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Wind farm in Mexico: French energy firm EDF disregards indigenous rights

BHRRC Renewable Energy & Human Rights Benchmark Briefing

"CASE REPORT - Wind farm in Mexico: French energy firm EDF disregards indigenous rights"

Since 2015, Electricité de France (EDF), the biggest transnational French energy company and one of the leading producers of electricity worldwide, seeks to build the Gunaa Sicarú wind park on the land of the indigenous Zapotec community Unión Hidalgo through its local Mexican subsidiaries. But until now, the indigenous community was not effectively consulted about this project –what constitutes a violation of their rights.

Consequently, representatives of Unión Hidalgo, the Mexican human rights organization ProDESC and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights filed a civil lawsuit under the French loi de vigilance in October 2020. The aim: to demand the prevention of further violations of the community’s fundamental rights to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) as well as of the serious risks for their physical integrity in relation to EDF’s wind park project.

Under French law as well as according to international standards by the UN and the OECD, companies have an obligation to respect human rights in their global operations and along the supply chain. This also includes human rights violations through subcontractors or suppliers. However, in the case of the Gunaa Sicarú wind park, EDF failed to properly investigate the possible human rights risks of its operations and did not implement measures to protect the rights of the indigenous people...Therefore, EDF should take its responsibilities for the violations of these rights, according to the French due diligence lawfrom 2017....

In 2015, Eólica de Oaxaca, the Mexican subsidiary of EDF, started negotiations on a wind park project with selected individuals of the Unión Hidalgo community, including so-called “landholders committees,”which do not represent the entire community. Moreover, despite the fact that according to Mexican law, Unión Hidalgo’s land is communal and all decisions on land should betaken by the community assemblies, usufruct contracts have been concluded by EDF’s project operator with individuals declaring themselves “landholders.”...As a result of Mexico’s failure to implement and enforce the community’s right to free, prior and informed consent and the company’s failure to fulfil its duty of vigilance obligation to prevent violations of this right, the community has suffered internal division, escalating into violent conflict...In Mexico, the actions of EDF’s subsidiaries interfered with a meaningful free, prior and informed consultation...have severely impeded the realization of this right, and generated the escalation of violence in the community.

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