In July 2019, PBI accompanied the seventh revision of the Contingency Plan’s working tables, which is a preventive strategy. The report “Turning the Tide on Impunity”, published by WOLA and PBI, values this public policy as an advance of the Federal Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists. Representatives from the embassies of Switzerland, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom were observers at these tables.

Previous to their visit, there was an event organized in Mexico City. EDUCA (Oaxaca) and Alianza Sierra Madre A.C. -ASMAC (Chihuahua) had an exchange with these embassies as well as with the representatives of Spain and Sweden. Both organizations work with local communities in the defense of land and territory and are accompanied by PBI. The organizations expressed their concerns about the risks of their work as human rights defenders and invited the delegations to the Contingency Plan’s working table to be held in Chihuahua.

PBI interviewed Isela González, director of Alianza Sierra Madre (ASMAC). She shared with us both the issues presented to the embassies in Mexico City and her assessment of the diplomatic presence at the working tables in Northern Mexico.

Which were the concerns and petitions presented by the organization at the meeting in Mexico City?

We wanted to talk to them about structural causes of the violence towards human rights defenders that the government neglects. Such structural causes are linked with the organized crime, gangs of armed groups in the Sierra communities and the suffering, especially of women and children. We talked about our concerns regarding the extractive development model in Mexico, which does not seem to change. We highlighted that extractive projects impact indigenous territories to the detriment of the environment. Additionally, extractive companies infringe international recommendations in business and human rights. We also pointed to the extreme violation of indigenous peoples’ rights, especially their right to self-determination in their territories. Extractive projects were promoted without previous, free and formal consultations. Our concerns were mainly about these points.

What do you think the diplomatic service can do in their home countries?

Diplomatic bodies can account of and supervise their companies investing in our countries and so they respect the business and human rights standards. For instance, Canadian representatives informed us their government can respond to an allegation of human rights’ violations committed by a Canadian company as long as the proves are law-based. The companies that invest in our country are welcomed if they meet international standards for business and human rights as well as local and international legislation on indigenous peoples’ human rights. They have the obligation to consult and to inform.

What is your assessment of the embassies’ role as observers at the Contingency Plan?

I think it is positive to count with the embassies’ presence and with international observance, like PBI, at the Contingency Plan’s working tables. Such presence accounts for both neglected issues and the level of authorities who participate. On the other hand, the embassies’ presence at the revision prior to the actual working table does not seem to have a high impact. Nevertheless, their advocacy work with the state’s government during their visit, and before the meetings is highly positive and helpful. They are listened to by the highest authorities.

We also value the advocacy work they do afterwards in Mexico City. For instance, Alejandro Encinas (Deputy Secretary for human rights) participated in the meetings organized by the embassies. Above all, we value the encounters they had with Civil Society since we could pass them a clear message. Definitely, it’s helpful. It’s very appropriate. Advocacy within their diplomatic mandate can reach the Foreign Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the Protection Mechanism at the Federal level. Concerning the state’s level, I think during this visit they met with the Attorney General, the Governor and the Head of the Interior Ministry.

What did the embassies committed to during the Contingency Plan’s working tables?

In Mexico City, the embassies from the European Union hold meetings on a regular basis. Their commitment is to invite Civil Society Organizations to present their concerns about the Contingency Plan. Embassies also committed to do a very clear advocacy work: It is not within their mandate to remind the government the failures of the Contingency Plan. However, they can support us in a very subtle way. For instance, financing training so the Mexican government counts with more tools to accomplish the Contingency Plan and guarantee the defenders human rights. The Civil Society Organizations also mentioned the Attorney’s office for human rights, which was recently created to attend serious human rights violations. We highlighted the fact that the office is taking shape and needs resources as well as training so it can function the way it is meant to.