DEFENDING INDIGENOUS RIGHTS AND TERRITORIES
On Saturday June 20, I attended a workshop in the Shipibo community of Poayhan (population around 1000 people) with the aim of informing them about their rights in relation to the activity of the Canadian oil company, Andina, operating on their territory.
Currently this oil company is due to embark on its exploration phase, which will involve cutting out long swathes through the jungle in the this and another Shipibo’s territory in order to do seismic testing. The workshop was jointly sponsored by Alianza Arkana, CAREC, and Bari Usna, a Shipibo non-profit organization.
On the day, people gathered in the main school hall and meeting room. 150 to 200 people attended. About half were youth and young adults from Paoyhan and surrounding communities. For many, attending the workshop was homework. Others attended out of pure interest.
Engagement levels were high, with much note taking and many questions asked.
Several speakers presented on various subjects, from ILO Convention 169, through the community’s right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent and Community Monitoring of Hydrocarbon Activity, to the environmental impacts of hydrocarbon exploration.
Alianza Arkana had a central role, seated at the head table.
We fielded questions throughout the workshop and gave four presentations.
After a brief introduction on the work Alianza Arkana does with Shipibo communities, greeted with smiles and claps, we gave the first presentation, beginning at 8:30am. We described the story and effects of hydrocarbon activity in the Rio Corrientes river basin then showed the Alianza Arkana-produced video Pastaza (http://pastazafilm.com/).
After the film, we gave time for a short Q&A session, with a longer one after lunch. After the short Q&A, we gave the floor to Shipibo youth Alipio Vasquez Gordon, from the community of 9 de Octubre, also with terrain in Lot 161 (the oil exploration lot within which Paoyhan is located), whose attendance Alianza Arkana sponsored. He spoke from the perspective of 9 de Octubre in mixed Shipibo and Spanish about community monitoring, youth empowerment, and cultural revitalization.
After Alipio’s presentation, we gave the floor to Walter Ruiz, a Shipibo law student at Universidad Nacional de Ucuyali (UNU), born and raised in Paoyhan, whose attendance Alianza Arkana also sponsored. Walter spoke about ILO Convention 169, the rights of indigenous peoples to Permanent Participation in the activities of petroleum companies operating on their land, and their various rights to payments from those companies.
Lunch was held at Walter’s house, across the street from the workshop site.
After lunch, we held space for individuals to come up to the front and respond to the video, Alipio’s presentation, and Walter’s presentation. Many wanted to know what they could do if contamination occurred in Paoyhan. We gave them the contact information of a number of legal organizations organized to help, including DAR, FECONACO, and Defensorias del Pueblo.
The presentations that followed in the afternoon included: a detailed presentation about the community monitoring program from CAREC, an interactive presentation about Free, Prior, and Informed Consent from a professor with Vari Usna, a presentation describing seismic exploration and going through the map of Lot 161, and a presentation by an anthropologist about the environmental impacts of petroleum exploration and extraction activity. Alianza Arkana, through Walter Ruiz, gave the closing statements. Afterwards, everyone went out to the soccer field to either play or watch.
On reflection, the workshop was well received by all present. Asking the attendees, I learned that they do not get a lot of information – barely any, really – about the negative impacts of hydrocarbon activity or avenues for empowerment. Most workshops are held by or sponsored by the oil companies as part of their legal obligations under ILO Convention 169.
Alianza Arkana had a central leadership role in the workshop, and many attendees expressed interest in learning more about us. We received a number of requests for more workshops in various other communities, as most are affected by resource extraction activities or live in territory overlapped by exploration lots issued by the Peruvian state. There is, without a doubt, more work to be done.
We would like to thank the Carlin Family Foundation for their support in running this workshop.
Written by Jesse Hudson, Intern with Alianza Arkana