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No-go decision in La Guajira

No-go decision after performing a human rights impact assessment in La Guajira

Map showing the location of La Guajira Project

The project explained below shows Repsol's commitment to respect human rights, in particular to the due diligence process according to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. 

Before initiating an exploratory project in Colombian territorial waters in the Caribbean Sea, in the region of La Guajira, Repsol carried out a human rights impact assessment that concluded with the Company's decision to not go through with the exploratory project

The main outcome of this assessment revealed that the development project would impact the sacred areas of the Wayuu ethnic group without possible mitigation measures.

The exploratory project was a seismic offshore activity in Block RC 12 Occidental, in the region of La Guajira in northern Colombia.

What is a Human Rights impact assessment?

This is a key element of the due diligence process that companies must comply with according to the “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights” approved in 2011 by the United Nations. 

Repsol's Human Rights and Community Relations Policy is aligned with these principles, and consequently generates the following requirements for our Company:

  • Identify and evaluate the potential human rights impacts of our activities before embarking on a new activity.
  • Integrate the conclusions of impact assessments into Repsol's internal processes.
  • Take the appropriate measures to prevent and mitigate potential impacts.
  • Monitor the effectiveness of the measures taken.
  • Communicate these measures externally.
The human rights impact assessment carried out prior to the seismic activity was performed in accordance with Repsol's Guidancee to Human Rights Impact Assessment and the United Nations’ guidelines. The following graphic explains this process:
Phases of impact management methodology chart

Activities carried out

In the preliminary analysis and the definition of the study’s scope, several actions are carried out:

  • Identification of the indigenous communities that could be impacted by the project. According to the government of Colombia, 30 communities have been identified that could be impacted, in this case, indigenous communities of the Wayuu ethnic group. In accordance with Repsol's Policy, the unique nature of these indigenous peoples is recognized and respected, as well as their rights according to the country's legislation and Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
  • Baseline study. The objective is to find out to what extent these communities enjoy human rights before executing any kind of project. This study makes it possible to set the starting point and identify potential impacts once the project is underway.
  • Definition of human rights to be assessed, including those set out in the International Bill of Human Rights and the principles relating to the rights set out in in the International Labour Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, as well as the eight fundamental covenants which expound upon them. Additionally, in this case, the rights of indigenous peoples, women, national, ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities, children, disabled people, and migrant workers and their families are taken into account; and in situations of armed conflict, international humanitarian law is also be taken into account.

The identification and assessment of impacts was carried out with a special focus on collaboration and respect for indigenous peoples and their cultures with the participation of a multidisciplinary team of internal experts and local and international consultants in human rights. Repsol’s methodology was previously presented to the traditional authorities of the Wayuu ethnic group. The interviews were carried out between March–April 2018 in Alta Guajira, by a team with expert knowledge of the area and their customs. The interviews were carried out with a diverse group of participants, with the objective of guaranteeing the active and meaningful participation of the communities.

Results of the study

The conclusions of the study were shared with indigenous communities at widely attended meetings held in the local language (Wayunikki), where aspects related to territoriality and a loss of identity among the young people were discussed, as well as labor, economic, environmental, and women's rights.

However, the most relevant impact identified was the protection of sacred areas. If the project were developed, it would involve an intervention in an area that the Wayuu identify as Jepira, which includes mythical and sacred areas for this ethnic group. Therefore, the culture and the very existence of the Wayuu people could be put at risk.

After assessing the cultural impact and concluding that there were no possible mitigation measures, the Company decided to abandon any kind of operations in this Block, being consistent with our policy of recognizing and respecting the cultural diversity of indigenous communities.

This case was presented in 2019 at the private event “Companies and Due Diligence in Latin America,” held at the European Parliament in Brussels.

Jepira, a sacres place for the Wayuu people

What Jepira means to the Wayuu

Jepira represents where the spirits of the Wayuu's dead go to begin their journey into the unknown. 

In Wayuu mythology, Jepira is an island that is located in the sea, and it's where the soul of a dead Wayuu person meets their ancestors and animals, the livestock they owned during their lifetime. 

The Wayuu locate Jepira in the sea to the north of the Media Luna and Cabo de la Vela areas in Alta Guajira, which overlaps with the Direct Influence Area of the RC 12 Occidental Project.

  • With this project, we positively contribute to the United Nations' 2030 Agenda through the following SDGs:

    SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities