No renewable energy project should move forward without seeking the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous communities, especially if there are plans to build directly on Indigenous lands. Unfortunately, that was not the case in the Unión Hidalgo agrarian community in Oaxaca State, Mexico.
Without engaging the local community, Desarrollos Eólicos de México S.A de C.V (DEMEX) began to build a large-scale wind project in indigenous territories in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of the state of Oaxaca. Unión Hidalgo community defenders announced a formal complaint against the project, charging that DEMEX has repeatedly violated the principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent, international agreements and the Mexican constitution in its development of its Gunaa Sicarú Wind Power Plant. In addition to building on indigenous lands without consent, DEMEX’ conduct contributed to the shrinking of civic spaces and significantly restricted the fundamental rights of Unión Hidalgo’s indigenous peoples.
Unión Hidalgo sought legal advice and social accompaniment from ProDESC, a renowned Mexican human rights organization supported by Shine partner American Jewish World Service. After participating in a consultation process in good faith for over a year, Unión Hidalgo’s community defenders made the difficult decision to leave the dialogue when the Mexican government and DEMEX failed to conduct a culturally appropriate consultation process with the Zapotec Indigenous communities whose legal territory is being directly impacted.
Clean energy isn’t just about how it is produced – it’s about where it is produced, and who pays the social and environmental impacts of such production. Values-driven institutions working to bring last mile communities access to clean, renewable energy must engage Indigenous Peoples in any proposed project that may impact their culture, ways of life and livelihoods.