Power to the People? Hydropower, indigenous rights, and popular resistance in Guatemala
The debate about hydropower has recently been revitalised in the context of climate change and the large unmet demand for energy in many countries. This study is a contribution to the debate about hydropower development, indigenous rights, and the rights of affected communities in the face of development projects, presenting Guatemala as a case study.
Main findings include:
- the strategic plan for hydropower development in Guatemala was prepared without consulting civil society and indigenous peoples
- the privatisation and liberalisation of the energy sector in Guatemala has produced a legal framework that prioritises the interests of private actors, and has eroded the role of the state as a guarantor of citizens’ rights
- consequently, conflict has been generated, with negative implications for the well-being of communities and the implementation of projects.
The paper then presents the following recommendations:
- the Guatemalan state ought to modify its legal and institutional framework for the energy sector so that it protects the rights of citizens
- it has to put in place a legal framework which prioritises access to electricity for the country’s inhabitants and assures benefits for the municipalities, communities and the people of Guatemala
- it has to declare a moratorium on new licences and authorisations on the use of rivers until a law of consultation is in place and adequate information is provided
- it has to draw up a water law that incorporates the rights of communities, the human right to water, and indigenous peoples’ rights
- as a donor, Norway, should support comprehensive needs and options assessments that take into account environmental and social dimensions as much as financial and technical aspects
- it should endorse the principle of free, prior, and informed consent in hydropower development projects.