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Human Rights: Human Rights Impact Assessment in Alta Guajira

2D Seismic Project in Guajira, Colombia

Applying the due diligence process through a human rights impact assessment

The implementation of the 2D seismic project in the Guajira Peninsula in Colombia included a human rights impact assessment between the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 as part of the due diligence process in human rights. As a result of the assessment, we identified the following sensitive elements:

Civil and political rights: 
  • The internal armed conflict between the Government, guerrillas, paramilitary groups, drug traffickers, and other illegal groups. 
  • The normative system of the Wayuu people, the predominant ethnic group in the area, which is based on the solution of disputes through dialogue. 
Economic, social, and cultural rights: 
  • Health, education, and living standards are of particular concern in this area of influence. Most of the population lives in poverty and access to both food and drinking water is a problem, aggravated by the closure of the border with Venezuela. 
Labor rights: 
  • Risk of the exercise of the right of association that gives rise to violence against trade unions. 
  • 42.8% of the Colombian population is paid less than the minimum wage. 
  • Low levels of coverage of the social protection system, which only covers approximately 36% of the population. 
  • Hygiene and safety standards generally applied in the formal economy but not in the informal economy. 
  • Few economic and productive alternatives to fishing, shepherding, and handcrafts, socio-economic pillars of the Wayuu society. Combination of tradition and paid employment. 
Indigenous people: 
  • Indigenous people in Colombia continue to encounter obstacles to effectively exercise their collective rights. 
  • The normative system of the Wayuu people, predominant in the area, has been selected by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
  • The Wayuu children of the Alta Guajira region are vulnerable to the problems of hunger, thirst, and malnutrition. 
  • The Wayuu cosmovision is understood as coexistence with nature, and mythological knowledge is acquired through the stories passed down from generation to generation. 
Vulnerable groups: both discrimination and gender-based violence are a widespread problem in Colombia among groups such as women, Afro-descendants, and LGBTI people in political, social, and economic spheres.

Five main variables

An area of the Alta Guajiora ravaged by drought.

After the assessment, we identify five impact factors on human rights in the area.

Water shortages : it is a constant concern in the project's direct area of influence and is mainly due to the drought that affected the region and that caused streams to dry up and livestock to die from lack of water. 
Living standards : unemployment, economic dependence on Venezuela for food and fuel, the high price of gasoline and deficient housing lead to a shortage of products to fulfill basic needs and to the the geographical and social isolation of the communities, aggravated by other problems such as drug addiction and alcoholism. 
Social services : schools, health care centers, and electrical installations are in poor condition and most communities do not have access to electricity. The benefits of the social programs were considered to be non-existent and, for most of the affected population considered, these programs only benefited the supporters of the political power in office. 
Insecurity and unrest: the perception of safety in the area of influence varied among the population, but there was great concern in certain sectors about drug trafficking and criminal gangs (kidnappings and extortion); in addition, some communities considered that there was insufficient presence of public security forces, which contributes to insecurity. 
State presence: all the communities in the area of influence had a deep feeling of abandonment by the state and many inhabitants had lost faith in the government. Relations between local government authorities and traditional Wayuu authorities seemed weak and the high cost of transportation in the area did not favor this interrelationship.

Final recommendations

The HRIA also establishes necessary lines of action to continue respecting human rights:

  • Respect for the Wayuu legal system and preservation of legal pluralism. 
  • Continue to use Wayunaiiki as the official language in communications. 
  • Keep the communities informed about the progress of the projects, including social matters. 
  • Respect and participation in Wayuu cultural expressions. 
  • Spaces of participation for women. 
  • Improved channels of communication with the government. 
  • Preservation of indigenous people's trust, support to organizational processes, mutual respect.
We believe that respect for human rights is one of the fundamental pillars of our activity and that the responsibility of respecting them should be the basis for how we conduct all of our operations. We base our work on the implementation of the United Nations "Protect, Respect, and Remedy" framework through the application of the "Guiding principles on businesses and human rights": we undertake to respect the rights set forth in the International Bill of Human Rights and the rights established in the International Labor Organization Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.
We also have our own Respect for Human Rights Policy to prevent our activities or decisions from having negative consequences on human rights and to repair the damage caused when this occurs. This policy is structured in three phases: 
  • Due diligence in human rights: identification and assessment of the potential impacts on human rights before undertaking a new activity or starting a business relationship.
  • Respect human rights in all activities throughout the value chain: employees, local communities, customers, members, and business relationships. 
  • Operational grievance mechanisms: establish effective mechanisms for communicating and resolving issues at the operating level and consult people affected by the operations on their design and operation.

Impact assessment

This Human Rights Impact Assessment showed that following actions were evaluated in an especially positive way by each of the stakeholders:

The Communities highlighted the investment in water management, the development of prior consultation, the relationship with the communities, and the conclusion of agreements for indemnifying fishermen. They made special mention of our respect for freedom of expression and of the health, ophthalmological, and dental campaigns. 

Furthermore, the employees and employees of subcontractors commented that they had easy access to communication channels with security forces and valued the improvement in employee security. Additionally, they spoke positively about their salaries, the high HSE standards, and access to social security through formal employment. They also valued the development of prior consultation, improved contractor subsistence, and redefinition of travel costs.

  • With this project, we positively contribute to the United Nations' 2030 Agenda through the following SDGs: