Law & Communities Program
For more information about CIEL's Law and Communities Program, contact Melissa Blue Sky.
Law & Communities Program Accomplishments
The Law and Communities program has made an impressive contribution to the rights of indigenous communities around the world.
We continue to compile a database of community-based property rights around the globe, intended to be an interdisciplinary resource.
In addition to some of the accomplishments highlighted below, view our Research & Publications.
- Marlin gold mine communities In Guatemala
- Sugarcane workers in Nicaragua
- Involuntary Resettlement In Bolivia
For the last five years, the Maya-Mam community of San Miguel Ixtahuacán in the Western highlands of Guatemala has been fighting the Marlin mine, a gold mine operated by Vancouver-based Goldcorp Inc. The mine was developed on indigenous land without the free, prior and informed consent of the community. Recent investigations have found evidence that the mine is adversely affecting the health of those who live near the mine.
In May 2010, a human rights impact assessment, commissioned by Goldcorp, found widespread human rights violations at the mine, including indigenous and workers rights. The same month, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights requested that the Government of Guatemala temporarily suspend operations at the Marlin mine until it has considered the merits of a petition submitted by the affected communities in 2007.
Although the Government agreed to comply with the Commission’s request, mining continues at the Marlin mine. The L&C Program has been working with the affected communities and partner NGOs in Guatemala, the United States, and Canada since 2007.
OECD Specific Instance Complaint
In December 2009, the Frente de Defensa San Miguelense (FREDEMI, The Front in Defense of San Miguel Ixtahuacán) filed a specific instance complaint, prepared by CIEL, under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises to the Canadian National Contact Point (NCP). The complaint detailed the violations of the human rights of the community and requested that the NCP investigate and prepare a final statement with recommendations for Goldcorp.
Marlin Gold Mine Status
In March 2010, the NCP found that the complaint warranted further investigation and offered to facilitate a dialogue with Goldcorp, which FREDEMI had previously expressed it did not want because the conditions did not exist for a constructive negotiation. In August 2010, FREDEMI declined the NCP’s third offer to facilitate a dialogue with Goldcorp and asked that the NCP immediately proceed with the preparation of its final statement.
For more information regarding this case, please see the News section and the www.GoldcorpoutofGuatemala.com blog maintained by an international coalition of organizations.
Funding for this work has been generously provided by the Moriah Fund, the Ford Foundation, and an anonymous donor.
Sugarcane workers along the Pacific coast of Nicaragua are battling an epidemic of chronic kidney disease. The cause of the disease is unknown, but many believe it is related to the chemicals applied to the cane or the working conditions in the field. After being diagnosed with the disease, the sugarcane workers are no longer able to work for the sugar companies, and, because there are few other sources of employment, have no means to support themselves or their families. Furthermore, the health and social services provided to them are vastly inadequate compared to the need.
In 2006, a group of Yale University graduate students started to work with ASOCHIVIDA, an association of former sugarcane workers who had been employed by Nicaragua Sugar Estates Ltd. The students discovered that the company had received a loan from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private-sector lending arm of the World Bank Group, in October 2006.
Compliance Advisor Ombudsman of the IFC (CAO) Complaint
Because of the involvement of the World Bank, this is a joint project between CIEL’s L&C Program and the International Financial Institutions Program. In March 2008, ASOCHIVIDA and other community members submitted a complaint, prepared by CIEL, to the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) of the IFC.
Since January 2009, ASOCHIVIDA and Nicaragua Sugar Estates Ltd. have been participating in a mediation process under the auspices of the CAO with the objective of determining the cause of the epidemic of chronic kidney disease and to improve the health and social services provided to the members of ASOCHIVIDA. The dialogue table has produced significant and concrete results.
The company has voluntarily agreed to finance monthly distribution of food to ASOCHIVIDA’s 1800 members, medical equipment and supplies for the health clinic that serves the sugarcane workers, community development projects and a microfinance facility to provide alternative sources of income.
An epidemiological investigation conducted by Boston University School of Public Health is ongoing, with financial support from the CAO and the members of the National Committee of Sugar Producers. Boston University presented its Industrial Hygiene/Occupational Health Assessment, "Evaluating Potential Hazards Associated with Chemicals and Work Practices at the Ingenio San Antonio (Chichigalpa, Nicaragua)" to participants of the dialogue table, August 30, 2010.
In summary, participants posed questions focused on the work practices of the company, and Boston University has responded to these questions based on the current scientific information available. Boston University concluded that none of the current work practices or the chemicals used by ISA are generally accepted causes of CRI.This conclusion does not rule out the possibility that one or more of these agents might in fact cause CRI, but new scientific knowledge and insights will be necessary to establish whether any link actually exists. To develop this new knowledge, subsequent phases of Boston University’s work will focus on gathering additional exposure and health data and investigating their possible connection to CRI, both within ISA and in other areas of Western Nicaragua.
For more information, including the epidemiological studies and mediator summaries, please visit the CAO’s website [link to http://www.cao-ombudsman.org
The L&C and IFI Programs are grateful for the support provided by the Mott Foundation, Jim Leitner, the Ford Foundation, and individual donors.
Ayllu Jesus de Machaca is an indigenous community located near the historic mining town of Potosi, Bolivia. In 2005, Coeur d’Alene Mines Corporation resettled several families in the community in order to construct a tailings facility for its silver mine. Because Coeur d’Alene Mines Corporation had received a political risk insurance contract from the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) in 2004, it should have been required to apply the World Bank’s Involuntary Resettlement and Indigenous Peoples Policies, but it had not done so. Instead, the company refused to fund the Indigenous Peoples Development Plan, which it had commissioned two years after it received the contract from OPIC.
Office of Accountability
Because of the involvement of an export credit agency, this is a joint project with CIEL’s IFI Program. In 2008, the Centro de Estudios Aplicados y Derechos Economicos, Sociales y Culturales (CEADESC) in Bolivia requested that CIEL assist them and the community in submitting a complaint to OPIC’s Office of Accountability.
In 2009, the Office of Accountability (OA) released its compliance review, finding that OPIC failed to require the application of the Involuntary Resettlement Policy and the Indigenous Peoples Policy. As a result, OPIC and Coeur d’Alene have agreed to provide approximately $1.5 million of the $3.9 million needed to fund the Indigenous Peoples Development Plan.
CEADESC and CIEL are monitoring the case to ensure that the communities receive the funds.
This work is made possible by the support of the Mott Foundation.
To receive CIEL's monthy newletter, click here.
“For the last 10 years, we have been suffering from a health crisis of epidemic proportions. Every day, we have seen our companeros die from chronic kidney disease. Six years ago we created ASOCHIVIDA to look for solutions, to improve the lives of the people here, and find the cause of the disease. For that reason, we looked for help at the international level, and in 2006, students at Yale University put us in touch with CIEL. We never imagined a mediation process that today is now being advanced with the help of CIEL.
CIEL Attorney Kris Genovese prepared the complaint and brought the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman of the World Bank to Nicaragua. But most importantly she has provided the moral and psychological support to keep fighting, to strengthen ASOCHIVIDA, and to participate in a dialogue with the company.
With her help, we have achieved a lot from the negotiations. We now have monthly food distribution to 1800 members of ASOCHIVIDA, $100,000 microcredit facility, and we have Boston University undertaking a study to determine the cause of the disease. We very much appreciate the help that CIEL and Kris have given us. We hope that with her help we can improve the lives of the sugarcane workers here.”
- Community members of ASOCHIVIDA, Nicaragua