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Peru: Legal reforms harm Indigenous Peoples and the Amazon rainforest

02 February, 2024 | Ricardo Changala

Despite multiple national and international questions and warnings, on January 10, 2024, the president of Peruvian Congress signed the amendment of the Forestry and Wildlife Law number 29763.

Previously, in mid-December 2023, Congress had approved three bills on the subject, even against the opinion of entities of the Executive Branch that had made several observations on the initiatives, including, among other questions, the absence of prior, free, and informed consultation with Indigenous Peoples and even State authorities.

The pressure exerted by the Peruvian business sector for the approval of the legal reforms became notorious, especially through CONFIEP, the National Confederation of Business Institutions that sent a note to Congress warning that its non-adoption would have meant a violation of the right to work, job stability and a discouragement for private investments.

The new legal text weakens the legislation by suspending for up to two years the obligation to require forest zoning as a requirement for the delivery of enabling degrees in areas that are in the process of recognition, certification or expansion of peasant and indigenous communities. Also included are certain areas that are in the process of establishing territorial reserves and communities in voluntary isolation.

One of the aspects that has received the most questioning is the inclusion of a final complementary provision instead of a specific chapter as the relevance of the topic would merit, with the regulations related to the Amazon facilitating the expansion of the deforestation space without substantiated relation to the demand that may actually exist.

Among the internal critical voices, the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle (AIDESEP) stands out, which represents almost 2,500 communities and a large number of regional organizations.

AIDESEP maintains that the new law allows to legalize deforested areas for agricultural activities, endangering vital ecosystems for the environmental balance; compromises international conservation agreements; hinders the commercialization of agricultural products under international zero deforestation regulations, thus threatening the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of family farmers and producers at the national level; violates the right to prior consultation in favor of indigenous peoples that is current and mandatory legislation in the country; it compromises the environmental sustainability of the country.

As for the questions coming from the international scene, highlights the statement issued by the United Nations Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Mr. Francisco Cali, released on January 31, 2024, who noted that “these reforms could legalize and encourage the dispossession of indigenous peoples’ lands and even threaten their physical and cultural survival.”

He also points out that territorial dispossession is the engine of violence against indigenous leaders and implies a withdrawal of the State in rural areas, recalling that in recent years more than 30 indigenous leaders have been murdered for defending their territories and their collective rights., which has been largely related to the advance of illegal logging, informal mining and drug trafficking.

The expert indicates that the reform takes place at a time when the State still has outstanding obligations to fulfill regarding the legal recognition and security of the territories of indigenous peoples since, approximately one third of the indigenous peoples of the Peruvian Amazon have not received the titling of their lands, “leaving them insecure and vulnerable to third parties.”