On November 16, 2017, the NGO Alliance for Solidarity (AxS) filed a complaint with the Spanish National Contact Point alleging that a hydroelectric project called RENACE in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, led by the Spanish company Grupo Cobra (ACS), had caused negative environmental and human rights impacts affecting the Q’eqchi indigenous people.
The RENACE hydroelectric project consists of five subprojects that have been built on the Cahabón river in the municipality of San Pedro Carchá, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. The Guatemalan company Corporación Multi-Inversiones (CMI) subcontracted the Spanish company Grupo Cobra (ACS) for the construction of the second, third, and fourth phases of the RENACE project. The project is expected to produce 306 mega watts of power and contribute approximately 15% of the energy consumed in Guatemala, making it the largest hydroelectric complex in Central America.
According to Alianza por la Solidaridad, the hydroelectric project has negatively impacted the surrounding environment and way of life of the Q’eqchi indigenous people. First, AxS argues that although an environmental impact study was carried out in each phase of the project, a comprehensive study has not been carried out. Asihe project consists of a series of connected subprojects, AxS believes that the cumulative impact of the hydroelectric complex must be considered. Second, AxS alleges the company did not consult the local community during the implementation of the project, violating their right to free, prior, and informed consent under International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples. AxS asserts that the company has a responsibility to mitigate the negative impacts of the project and promote positive impacts for the local community.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
After holding meetings with the parties, the NCP concluded the case and issued a final statement noting that ACS, in its role of contractor, was not exempted from carrying out the OECD Guidelines requirements, and that it had responsibility require its local partner to also comply with them.
The NCP also recommends that ACS redress any damage that its failure to conduct adequate due diligence may have caused to the communities and that ACS collaborate with the Guatemalan judicial authorities for mitigation and remediation of those damages.