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Professor Jorge Contesse Examines Chile's Failure to Protect Consultation Rights of Its Indigenous People

September 16, 2013 – 

Jorge Contesse, Assistant Professor of Law at Rutgers School of Law–Newark, is a co-author of a new Spanish-language book that charges the Chilean government with ongoing violations of its international obligations to guarantee the consultation rights of its indigenous people.

Contesse is the former director of Chile’s Universidad Diego Portales’ Human Rights Center, one of the partners in the Consorcio Norte-Sur, which released the book. The other partners in the project, which Contesse led, are Harvard Law School, Stanford Law School, and the Universidad de Los Andes (Colombia). Co-authors are Cristián Sanhueza, Daniel Saver, Professor James Cavallaro, and Professor César Rodríguez G.

The book, No Nos Toman en Cuenta (They Don’t Consider Us), provides a comprehensive review of the consultation rights of the indigenous people of Chile. The authors conclude that, despite ratifying International Labor Organization Convention 169 (ILO 169) in 2008, Chile continues to violate the rights of its indigenous people to free, prior, and informed consultation.

The book supports its conclusions with several case studies, with the case in which support for a salmon farming investment project was won by providing special benefits to select members of indigenous communities especially highlighting the need for national standards for consultation procedures.

Professor Contesse noted that ratification of ILO 169 is expected to ensure that historically marginalized groups “are able to participate in a meaningful way in decisions that directly affect them.” The failure to implement this right “not only violates Chile’s international legal obligations,” he said, “but also perpetuates distrust between indigenous peoples and the Chilean government, fueling conflict between the two.”
Prior to joining the Rutgers’ faculty in 2013, Contesse held an appointment as a Visiting Fellow at Yale Law’s Schell Center for International Human Rights. He has lectured widely on international human rights developments in the inter-American human rights system. He also has edited four books on human rights in Chile and is the author of several articles on constitutional theory and international human rights law.