South America: Home | Environment

Media's Role in Environmental Conflicts

Latin America | Natural Environment
By Rolando Perez,TMP Guest Contributor

A recent report by the "BBC World" states that one third of all hectares that governments of Latin America, Africa and Asia grant to agro-industrial business, mining or forest exploitation overlaps with lands of indigenous communities.

Other studies reveal that Latin America is a continent rich in natural resources but at the same time reveals deep inequalities in the distribution of that wealth.

Therefore the dispute over the access, use and conservation of natural resources is often one of the most important causes of this type of conflict, which is also accompanied by contexts of high instability and social and political turbulence, showing in most cases low indices of sustainable human development.

Trends of conflicts in Latin America

A study conducted by the Bolivian Foundation UNIR, shows that, in quantitative terms, Latin America is confirmed as a region with intense conflict. Between October 2009 and September 2010, the conflictogram of UNDP detected 2.318 conflicts, with an average of 193 per month, and 4.724 conflict episodes.

This same study reported that Latin American States manage an average of 11 new conflicts per month, in general terms. Data shows that Latin America is a society with a significant capacity for social action, but also with important asymmetries in mobilization capabilities.

In the same way, the reports of the defenders of indigenous rights shows that a significant percentage of the mining concessions have been granted in indigenous territories. The forests of Panama, for example, are disappearing quickly, to an estimated 75,000 hectares per year. According to the "World Rainforest" movement, mining managed improperly without considering the social and environmental rights is one of the greatest threats of deforestation.


The contemporary characteristics of socio-environmental conflicts in our region reveal not only economic and social precariousness of the communities that live in conflict places, but also high levels of corruption in all sectors - especially at the level of the State - which reveals the enormous resistance to build a society in which there is respect for the law,  accountability for public goods and where natural resources are administered in such a way that they contribute to the sustainable development.

The recent incidents related to the social conflicts, as a consequence of the struggle for the appropriation and the defense of the land and natural resources, are a timely breeding ground for social and political sectors to use these events to attend other political interests that are beyond or above the real demands and the just rights of the affected communities.

A much more disturbing trait is the lack of responsible management - beyond the attention to short-term incidents – of the claims and protest of sectors whose rights are constantly abused and which require spaces for dialogue and discussion. Socio-environmental conflicts arouse historical aspirations because the culture of discrimination and impunity is still rooted in our culture and political system.

Customize This