Mariel Aguilar-Støen & Cecilie Hirsch: Bottom-up responses to environmental and social impact assessments: A case study from Guatemala

Published in Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 2017.


In this article we take a closer look at resistance to the practice of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in mining and energy projects in Guatemala. Collectivities resisting mining and hydropower projects in Guatemala are increasingly using the evaluations of EIAs conducted by international independent professionals. Reaching out to international experts is facilitated by local communities' engagements in transnational networks bringing together activists, NGOs, scientists, journalists and others. We argue that resistance movements resort to international professionals to challenge the limits imposed on them by the national legislation and institutional arrangements as well as by the way in which EIAs are performed in the country. Further, the engagements in networks that facilitate access to knowledge contribute to strengthen the legitimacy of communities' claims. Challenges to and complaints about EIAs are ways in which affected communities try to reclaim their right to participate in decision-making related to their local environment and the development of their communities. Both complaints about EIAs and the use of transnational networks to attain better participation in decision making processes at local levels, illustrated in this study for Guatemala, are common responses to the advancement of extractive industries and hydropower development across Latin America. The widespread of initiatives to challenge EIAs involving international experts in the region show that EIAs have become a sort of a transnational battleground.


Mining; Hydropower; Socio-environmental conflicts; Political ecology; Participation

Published Jan. 9, 2017 9:24 AM - Last modified May 27, 2020 8:21 PM