Need to guarantee indigenous communities’ right to consultation in Oaxaca: UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights

Mexico City, 7th of September 2016


  • United Nations experts confirm the existence of an enduring human rights crisis in Mexico, in this case in relation to state authorities and business activities.
  • They further denounce the criminalization of human rights defenders by state authorities and company leaders.
  • And they reaffirm that state authorities and companies violated the right to a free and informed prior consultation of indigenous communities in the course of wind energy projects in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.


The UN working group on Business and Human Rights brought their official visit to Mexico to a close with a press conference in which a preliminary report was presented, containing recommendations derived from their meetings with the civil society, companies, and government representatives. During their attendance, they visited the regions of Oaxaca, Hermosillo, Guadalajara and the State of Mexico where they heard the cases of communities that are affected by company activities.


In the case of Oaxaca, the visit was coordinated by the member organizations of the Focus Group on Business and Human Rights, Proyecto de Derechos Económicos Sociales y Culturales A.C. (ProDESC) and the Comité de Defensa Integral de Derechos Humanos Gobixha A.C. (CODIGO DH). The central issues denounced by the communities were: the lack of consultation with respect to the appointment of wind energy, mining, hydroelectricity, and hydrocarbon extraction projects and the violations against the indigenous consultation that was conducted by the Mexican government in Juchitán in 2014.


The preliminary report records that “from the perspective of the indigenous communities, the whole process of consultation was seen as flawed, as wind mill farms had already been set up in the region without any prior consultation”. The violations against the consultation process which the government held via the Department of Energy (Secretaría de Energía) in Oaxaca in order to establish the Eólica del Sur wind park were documented during the Observation Mission undertaken by the organizations ProDESC and Codigo DH in collaboration with other local organizations. It should be noted the Mexican government used this consultation as a model in all the subsequent consultations to be realized within the framework of the energy reform.


The working group’s preliminary report also mentions that “representatives of State authorities expressed frustration that the amparo order had delayed the project, and argued that the Federal judge who had ordered the amparo was ignorant about the importance of these energy projects”. To us, as organizations forming part of the Observation Mission, the sheer ignorance of the most central human rights standards of which these declarations are evidence seems preoccupying and we consider them to be deprecative, minimizing and devaluing towards the rights of indigenous communities in our country.


As part of his recommendations Pavel Zulyandziga, president of the United Nations working group, stated that “[i]n a multicultural country such as Mexico” the dialogue “needs to include, in particular, indigenous peoples” and that consultations “should take place at the earliest stage of any development project and it needs to ensure that it is prior, free and informed in line with international standards”. In this regard, Dante Pesce, the other group member, declared that “it is not about being generous, but about respecting the laws”.


In their declarations during the conference, the experts reaffirmed that there exists a human rights crisis in Mexico and they spoke about the criminalization of human rights defenders engaged in the process of defense against business projects, stating that “unfortunately we have seen some very lamentable facts concerning abductions, threats against human rights defenders and killings, which in our opinion thoroughly obliterate all efforts that are made”.


Asked about the subject of the recently approved Special Economic Zones they reported that “the state is obliged to protect the human rights. Therefore, if the probability of human rights violations in these Special Zones is identified, preventative measures have to be taken; protective measure that in the best possible way impede negative impacts. This means that during the process of concession, in the acquisition of investors, in the contracts that are signed, and in the criteria for reinvestment, the human rights dimension has to be present by means of a preventive approach”.


Concluding the conference they spoke about the point in time at which the Mexican government extended the invitation. Dante Pesco commented: “Our visit was held at a time during which the Mexican government announced to be working on the development of the National Action Plan [on Business and Human Rights]”. With regard to this, we wish to highlight that nine civil society organizations formed a Focus Group in order to actively participate in the elaboration of this plan and that ProDESC and Codigo DH are among them.