Alta Guajira Human Rights Impact Assessment

Guajira Colombia 2D Seismic Study

Implementation of the due diligence process by conducting a human rights impact assessment.


When carrying out the 2D seismic study in the Guajira Peninsula in Colombia, we conducted a human rights impact assessment between late 2014 and early 2015, as part of the human rights due diligence process. 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 Wayuu regulatory system, the predominant ethnic group in the area, which is based on resolving disputes with conversations. 

Economic, social, and cultural rights: 

  • Health, education, and standard of living were of particular concern in this area of influence. The majority of the population lives in poverty and access to both food and potable water is a problem, aggravated by the closure of the border with Venezuela. 


Labor rights: 

  • Risk of the exercise of the right of association resulting in violence against trade unionists. 
  • 42.8% of the Colombian population is paid below the legal minimum income. 
  • Low levels of coverage of the social protection system, which only covers approximately 36% of the population. 
  • Occupational health and safety standards generally applied in the formal economy but not in the informal economy. 
  • Few economic and productive alternatives to fishing, herding, d handicrafts, the socioeconomic foundations of Wayuu society. Combination of traditional and salaried work. 


Indigenous peoples: 

  • Indigenous peoples in Colombia continue to face obstacles to effectively exercise their collective rights. 
  • The regulatory system of the Wayuu people, predominant in the area, was selected by UNESCO as an intangible heritage of humanity.
  • Wayuu children in Alta Guajira are vulnerable to hunger, thirst, and malnutrition. 
  • The Wayuu worldview is understood as coexistence with nature and mythological knowledge is learned through stories passed down from generation to generation. 

Vulnerable groups: Discrimination and gender violence are a generalized problem in Colombia among groups such as women, Afro-descendants, and LGTBI groups in the political, social, and economic spheres.



Five major variables


Drought area in Alta Guajira

Following the assessment, we identified 5 human rights impact factors in the area:


  1. Water scarcity: A constant concern in the project’s area of direct influence and is mainly due to the drought that affected the region and caused streams to run dry and livestock to die from lack of water. 
  2. Quality of life: Unemployment, economic dependence on Venezuela for food and fuel, high gasoline prices and poor housing conditions result in a lack of basic necessities and geographic and social isolation of communities, compounded by other problems such as drug addiction and alcoholism. 
  3. Social services: Schools, health centers, and electricity facilities were in poor condition, and most communities did not have access to electricity. The benefits of the social programs were considered non-existent, and for a large part of the affected population, they only really benefited those connected to the political group in power. 
  4. Lack of safety and conflict: The perception of safety in the area of influence varied among the people, but there was significant concern in certain sectors regarding drug trafficking and criminal gangs (cases of kidnapping and extortion). In addition, some communities considered there to be an insufficient presence of public forces, which contributes to the lack of safety. 
  5. Presence of the government: All of the communities in the area of influence had a deep sense of abandonment by the government and many inhabitants were disillusioned with the government. Relations between local government authorities and traditional Wayuu authorities seemed weak, and the high cost of transportation in the area does not support this relationship.


Final recommendations

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

  • Respecting the Wayuu legal system and maintenance of legal pluralism 
  • Maintaining Wayunaiiki as the official language of communication
  • Keeping communities informed on the progress of projects, including social aspects
  • Respecting and participating in the expressions of the Wayuu culture 
  • Spaces for women's participation
  • Improving communication channels with the administration
  • Maintaining the trust of the indigenous people, support for 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 Human Rights Respect Policy to prevent our activities or decisions from having negative consequences on human rights and repair the damage caused if they occur. This policy is divided into three phases: 

  • Due diligence in human rights: identifying and assessing the potential impacts on human rights before undertaking a new activity or starting a business relationship.
  • Respect for human rights in activities throughout the value chain: employees, local communities, customers and partners, and business relationships. 
  • Grievance mechanisms: establishing effective mechanisms for communicating and resolving issues at the operating level and consult people affected by the operations on their design and operation.
Assessment of our impact
Assessment of our impact

This human rights impact assessment showed that the following actions received a particularly positive rating by each of the stakeholders:

The Communities highlighted the investment for water management, the prior consultation, the relationship with the communities, the conclusions of agreements for compensation to fishermen. They liked to express themselves and highlighted our respect for freedom of expression, as well as health, ophthalmological, and dental campaigns. 

Moreover, employees and subcontractors’ employees stated that they were easily able to communicate with security forces and appreciated the improvement in employee safety. Futhermore, they spoke positively about their salaries, high HSE standards, and access to social security for formal employment. They also valued the prior consultation, improved livelihoods for contractors, and redefined travel costs.