Civil society space in renewable energy projects: A case study of the Unión Hidalgo community in Mexico

European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights|Cannelle Lavite and Claudia Müller-Hoff|December 19, 2019
MexicoImpact on LandscapeImpact on PeopleAgriculture

This important policy paper examines how foreign energy companies trying to build large-scale renewable energy facilities in Mexico are doing so without regard for indigenous people to exercise their right to free, prior and informed consent. The paper considers the case of the Zapotec community of Unión Hidalgo, an indigenous community in Oaxaca, facing the 300 MW Gunaa Sicarú wind energy project proposed by France-based EDF Renewables. After a five year legal battle, the community prevailed and the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) canceled contracts that would have allowed the project to proceed. The contracts permitted the electricity generated at the Gunaa Sicarú wind site to be sold to the municipality of Unión Hidalgo. The summary of the paper is provided below. The full paper can be accessed at the document links on this page.


This policy paper examines the case of the Gunaa Sicarú wind park project of the French corporate group Électricité de France (EDF) in the territories of the indigenous Zapotec community of Unión Hidalgo in Oaxaca, Mexico.

As a result of the Mexican state’s failure to implement and enforce the community’s right to free, prior and informed consent, and the company’s failure to fulfil its obligation to respect this right, the community has suffered internal divisions and escalating, even violent, conflict. Accordingly, this paper analyzes the community’ strategies to enforce their right to free, prior and informed consent through legal and semi-legal means directed at the state and company. 

It concludes that reliance on non-binding standards is insufficient to enforce corporate respect for human rights. It also develops specific guidance on how corporate responsibilities in relation to the right to free, prior and informed consent exist independent of and distinct from state obligations to protect and guarantee this right. In relation to the state, it concludes that as long as the state fails to fully comply with its obligation to implement and enforce the right to free, prior and informed consent, civil society action at the national and international levels is needed to accomplish such enforcement. Both states and corporations bear key responsibility to promote and protect space for civil society to undertake the peaceful, legal and political action needed to enforce basic human rights. The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), through expertise and consultation, supports the Unión Hidalgo community and the Mexican organization ProDESC in their efforts to enforce indigenous rights and defend civil society spaces.


Ecchr Pp Windpark

June 14, 2022


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