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Artículo de campaña contra Hidroeléctricas Brasileñas en Amazonía Peruana

Fuente oficial: The MIT Press Journals

Artículo en inglés:

South–South transnational advocacy networks (SSTANs) targeting emerging states, Southern companies, and their supporting institutions warrant nuanced distinctions from traditional transnational advocacy networks that are heavily reliant on Northern actors and targets, particularly in terms of the strategies and arguments they employ. This article analyzes the dynamics of SSTANs through the case of an environmental campaign against Brazilian hydropower projects proposed in the Peruvian Amazon. It demonstrates how Southern actors are mobilizing against new and emerging patterns of South–South cooperation, which, despite occurring on unfamiliar institutional terrain, reproduces familiar asymmetrical power relations and socioenvironmental burdens.

In January 2010, Ruth Buendía Mestoquiari, director of the Asháninka Organization of the Ene River (CARE) from the Peruvian Amazon, visited Washington, DC, to present a report to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights regarding the socioenvironmental impacts of hydroelectric dams on indigenous communities in the Amazon basin. Summarizing her people’s position, she stated, “For us the river does not generate money, the river gives us food, [it] gives us life. The dam builders and oil, mining, and lumber companies want our resources, but we want development in concert with our culture. Dams are not a part of our development” (International Rivers Network 2011, 3). Buendía delivered her speech at a time when Peru’s Amazonian communities were increasingly facing encroachments by extractive projects, which were being granted concession rights on traditional territories by the Peruvian state without prior consultation.

Earlier that year, the Brazilian and Peruvian governments had signed a treaty authorizing the construction of a dam network stretching from the foothills of the Peruvian Andes to the Amazon basin. This complex would consist of five projects—the Inambari, Pakitzapango, Tambo 40, Tambo 60, and Mainique dams—and produce upwards of 6,500 megawatts of electricity, most of which would be exported to Brazil via the Madre de Dios–Acre border. However, several Asháninka communities who lived within the Pakitzapango and Tambo 40 concession areas would be displaced from their lands to construct the dams, while those downstream feared their livelihoods would be impacted by the projects.1 In response, Buendía mobilized community members, feeding into a larger transnational campaign opposed to Brazilian hydroelectric development in Peru. Reacting to the campaign’s pressure, Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mines (MINEM) canceled the Pakitzapango concession in December 2010. The following year, the main shareholder in Tambo 40, Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, withdrew before construction could commence. And on May 23, 2014, the Foreign Relations Committee of Peru’s Congress struck down a draft resolution required to pass the bilateral energy treaty into law, imperiling the three remaining projects. For her efforts, Buendía received the International Goldman Environmental Prize.2

While the blunt end of this socioenvironmental campaign transpired in Peru, this is nevertheless a case of a South–South transnational advocacy network (SSTAN): the Amazonian Hydroelectric Collective (CAH). It demonstrates the agency of historically marginalized communities in transnational environmental governance, who are mobilizing against the backdrop of growing global demand for raw commodities and renewable energy and within a geopolitical milieu in which emerging economies are rewriting the territorial and environmental politics of the Amazon. We analyze the structure and strategies of this SSTAN, whose anti-dam campaign targeted two resource-dependent states, transnational enterprises, and a national development bank.

By proceeding inductively, we aim to supplement existing frameworks and add more precision to encompass new cases of transnational environmental advocacy in the global South considering the rise of the BRICS. In recent decades, these economies have intensified their investment activities abroad, particularly in the primary sectors of their Southern neighbors. But this is creating new challenges for socioenvironmental campaigns, as the BRICS circumvent multilateral institutions and organizations by utilizing their own national development banks and private enterprises to finance and construct controversial megaprojects. These agents of South–South development cannot easily be leveraged by international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), multilateral organizations, or developed country governments. Still, this has not prevented some campaigns from pushing against strategic national interests, as transnational environmental advocacy adapts to the accompanying opportunity structures.

Accordingly, we argue CAH’s anti-Brazilian hydroelectric campaign in Peru can provide fruitful insights into the ways environmental advocacy in the South is responding to the rising influence of the BRICS. While this campaign was aided by some favorable exogenous factors, the network was instrumental in pressuring targets transnationally and “from below” to abandon projects on Peruvian territory. Rather than strategizing around a boomerang pattern, CAH hedged its bets by executing a triple-target strategy, simultaneously pointing its sights at the Peruvian and Brazilian governments, Brazilian transnational enterprises, and Brazil’s national development bank.


However, many geopolitical and technological changes have occurred since the seminal TAN conceptual framework was developed, requiring nuanced supplementation when applying it to contemporary cases. For one, cross-border investment flows in the primary sectors are no longer predominantly North–South, nor do they occur within the environmental controls of multilateral institutions and organizations. Since the mid-2000s, these flows have become increasingly South–South and structured around the institutional infrastructure and agents of the BRICS. At the same time, many civil society actors in the global South no longer confront the same dearth of material resources that once compelled them to enlist Northern intermediaries. For instance, communications technologies (e.g., internet, cell phones, social media) have become more accessible to even some of the most remote and marginalized of communities, alleviating some of the historical dependencies on international NGOs for information exchange and exposure. Combined, these developments suggest that advocacy campaigns triggered by South–South development initiatives are likely to confront novel opportunity structures compared to seminal North–South cases (Keck and Sikkink 1998).

Importantly, contemporary case instances also entail apt conditions for analyzing Southern agency within the transnational advocacy space—a subject that has not been especially visible within the study of global environmental politics.6 Accordingly, we describe the South–South transnational advocacy network (SSTAN). SSTANs are subcategories of TANs whose information, symbolic, leverage, and accountability politics derive primarily from the cross-border activities and interactions of Southern actors, including grassroots social movements, research and advocacy organizations, and local and national NGOs. Our focus on Southern actors is not to suggest that international NGOs do not operate within advocacy campaigns responding to South–South investment flows and development initiatives. Northern allies are indeed likely to remain present, providing some finance to support day-to-day activities, and to help facilitate international media exposure. But they do not lead or act as the drivers or gatekeepers of campaigns – doing so can be incredibly risky for local activists as states hosting extractive investments have increasingly accused them of operating as “agents of foreign influence” to delegitimize their grievances, and to justify harsh repression and the severing of funding ties (Matejova et al. 2018). Rather, the locus of agency in areas such as strategy selection, information exchange, and day-to-day campaigning revolves around these networks’ Southern nodes, with mobilizations from “below” providing the crux of campaign pressure.

SSTANs emerge from the opportunity structures encircling exclusively South–South modes of market and/or state-based interactions, which do not easily facilitate boomerang patterns of advocacy. Such patterns critically depend upon international NGOs and/or developed country governments to plead on behalf of aggrieved groups from outside and above. However, the bilateral character of regional South–South infrastructure projects precludes networks from activating traditional global institutions and organizations to bring pressure to bear on their targets. Importantly, the BRICS’ use of national financial institutions and corporations domiciled within these states has prohibited activists from leveraging global socioenvironmental standards against the agents of South–South development projects. For instance, multilateral development banks (e.g., World Bank) can act as crucial levers for socioenvironmental campaigners in the South (Keck and Sikkink 1998; Park 2005), as their internal organizational structure enables activists to influence their lending mandates (Sierra and Hochstetler 2017), which can be used to ensure that actors adhere to dominant global standards, such as prior consultation. This capacity to leverage targets indirectly from outside and above rests fundamentally on the structural power multilateral lenders exert over the recipients of development finance. Moreover, as visible international fora ostensibly committed to sustainable development, these banks can more easily be “named and shamed” if the projects they finance violate global standards.

However, a notable feature of South–South development cooperation involving the BRICS has been their use of “globalized” national development banks to supply finance for megaprojects abroad. These banks uphold markedly lower socioenvironmental standards than their multilateral counterparts (Sierra and Hochstetler 2017). Their primary loan conditionality is that recipients source the goods and services for proposed projects from lending country operators. Unlike multilateral lenders, socioenvironmental safeguards are not a key component of the loans. Instead, projects financed by these banks are governed by the social and environmental regulations of host countries, which may vary in their robustness and degree of enforcement.

In sum, the institutional and organizational physiology of exclusively South–South modes of development suggests a short-circuiting of the boomerang pattern of transnational advocacy. One implication of this is a reduction in the centrality of international NGOs to those campaigns targeting the BRICS. Thus the conceptual distinction between TAN and SSTAN is a relevant one to make when analyzing instances of environmental advocacy triggered by South–South development initiatives. Contextualized case study analysis can help uncover the conditions under which they are likely to succeed.

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