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Indigenous people must be consulted on proposed legislation
Latinamerica Press
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Court ruling exhorts the Córdoba government to implement prior consultation process before the approval of a legislative initiative on native forests.

For the indigenous peoples of the central province of Córdoba, the ruling coming from the Superior Court of Justice recognizing their right to free and informed prior consultation represents “a before and after.”

“From now on there is a precedent to ensure the fulfillment of our rights in a particularly adverse and hostile province for our struggle to survive,” told reporters Mariela Tulián, the casqui curaca (ancestral authority) of the Comechingón-Sanavirón Tulián Territorial Indigenous Community of San Marcos Sierras.

The ruling, published on Apr.3, responds to an action of protection filed on Mar. 11 by the indigenous community, along with the non-governmental organizations Third Generation Foundation and the Foundation for the Defense of the Environment, against the provincial Legislature demanding “the Bill on Spatial Planning of Native Forests and Regulation of Exotic Forests of the Province of Córdoba, be declared null and the suspension of all legislative treatment that could lead to the approval of the mentioned project be urgently adopted as an innovative precautionary measure.”

According to the plaintiffs, the provincial government, headed by Governor Juan Schiaretti, pretends to modify National Law 26.331 for the Environmental Protection of Native Forests to assign thousands of hectares of native forests for livestock farming and the timber industry. The cutting down of trees, or clearing of forests, is the reason behind the floods that periodically affect the province.

One of the goals of the provincial initiative is to promote, in the context of spatial planning, the sustainable management and use of native forests, understanding “sustainable use” as the clearing or change of land use. Also, the draft legislation proposes to avoid the obligation established in Law 26.331 to promote the citizen participation process, in this regard to consult the native populations on any decision that may affect their traditional territories.

Convention 169
The indigenous people requested that the draft bill be “permanently voided so that the [provincial] government starts a new consultation process and the preparation of a new one, as the project totally disregards and goes against the environmental norms and

principles and those others that protect the rights of the indigenous communities, because it promotes practices that in the future will negatively affect the scanty native forests that still remain in the province, all of this in a one sided manner without fulfilling the requirement of indigenous community participation.”

According to the Coordinator Group in Defense of Native Forests, the legislators who drafted the bill “violated all the norms that safeguard indigenous rights and biological diversity, mainly the right to free and informed previous consultation. The state is obligated to comply and enforce Article 75 of the National Constitution and Convention 169 [on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples] of the International Labor Organization, something they failed to do.”

Although the ruling, released on Apr. 3, does not accept the request for the bill annulment, it does exhort that “elected political authorities of the Córdoba province assure in the broadest possible way the budgets for citizen participation in as far as the project is concerned.”

“The states have historical pending issues with the natives,” Tulián said. “I hope that this ruling is the kickoff to start to pay back these debts that are very broad and complex, not only referring to the environment, or the right to protect and manage our ancestral territories and their resources: they must also focus on cultural rights, access to different levels of bilingual intercultural education, to food and medicine sovereignty, self -governance and self-determination.”

“In summary, the right to Good Living as the nation we are,” concluded the indigenous leader. —Latinamerica Press.

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