It was held on 16 March in Madrid the workshop «Business and Human Rights, the Guiding Principles and the right to prior consultation in Latin America and the Caribbean», organized by the Spanish Agency for International Development and UN Global Compact Spain.
Elisabeth de Nadal, the treasurer of Global Compact Spain, said that «prior consultation is essential to ensure human rights of indigenous peoples and Global Compact has been contributing spreading knowledge and awareness among Spanish companies during the last 10 years and even today with a The Human Rights Pack which includes a program to train employees and an Implementation Guide of the Guiding Principles’’.
The workshop has been attended by Mikel Berraondo, adviser on human rights and indigenous peoples at the Global Compact Regional Centre for Latin America and the Caribbean, and by Spanish companies such as Repsol, Endesa and OHL. During the event it has been provided theoretical and legislative keys on the legal framework surrounding the consultation as well as an analysis by countries.
In the workshop it became clear that the right to prior consultation is a fundamental principle of international law for the protection of indigenous peoples which requires a process of dialogue and ongoing participation with indigenous peoples. The right is essential for moving from conflict situations to dialogue and mutual trust that reinforce legal certainty for both indigenous people and businesses.
In the event it was analyzed the difficult situation that exists in the region for the implementation of the right to prior consultation due to high levels of social and environmental conflicts. This paralyses investments and increases prosecution of cases that not met international standards, at the same time, national governments do not take action often regarding this internationally recognized right by both the ILO Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The Spanish Agency for International Development has organized regional and national workshops to sensitize Spanish companies on this reality.
At the presentation and further discussion some recommendations were given to companies in order to adapt their management models to international consultation standards. It was found through the practical experiences that the Spanish businesses are evolving towards models on of shared value by integrating the standards of the consultation procedure in their management models. Finally, companies asked for greater efforts to public institutions in order to boost the processes of consultation, adding more Spanish companies in these initiatives and promoting training for various stakeholders (government representatives, business and indigenous representatives).
Participants noted as challenges: lack of consistency between these internationally standards and the operating licenses granting by certain governments below international thresholds, the problems of representation of certain indigenous not legitimated for being representatives which increases conflict and the need of having a fourth player as a guarantor of the prior consultation processes to build trust between the parties and ensure legal and financial security to businesses.
Therefore, working with the Public Defenders of Human Rights and representatives of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is key along with the commitment of national governments to ensure respect for the rights of indigenous people.
Companies see their participation in the consultation not only as a possibility of obtaining a license to operate, but as a direct investment for development and an opportunity to obtain legal certainty.
The Spanish Agency for International Development will soon circulate an open survey for Spanish companies to identify their areas of interest in training and facilitation of processes of consultation with indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants.
For Global Compact it is critical to scale the number of signatory companies of the Ten Principles, because respect for human rights underlies all Sustainable Development Goals (ODS) that articulate global development for the next fifteen years where the role