Indigenous people who would be directly affected by the impact of a hydroelectric project in Panama were not consulted despite national and international human rights obligations to obtain their free, prior and informed consent, according to a just-released report.
on behalf of communities in Panama’s Ngöbe-Buglé indigenous territory,
the Movimiento 10 de Abril (M-10) had filed a complaint with the
Independent Complaints Mechanism (ICM) of the Dutch FMO and German DEG
development banks alleging that the Barro Blanco dam project which the
banks were financing would lead to the flooding of the communities’
homes, schools, and religious, archaeological and cultural sites.
two banks were accused of failing to adequately assess the risks to
indigenous rights and the environment before approving a 50 million
dollar loan to GENISA, the project’s developer.
panel’s report, released May 29, found that the “lenders should have
sought greater clarity on whether there was consent to the project from
the appropriate indigenous authorities prior to project approval,”
adding that “the lenders have not taken the resistance of the affected
communities seriously enough.”
“We did not give our consent to
this project before it was approved, and it does not have our consent
today,” said Manolo Miranda, a representative of the M-10. “We demand
that the government, GENISA and the banks respect our rights and stop
According to the ICM’s report, “significant issues
related to social and environmental impact and, in particular, issues
related to the rights of indigenous peoples were not completely
The environmental and social action plan (ESAP)
accompanying the project “contains no provision on land acquisition and
resettlement and nothing on biodiversity and natural resources
management. Neither does it contain any reference to issues related to
Ana María Mondragón, a lawyer at the
Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), said: “This
failure constitutes a violation of international standards regarding the
obligation to elaborate adequate and comprehensive environmental and
social impact assessments before implementing any development project,
in order to guarantee the right to free, prior and informed consent,
information and effective participation of the potentially affected
In February this year, the Panamanian government
provisionally suspended construction of the Barro Blanco dam and
subsequently convened a dialogue table with the Ngöbe-Buglé, with the
facilitation of the United Nations, to discuss the future of the
The Barro Blanco project was registered under the Clean Development Mechanism, a system under the Kyoto Protocol that allows the crediting of emission reductions from greenhouse gas abatement projects in developing countries.
climate finance flows are expected to flow through various channels in
the future, the lessons of Barro Blanco must be taken very seriously,”
said Pierre-Jean Brasier, network coordinator at Carbon Market Watch.
“To prevent that future climate mitigation projects have negative
impacts, a strong institutional safeguard system that respects all human
rights is required.”
The ICM will monitor the banks’
implementation of corrective actions and recommendations, while M-10
said that it expects FMO and DEG to withdrawal their investment from the
project and ask that the Dutch and German governments show a public
commitment to ensuring the rights of the affected Ngöbe-Buglé.