September 13, 2011—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes the enactment in Peru of a law on prior consultation of indigenous peoples, which incorporates into domestic law a right already recognized in international human rights law and thus constitutes a significant step forward in defending the human rights of the country’s indigenous peoples.According to publicly available information, on September 6, 2011, the President of Peru signed into law a bill that had been approved by the Congress of the Republic on August 23, 2011, recognizing the right of indigenous peoples to be consulted beforehand with regard to legislative or administrative measures and development plans, programs, and projects that could affect their rights. The law establishes, among other significant points, that the aim of this consultation is to reach agreement or consent between the State and the indigenous or native peoples through an intercultural dialogue that guarantees their inclusion in the State’s decision-making and the adoption of measures that respect their collective rights. It also establishes that the contents of the law must be interpreted in line with the obligations established in Convention No. 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO), which has been ratified by Peru, and that the guiding principles of the right to consultation include those of timeliness, interculturalism, good faith, flexibility, reasonable time period, lack of constraints or conditions, and timely information. Moreover, the IACHR believes it is important that this law be broadly publicized and that, in regulating and enforcing the law, the State continue to deepen the implementation of the legal standards established by the inter-American human rights system on the rights to prior, free, and informed consultation and consent.
As the IACHR has explained in its report on Indigenous and Tribal People’s Rights over their Ancestral Lands and Natural Resources, the right to consultation is linked to numerous individual and collective human rights. Besides being a manifestation of the right to participation, the right to be consulted is fundamental to indigenous and tribal peoples’ communal property right over the lands they have traditionally used and occupied, and is also directly related to the right to cultural identity, insofar as indigenous peoples’ culture may be affected by the State decisions that concern them.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.