The Legality of the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Construction From The Perspective of Indigenous Land Rights


  • Sayuri Fujishima University of Minho


The paper focuses on a recent case considered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which relates to the legality of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam from the perspective of indigenous rights to land. The proposed project is to be carried out in the Xingu valley, a region in the Amazon that is well-known for its natural resources and the presence of several indigenous communities, which the Brazilian government intends to remove from the area, despite their land rights which are legally established and consolidated by the UN Declaration and the national Constitution. We are faced with a clear conflict between a minority’s right to land and a majority that seeks national economic development. Thus, how can we achieve respect for indigenous rights when these rights represent an “obstacle” for economic success? Is the UN Declaration being taken into consideration by the government? I will argue that indigenous land rights cannot be seen as a hindrance to national development, but rather as the confirmation of a democratic multicultural State. In order for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People to be respected and enforced – together with the indigenous rights it aims to protect - we need to change the views on minority rights as a whole, and indigenous rights specifically.


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