The day that the indigenous struggle bore fruit in Guatemala | Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) Skip to content Skip to navigation
10 December 2021

September 22, 2021 will be an iconic date for the men and women of the micro-region of Yich K'isis (Ixquisis), Guatemala, whose lives were abruptly changed by the construction of the San Mateo and San Andres hydroelectric dams, financed by IDB Invest.

On that day, the IDB Group's Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism (MICI) upheld most of their claims, contained in the complaint they filed three years ago.

Their final report acknowledges that the bank failed to verify the information about the affected population provided by the company responsible for the projects, which ignored the presence of indigenous peoples in the area.

It also points out the failure to consider the differentiated impacts that women would experience in any of the project implementation phases, overlooking the role that the local rivers play in their daily lives and in their ways of inhabiting the territory.

On the environmental issue, essential to indigenous peoples' ways of life, MICI also establishes non-compliance, recognizing that "IDB Invest did not ensure that the projects properly identified and delimited critical habitats and internationally recognized zones, nor that risks and impacts were established."

In terms of access to information for the communities, the bank "failed to comply with its own operational policies, as no meaningful consultation with the communities took place in the development of the projects," the document reads.

The indigenous men and women of Ixquisis see the report as recognition of what they’ve been denouncing for years.

Along with its conclusions, MICI also makes a series of recommendations aimed at correcting the mistakes made by the bank in the San Mateo and San Andres projects, as well as avoiding repeating them in other cases.

In its last recommendation, the accountability mechanism establishes, for the first time in the IDB's history, the possibility for the bank to responsibly withdraw from projects it finances.

For the communities of Ixquisis, this recommendation represents the best hope for the restoration of their lives, abruptly transformed by the arrival of the projects.

Indeed, ever since the complaint process began, the communities have been demanding the cessation of project funding. They consider it unsustainable that projects that fail to recognize their existence, and cause so much damage to their territory, some of it irreparable, should be financed by an international institution whose main mandate is to promote development.

In the scenarios in which they were able to express their feelings to bank and MICI officials, their request was heard: the bank cannot continue financing projects that have impacted their lives in such severe and unjust ways, and its exit must be responsible.

This means that the bank’s withdrawal must be based on a plan built with the effective participation of the communities and must contemplate all the damages caused in relation to social dynamics, the increased conflict in the region, the failure to acknowledge the existence of indigenous peoples and their rights, the affects on the ancestral cultural heritage, the differentiated impacts on women, and the lack of prevention and consequent environmental degradation.

The bank must now propose an action plan to comply with MICI’s report, a mission that is undoubtedly transcendental.

The bank now has the historic opportunity to correct its mistakes and legitimize its actions, honor its institutional mandate to promote development, respect and recognize indigenous peoples, and contribute to making the Ixquisis micro-region a place where indigenous men and women can once again develop their life in harmony with nature, and alongside their community.


About the Author

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Liliana Ávila

Liliana A. Ávila is the Area Coordinator of AIDA's Human Rights and Environment Program. A Colombian, she works from the Bogotá office. Liliana is an attorney from the Universidad Externado de Colombia, a specialist in constitutional law, and holds a Masters in Legal Argumentation from the University of Alicante in Spain. She has experience in international human rights law and international systems for the protection of human rights. She's a professor of international law at the Universidad Externado and has worked as a legal advisor on human rights, international humanitarian law, and public health.  


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