On the 7th August 2017 the Peruvian Vice Ministry of Culture (VICEMINCU) issued a welcome clarification in response to a request from the Federation of native communities of Ucayali (FECONAU) to confirm that, contrary to a prior resolution, the strategic objectives, priorities and action plans of Peru’s 10 year national palm oil plan would be consulted with indigenous peoples.
The statement is welcome as it clarifies a prior resolution that suggested that the consultation would be limited to an analysis of the problems associated with the industry. This offers indigenous peoples the opportunity to ensure that the analysis of the plan addresses the key problems associated with palm oil expansion in Peru including widespread deforestation of primary forest and land grabs of indigenous peoples’ customary lands but also the possibility to propose effective measures to ensure these problems are addressed.
In a statement (spanish only) FECONAU said that:
FECONAU has been insisting that the national palm oil plan developed by the Ministry of Agriculture is formally consulted with indigenous peoples because these economic activities are being conducted in the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples as is the case of the community of Santa Clara de Uchunya who are affected by the company Planatciones de Pucallpa (now known as Grupo Ocho Sur). Consultation is a key right because we consider that the Palm oil plan neither captures nor recognises the perspective of the rights of indigenous peoples and in particular the property rights over our ancestral territory. For this reason,. FECONAU welcomes the clarification of the Vice Ministry of Culture which will ensure our right to prior consultation is addressed.
Holding the government to account: The National palm oil plan
On the 16th June 2016 Peru’s Ministry of Agriculture published its 10 year National plan for the sustainable production of oil palm. The plan’s main objective is to increase the production of palm oil in Peru and the majority of its 118 pages are devoted to improving production, the supply chain and access to national and international markets.
Passing mention is made of some key issues affecting the sustainability of palm oil production including the lack of ‘spatial planning’ and a national ‘soil classification map’ but no mention is made of the widespread practices associated with the palm oil sector highlighted by Peruvian civil society including indigenous peoples organisations that are leading to rampant deforestation of primary and old growth forests and the destruction and invasion of indigenous peoples’ untitled lands.
Naturally, the plan contains no measures to address these issues. As a result, on the 26th September 2017 the Federation of native communities of Ucayali (FECONAU) with the legal and technical support of IDL (Institute of Legal Defense) submitted a formal petition to the Ministry of Agriculture which insisted that the plan should be subjected to a formal process of consultation with Peru’s indigenous Amazonian peoples due to the multiple and adverse impacts of the industry on their lives and rights.
The Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI) did not respond to the appeal and on the 14th March 2017 FECONAU submitted an appeal to the Vice Ministry of Intercultural affairs (VICEMIN) who are obliged to ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples are upheld.
On the 9th May 2017 the VICEMIN upheld the appeal of FECONAU on the grounds of these impacts and ordered MINAGRI to identify the affected peoples and hold a process of Free, Prior and Informed Consultation (FPIC) on the plan amongst the 5 regions of Peru’s Amazon where oil palm is currently being developed.
While the timetable for the consultation process remains unclear the lands of Santa Clara de Uchunya continue to be destroyed to make way for new plantations. Despite suspension orders and fines from the government as well as condemnation from the RSPO the Peruvian government appears unwilling or unable to enforce its laws as the operations continue and the traditional lands of the community remain untitled.