To address Peru’s challenges, UN rights chief calls for ‘political responsibility’

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The polarization of society has deepened in recent months, and there are troubling signs that an anti-rights movement is gaining ground. She expressed concern that hate speech, discrimination, and violence could increase as local and regional elections approach in October.

Even though Peru already has “important tools” in place to uphold human rights, Ms. Bachelet noted that these laws, policies, and protocols need to be implemented.

Generosity is the key

Different sectors of society need to come together for an inclusive national dialogue that reflects the country’s rich diversity.

In order to address these challenges, I urge all political parties to act with generosity and a sense of political responsibility. Strong, transparent, accountable, and ready-to-root out corruption state institutions are fundamental to this process,” she said.

Her visit included meetings with the President, members of his cabinet, legislators, representatives of civil society, the private sector, indigenous communities, and victims of human rights violations.

As the South American country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Bachelet spoke about the devastating effects. Peru had the world’s highest death rate per capita, with 213,845 people dying.

“The pandemic reveals the deep social and economic divisions in Peruvian society, and its effects will reverberate for years to come”, she said. “Rural areas, impoverished people, and marginalized people are particularly affected.”

Measures to extend protection should be taken

Food and fuel prices are also rising in a country with 15.5 million food insecure people due to the war in Ukraine.

Due to fertilizer shortages, the High Commissioner feared this “troubling situation” would worsen.

“I have stressed with all my interlocutors that socio-economic protection measures should be extended and focused on producing tangible results for the most marginalized. I believe that supporting small-scale agriculture and prioritizing efforts to help people move out of the informal labor market are clear steps toward building back better,” she said.

Allies against impunity

Ms. Bachelet also focused on issues affecting indigenous peoples and human rights defenders, who are on the frontline when it comes to the impact of threats such as climate change, illegal mining, illegal logging, and drug trafficking, especially in the Amazon region.

“They should be viewed as allies in tackling the impunity of criminal groups,” she said, adding that “indigenous people living in voluntary isolation are also affected by illicit activities.”

Despite mining and other extractive industries being a large part of Peru’s economy for centuries, Ms. Bachelet said their “development promises” have often failed to benefit affected communities, particularly indigenous peoples.

The agreement to address social discontent caused by extractive and other projects should be based on prior consultation, protect land and resource rights, incorporate social and environmental safeguards, and mitigate negative impacts.

Corporate due diligence can also be implemented by the private sector through voluntary and mandatory measures.

I was told by private sector representatives that they are committed to advancing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. In addition, I support initiatives that promote renewable and green energy,” she said.

The search for justice continues

High Commissioner spoke about meeting with victims of abuse, including a woman who was tricked and forcibly sterilized.  Decades later, she is still seeking justice.

She was one of thousands of rural, poor, Quechua-speaking women and men who experienced this violation.

The High Commissioner’s visit coincided with the 30th anniversary of the “horrific” Tarata bombing by Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerilla group, which killed 25 people, and the La Canuta massacre, where nine students and a university professor were killed by a military death squad.

To overcome key challenges of today, such as political and social polarization, Peru must come to terms with its violence from 1980 to 2000.

We have heard about Peru’s human rights challenges over the past two days. Based on the discussions I have had, I am convinced they can be overcome and a path to a more inclusive future can be found. Do not lose hope.”

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