Consultation and public participation in environmental licensing of development projects in Brazil
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Recently, the Inter American Commission of Human Rights of the Organization of American States granted Precautionary Measures on behalf of affected indigenous groups against Belo Monte, the world's third largest hydropower plant under construction in the Brazilian Amazon, due to lack of effective participation. Likewise, there are many examples of infrastructure projects being implemented in Brazil without effective mechanisms of consultation and public participation capable of ensuring the rights of local communities. In Brazil, environmental licensing covers a range of tools that seeks to prevent, mitigate and compensate the impacts caused by development projects. The guarantee of transparency and participation, including the obligation of public hearings with local communities, is required to ensure the legitimacy of the process. Based on interviews with stakeholders, the present study points out the perception that public hearings have not been an efficient instrument for the purposes granted by law, due to its delayed performance and its inability to incorporate social demands. In relation to indigenous peoples, the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples reinforces the relevance of prior consultation with indigenous populations, especially regarding large-scale projects and obligates States to obtain their free and informed consent. The ILO Convention 169 extends this obligation to traditional populations. Although the Convention 169 has been ratified by Brazil and internalized by domestic law, its regulation is still being outlined. In conclusion, efficient consultation and public participation during the licensing process must be extended to impacted local communities as a whole, as well as redesigned to provide effective answers to the demands and expectations that emerge in these contexts.