Indigenous and Black Peoples from across Honduras have said they are ready to mobilize against 41 dam concessions which they say violate their rights, threaten the environment and endanger their communities.
Representatives from several organizations and members of the Tulupanes, Pech, Miskito, Maya-Chortis, Lenca and Garifuna Peoples met from October 2-3, 2010 to discuss the current state of human rights and the environment in Honduras.
The two-day meeting was held in the Garifuna community of Sambo Creek, exactly one month after the government passed a set of news laws that conceded the use of Honduran rivers for the construction of 41 new hydroelectric dam projects. The meeting was specifically organized to articulate a response to the unilateral and ultimately illegal move.
“Many of these dams would affect indigenous communities,” notes Annie Bird, the co-director of Rights Action. But even so, the government didn’t bother to consult any of the communities or gain their consent before passing the laws.
They were obligated to do so under ILO Convention 169 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In a declaration that followed the two-day meeting, representatives explained that the passage of laws was merely the latest assault in an ongoing offensive that began after the military coup of June 28, 2009.
The also pointed out that, “The effects of climate change in Honduras have been ignored by the various administrations, without taking appropriate measures to prevent the destruction of biodiversity, Honduras being identified as one of the countries in the world most affected by global warming. Our people are subjugated by the instruments from the United Nations Carbon Fund, such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and the Programme of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD), which kidnap our rivers and forests, which we’ve look after for centuries.”
As well, they dismissed the claim that Indigenous Peoples are simply “opposed to development” as if to say ‘they just want to keep playing with their sticks and stones’. In fact, they are open to development, but development on their own terms and that doesn’t compromise–or, for that matter, obliterate–their way of life. The standard development model, what the representatives describe as “obsolete” is what needs to be questioned, especially because of growing “environmental crisis” and the inevitable “consequences of the excessive use of oil and the systematic destruction of rivers to satisfy the addiction of energy-rich countries,” the declaration states.
Because of these and other concerns, the representatives said they are now “on alert” and prepared to mobilize against the construction of the hydro dams and to demand the restitution of their rights and the recognition of their territories and land titles. For this, the representatives urged their organizations, communities, organizations and peoples “to follow the example of our ancestors… to exercise our rights with dignity.”
Finally, they agreed to establish a new organization to help ensure the defense of their human rights and to promote a national gathering of indigenous and black women because of the specific abuses and problems that women face as a result of “the obsolete model” which is rooted in patriarchy. They’ve called for the gathering to take place during the months of March and May 2011.
The organizations that attended the meeting included: the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization, OFRANEH; Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, COPINH; Indian Council of Honduras Maya Chorti, CONIMCHH; Indian Tribal Association of Flower Mountain; Federation of Pech Tribes of Honduras, FETRIPH; Miskito Women’s Organization; and the Miskito People’s Federation, FINZMOST