Prior Consultation and Conflict Transformation in Resource Governance: Bolivia and Peru

Dr. Almut Schilling-Vacaflor
2012 - 2015
German Foundation for Peace Research (DSF)
Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

Prof. Dr. René Kuppe, University of Vienna

Dr. John-Andrew McNeish, UMB Norwegian University of Life Sciences

Dr. Barbara Hogenboom, Centre for Latin American Research and Documentation (CEDLA), Amsterdam



Research Questions

  • What characteristics have consultation procedures, and their outcomes, in the Bolivian and Peruvian hydrocarbon sectors demonstrated since 2007?
  • Which conflict constellations and dynamics can be observed within these procedures?
  • Which factors enable or limit the implementation of comprehensive consultations, the guaranteeing of the human rights of those involved, and the just balancing of the interests at stake?
  • How have prior consultations contributed to conflict escalation or transformation?

Contribution to International Research
Despite their great practical relevance, prior consultations remain under-researched. The research project aims to address the following research gaps:

  • A lack of systematic and comparative studies on consultation cases that are based on detailed knowledge of each case
  • A lack of in-depth ethnographic case studies that explore formal and informal local processes as well as the perceptions, interests and strategies of the heterogeneous actors involved
  • A lack of investigation into the connections between consultation practices and socio-environmental conflicts
  • A lack of research that focuses on the substantial dimension of prior consultations/FPIC, i.e. their outputs and outcomes

The project brings together diverse theoretical strands (e.g. theories on participatory development, contentious politics, legal pluralism, neo-extractivism). The dialogue between these theories and empirical data will contribute to the development of a middle-range theory on prior consultations/FPIC in extractive industries.

Research Design and Methods
In this project we collected primary resources (ministry reports, acts, state-community agreements, reports from indigenous communities, letters, Environmental Impact Assessments) about 30 prior consultation cases and their results in Bolivia’s hydrocarbon sector and about 178 informative events (2007-2012) and eight prior consultation procedures and their results about planned hydrocarbon activities in Peru’s Amazon. These data were complemented with over 200 semi-structured interviews with representatives from the state, extraction companies, indigenous organisations and NGOs and with field notes from the participatory observation in at least one complete consultation process in each country as well as in many diverse meetings and assemblies from indigenous communities and organisations. We also carried out participatory conflict analysis, and used methods from cognitive anthropology (free-lists, pile-sorts) to deepen our knowledge about conflict dynamics and related ideologies and strategies from diverse groups of actors. The data were analysed with the support of the software ANTHROPAC, ATLAS.ti, Excel, QCA and QGIS for systematically and comparatively analysing our data and for answering our main research questions. This proceeding allowed us to get in-depth knowledge about specific cases in concrete local contexts, but also to generate new insights based on intra-country and cross-country comparisons of participation processes, their results and respective conflict dynamics.

Preliminary Results
In Bolivia’s hydrocarbon sector the consultation processes and their outcomes have varied greatly depending on the negotiating capacity of the indigenous organisations involved and their relationship with the Bolivian government. The consultations with indigenous lowland minorities were more conflictive and resulted in more comprehensive and specific final consultation agreements. In general, however, these processes tended to be reduced to a bargaining tool for achieving a share of the pie from extraction revenues rather than for securing the rights and the livelihood of local populations.

In Peru, the analysis of participation processes revealed that the conflict degree and the underlying motives from local populations varied according to each region. For example, the processes in the Northern Amazon were especially conflictive due to serious environmental damages from previous oil extraction and in Puno because of the perception of threat for existing economic alternatives. The recently concluded prior consultation processes are likely to remain ineffective due to vague final agreements and a lack of follow-up mechanisms.

The comparison of the cases from both countries reveals that power asymmetries, a lack of intercultural understanding, biased pro-extraction information, weak follow-up mechanisms and the resistance of both states to establish binding compromises with local populations have limited the effectiveness of indigenous participation. It also helps explain why the total rejection of new projects has been much more common in Peru than in Bolivia; being the main reasons more severe environmental contamination, the historical neglect of Amazonian communities by the state and the greater opposition by regional and local governments to extraction in Peru.