Mariel A. Støen and Cecilie Hirsch: Environmental Impact Assessments, local power and self-determination: The case of mining and hydropower development in Guatemala
In The Extractive Industries and Society
Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIAs) are instruments required to facilitate large development projects. In this article, we take a closer look at how such processes unfold in the case of hydropower and mining investments in Guatemala. Our findings suggest that here, with ESIAs, the responsibility of engaging with affected communities and citizens is left to the private sector, often with poor public follow-up. This has resulted in companies manipulating processes and strategic engagements with communities and local people to advance corporate interests. We discuss ESIAs as both technical devices as used by the corporate sector, and as possible spaces for public participation. Furthermore, we explore how communities can influence ESIAs for mining and hydroelectric projects in Guatemala, and examine the power relations that determine who are excluded and included in the process. Finally, we analyze how affected communities in Guatemala use ESIAs as means to subvert the order that has been imposed on them.