Wrap-up: March 2015 Discussion

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, April 1, 2015

In our March discussion, Edmundo del Pozo, from Fundar, shared the challenges faced by the Yaqui, an indigenous group, in Mexico as they strive to realize their right to free, prior and informed consent in the face of the “Independence Aqueduct,” project in the state of Sonora. The discussion highlights the lack of enforcement of legal decisions upholding the rights of indigenous peoples to prior and informed consent, and reflects on some of the limitations of monitoring strategies in that context.

The case revolves around a 2013 Mexican Supreme Court ruling which stated the Mexican government had violated the Yaqui’s right to free, prior, and informed consent and the right to be consulted regarding the environmental impacts of the Independence Aqueduct, a large-scale infrastructure project. This was the first time such a decision was articulated by the Supreme Court in Mexico.

As a result, and at the request of five Yaqui villages, a Civilian Mission for Observation of the Consultation (MCO), consisting of over 100 organizations, was created in an attempt to apply pressure on the government to fulfill their obligation to consult with the Yaqui and to monitor any consultation that took place. Since its creation, the MCO has published two reports developed by its own in-house team which have outlined the government’s failure to respect the rights of the Yaqui and the Supreme Court decision. Coordination with other organizations, such as Amnesty International, and networks like ESCR-Net, as well as engagement with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have helped to apply pressure on the Mexican government.

Despite the domestic and international pressure from civil society and substantial media attention, the Mexican government has yet to fully comply with the Supreme Court. Furthermore, two members of the Yaqui who participated in the consultation process were arrested under dubious circumstances. The violation of the right to consultation has placed the survival of their culture in jeopardy.

This case calls into question the efficacy of monitoring strategies in cases where political will to comply with legally binding orders is absent. Notwithstanding these drawbacks, however, civil society-led monitoring did succeed in maintaining attention on the claims of the people whose rights have been violated and, in that regards, continues to be an important element in advancing accountability.

Edmundo Del Pozo
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