From “Me, My, Mine” to “We, Our, Mine”

Although Peru’s Yanachocha gold mine is one of the largest and most profitable gold mines in the world, the mine owners have been repeatedly stymied by local residents in their efforts to expand production.  In response to environmental problems associated with the mine, protesters (pictured above) have blockaded mine facilities and clashed with security forces on several occasions, costing the mine owners millions of dollars along the way.  So, how can mine owners elsewhere in the developing world avoid such costly conflicts with the communities that host their operations?  This is the question addressed by my colleague Lisa Laplante in a fascinating new article just posted on SSRN, “Out of the Conflict Zone: The Case for Community Consent Processes in the Extractive Sector.”  (The article can also be found at 11 Yale Human Rights & Development L.J. 69 (2008).)

In essence, Lisa and her co-author Suzanne Spears argue that the “extractive industries” should embrace the principle of free prior and informed consent (FPIC): before initiating new projects (and on an on-going basis thereafter) companies should obtain consent for their activities from the communities that will be most affected by them. 

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Priorities for the Next President: Accountability for Torture

The U.S. 2008 presidential campaign has been virtually silent on the issue of torture.   Yet, the very same day of the last presidential debate (Wednesday, October 15) Washington Post reporter Joby Warrick unveiled startling revelations in his article CIA Tactics Endorsed in Secret Memos.  Warrick tells us of the existence of two secret (still classified) memos from 2003 and 2004 that indicate the White House’s explicit endorsement of the CIA’s interrogation techniques against al-Qaeda suspects.  Apparently former CIA Director George J. Tenent was not satisfied with the infamous “Torture Memos” of 2003, in which White House lawyers gave the green light for our security forces to use torture.  Their outright dismissal of international treaties like the Torture Convention and the Geneva Convention, however, came under fire as even our top military leaders condemned the euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques” and the redefinition of methods of torture like water boarding.  This moment signaled our slide into a new level of lawlessness that shook the very foundation of a longstanding international legal framework, stunning most seasoned practitioners, experts, and scholars.   But U.S. public opinion had yet to catch up. 

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