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Providing technical support to communities affected by projects seeking to extract the natural resources embedded in their territories; and developing policy advice grounded in community perspectives. 

In Colombia

For over ten years, I have been providing technical support to an innovative inter-ethnic alliance between the Embera Chamí People of the Resguardo Indígena de Origen Colonial Cañamomo Lomaprieta, one of the oldest Indigenous Reserves established in colonial times; and the Black Communities of the Palenke Alto Cauca, a regional decision-making body that is part of the national organization, Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN).


These Peoples joined forces in 2009 to defend their gold-rich territories from companies (many of them Canadian) interested in extracting their gold and harnessing their rivers; to fend off the invasion of criminal armed actors wanting to conduct medium-scale gold mining; and to work towards state recognition of their own ‘ancestral mining’, as they call the mining they have undertaken since well before the formation of the Colombian state.


Together, we have carried out a range of activities and strategies at the local, national and international levels, including:

  • community-based research on the impacts of mining;

  • development of autonomous Free Prior and Informed Consent laws;

  • inter-ethnic dialogues on the nature of ancestral mining and strategies towards territorial defence;

  • legal actions that led to two precedent-setting Constitutional Court wins (T-1045a in 2010; and T-530 in 2016);

  • multi-partite workshops with government and mining companies on environmental, social and human rights impact assessment of mining and rights to free, prior and informed consent;

  • site visits by ambassadors and international dignitaries; and

  • participation in international fora such as those organized by the United Nation's Business and Human Rights Working Group.


Today, we are focused on strengthening the Guardia Indígena and the Guardia Cimarrona, the unarmed autonomous custodians protecting the Palenke and Resguardo territories; undertaking community mapping in the Resguardo towards the implementation of the Constitutional Court's Decision T-530/16 and delimitation of the territory; and developing political and legal strategies towards territorial defence tailored to the current political context.

Conducted with The North-South Institute, Forest Peoples Programme, CIESAS/University of Life Sciences of Norway, and the Centre for Indigenous Conservation and Development Alternatives (McGill University).

Funded by the Ford Foundation (Chile and Bogotá), International Development Research Centre, Rights & Democracy, Fonds de recherche du Québec, Canada's Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Noragric, CONAcYT, Sall Foundation.

In Suriname

Together with the Lokono Peoples in West Suriname and the Association of Indigenous Village Leaders in Suriname (VIDS), I coordinated a series of research projects around a proposed large-scale integrated hydroelectric and bauxite mining project. This led to community-led research on the potential impacts of the proposed project, the development of a community protocol on free, prior and informed consent, and the establishment of an independent panel of experts to provide technical advice to the affected communities and VIDS. It also led to learning first-hand from the experience of Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation in Canada who had negotiated with BHP Billiton (see below), one of the proponents for the integrated project affecting the Lokono. The outcomes of this research were presented by the VIDS and Lokono People at high-level meetings with the Government of Suriname and the Proponents. Today, I continue to provide support to VIDS as they address proposed programmes for climate change mitigation. 

Conducted with The North-South Institute, and Collective Matters.

Funded by the International Development Research Centre of Canada and the Inter-American Development Bank.

In Canada

In collaboration with Lustel K’e Dene First Nation, I gathered community perspectives of the impacts of Canada’s first diamond mine, Ekati, and Lutsel K’e’s experience negotiating with mining companies. The resulting analytical report entitled Dealing Full Force: Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation's experience negotiating with mining companies" and accompanying video was intended to complement the direct sharing of experiences between members of Lustel K’e Dene First Nation and the Lokono Peoples of West Suriname, both of whom were affected by the Australian company, BHP Billiton.

I also examined the role of multi-partite dialogue in Canada's mining sector to understand what lessons could be shared with Indigenous partners considering leading such processes. This led to the publication of a journal article entitled Indigenous Participation in Multipartite Dialogues on Extractives: What Lessons Can Canada and Others Share? 

Conducted with The North-South Institute.

Funded by the International Development Research Centre of Canada.

In Guyana

Together with the Amerindian Peoples Association and the Forest Peoples Programme, we documented and assessed alternative livelihoods to the types of small- and medium-scale mining undertaken by Indigenous communities and others in Guyana’s interior. We also supported communities affected by mining and climate change mitigation schemes, with capacity strengthening workshops and the development of a series of practical guides on Indigenous rights and FPIC, participation in environmental and social impact assessments and negotiating benefits. 

Conducted with The North-South Institute.

Funded by the International Development Research Centre of Canada.

In Peru

I coordinated research led by Peruvian organization CooperAcción, analyzing the conflicts and negotiations around the Tintaya Mine; the processes that Talisman Energy, a Canadian oil and gas company, had used to claim that it had obtained free, prior and informed consent from affected communities; as well as Canada’s role in Peru’s extractive sector. See Guests at the Big Table? Growth of the Extractive Sector, Indigenous/Peasant Participation in Multi-Partite Processes, and the Canadian Presence in Peru.

Conducted with The North-South Institute.

Funded by the International Development Research Centre of Canada.

Multi-Country Programme - Americas

As Senior Researcher, Governance and Natural Resources at The North-South Institute (Ottawa), I developed and led an innovative, multi-country research programme entitled “Indigenous Perspectives to Consultation and Decision-Making with Regards to Mining and other Projects Affecting Ancestral Lands in Latin America, the Caribbean and Canada.” This 10-year participatory action research programme (2001-12) examined Indigenous and Afro-Descendant perspectives to decision-making as a critical first step in opening dialogue with other sectors and integrating community concerns and rights into more appropriate corporate and government policy and practice.


Research took place in Suriname (led by the Association of Indigenous Village Leaders in Suriname), Guyana (led by the Amerindian Peoples Organization, technical support from Forest Peoples Programme), Colombia (led by Proceso de Comunidades Negras and Resguardo Indígena Cañamomo Lomaprieta), Canada (with Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation of the Northwest Territories) and Peru (led by CooperAcción). It led to a variety of diverse practical guidance documents and videos, analytical reports and policy briefs targeted to Indigenous Peoples, national governments, companies, investors and company 'home country' governments among other actors. Aspects of the programme are described in more detail in the country components outlined above, acknowledging that some of these have continued to grow beyond the initial programme.


I authored the final analytical report synthesizing the 10-year programme results and recommendations entitled Tipping the Power Balance: Making Free, Prior and Informed Consent Work; and the final policy brief, A House Undermined: Transforming relations between mining companies and Indigenous Peoples in the Americas

Conducted with The North-South Institute.

Funded by the International Development Research Centre of Canada, the Ford Foundation (Chile), USAID, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Rights & Democracy. 

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