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Conflict Transformation through Prior Consultation? Lessons from Peru


This article analyses the background to and the content of the Peruvian prior consultation law – the only one enacted in Latin America to date – and its regulating decree. In contrast to the widespread conception that prior consultation is a means for preventing and resolving conflict, it argues that this new legislation will not help to transform conflicts as long as the normative framework itself is contested and the preconditions for participatory governance are not in place. Establishing these preconditions would result in state institutions capable of justly balancing the diverse interests at stake; measures that reduce power asymmetries within consultations; and joint decision-making processes with binding agreements.

Este artículo analiza el contexto y contenido de la ley peruana del derecho a la consulta previa – la única en América Latina hasta la fecha – y sus decretos regulatorios. En oposición a la idea generalizada de que la consulta previa es una forma de prevenir y resolver conflictos, se señala que esta nueva legislación no ayudará a transformar los conflictos mientras el marco normativo mismo sea cuestionado y las precondiciones para la gobernanza participativa no existan. Establecer estas precondiciones resultaría en instituciones estatales capaces de balancear de manera justa los diversos intereses en juego. Entre las condiciones necesarias para viabilizar consultas efectivas están la creación de instituciones estatales capaces de balancear de manera justa los diversos intereses en juego, la implementación de medidas para reducir asimetrías de poder en los procesos de consulta y la toma de decisiones en conjunto que desemboquen en acuerdos vinculantes.

Este artigo analisa o contexto da criação e o conteúdo da lei peruana de consulta prévia, a única deste tipo promulgada até o momento na América Latina, além de seu decreto de regulamentação. Opondo-se à ideia generalizada de que a consulta prévia é um meio de prevenir e solucionar conflitos, argumenta-se que esta nova legislação não ajudará a solucionar os conflitos enquanto o arcabouço normativo em si for contestado e as precondições para a governança participativa não forem instituídas. O estabelecimento destas precondições resultaria em instituições estatais capazes de equilibrar os diferentes interesses em disputa de forma justa; em medidas que reduzam assimetrias de poder na esfera das consultas; e em processos decisórios conjuntos com acordos vinculativos.

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1 See César Rodríguez Garavito, Meghan Morris, Natalia Orduz Salinas and Paula Buriticá, La consulta previa a pueblos indígenas: los estándares del derecho internacional (Bogotá: Universidad de los Andes, 2010).

2 John Gaventa, ‘Towards Participatory Governance: Assessing the Transformative Possibilities’, in Samuel Hickey and Giles Mohan (eds.), Participation. From Tyranny to Transformation? (London and New York: Zedbooks, 2004), p. 29.

3 See Laplante, Lisa and Spears, Suzanne, ‘Out of the Conflict Zone: The Case for Community Consent Processes in the Extractive Sector’, Yale Human Rights & Development, 11 (2008), pp. 69116; United Nations Interagency Framework for Coordination on Preventive Action, Extractive Industries and Conflict (New York: United Nations, 2010).

4 See, for example, Due Process of Law Foundation, El derecho a la consulta previa, libre e informada de los pueblos indígenas. La situación de Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador y Perú (Washington: DPLF/OXFAM, 2011); Fulmer, Amanda, Godoy, Angelina Snodgrass and Neff, Philip, ‘Indigenous Rights, Resistance and the Law: Lessons from a Guatemalan Mine’, Latin American Politics and Society, 50: 4 (2008), pp. 91121.

5 Carmen Ilizarbe, ‘El gobierno de Ollanta Humala y el discurso sobre los pueblos indígenas’ (2013), available at

6 Carlos Iván Degregori (ed.), No hay país más diverso. Compendio de antropología peruana (Lima: Red para el Desarrollo de las Ciencias Sociales en el Perú, 2000).

7 On the increasing self-identification of Andean ‘peasants’ and ‘peasant organisations’ as indigenous, partly as a strategy for defending their rights against extraction projects, see Donna L. Van Cott, From Movements to Parties in Latin America. The Evolution of Ethnic Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 154; Wright, Claire and i Puig, Salvador Martí, ‘Conflicts Over Natural Resources and Activation of Indigenous Identity in Cusco, Peru’, Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies, 7: 3 (2012), pp. 249–74.

8 Such as the pejorative use of the terms ‘indio’ or ‘indigenous’, the ‘campesinisation’ of indigenous people as part of the 1969 agrarian reform and the terrible effects of Peru's armed internal conflict against Shining Path. The consequences of this internal war were assassinations, the destruction of social organisations, the recruitment of community members by the army or the guerrillas and massive urban migration, all of which especially affected Andean Quechua-speaking community members. See Van Cott, From Movements to Parties; Deborah Yashar, Contesting Citizenship in Latin America: The Rise of Indigenous Movements and the Postliberal Challenge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Degregori, No hay país más diverso.

9 Gaventa, ‘Towards Participatory Governance’, p. 33.

10 See O'Donnell, Guillermo, ‘On the State, Democratization and some Conceptual Problems: A Latin American View with Glances at some Postcommunist Countries’, World Development, 21: 8 (1993), pp. 1355–69; Gretchen Helmke and Steven Levitsky (eds.), Informal Institutions and Democracy: Lessons from Latin America (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006); Rachel Sieder, ‘Pueblos indígenas y derecho(s) en América Latina’, in Cesár Rodríguez Garavito (ed.), El derecho en América Latina (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 2011), pp. 303–22.

11 See John Paul Lederach, Preparing for Peace: Conflict Transformation Across Cultures (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1995) and Johan Galtung, Peace by Peaceful Means: Peace and Conflict, Development and Civilization (London: Sage, 1996).

12 Ronald McCarthy and Gene Sharp, Nonviolent Action. A Research Guide (New York and London: Garland, 1997), p. xvi.

13 John Paul Lederach, ‘Defining Conflict Transformation’, Restorative Justice Online, available at

14 Cordula Reimann, ‘Assessing the State-of-the-Art in Conflict Transformation’, in: Alex Austin, Martina Fischer and Norbert Ropers (eds.), Transforming Ethnopolitical Conflict (Wiesbaden: VS Verlag, 2004), p. 52.

15 See Sam Hickey and Giles Mohan, ‘Towards Participation as Transformation: Critical Themes and Challenges’, in Hickey and Mohan (eds.), Participation, pp. 3–24.

16 See Bill Cooke and Uma Kothari (eds.), Participation. The New Tyranny (London and New York: Zedbooks, 2001) and Williams, Glyn, ‘Evaluating Participatory Development: Tyranny, Power and (Re)Politicisation’, Third World Quarterly 25: 3 (2004), pp. 557–78.

17 Hickey and Mohan, ‘Towards Participation as Transformation’, p. 3.

18 Hickey and Mohan, ‘Towards Participation as Transformation’, p. 14; Gaventa, ‘Towards Participatory Governance’; Andrea Cornwall, ‘Spaces for Transformation? Reflections on Issues of Power and Difference in Participation in Development’, in Hickey and Mohan (eds.), Participation, pp. 75–91.

19 Glyn Williams, ‘Towards a Repoliticization of Participatory Development: Political Capabilities and Spaces of Empowerment’, in Hickey and Mohan (eds.), Participation, pp. 92–108.

20 See Mohan, Giles and Stokke, Kristian, ‘Participatory Development and Empowerment: The Dangers of Localism’, Third World Quarterly, 21: 2 (2000), pp. 247–68.

21 Just as he did in his presidential campaign of 2006, during his 2011 electoral campaign, Ollanta Humala attracted the majority of indigenous and peasant votes. On ethnic voting in Peru and for a detailed analysis of Humala's 2006 campaign see Madrid, Raúl, ‘Ethnic Proximity and Ethnic Voting in Peru’, Journal of Latin American Studies, 43 (2011), pp. 267–97.

22 But note that despite their critique of the consultation legislation (as further detailed in this article), recent consultation experiences have shown that indigenous organisations are willing to participate in prior consultations under the current legal framework.

23 Alejandra Alayza Moncloa, No pero sí. Comunidades y minería. Consulta y consentimiento previo, libre e informado en el Perú (Lima: CooperAcción, 2007); Tami Okamoto and Esben Leifsen, ‘Oil Spills, Contamination, and Unruly Engagements with Indigenous Peoples in the Peruvian Amazon’, in Havard Haarstad, New Political Spaces in Latin American Natural Resource Governance (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), pp. 177–97.

24 Interview with Vladimir Pinto, Lima, Jan. 2012.

25 Interview with José de Echave, Lima, Feb. 2012.

26 Bebbington, Anthony and Williams, Mark, ‘Water and Mining Conflicts in Peru’, Mountain Research and Development, 28: 3/4 (2008), p. 192.

27 See Javier Arellano Yanguas, Minería sin fronteras? Conflicto y desarrollo en regiones mineras del Perú (Lima: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 2011).

28 Defensoría del Pueblo del Perú, ‘Conflictos sociales conocidos por la Defensoría del Pueblo. Al 30 de Junio de 2006. Reporte No. 28’ and Defensoría del Pueblo del Perú, ‘Reporte de Conflictos Sociales No. 100. Junio 2012’, available at

29 The area of the Peruvian Amazon covered by hydrocarbon blocks increased from 9 per cent in 2004 to 59 per cent in 2009 (María del Rosario Sevillano Arévalo, El derecho a la consulta de los pueblos indígenas en el Perú (Lima: DAR, 2010), p. 19. Moreover, more than half of all peasant communities in Peru are estimated to currently be affected by mining activities (Bebbington and Williams, ‘Water and Mining Conflicts’, p. 190).

30 See José de Echave, Alejandro Diez, Ludwig Huber, Bruno Revesz, Xavier Ricard Lanata y Martín Tanaka, Minería y conflicto social (Lima: CBC/CIPCA/CIES/IEP, 2009); Anthony Bebbington and Denise Humphreys Bebbington, ‘An Andean Avatar: Post-neoliberal and Neoliberal Strategies for Promoting Extractive Industries’, BWPI Working Paper, 117 (2010).

31 Alan García, ‘El síndrome del perro del hortelano’, El Comercio (28 Oct. 2007). For more details see Stetson, George, ‘Oil Politics and Indigenous Resistance in the Peruvian Amazon: The Rhetoric of Modernity Against the Reality of Coloniality’, The Journal of Environment & Development, 21: 1 (2012), pp. 7697.

32 Derecho, Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (DAR), Informe. Hechos y aspectos vulneratorios de los Decretos Legislativos 1090 y 1064 (Lima: DAR, 2009), pp. 6, 12.

33 Defensoría del Pueblo del Perú, Informe de Adjuntía N° 006-2009-DP/ADHPD. Actuaciones humanitarias realizadas por la Defensoría del Pueblo con ocasión de los hechos ocurridos el 5 de Junio del 2009 (Lima: Defensoría del Pueblo, 2 July 2009).

34 Alberto Villar Campos, ‘Tensa marcha bloqueó el Cercado’, El Comercio (12 June 2009), p. 4.

35 On the nascent alliance between Amazonian and Andean representatives under an indigenous banner see Greene, Shane, ‘Getting over the Andes: The Geo-Eco-Politics of Indigenous Movements in Peru's Twenty-First Century Inca Empire’, Journal of Latin American Studies, 38 (2006), pp. 327–54.

36 The GNCDPA was presided over by the minister of agriculture and was comprised of government officials from other ministries, members of regional governments and representatives of Amazonian communities.

37 Cecilia Rosales and Déborah Dongo, ‘Mejor rectificar que obstinarse’, El Comercio (18 June 2009), p. 2.

38 The Mesa 1 was to set up a commission to investigate the events in Bagua, while Mesa 2 was in charge of discussing the contested decrees and developing a proposal to improve the forestry legislation. Mesa 4 had the task of negotiating a development plan for the Amazon.

39 The indigenous organisations did approve the ombudsman's proposal, but they criticised the fact that it had not been developed with indigenous participation from the beginning.

40 GNCDPA, Informe final de la Mesa 3. Sobre el derecho a la consulta (3 Dec. 2009), available at

41 The Confederación Campesina del Perú (Peasant Confederation of Peru, CCP) the Confederación Nacional Agraria (National Agrarian Confederation, CNA), and the Confederación Nacional de Comunidades del Perú Afectadas por la Minería (National Confederation of Communities Affected by Mining, CONACAMI).

43 For example, the indigenous organisations demanded their right to FPIC, especially when planned measures would directly affect their territory, require their resettlement or concern the storage of hazardous waste. Provisions specifying the right to prior consent were completely taken out of the law. Another element of the original law's proposal that was subsequently excluded was the stipulation that preparatory meetings to jointly plan the consultation process should be obligatory.

44 Presidente de la República del Perú, Oficio N° 142–2010-DP/SCM. Observaciones a la autógrafa de la ‘Ley del derecho a la consulta previa a los pueblos indigenas u originarios reconocido en el Convenio Num. 169 de la Organización Internacional del Trabajo’ (21 June 2010), available at

45 Meanwhile, the disputes also reverberated in the judicial field. On 9 June 2010 the constitutional court declared in a decision about several of the contested decrees that the non-existence of a Peruvian consultation law did not justify the non-application of prior consultations (Sentencia 022–2009, Tribunal Constitucional, 9 June 2010). On 30 June 2010 the court even directly requested that the congress approve the consultation law as soon as possible (Sentencia del Tribunal Constitucional, EXP. N° 05427-2009-PC/TC, 30 June 2010).

46 See Alberto Chirif, ‘Auges y caíadas de las organizaciones indígenas’, in Stefano Varese, Frédérique Apffel-Marglin and Roger Rumrrill (eds.), Selva vida. De la destrucción de la Amazonía al paradigma de la regeneración (Lima: IWGIA, 2013), pp. 135–61.

47 Interview with de Echave.

48 Among the indigenous organisations represented were the two Amazonian indigenous organisations AIDESEP and Confederación de Nacionalidades Amazónicas del Perú (Confederation of the Amazonian Nationalities of Peru, CONAP), the women's organisation Organización Nacional de Mujeres Andinas y Amazónicas del Perú (National Organisation of Andean and Amazonian Women of Peru, ONAMIAP) and the three Andean indigenous-peasant organisations CONACAMI, CNA and CCP.

49 Pacto de Unidad, ‘Principios mínimos para la aplicación de los derechos de participación, consulta previa y consentimiento libre, previo e informado’ (Lima, 17 Nov. 2011).

50 Group interview with ombudsman's staff, Lima, Feb. 2012.

51 Van Cott, From Movements to Parties, p. 140.

52 On the national level various indigenous organisations compete for affiliates and representativeness. For example, AIDESEP and CONAP compete to represent a wide range of Amazonian communities, while CAN, CCP and CONACAMI are in dispute over influence within and representation of highland peasant communities. For an overview of the historic emergence of indigenous organisations in Peru see, for example, Deborah Yashar, Contesting Citizenship in Latin America and Lisa M. Glidden, Mobilizing Ethnic Identities in the Andes: A Study of Ecuador and Peru (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2011).

53 CONAP's representative expressed the organisation's consensus that the consultation law was not perfect but said that they would still try to craft a regulating norm to enrich and further develop it. CCP's decision was to support the formulation of the regulating decree and, subsequently, to strive for some modifications to the consultation law.

54 When CCP was founded in 1947, its discourse was class-based rather than ethnicity-based, despite the fact that it had many Quechua- and Aymara-speaking members. See Raúl Madrid, The Rise of Ethnic Politics in Latin America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), p. 115.

55 See CNDDHH, Informe de observación del proceso de consulta previa del Reglamento de la Ley del Derecho a la Consulta Previa a los pueblos indígenas u originarios (15 Sept. 2012), available at

56 The law establishes the following objective criteria: descent from original populations, close ties to their historical territory, their own institutions, customs and cultural patterns and ways of life that are distinct from those of the ‘national population’.

57 Pacto de Unidad, ‘Principios mínimos’. The difference between representatives and representative institutions is important, first, because many Andean and Amazonian indigenous communities and organisations take decisions in assemblies and do not delegate decision-making power to selected representatives. Second, the requirement that decisions be supported by inclusive assemblies could reduce the risk that single representatives will be persuaded or even corrupted.

58 See Alayza Moncloa, No pero sí. In addition, the law and its decree provide for consultation only on those measures that the state believes might negatively affect indigenous peoples, whereas ILO C169 provides for consultation on all measures that are likely to affect indigenous peoples, whether positively or negatively.

59 According to the legislation, indigenous organisations and communities can request to be included in an ongoing consultation process. This happened in 2013 during Peru's first consultation, which was on the Maijuna regional conservation area in Loreto.

60 The indigenous standpoint could be supported by Masaki's finding that ‘practitioners of social change should avoid imposing a linear and continuous notion of “calendar time” on to the “practical time” within which negotiations over power relations operate’ (Katsuhiko Masaki, ‘Towards Participation as Transformation: Critical Themes and Challenges’, in Hickey and Mohan (eds.), Participation, p. 15).

61 North cit. after Gretchen Helmke and Steven Levitsky, ‘Introduction’, in Helmke and Levitsky (eds.), Informal Institutions and Democracy, p. 2.

62 On diverging state and indigenous views see, for example, Cadena, Marisol de la, ‘Indigenous Cosmopolitics in the Andes: Conceptual Reflections beyond “Politics”’, Cultural Anthropology, 25: 2 (2010), pp. 334–70.

63 Cornwall, ‘Spaces for Transformation?’, p. 79.

64 Interview with César Gamboa, Executive Director of the Peruvian NGO Derecho Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (DAR), Lima, Feb. 2012.

65 On subtle forms of resistance see James Scott, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987).

66 Javier Arellano Yanguas, ‘Mining and conflict in Peru’, in Anthony Bebbington (ed.), Social Conflict, Economic Development and Extractive Industry. Evidence from South America (New York: Routledge, 2012), p. 100.

67 See also Anthony Bebbington, Martin Scurrah and Claudia Bielich, Los movimientos sociales y la política de la pobreza en el Perú (Lima: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 2011), pp. 167ff. In their study of the Río Corrientes case, the authors show the diversity within the state apparatus, but generally characterise the Peruvian state as ‘clientelist, authoritarian, bureaucratic and counter-productive’ (ibid., p. 219).

68 Interview de Echave.

69 See Yanguas, Javier Arellano, ‘Minería sin fronteras? Conflicto y desarrollo en regiones mineras del Perú’, Investigaciones Geográficas, 77 (2011), pp. 142–4.

70 O'Donnell, ‘On the State, Democratization and Conceptual Problems’.

71 Gaventa, ‘Towards Participatory Governance’, p. 33.

72 Ibid., p. 35 and Cornwall cit. after ibid., p. 35.

73 Rodríguez Garavito and Orduz Salinas, La consulta previa: dilemas y soluciones (Bogotá: DeJusticia, 2012); Iván Bascopé Sanjínes (ed.), Lecciones aprendidas sobre consulta previa (La Paz: CEJIS, 2010).

74 See Almut Schilling-Vacaflor, ‘Contestations over Indigenous Participation in Bolivia's Extractive Industry: Ideology, Practices, and Legal Norms’, GIGA Working Papers, 254 (2014).

75 Such follow-up mechanisms would be of crucial importance, especially within the Peruvian context where indigenous rights have often been disregarded. See, for example, the discussion of the Río Corrientes case in Bebbington, Scurrah and Bielich, Los movimientos sociales, p. 167. Even in countries like Canada, which are known for higher rights protection standards at the domestic level, the lack of effective follow-up hinders more socio-environmentally responsible corporate practices (O‘Faircheallaigh, Ciaran, ‘Environmental Agreements, EIA Follow-up and Aboriginal Participation in Environmental Management: The Canadian Experience’, Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 27 (2007), pp. 319–42).

76 The prior consultation processes regarding hydrocarbon projects were conducted for new oil blocks in the Amazonian regions Ucayali and Loreto.

77 Interviews with representatives of indigenous organisations and NGOs in Lima, April and December 2014.

78 Orihuela, José Carlos, ‘The Environmental Rules of Economic Development: Governing Air Pollution from Smelters in Chuquicamata and La Oroya’, Journal of Latin American Studies, 46: 1 (2014), pp. 151–83.

79 The law 30230 ‘Law that establishes Tributary Measures, Simplifications of Proceedings and Permits for the Promotion and Dynamisation of Investments in the Country’ was presented by the Ministry of Economy and Finance and adopted in Congress on 3 July 2014.

80 See Claudia Cisneros ‘Autogolpe al Perú: se viene el Baguazo de Humala’ (8 July 2014), available at As of June 2014, trials against indigenous leaders are still open and investigations at the national and international level are ongoing. The results of the investigations into the Baguazo are contested, especially regarding the role of mining companies and the US government in pushing the Peruvian government towards police intervention, see Jacqueline Fowks, ‘Perú sigue sin esclarecer qué pasó en el enfrentamiento de Bagua en 2009’ (5 October 2013) available at

81 Sen, Amartya, ‘Elements of a Theory of Human Rights’, Philosophy & Public Affairs, 32: 4 (2004), pp. 319–20.

* We would like to thank the Peruvian Ombudsman's staff for their very friendly and helpful cooperation during our fieldwork. Moreover, we thank Mariana Llanos and Maria Therese Gustafsson for their useful comments on an earlier version of this article. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the German Foundation for Peace Research (DSF) and the Fritz Thyssen Foundation for field research in Peru.

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