IDB land titling project in Peruvian Amazon must be redesigned to avoid violation of indigenous peoples’ rights and forest destruction

Illegal logging campsite:National Park, Peru
By
Chris Fagan

IDB land titling project in Peruvian Amazon must be redesigned to avoid violation of indigenous peoples’ rights and forest destruction

The future of an 80 million USD land titling project in Peru financed by the Inter American Development Bank is on a knife edge as indigenous organisations have filed a petition (1) to the Peruvian government demanding a formal process of consultation before initiation and advise that they will file a formal complaint to the Bank’s grievance mechanism if the project is not reformulated.The programme has been challenged by AIDESEP, Peru’s national indigenous Amazonian peoples’ organization, due to the conflicts over land and forest destruction that they argue will be intensified as a result of the initiative’s flawed strategy. The project aims to issue and register the land titles of over 700,000 migrant farmers while proposing only to title 228 of at least 1166 communities whose land titles remain pending thereby failing to guarantee the protection for hundreds of indigenous communities despite legal obligations on the part of the Peruvian government.and years of protest.As Henderson Rengifo, President of AIDESEP explained. ‘It can’t be possible to continue thinking that the Amazon is only a wilderness without indigenous communities…..We demand that this project respects our right to life by securing our territories…. ‘The Rural land cadastre, titling and registration project in Peru (PTRT3) is now entering its third phase in which it aims to expand its work into the Amazon region and will focus primarily on a massive programme of titling and registration for over 700,000 individual land holdings of farmers while a much smaller programme of work aims to secure the titles of 228 indigenous communities in the Amazon and 228 communities in the Andes. The strategy is under scrutiny because in its first year it will only focus on titling the lands of migrants while those communities with existing land conflicts will be excluded from the scheme. As highlighted by a recent AIDESEP-FPP report (2) and the assassinations of Asháninka leaders (3) defending their territory, land conflicts and forest destruction are rife in the Peruvian Amazon. In large part these are a result of the continued policy of the Peruvian government to promote agricultural colonization of the Amazon alongside a failure to provide secure legal recognition to over 1000 indigenous communities and approximately 20 million hectares of indigenous territories which remain unprotected. These territories have been identified in a comprehensive report (4) compiled by AIDESEP that documents the current status of indigenous peoples’ territories in Peru.Despite this evidence, and continued efforts on the part of AIDESEP to engage (5) with and inform both the IDB and the Peruvian government of the likely harms of the project, the loan was approved by the IDB and the Peruvian government in December 2014.AIDESEP highlight that the failure to prioritise the titling of indigenous lands not only disregards the lessons learnt in formal evaluations of land titling investments commissioned by the IDB but also violates Peru’s legal obligations to protect indigenous peoples’ territories including the requirement that until the delimitation, demarcation, and titling of indigenous peoples ‘ territories have been completed the State abstain from issuing concessions or “any actions that might ….affect the existence, value, use or enjoyment of the property”.(6)They also point out that the programme jeopardises the parallel efforts of other IDB projects in Peru including the Forest Investment Progamme which aims to arrest and slow down deforestation as well as the Peruvian government’s own lofty ambitions to reduce net deforestation to zero by 2020 which has recently secured a commitment of $300 million USD from the Norwegian government . Instead, the analysis of the Forest Investment Programme shows that deforestation at 2.27%/year is highest in those lands that have been individually titled while the lowest rates of deforestation are characteristic of indigenous peoples’ territories and protected areas.The failure of the IDB project to adequately assess the potential harms on indigenous peoples reflects a failure to conduct effective consultations with indigenous peoples’ during the impact assessment process. Unfortunately this is a shortcoming characteristic of the programmes of multilateral banks that is being exposed in the ongoing review of World Bank safeguards. Indigenous peoples’ organisations are currently insisting that the World bank modify its existing safeguard policy on indigenous peoples to require the participation of affected peoples in the determination of environmental and social impacts and not just during the project design and implementation. Currently, assessments are only required to be conducted by borrowers.(7)  More seriously still, under the latest version of environmental and social safeguard 5, land titling and regularization processes like the PTRT3 would be excluded.(8)Senior officials from the Ministry of Agriculture (9) responded to AIDESEPs formal petition announcing that they hope to redesign the project and recommend that the titling of indigenous lands is prioritized. AIDESEP leader Bernabé Impi insisted that, ‘f the project remains unmodified or if the project is not suspended because it has not been consulted then we indigenous peoples will be obliged to file a formal complaint before the Independent Complaints Mechanism of the IDB (ICIM)’. (10)More recently, the IDB’s delegation in Lima (11) have offered to adjust the project to take AIDESEP’s concerns into account. Whether these offers will materialize is an open question and will no doubt depend on the progress of AIDESEP’s petition for prior consultation, their formal complaint to the ICIM and any other necessary legal actions.  If not, indigenous peoples’ rights to land will be further undermined and violated by a flawed strategy promoting further agricultural colonisation of the Amazon.Notes (1) http://www.aidesep.org.pe/aidesep-envia-documento-al-minagri-solicitand… http://invisibleperu.com/deforestation-case-study/(3) http://www.forestpeoples.org/enewsletters/fpp-e-newsletter-october-2014…  http://www.aidesep.org.pe/aidesep-entrego-libro-de-demandas-territorial… http://www.aidesep.org.pe/50-millones-de-dolares-serviran-para-titular-… Inter American Court Ruling, Case of the Mayagna (Sumo) Awas Tingni Community v. Nicaragua. Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of January 31, 2001. Series C No. 79, par. 153(b). (7) ES7 on indigenous peoples, AIPP and FPP letter to the World Bank, October 2014 paragraph 11.(8) Indigenous peoples’ letter to the World Bank, para 4, July 2014. http://www.forestpeoples.org/sites/fpp/files/news/2014/07/FINAL%20IP%20… http://www.aidesep.org.pe/proyecto-ptrt3-destruira-los-bosques-y-genera… http://www.aidesep.org.pe/aidesep-y-bid-revisan-ptrt3-para-no-vulnerar-…