Rule of Law

Local group nurtures indigenous voices in development of China’s West

Lila Buckley
China Watch
May 22, 2001

Nestled in a small building complex in the heart of Kunming in southwestern China, the Center for Biodiversity and Indigenous Knowledge (CBIK) is easily overlooked. But behind its modest headquarters, this 100-member strong organization is changing the face of development in China’s remote western provinces. By providing channels for ethnic minorities to voice their concerns, the group hopes to foster greater understanding of indigenous issues in development both locally and in the nation as a whole. “Unless local people have a way to speak out about the unintended consequences of resource exploitation projects, there is no way the general society can find out what is really going on,” explains Li Bo, head of the Zhongdian Field Base of CBIK’s Community Livelihood Project. … The recent flurry of policies is evidence that the government wants to “listen and respond to the needs of civil society,” says Li. For example, the State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) not only enforces an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) law to “promote and standardize public participation” in the EIA process, but it has called for public feedback on the law itself. In 2005, a regulation was issued calling for “fast, professional dealing” with citizen complaints in all government bureaus. And a new “Four Rights Policy” guarantees rural citizens in particular “access to information, access to participation, access to decision-making, and rights to monitor projects that concern their livelihood.” In practice, however, development projects and private investors largely ignore these laws, and local government leaders often choose short-term economic gain over long-term sustainable development. … Read the full story.

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Categories: Rule of Law

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