Over the past few months, ERI’s Amazon Program has carried out a series of know-your-rights trainings for various groups in Peru. These included indigenous peoples affected by oil companies and mega-infrastructure projects in their territories, judges and prosecutors, and even high-school teenagers. Our team traveled to the jungle city of Pucallpa, as well as to indigenous communities a short three-hour boat ride away from the city.

Between the 6th and 8th of August, we gave a know-your-rights training to members of the regional indigenous federation of Ucayali, ORAU, together with the Program for the Indigenous People’s Rights Defense, and in collaboration with Alianza Arkana. The workshops had three objectives: to share the experiences of different leaders of communities affected by oil operations in their territories; to increase their knowledge of indigenous rights; and to create a regional working group to monitor the oil industry’s impacts in the zone. ERI presented on indigenous rights in the Peruvian Constitution and in the ILO’s Convention No. 169. We also worked with the participants to help them consider “how corporations think” and how to address rights violations by corporations at the regional and international level. We also listened to the group of 28 participants share their experiences and anecdotes of living in communities affected by oil activities. The three-day workshop finished with a lot of enthusiasm and was a very timely initiative since oil operations in the region are increasing, and the indigenous federation reaffirmed the need to put these issues back on their agenda.

Know-your-rights training for indigenous Ucayali (Photo courtesy of Alianza Arkana)Know-your-rights training for indigenous Ucayali (Photo courtesy of Alianza Arkana)

On August 21st, we gave a workshop to 45 local judges and prosecutors from the city of Pucallpa on the topic of indigenous and human rights. ERI’s staff were joined by a group of young lawyers and human rights advocates known as JOPRODEH, and the Human Rights Commission of Pucallpa (CODEH). Presenters included leading lawyers in the field of indigenous, environmental and human rights: law professor Mario Melo, from the NGO Pachamama in Ecuador, Pedro Garcia from Peruvian NGO PeruEquidad and law professor Wilfredo Ardito, from Amnesty International Peru. ERI’s staff opened the workshop, which follows on the first workshop for legal professionals that ERI gave in 2007 in the Amazonian city of Iquitos. The participants, mostly from the National Prosecutors’ Office of Ucayali as well as the legal teams of the Peruvian Ombudsman’s office and ORAU, were excited to update their knowledge on issues of human and environmental rights in the Ucayali region, which has a large number of indigenous communities and a growing threat of social conflict due to the expansion of the extractive industries. Gonzales Castilla, the provincial prosecutor of the Ucayali Anti-Corruption Prosecutors Office, formerly closed the workshop.

During that same week, on the 23rd and 24th of August, together with JOPRODEH and CODEH, ERI also gave a training to a group of high-school students who are currently being trained in crime prevention and environmental defense as part of a program of the Ucayali Region Prosecutor’s office. The two-day workshop educated the students on the structure of the Peruvian government, with an emphasis on departments related to human rights and on the impacts of the petroleum industry in indigenous territories and the Amazon. ERI invited Paul McCauley, founder and director of the Loreto Environmental Network, to present on oil impacts in the Amazon. It was the first time the 52 students had heard about indigenous people’s rights and the impacts of oil in their territories. This newly-gained knowledge motivated vibrant discussions among the students. The high-school teachers also participated enthusiastically.

Know-your-rights training for high school students (Photo by Amanda Monaco)Know-your-rights training for high school students (Photo by Amanda Monaco)

Most recently, on the 21st of September, ERI once again joined ORAU and Alianza Arakana to give a workshop to indigenous communities and non-indigenous people living along the Abujau River. Approximately 70 leaders and community members from 15 different communities met together in the native community of Santa Rosa de Tamaya Tipischa. We discussed the imminent threat of oil exploration in their lands by two different oil companies, Pacific (from Canada) and Petrovietnam (from Vietnam), as well as the growth of informal mining activity, illegal logging, and the mega-project IIRSA, a proposed highway running from Brazil to Pucallpa. The highway would cut through their territories and agricultural land. ERI joined with Javier Jahncke from the Lima-based NGO FEDEPAZ and with Lizardo Cauper, vice-president of ORAU, in presenting the workshop. This workshop not only gave substantive information on rights to communities affected by petroleum and other projects, but also created a space for dialogue and stronger relationships between the indigenous and non-indigenous communities.