of national strategic interest implemented within
the Park’s boundaries, such as the building of a high-
voltage power line to export electricity to Brazil (1997-
2000), and the installation of a satellite sub-base (2007).
Although the commitment to recognizing the territorial
property rights of the Pemon (stated in the 1999 National
Constitution) was essential for reaching an agreement
for the completion of both projects, to date no territorial
demarcation as such has begun. Therefore, the Pemon
remain actively in conflict with the Government for their
territorial rights.
This variety of conflicts has been developing within a
context of rapid cultural change resulting from a variety of
educational and national integration policies implemented
systematically since 1940. As a result, and despite
their varied resistance strategies and struggles for self-
determination and cultural recognition, the Pemon have
been increasingly experiencing a feeling of disorientation
about who they want to be in the future and how they
wish to live as a People. This situation has placed them
at a great disadvantage and vulnerability to engage in
dialogue about development and territorial management
with other stakeholders on their land.
However, although the World Bank approved this project,
it was never implemented because of changes in the
Venezuelan Government’s political priorities and the
decision to cut o ties of cooperation with the World Bank.
In 2008 the possibility for collaboration with external
stakeholders was reopened to continue advancing in the
development of community Life Plans through the “Risk
factors in reducing habitats in the Canaima National Park:
vulnerability and tools for sustainable development”
Project, a multi-disciplinary, inter-institutional project
using a knowledge articulation approach to define
sustainable development proposals71. Here the Life Plan
has been used as a platform for dialogue between the
academic sector and the Pemon about the current and
future situation of the PNC. The work has concentrated
in two communities: in Kumarakapay where the project
resumed the process begun in 1999 and in Kavanayen,
where in addition to conducting a participatory evaluation
of socio environmental changes and visions of the future,
an intercultural research team was formed to probe
the following themes: a) Historical Reconstruction, b)
Reconstruction of Cultural Traditions and Practices, where
the use of fire plays an important role, c) Use of Land and
Food Security, and d) Social and Political Organization.
2.3 Results and impacts
One of the most important contributions from these
experiences is that they have provided a major
opportunity to open internal dialogues and reflections
about the Pemon identity and their visions of the
future, as well as dialogues with other stakeholders to
propose the need for a new modality of relations among
the Pemons and other stakeholders in local territorial
management of the PNC.
However, so far, the community of Kumarakapay is where
the most progress has been made in constructing a Pemon
Life Plan, working on this issue steadily – although with
ups and downs – for the last decade. To materialize this
eort, in 2010 a book was published, written by the
inhabitants of Kumarakapay, entitled “The History of the
Pemon of Kumarakapay”, which is used in school and other
communities of the Gran Savana as a guide for developing
Life Plans72. This book, written as a result of a request of
the elders in 1995, expresses the need to reconstruct the
past and revalue the Pemon identity to be able to visualize
a desired future. It includes much of the information
compiled during community reflection on the past, present
and future of Kumarakapay, beginning with the origin of
life plan].. In: Medina J. and A. Vladimir (Eds) (2006) Conservación de la
biodiversidad en los territorios indígenas Pemon de Venezuela: [Conserving
biodiversity in Pemon indigenous territories of Venezuela:] una construc-
ción de futuro [building the future]. Caracas: The Nature Conservancy.
71 Bilbao, B. � H. Vessuri (Coord.). (2006). Factores de riesgo en la reduc-
ción de hábitats en el Parque Nacional Canaima: [Risk factors in habitat
reduction in the Canaima National Park:] vulnerabilidad y herramientas
para el desarrollo sostenible [vulnerability and tools for sustainable develo-
pment]. Project by the FONACIT, USB-IVIC-UNEG-Parupa Research Station
Group. Caracas.Sánchez-Rose, I. � H. Vessuri (2009). Riesgo, ambiente y
gobernabilidad. Aprendizajes de una investigación interdisciplinaria, Pensa-
miento Iberoamericano, (5):149-170.
72 Roraimökok Damük (2010) La Historia de los Pemon de Kumarakapay
[The history of the Pemons of Kumarakapay]. Eds: Rodríguez I., J. Gómez �
Y. Fernández. Ediciones IVIC, Caracas.
future (type of society they want to be and how to achieve
it) for the Pemon of Kumarakapay. As part of this process,
they also carried out participatory research on the Pemon’s
vision and uses of fire, in order to help clarify internal
tensions about this local activity and encourage dialogue
about fire with external stakeholders under conditions of
greater equity.
Then, in 2001, the project -“Evaluating Public Policies
of the Pemon People in their Socio-economic and
Environmental Components” by the Ministry of Education
and Sports, the Federation of Indigenous of the State of
Bolivar (FIEB), Econatura and The Nature Conservancy,
generated a series of intra-community dialogues on the
Pemon people’s socio-cultural vision, to inform a definition
of public policies “by and for the Pemon”. This provided an
initial internal reflection among the Pemon about the need
to play a more active, critical role in their relations with
the government, and the need to orient both public policy
formulation and the construction of a Pemon Life Plan:
“The Pemon have been passive…we have accepted
projects and programs without analyzing their pros
and cons. It is time for us to react and begin rebuilding
our lives as the Pemon People, based on our past and
present, so the future will be clearer… We have decided
to take part in Evaluating Public Policies involving
the Pemon People, in response to the need of the
Pemon People to set our own policies in order to cope
with the pressure constantly applied, to this day, by
governmental and non-governmental institutions...
Recognizing the eort made to gather information
and data supporting the Pemon Life Plan, progress is
expected in developing more correct, fair, realistic,
participatory policy, by exercising our own rights.”
(Juvencio Gómez, 2001).69
Years later, between 2004 and 2006, the first and only
attempt to develop an overarching Life Plan for the
Pemon in the PNC was made. This happened during the
preparatory phase of the GEF-Canaima Project. In response
to the need for a collaborative strategy to manage the
PNC, a 6-million-dollar project was formulated in 2006 for
GEF-World Bank funding, entitled “Expanding Alliances to
Manage the Park System” (World Bank, Op. cit.). At that
time, one of the Pemon’s conditions for taking part in the
participatory management of the PNC was that the project
would be implemented in coordination with communities’
Life Plans. A series of workshops defined a preliminary
version of the Pemon Life Plan, emphasizing the following
1. Indigenous Territory and Habitat
2. Education and Culture
3. Organization-building
4. Health and Culture
5. Social Infrastructure
6. Production and Economic Alternatives70.
69 Gómez, J. (2004) Aproximación Pemon para la formulación de políticas
públicas [Pemon approach to public policy-making]. Relatorías de las asam-
bleas generales y comunitarias [Proceedings of general and community
assemblies]. Ministry of Education and Sports, Federation of Indigenous of
the State of Bolívar (FIEB), Econatura and The Nature Conservancy.
70 Pizarro I. (2006). El plan de vida del pueblo Pemon [The Pemon people’s
changes have also led them to consider their potential and
options for production in the future. A critical topic they
face is food security. The shift in the settlement pattern
experienced since 1950 from semi nomads to a permanent
village is depleting their farming land. Taking this situation
into consideration since 2000 the Pemon of Kumarakapay
set the vision of becoming a tourist community and since
then have been training more actively in this activity.
They are also trying to find agroecological alternatives to
cultivate the savannah.
The reflections derived from the participatory research
project on use of fire in Kumarakapay as well as discussion
workshops held more recently in Kavayanen among
inhabitants of this community and members of the Risk
Project have fostered discussions among the Pemon
about traditional use of fire, revaluing their ancestral
lore underpinning this practice74. These reflections have
led Pemon youth to reconsider their criticisms of the
use of fire, seeing rather the urgent need to learn from
their grandparents about the use of fire in order to
guarantee that they can continue to manage the landscape
dynamically in the future.
However, despite these achievements, so far no significant
change has been seen in the government’s approach to
environmental management. The project “Evaluation
of Public Policies regarding the Pemon people in their
Socio-economic and Environmental Components” did not
achieve the desired impact on local and regional public
policy-making due to institutional changes and changes
in national policy guidelines, similarly to what happened
with the GEF-Canaima project. Perhaps, if these projects
had materialized, both experiences would have generated
a significant precedent for developing an approach to
managing the PNC with greater sensitivity and openness
to the cultural values and knowledge of the Pemon people.
Far from this, in the last decade environmental policy
has continued to favor a highly centralized planning
style, ignoring the area’s cultural diversity. What may be
more alarming for the purposes of achieving intercultural
environmental management is that, over the last 10
years, PNC management has been severely constrained
by dwindling funding, insucient personnel and lack of
inter-institutional coordination and will from the national
government to support the national system of protected
areas75. Environmental policies have been upstaged by
social policies geared toward hard core development,
which jeopardizes the Pemon Life Plan by emphasizing
74 Rodríguez, I. � B. Sletto. (2009). Apök hace feliz a Pata [Apök makes
Pata happy]: desafíos y sugerencias para una gestión intercultural del fuego
en la Gran Sabana [Challenges and suggestions for intercultural manage-
ment of fire in the Gran Savana]. Antropologica 52 (111-112).Rodríguez I., B.,
Sletto, B., Bilbao, I. Sanchez-Rose. � A. Leal. (submitted). Speaking about
fire: reflexive governance in landscapes of social change and shifting local
identities. Environmental Policy Making.
75 Novo I. � D. Díaz. (2007). Final Report on the Evaluation of the Canaima
National Park, Venezuela, as a Natural Heritage of Humankind Site. Project
on Improving Our Heritage. Vitalis, Caracas. Bevilacqua,M., D.A. Medina �
L. Cardenas. (2009) Manejo de Recursos Naturales en el Parque Nacional
Canaima: [Managing natural resources in the Canaima National Park:]
desafíos institucionales para la conservación [institutional challenges for
conservation]. In: Senaris, J. C., D. Lew � C. Lasso (eds.). (2009). Biodiver-
sidad del Parque Nacional Canaima: [Biodiversity of the Canaima National
Park:] bases tecnicas para la conservacion de la Guayana venezolana [tech-
nical foundations for conservation of Venezuela’s Guayana region]. La Salle
Natural Science Foundation and The Nature Conservancy. Caracas.
the Pemon people, followed by the history of foundation
of the community, a discussion or their current socio-
environmental situation and finally a definition of the type
of society their inhabitants want to have in the future (see
Box 1).
By putting their history in writing, the Pemon of
Kumarakapay wanted not only to become more visible
and show that they exist as a People, with their own
knowledge, language, culture and traditions, and to be
recognized in government development plans, but at the
same to generate local commitment to collectively start
building their desired future.
These processes have strengthened the Pemon capacity
for critical analysis of their reality, and their individual and
collective identity. On the basis of their first reflections
on their past, present and future in 1999, the inhabitants
of Kumarakapay, and in their own initiative, have
undertaken a series of activities to revalue their identity,
such as reconstructing the Pemon calendar, educational
workshops, cultural activities, fairs of the Pemon culinary
culture and exchanges and competitions in the native
disciplines. With external assistance, between 2000 and
2004 they implemented a project for self-demarcation
of the Pemon territory in the eastern part of the PNC73.
More recently and as a result of publication of the book
on the History of Kumarakapay, the community has begun
a series of activities such as workshops and seminars
on community philosophy involving grandmothers and
grandfathers, in order to orient their development,
education and organization-building.
Reflections on their situation and socio-environmental
73 Sletto, B. (2009). Autogestión en representaciones espaciales indígenas y
el rol de la capacitación y concientización: [Self-management in indigenous
spatial representation and the role of training and consciousness-raising:]
el caso del Proyecto Etnocartográfico Inna Kowantok [the case of the Inna
Kowantok ethnocartography project], Sector 5 Pemon (Kavanayén- Mapau-
ri), the Grand Savannah. Antropologica, 113 (43-75).
Box 1:
The type of society that the Pemons of Kumarakapay want to have
Source: Roraimökok Damük (2010).
A Pemon society with awareness of who we are, and
with a feeling of belonging.
Knowledgeable about our history, culture, tradition
and language.
Owners of our land – territory, knowledge, culture
and destiny.
A society educated with ancestral and modern
A society that values its wise people (parents and
A productive, autonomous society.
A respectful, hard-working, obedient, kind, courteous,
cheerful, sharing, harmonious, understanding society
where there is love.
A society that defends its rights and is ready to confront
pressures from the Venezuelan society.
Chaco is also an environment for the social, cultural and
productive reproduction of native and mixed-ancestry
peoples. Here, most of the Wichi population in the
Chaco is concentrated to the north (approximately 8000
inhabitant76). They live in villages and/or rural hamlets
varying in size and composition: in some they coexist
with mixed-ancestry criollo people, who generally keep
livestock on a small scale and have since the early 20th
century, and with “whites” who have moved in more
recently, and practice professions or trade. The Wichis
are essentially gatherers and artisans, and are currently
engaged in activities such as livestock on a subsistence
basis, horticulture (in settlements along the river banks),
incorporating beekeeping, and to a lesser degree brick
kilns and silviculture. Some have gotten public jobs, and a
large number are assisted by societal plans.
Historically, the “impenetrable” has been part of the
“conquest” promoted by the Government, through
military campaigns, to incorporate territories as a zone of
agricultural expansion, since the late 19th and early 20th
centuries, driving out or subjugating much of the local
indigenous population. Logging timber for railway sleepers
and harbor infrastructure was the first encroachment on
the natural vegetation resources and livelihoods of local
communities; next, quebracho was used as a raw material
to produce tannin for leather tanneries, but when these
activities lagged and there was little reinvestment in
the territory, “a landscape was left of lifeless towns and
collapsing cities, unemployed workers, attempts to settle
land and move ranching into the degraded forests77. In
this process “indigenous groups lost control over part of
their land and their conditions for social reproduction
were therefore obliged to turn to the market for their
livelihoods. … Access to the market largely involved wage-
earning work on cotton plantations.”78 These approaches
to planning and/or operating in the territory remain in
force to this day. Soybean cropping is now deepening the
cotton model79, with one essential dierence: extensive
soybean fields using present-day technology, requires little
manpower, resulting in a displacement and/or reduction
of communities to subsistence farming. Although the
advancing agricultural frontier has swept away native
forests to the east of the Impenetrable corridor, it remains
under pressure from potential expansion of crops, and a
move westward of pampas livestock raising.80
The impact of these dynamics and policies can be observed
in the distribution of wealth, and in dominant relations
and discourses and the cultural legacy of native peoples.
The first impact is reflected in high rates of unmet basic
76 Data from the Chaco Native Peoples Institute: http://institutodelabori-
77 Baxendale � G. Buzai (2009) Caracteristica socio espacial del chaco
argentino. En: El Chaco sin bosques: la pampa o el desierto del futuro. pp.
28,29. Gepama – Fadu –Unesco, Mab.
78 Gordillo, G (2006). En el Gran Chaco – antropologías e historias”. Buenos
Aires, Prometeo.
79 Pertile V. � A. Torres Geralgia (2009) Cambios productivos en el sector
agrícola de la provincia de Chaco. En: El Chaco sin bosques: la pampa o el
desierto del futuro. p. 188 Gepama – Fadu –Unesco, Mab
80 Pengue, W. (2009) El desarrollo rural sostenible y los procesos de agri-
culturizacion, ganaderizacion y pampeanización en la llanura chaco pampa”.
En: El Chaco sin bosques: la pampa o el desierto del futuro. p. 124. Gepama
– Fadu –Unesco, Mab
rather than reducing the historical relationship of
dependence on the government.
However, internal strengthening among the Pemon about
their cultural identity has played some role in leveling
power balances in PNC conflicts. With visions more clearly
articulated regarding their current situation and visions
for the future, some Pemon have enhanced their capacity
for public deliberation with environmental managers
regarding pressing issues of PNC management, such as
the use of fire, and have reinforced their organizational
and self-help capacity to build the future they want. They
have also taken strategic advantage of a number of recent
governmental social policies for the area (e.g., funding for
local development by setting up Community Councils) to
empower productive activities such as tourism.
3. El Impenetrable
Conservation Corridor
3.1 The context
The Grand Chaco of the Americas is an ecological region of
over one million square kilometers, covering parts of four
countries: Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil. There
are nearly four million people living there, a significant
portion of them indigenous. Similarly, it is one of the
zones with the greatest biodiversity on the planet, the
largest woodlands on the continent after the Amazon
region, and the foremost in hardwoods. 65% of this
ecosystem is located in Argentina (central and northern),
comprising 76% of the country’s native forests, where
the impact of deforestation and agricultural frontier
encroachment is creating new environmental conditions
and changing social linkages, posing a challenge to
address this from the perspective of environmental justice
and inter-cultural relations.
Particularly the “impenetrable part of the Chaco” is a
semi-arid region with only vaguely defined political,
administrative and biological boundaries, but involving
parts of the provinces of Santiago del Estero, Chaco,
and Formosa. The vegetation characterizing this zone
is mainly typical and degraded quebrachales [groves of
Schinopsis balansae], carob, vinalares, rivera forests,
peladares and lower edible fruit trees hosting diverse
fauna, although many of its components have been
sharply reduced by human intervention. Precisely for the
purpose of proactively coping with the fragmentation
of some ecosystems, due to types of land use, mainly
extensive farming and ranching, which are expanding into
well-conserved areas and displacing traditional uses and
ancestral customs, an environmental planning strategy for
local territories has been identified, called Conservation
Corridors. Within these spaces, protected areas become
the nuclei of conservation and territories connecting them
with each other (corridors), and serve as a setting for
consensus-building for sustainable development.
The Conservation Corridor of El Impenetrable in the
needs in the municipalities included in the space defined
as the Corridor81 and the rural-urban migration reported
in the latest local census data82. Further, the impact on
power relations is observed as old patterns of inequity
are resurrected, in which the definitions of progress,
production, conservation and authority are according to
the agendas promoted by a cultural model that fails to
incorporate the indigenous perspective.
Accordingly, conservation corridors are promoted in an
extensive territory where the stakeholders who own land
are diverse, and therefore their interests, histories, and
visualizations of the future vary. They may accelerate the
process of transculturation, or may generate opportunities
to promote and defend cultural values by recovering their
community history and cultural production, enhancing
understanding of the potential for joint planning.
In this case, the intervention is not the result of a specific
conflict crisis, but is proposed as an initiative to identify
and generate the necessary conditions for dialogue and
consensus-building to take place in the framework of
implementing the Conservation Corridors Strategy on the
basis of profound knowledge of the visions, needs and
expectations of the stakeholders directly involved.
Technical assistance to the National Parks Administration
(APN) during the last six months focused on increasing
participation and involvement of local stakeholders with
the Chaco Corridors Strategy and analyzing conflicts in
the territory that might impact implementation of the
corridors locally.
In this framework and on the basis of a specific
preliminary evaluation, the team with experience working
on projects in the zone prepared some criteria to orient
the activities plan, with an approach that is sensitive to
the structural and situational context of the corridor:
Promote impact at dierent levels: Involve
provincial, regional and local social and political
Not generate ad hoc participation mechanisms:
Rather, take advantage of existing consensus-
building eorts to pursue sensitization or
information activities about conservation corridors.
Facilitate continuity in actions: by incorporating key
persons who can backstop the processes begun with
Develop a working methodology accepted by each
player (community representatives, sta, technical
81 Baxendale, C. � G. Buzai. (2009). Caracteristica socio espacial del chaco
argentino. En: el Chaco sin bosques: la pampa o el desierto del futuro. p. 4.
Gepama – Fadu –Unesco, Mab.
82 For example, cities such as Castelli have doubled their population. INDEC
(1991): 12,474 inhab.; 2001: 24,333 inhab.
3.2 The approach: generating
conditions for intercultural dialogue
Photo: J.P. Cinto, Argentina
Taking these criteria into account, and on the basis of
the cooperation agreement that the government of the
province of Chaco has with the APN, it was proposed,
as one aspect of assistance: to accompany the work
undertaken by the government of the province of Chaco
to enforce Decrees 480/91 and 1732/96 reserving a
territory of 320 thousand ha approximately in the Chaco
Impenetrable (hereinafter, the Reserve) for the three
ethnic groups comprising the Province: Wichis, Qom
(Tobas) and Moqoit (Mocovíes). This process conducted
by the provincial government consists of working jointly
with the representatives of native peoples to move
forward in title award (after specific demarcation, property
registration and social surveying) and promote the
formation of an inter-ethnic organization that can hold the
community title of ownership.
Photo: Unknown author, courtesy of the Historiographic Archive of Kumarakapay, Venezuela
Therefore, the National Parks Administration, along
with the Under-Secretariat of Natural Resources and
the Ministry of Government of the province of Chaco
considered it relevant to open a complementary space to
the working process begun by the Provincial Government,
also with the representatives of all three ethnic groups
but with the aim of discussing ab initio about eco regional
information that may be useful to plan and reflect on
challenges or opportunities posed by managing the
Reserve for the inter-ethnic organization created for this
purpose. On the basis of this space, recognized by major
governmental agencies and with the participation of the
organization created by the three peoples, conditions
are to be identified and generated for the intercultural
dialogues about territorial management and their impact
on the corridor.
The proposal to work on this complementary space
was presented at an Assembly of native peoples. On
that occasion, the peoples granted their consent to
move forward with a first stage consisting of: sharing
the information on the environmental characteristics
of the Reserve with the communities belonging to the
three peoples, from the perspective of the provincial
and national agencies, through intra- and inter-peoples
meetings and preparing audiovisual and graphic material
for this purpose. Meetings have also contributed data
on the legal framework of the Reserve. The concerns
of each of the peoples about the future and Reserve
management were discussed. Above all, time was
provided for reflection, for building trust, where leaders
and representatives of the native peoples felt safe and
listened to, without the urgency of formal decision-making
deadlines. Finally, people and/or institutions, intermediate
stakeholders, were included who are supporting each
community at the local level, as a network to address,
track and bridge among the consultations that may arise
regarding the information shared and the approach of the
process of information exchange being proposed.
3.3 Outcomes
During these meetings with representatives of the Wichi,
Toba and Mocovi communities, although concerns and
demands begin in relation to the present and future of the
Reserve (competition for scarce resources, current uses
of forest resources and promotion of projects to improve
quality of life), the dierent discussions also refer to the
history of all peoples with the forest as a source of food
and health, and the recognition that much knowledge has
been lost over time in the dierent communities and for
various causes (loss of woodlands and indigenous lands,
new expectations of youth, incentives for other types of
production, etc.). So these representatives have expressed
the need to extend and deepen discussions within each
community and to include the youth, above all considering
that the three peoples have dierent histories and are
experiencing dierent organizational processes.
Some preliminary results from the exchange within the
organization of the three ethnic groups are:
Greater access by indigenous groups to information
That is, this territory, which the 1996 Decree reserved
for the three ethnic groups, also has key importance
for the Impenetrable corridor since its location (near
protected areas or reserves, and the central location in
the Impenetrable corridor), its area (approximately 320
thousand ha) and its good conservation status (74%
typical quebrachal and 9% degraded quebrachal) facilitate
the corridor ecosystem’s connectivity and biodiversity as
The Reserve’s characteristics also include that it is a
territory with great potential for forestry activities;
including a provincial protected area, with a rural criollo
population settlement along the banks of the Bermejito
River is coexisting fairly cooperatively with the Wichi
population living in the Reserve and using its resources,
and finally, that the Qom and Moqoit population are not
settled there, but in other regions of the Province that
have undergone profound environmental transformations,
and therefore they are not familiar with the reserved
territory, although they do have expectations about it,
and this promise of awarding it is a measure of historical
reparations contemplated in the Constitution.
about environmental aspects of the Reserve and
pressures it is subject to, from the perspective of
government environmental agencies.
Initial design of a network of persons committed
personally and/or institutionally through their local
work with communities.
Joint preparation of an agenda of six topics to
explore within the organization of the three
ethnic groups, later leading to work with other
stakeholders: recovery of memory; control of the
current logging; planning of occupation of the
territory by the peoples; the situation of the criollo
people currently living in the Reserve; planning
production and conservation projects; strengthening
intra stakeholder communication.
Identify overall guidelines for a joint plan to control
illegal logging.
Consolidation of these achievements will largely depend
on the timing set for formal decision-making and
determination of representatives and leaders to move
forward in intra sector consultation, shared reflections and
organization, with an eye to sustainable local territorial
management, good coexistence and improvement of
quality of life of their communities, as expressed on
various occasions.
Despite their dierences and particularities, both cases
were striving to overcome a major common challenge:
the asymmetrical nature of power relationships normally
dominating development and conservation negotiations
and planning in indigenous peoples’ territories. Since
these power asymmetries have a major cultural
component because of the clash between dierent
values systems and world views, the great challenge is
to construct equitable and just intra- and inter-cultural
dialogues to help make these dierences visible, and then
renegotiate visions of the future.
It is widely recognized that a necessary precondition
to develop inter-cultural relations is “strengthening
indigenous knowledge systems, so that after and under
horizontality and equality a dialogue with other bodies
of knowledge can find solutions to specific problems. This
type of processes opens up opportunities for intercultural
projects that do not expropriate or hybridize”83. Along
the same line, another relevant aspect to construct
conditions for intercultural dialogue, “is to predefine
both the point of arrival and to guarantee the capacity
for autonomy and decision, among holders of traditional
knowledge,…while maintaining free, equitable access to
all knowledge” (Ibid.) This all implies that the indigenous
83 Pérez Ruiz, M. L.� A. Argueta (2011). Saberes indígenas y dialogo inter-
cultural [Indigenous knowledge and intercultural dialogue]. Revista Cultura
y Representaciones Sociales. 5(10).
peoples themselves can find ways to reflect on their
cultural changes and can decide for themselves, without
conditioned agendas, who they want to be and how they
want to live in the future. This internal coordination
will help foster intercultural dialogues with other
stakeholders under conditions of greater equity.
In order to move toward stages of greater deliberation
among dierent stakeholders, it is also important to
have the will to find common ground, solid internal
organization of key groups or sectors, for the willingness
to participate to be coherent with the intention for the
process to turn out well, to be able to work with the
deadlines that the parties reasonably need, among other
factors related to communication, information flow,
political will, and the financial resources to design and
implement processes.84
The PNC has been progressing in the first of these
conditions to develop intercultural dialogue, by building
reflection and revaluing identity and articulating visions
among the Pemon. In Argentina, the opposite is the case.
The work between the provincial government and the
organization formed by the peoples of the three ethnic
groups is enforcing the legal mandate as owner of the
Reserve. As a complement, they are promoting meaningful
dialogue between that organization of the peoples and
the entities responsible for conservation and sustainable
development by providing relevant information and
understanding communities’ perspectives, with the
expectation of finding common ground.
In both cases and by dierent pathways, processes are
underway seeking to structurally transform conflicts,
latent in Argentina and manifest in Venezuela. Through
giving greater visibility to the cultural dimension, there
is now a greater collective awareness about the fact
that this dimension has particular characteristics which
can influence the evolution of conflicts and therefore
the coexistence among stakeholders in general. As
these experiences go deeper, they could reach a better
balance of power, in which the intercultural dimension
could become an integral part of relational patterns and
institutional and public policies. This will depend on how
the factors that have facilitated building inter-cultural
relations in each case are taken advantage of, and how the
limiting factors are addressed in the future.
4.1 Enabling factors
One of the most important factors that have enabled
positioning of the cultural dimension on agendas for
territorial management has been the existence of key
persons in strategic institutional positions who have
identified the issue’s importance, made it surface and, in
the PNC, upheld it over time. In the PNC, the clarity of a
particular leader’s vision – Juvencio Gómez – was essential
in getting the Life Plan anchored in the community,
owned rather than imposed from outside. This same issue
was inserted in the projects for “Evaluation of Public
Policies for the Pemon People in the Socio-economic and
84 Pruitt, B. � P. Thomas (2008) Diálogo Democrático, un Manual para
Practicantes [Democratic Dialogue, a Manual for Practitioners]. CIDA, OAS,
4. Inter-cultural relations
and transformation of
conicts: factors enabling and
constraining the experiences
formal capacity to influence policies that are promoted
or implemented. In this framework, cultural revaluation
acquires a special dimension since that place is visualized
as an opportunity for several generations to live, and
the organization created by the peoples would have the
capacity to decide about their processes to manage the
territory according to their culture and expectations.
Finally, the normative framework and institutional
experiences with participation by indigenous communities
in decisions involving the territories where they live
provide significant support for joint working initiatives
and/or coordinating bodies, and therefore encourage
conditions for inter-sector dialogue among stakeholders
who have or have built their vision of the future. Similarly,
although there are not many technical collaborators
established in the local territory, they have been backing
community initiatives and are strongly committed to them.
4.2 Limiting factors
Among the factors that have acted as constraints on the
deep anchoring of intercultural dialogues in territorial
management, we find in both cases that interaction
between indigenous peoples and governmental
structures depend on the organizational approach and/
or dynamics, timing and agendas which still tend to be
largely designed by a single player, the Government.
The risk of perpetuating this type of relationship is
that the processes requiring both stakeholders to be
committed to a common goal will not take root over
time, undermining potential intercultural coordination.
This modality is concretely manifested in the PNC in the
present, for example in the reproduction of short term
development policies that continue to be grounded on
keeping the Pemon relation of dependency with the State;
and in imposing new organizational arrangements by the
State (e.g., community councils) for the government to
interact with its constituency, which threaten to erode
the indigenous peoples’ own organizational forms. Far
from helping construct inter-cultural relations with an
agenda of common interest, the direction and contents
of these policies make this possibility more distant and
remote because of their strong conventional development
connotation. While the Chaco process initiated by the
provincial government does involve an agenda of common
interest, its complexity will require internal deliberation
beyond traditional consultation, requiring public agents
implementing them to adopt a perspective regarding the
necessary conditions for these dialogues to be essentially
intercultural. Support for complementary work to build
inter-cultural relations would be a step in this direction.
Further, historical intra and inter community divisions
among groups belonging to dierent sub-groups of the
Pemon in the PNC and intra and inter-ethnic divisions
in the Chaco are expressed through a clash of visions of
development and identity at the local level, so internal
processes must deeply clarify the dierent perspectives
as a necessary precondition for inter-cultural relations.
In both cases, a limiting factor will be the distances and
logistical diculties in getting communities together for
Environmental Components” and “GEF-Canaima” because
at that time Gómez was President of the Indigenous
Federation, the local institution acting as the Pemon
representative for both projects. His interest in continuing
to pursue this issue has held to this day, with strong
commitment by a group of community elders and youth
who have backed this undertaking since 1999.
Likewise, the magnitude of environmental conflict has
also played a role in making the cultural dimension more
visible. The major crisis in PNC management in the late
1990s and early 2000s, resulting from the power-line
conflict, played a major role in the emergence of the
Pemon as political actors with a national impact, and with
clear demands for greater recognition of their cultural
dierences and political participation in government
planning and development. The Projects for “Evaluating
Public Policies of the Pemon People in the Socio-
economic and Environmental Components” and “GEF-
Canaima” were a result of the need to find a new form of
(intercultural) relations among environmental managers
and Pemon to manage the PNC. Both projects then stalled
due to political factors beyond the PNC’s geographical
jurisdiction. Because of this, keeping the Life Plans agenda
alive will largely depend on the capacity of the Pemon
to remain on the scene as political actors insisting on
recognition of their cultural dierences in their dealings
with the government.
Another factor that has also helped the Pemon Life Plan
agenda remain alive over time has been collaboration with
a network of external stakeholders who, at dierent times,
have played a major role as facilitators of the internal
dialogue regarding cultural and identity reconstruction.
Since coordination is still weak between the Pemon
people and environmental managers in the move toward
intercultural territorial PNC management, these external
stakeholders have a major future role to play to legitimize
and coordinate intercultural dialogue between the Pemons
and the government.
In the case of the Argentine Chaco, although so far
the intervention has been much shorter, the National
Park Institute is committed in the aim of implementing
the strategy of Conservation Corridors, and is alert to
indigenous representatives’ warnings about: the need
for cultural revaluation, involving youth in ancestral lore,
deepening intra and inter-ethnic discussions, as well as
inter-sector decisions that are congruent with their people
and their history, in order to avoid repeating experiences
that have entailed losses of social and environmental
capital. This could help make visible to other stakeholders
the implications of the cultural dimension in configuring
current relations and contexts and promoting processes
and agreements containing intercultural safeguards and
Further, the legal mandate reserving ownership of
this territory to the three ethnic groups is a major
factor positioning the Chaco indigenous peoples and
particularly the common organization they are forming as
a stakeholder with decision-making power regarding the
development perspective for this vast territory, and with
Finally, the great common challenge is to know how to
move forward in these internal reflections in the midst
of unceasing development: how much time and space
do the indigenous peoples actually have to clarify their
inward visions and how much of this process must be
constructed alongside agendas already decided by the
government regarding their territories? This is not clear.
In any event, integrated progress can hardly be made
without overall commitment to constructing inter-cultural
plans and structures of governance, which unavoidably
requires profound changes in institutional culture. This
means “among other things, thinking pluralistically,
recognizing, respecting and incorporating dierent forms
of knowledge into positivistic science, incorporating
new ethical principles to manage resources, sharing
authority and decision-making, creating and maintaining
legitimate mechanisms for participation and working in
a multicultural context. This entails an entire process of
institutional learning and training to adapt and become
eective in new relations to manage resources with
indigenous communities85 which still largely remain to be
built in both cases.
85 Bevilacqua,M.; D.A. Medina � L. Cardenas (2009) Manejo de Recursos
Naturales en el Parque Nacional Canaima: desafíos institucionales para la
conservación. In: Senaris, J. C., D. Lew � C. Lasso (eds.). 2009. Biodiversi-
dad del Parque Nacional Canaima: bases tecnicas para la conservacion de
la Guayana venezolana. Fundacion La Salle de Ciencias Naturales � The
Nature Conservancy. Caracas.
more overall inter-community reflection, to also identify
and recognize dierences and particularities.
Finally, the role of external third parties to facilitate these
internal reflections has been expressed dierently in the
two cases. In the PNC, there is a degree of dependency
towards these actors for methodological facilitation in
the building of Life Plans; whereas in the Chaco there is
little local presence of technical teams to play this role
to pursue this need independently of the agendas of the
organizations to which they belong.
5. Challenges
The dierent way of opening up to building inter-cultural
relations in the two cases means that the challenges
to continue in this direction will also be dierent. In
the PNC, where the point of entry was through the
community, the challenges to continue advancing in
this dimension are both quantitative and qualitative.
Although the concept of the Life Plan as an alternative
to conventional development is increasingly anchored
in the Pemon discourse as an ideal to pursue, its actual
impact in terms of collective construction is still quite
limited, fundamentally circumscribed to two of the 30
communities comprising the National Park. A challenge
therefore is to spread this process in other communities.
Qualitatively, the challenges involve both continuing to
revive their identity by revaluing ancestral lore in the
dierent dimensions of Pemon life, and moving forward
in building processes and institutions that will help ensure
a balanced coexistence of the Pemon and western way of
life in the dierent spheres of the Pemon desired society
(spirituality, history, health, education, food, production,
environmental and territorial management, political and
social organization, among other aspects). Although this
is a process that must continue building from within and
on the basis of the Pemon’s own autonomy, it will be
inevitable to forge alliances with external actors who can
continue providing support for this process. In due time,
it will be necessary to engage in more direct dialogue
with government agencies about the need to construct
institutions for territorial management grounded in inter-
cultural relations.
In Argentina, the challenge is the opposite: to make the
internal reflection viable on identity and the desired
future among the indigenous peoples of the Chaco region
themselves, considering work with other stakeholders, in
which native organizations or their representatives are
participating or planning. However, this challenge would
seem to be relevant for all stakeholders: for each of the
peoples (Qom, Wichi and Moqoit) who must live and
work together for territorial management of their shared
Reserve, for the organization of peoples that must make
decisions with clear mandates as a basis for coordinating
with other governmental and private stakeholders, and for
external stakeholders who, in a framework of re-learning
history and visions of the future, can promote joint work.
Although the traditional implementation of projects with
a concrete goal focuses on the narrative of the present
and the future, we feel it is essential to lend attention to
narratives that prove historical practices to construct a
perspective of promoting social and environmental justice.
Photo: Juliana Robledo, Argentina
Juliana Robledo - Argentina
Mediator and attorney specializing in Law,
Economics and Environmental Management and in
Alternative Conflict Resolution. Her area of work
is Participatory Environmental Management and
Transforming Socio-Environmental Conflicts. She
has belonged to the Democratic Change Foundation
team and the Environment and Ecology Institute
of the Del Salvador University in Argentina.
She has worked as an external consultant for
various institutions, including the United Nations
Development Program, the Environmental
Secretariat of the province of Santa Fe, the Under-
Secretariat of Natural Resources of the province of
Chaco, and the Inter-American Development Bank.
She belongs to the Peace-building Apprenticeship
Pilot Program Project led by John Paul Lederach
and member of the Confluencias Group. Since 2010,
she has contributed to physical planning strategies
in the Chaco Impenetrable region, and is currently
supporting the Protected Areas and Conservation
Corridors Program implemented by the National
Parks Administration in the region by designing,
promoting and facilitating intra- and inter-sectoral
Marina Irigoyen Alvizuri - Perú
Sociologist, with a postgraduate degree from
the Catholic University in Peru and a Diploma
in Environmental Management from the HIS in
Rotterdam. She has worked with national and
international NGOs such as the IDEAS Center and
CARE Peru. She has conducted consultancies for
various governmental entities, cooperation agencies
and NGOs. She has worked in urban and rural
contexts, as well as with indigenous peoples of the
Amazon region, focusing on social issues, governance,
human rights and conflict transformation, as well as
promoting agroecology and environmental respect.
She has published various studies and publications
on democracy, decentralization among others. She
participates actively in the Mining and Sustainable
Development Dialogue Group and supports the Prior
Consultation Commission.
Antonio Rubio Ferrada - Chile
B.A in Sociology from the University of Chile, currently
working as Project Director in the Casa de La Paz
Foundation. Throughout his professional career, he
has performed in the field of advisory support and
implementation of plans for relations with communities
nearby the operations of mining, sanitation and
energy companies in the framework of sustainable
coexistence and Corporate Social Responsibility
policies. He has experience with extremely poor rural
societal organization-building, and measuring social
capital in productive and community organizations.
He has worked in both design and evaluation of social
projects and in the field of social research. During 2011
he participated as a professor in the Diploma Program
in Managing Community Relations at Chile’s Central
University, in charge of the Module on Community
Relations Planning.
Elisabeth Giesel – Guatemala
B.A. in Anthropology from Goettingen University in
Germany. She has more than 20 years of experience
in rural areas, consulting and coordinating projects
with peasant and indigenous organizations. She has
worked in Bolivia on several projects to revitalize
indigenous textile artwork, citizen participation,
indigenous rights, and gender, as well as in
Honduras carrying out a project on social auditing.
She is currently working as an advisor to the Rural
Unity Committee (CUC) and the Rural Committee
of the Altiplano (CCDA) under the project on “Land,
conflicts and rural development” funded by German
Cooperation (GIZ) in Guatemala.
Iokiñe Rodríguez- Venezuela
A sociologist, she graduated from the Central
University in Venezuela, with an M.A. in Environment
and Development from the University of Cambridge,
England, and a Doctorate in Social Sciences from
the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) at the
University of Sussex in England. Her specialty area
is Participatory Environmental Management and
Transforming Socio-Environmental Conflicts, with
emphasis on working with indigenous communities.
She has worked as an advisor and facilitator for
the Pemon (Venezuela) and Wapichana (Guyana)
indigenous peoples and as a consultant, social
researcher and collaborator for various Venezuelan
and foreign institutions. She is a founder of the
Confluencias Group and a researcher at the Center for
Social Change, Science and Knowledge Science at the
Venezuelan Scientific Research Institute (IVIC).
Miguel Angel Ajanel de León –
B.A. in Judicial and Social Sciences, attorney
and notary. Postgraduate studies in criminal
law and constitutional law. Legal advisor to
the Rural Unity Committee (CUC) since 2007.
Member of the Association of Mayan Attorneys of
Guatemala. Speaker at the Regional Forum held
in Ecuador (2009), on the topic of “Dominant
culture and dominated culture in land conflicts:
Cases of the Quiché, Guatemala”. Consultant
in the project of “Strategic Lawsuit” in favor of
indigenous communities sponsored by the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights of Guatemala
Mitzy Canessa Peralta – Chile
Senior Consultant, B.A. in Sociology from ARCIS
University, she has over 15 years’ experience in
issues related to citizen participation, development
of strategies, plans and programs with communities,
stakeholders and other interest groups. Her specialty
is addressing socio-environmental conflicts,
developing courses, providing services and advisory
support for public and private entities. She has
published research on Citizen Participation Processes
in Environmental Management Instruments, in
addition to publishing manuals on conflict resolution
methodology and environmental education. Since
2010, she has been a professor with the Vertical
Institute, teaching Conceptual Foundations of
Environment and Environmental Management,
hinging upon the relationship of human beings with
their environment, where citizen participation and
analysis of environmental conflicts are the cross-
cutting themes.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
Resumen: Se discuten los resultados de dos estudios sobre el conocimiento pemón del uso del fuego en la Gran Sabana con el fin de argumentar a favor de la importancia de desarrollar una gestión intercultural del fuego en esta zona. Se demuestra que los pemón tienen un conocimiento ancestral profundo sobre el uso del fuego en la Gran Sabana que, de ser aprovechado adecuadamente por los gestores ambientales, puede contribuir significativamente a prevenir incendios destructivos en los bosques del areá. Para ello se discuten: a) los diferentes significados que tiene el fuego para los pemón, b) las reglas y normas pemón de uso del fuego, y c) el sistema de quema prescrita de los pemón. También se analizan algunos factores que actúan como limitantes para desarrollar una gestión intercultural del fuego, y sobre los cuales habría que trabajar para asegurar que el conocimiento pemón no se siga erosionando en el tiempo y que pueda ser debidamente integrado en las políticas ambientales locales. Por último, se discuten algunas estrategias de trabajo colaborativo que podrían orientar esfuerzos futuros a favor de una gestión intercultural del fuego en la Gran Sabana. Abstract. The authors propose a model for intercultural, participatory fire management in the Gran Sabana, Venezuela, based on two studies concerning Pemon indigenous knowledge of fire and practice of fire management. By incorporating the ancestral knowledge of fire management developed by the Pemon, environmental management agencies working in this area can significantly reduce the likelihood of destructive forest fires. The authors discuss: a) the significance of fire for the Pemon, b) the rules and norms concerning fire use among the Pemon, and c) the indigenous system of prescribed (controlled) burning. Several factors complicate the development of such a intercultural, participatory fire management approach in the Gran Sabana, including the continuing loss of Pemon knowledge about fire use. The authors propose a series of strategies for collaborative, interdisciplinary work, in order to successfully integrate indigenous knowledge and practice into a participatory, environmental management approach in the Gran Sabana.
A Look at Guatemala's Agrarian History]. 2006. http://www.slideshare. net/140969neto/una-mirada-a-la-historia-agraria-de-guatemala
  • Ernesto Palma
Ernesto Palma-Urrutia: Una mirada a la historia agraria de Guatemala [A Look at Guatemala's Agrarian History]. 2006. http://www.slideshare. net/140969neto/una-mirada-a-la-historia-agraria-de-guatemala, accessed 3 March 2012, slide 25.
Aproximación Pemon para la formulación de políticas públicas
  • J Gómez
Gómez, J. (2004) Aproximación Pemon para la formulación de políticas públicas [Pemon approach to public policy-making].