Strengthening Participatory Environmental Monitoring in Argentina’s Mining Sector
“What identifies us as indigenous peoples is our close relationship and bond with nature…When we walk in our territory, we always ask permission from Mother Earth”
Noemí Martínez, Technical Team Member of the Secretariat for Indigenous Peoples, Province of Jujuy, Argentina
A healthy life with access to water, sanitation, sustainable livelihoods, and protection of biodiversity are fundamental human rights. These rights can only be guaranteed with the participation of local communities in environmental governance. Participation of local stakeholders helps prevent socio-environmental conflicts while embedding community knowledge into environmental policies; without such embedded knowledge, it is difficult to build inclusive and sustainable development models.
Participatory environmental monitoring enables communities and other stakeholders to collect information on the environmental problems that affect them. In Argentina, the Environmental Governance Programme (EGP) seeks to strengthen environmental governance capacities required for participatory monitoring of the mining sector, which involves government agencies, companies, and local communities.
A key EGP objective is to strengthen dialogue between diverse actors and local communities, facilitating the sharing of their knowledge and worldviews. A sincere and genuine exchange requires integrating the knowledge, practices, and perspectives of indigenous peoples into these processes.
This objective is advanced in two phases. First, the programme undertakes a mapping effort that surveys and analyzes best practices in participatory environmental monitoring across Latin America, identifying initiatives or Participatory Environmental Monitoring Committees (PEMC) that have already been formed.
Then, at the local level, the programme focuses on engaging communities around issues related to environmental governance and the cross-cutting issues of human rights; water, soil, and air pollution; health, loss of biodiversity, and climate change. This step addresses socio-environmental conflicts as well as gender equality and the empowerment of women in mining governance.
Sonia Evangelina Ochoa, legal advisor to the Secretariat of Indigenous Peoples in Argentina’s Province of Jujuy, emphasizes that inclusive environmental governance is a continuous process of exchange and consultation. She highlights that it is necessary that “each member contributes, to effectively realize these rights, so that results can be seen in the day-to-day life of indigenous and local communities and their territories”.
To further these objectives, EGP in Argentina supported the organization of an awareness-raising workshop about the work of local Participatory Environmental Monitoring Committees, held last July 1.
The workshop - organized in partnership with the Secretariat of Indigenous Peoples of the Province of Jujuy and the Institute of Intercultural Higher Education (IESI) - brought together teachers, government actors, and members of local indigenous communities, as well as representatives of international organizations.
Workshop participants shared experiences of participation in monitoring, their challenges in understanding environmental information and regulations, sustaining collaboration with companies and the State, and accessing the necessary technical knowledge to intervene and be heard.
Remarks by Noemí Martínez, a traditional spiritual guide working with Jujuy’s Secretariat for Indigenous Peoples, typified the value that comes from integrating traditional indigenous perspectives into these processes:
“Our indigenous peoples and the communities that inhabit the territories can teach us many things through the special bond they have with nature and Earth...I consider myself the guardian of our nature and its wisdom…Our knowledge about reliance and recovery is within us.
What identifies us as indigenous or native peoples is our relationship with Mother Earth and with nature. This is a family relationship. Mothers, fathers, brothers, mountains, waters, rivers. Everything is part of us. The transversality that we always carry forward, wherever we are, is our spirituality. We ask permission and talk to our Mother Earth”.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE PROGRAMME (EGP)
The EGP is a joint initiative of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), supporting countries in integrating environmental and human rights protection into the governance of the mining sector. The EGP offers support to countries as they work to comply with international commitments on environmental matters, including Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In Argentina, the EGP seeks to develop and strengthen institutional capacities in Participatory Environmental Monitoring of the mining sector.