Human rights tradeoffs in times of economic growth
HUMAN RIGHTS TRADE-OFFS IN TIMES OF ECONOMIC GROWTH The Long-Term Capability Impacts of Extractive-Led Development ARELI VALENCIA
Latin American Political Econom
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Human Rights TradeOffs in Times of Economic Growth The Long-Term Capability Impacts of Extractive-Led Development
Areli Valencia Human Rights Research and Education Centre (HRREC) University of Ottawa
Latin American Political Economy ISBN 978-1-137-48867-1 ISBN 978-1-137-48868-8 DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-48868-8
To Marcel, For the time I took from you to finish this book. Never become indifferent to the injustices of this world. To the children of La Oroya, With the hope you will be able to build a different history for yourselves.
In August 2015, smelter workers and their supporters heaped tires, rocks, and tree trunks onto a key highway in the Peruvian Andes, holding up traffic for miles. The protest, at times violent, was sparked by the efforts of creditors to auction off a bankrupt smelter operation located in the nearby city of La Oroya. The smelter in La Oroya is notorious around the globe for the extraordinary levels of pollution it has caused, with severe impacts on soil, water, and air quality in the surrounding area and on the health of residents. Frighteningly high levels of heavy metal in the blood of children are a particular concern. Most would agree that this by itself is an understandable reason to blockade traffic. The workers, however, were protesting against the Peruvian government’s imposition of environmental requirements on the operation of the smelter. The workers blamed the strictness of the regulatory standards for the failure of the auction to attract new investors. They feared that their livelihoods would vanish as a result of the impending liquidation. How can we understand these “voices from below”? Their demands, if met, would in the long run have disastrous impacts on their own health and that of their families. The soil and rivers of the area, already contaminated with heavy metals, would become further poisoned and unusable. High levels of particulate matter would render the air dangerous to breathe. The contradiction implicit in the story of the protest can be formulated as one between jobs and wellbeing, economic development and environmental sustainability, or the human rights to work and to health. From whatever angle, it appears intractable and deeply entrenched. The fact that the voices of the protestors are both clear and forceful prevents any vii
easy dismissal of their demands as simply the result of obfuscation “from above” by greedy corporations and corrupt governments. By using the situation in La Oroya as her central example, Areli Valencia sets out to help us unravel the contradictory elements in controversies that too often follow upon the promises of a “good life” offered by the actors—both public and private—who seek to develop our resources. I have no doubt that we have all, in our own corners of the world, encountered the conundrums on which Valencia focuses. The Central Andean region of Peru seems far away from the west coast of Canada where I write this Preface. Yet it is easy to find echoes of the story of La Oroya’s struggle in the debates I read in local media about the construction of pipelines and tanker terminals to move crude oil from Alberta to the coast for export abroad, about the contamination of waterways in northern British Columbia by collapsed tailings ponds associated with copper and gold mining ventures, or about the grant of permits for logging on lands on which indigenous communities have traditionally sustained themselves by hunting and fishing, and which have cultural as well as economic significance to them. In all of these stories, the tension between promised and much-needed employment and impacts on the health of ecosystems and their inhabitants seems, inevitably, to require a trade-off. Valencia views such trade-offs as politically and ethically unacceptable. Her aspirations are both practical and theoretically ambitious. She aims to provide an analytical approach that will allow policy makers and regulators to formulate a way forward that is grounded in the voices and values of communities and their members, and that achieves justice for them. This is a tall order, especially as the communities with which Valencia is most concerned are often in desperate economic straits and are deeply divided along a number of social dimensions. To achieve her objective, Valencia draws on a range of literatures and disciplines to craft her Human Rights Systemic Analytical Model (HRSAM). As a Peruvian-trained constitutional lawyer, Valencia is well acquainted with both the persuasive power and the disappointing emptiness of human rights language. She builds on the themes and approaches in human rights discourses that emphasize attention to structural and historical injustices, and that have been taken up and invigorated by social justice movements. Into this core commitment to understanding human rights in terms of broadly based political and economic structures in which all of us, advantaged and disadvantaged alike, are implicated, Valencia integrates a tailored version of Amartya Sen’s capability framework. She draws
on the capability literature to foreground those aspects of the framework that facilitate attention to both individual and collective conceptions of wellbeing and experiences of agency. Having provided us with her analytical model, Valencia then applies it to the situation in La Oroya. She takes us through a rich historical account of Peru’s efforts, starting with the smoke damages controversy at the beginning of the last century, to build an economy in the Central Andes around mineral extraction. Changes in social structures, landholding practices, indigenous and class identities, economic arrangements, and legal and regulatory frameworks are explored. She traces the ideological shifts that unfolded during the century with respect to how the role of the Peruvian state in relation to economic development, and to domestic and foreign investment, is conceived and should be (and was) acted upon. The part played by international and US financial institutions and interests in setting the parameters for economic reform is highlighted, along with the turn to neoliberal privatization strategies toward the close of the century. Generating, in this manner, a nuanced contextual understanding of the current conflict in La Oroya is the crucial first step demanded by Valencia’s analytical model. In this part of her study, we are treated to a remarkably detailed and compelling example of what this entails. The second crucial component is listening to the voices—the many and often opposing voices—involved in the debates within the community over La Oroya’s future. Valencia’s doctoral fieldwork, on which this volume draws, took her to La Oroya where she interviewed unionized workers, members of their families, activist advocates for environmental protection and public health measures, as well as residents who refrained from direct engagement with either side of the “jobs versus health and the environment” debate. The community voices provide illuminating insights into the dilemmas navigated on a daily basis by La Oroya residents and into the deep divisions that characterize the community. Valencia’s analytical model assists us in placing these conflicted and often passionate interventions in a historical narrative that makes sense of the current, immobilizing standoff between various factions and viewpoints. There is much here for a wide and varied audience. Those interested in getting behind the headlines concerning the environmental, indigenous, and public health issues raised by resource development in the Andean region will find an account invaluable for both its detail and its referencing of broader global and historical trends. Human rights and environmental activists and lawyers, community advocates, scholars, and
public policy analysts all can find something of value in Valencia’s model for thinking through and moving beyond community conflicts over economic development. The highway blockade in the summer of 2015 concerning the La Oroya smelter was eventually dispersed. As Valencia suggests, however, such confrontations are simply surface indicators of much deeper and historically embedded struggles. Justice remains an illusion for those caught in situations that make them “choose” between alternatives that, because they are fundamental to wellbeing, should never be presented as such—between their livelihoods and their health, for example. Valencia’s approach eschews the abstract binaries of rights talk that simply exacerbate the conflict or erase it entirely by obscuring its social and structural dimensions. In her model, the path toward justice emerges out of a process of paying close attention to community histories and experiences, to the large scale forces that shape and texture our existence, and to the many and diverse voices of those whose lives and bodies bear the impacts of supposedly inevitable trade-offs. The glimpses in this volume of heartbreaking suffering, human losses, and devastated landscapes are not easily forgotten. Nonetheless, the signature contribution is to provide us with a sturdy foundation for hope and optimism. Professor Emerita University of Victoria, Faculty of Law Canada March 8, 2016
This book was made possible thanks to the valuable contributions of many individuals and academic groups. It is based on my doctoral dissertation granted by the University of Victoria-Canada (UVic), where I was extremely fortunate to be supervised by an interdisciplinary committee. To Hester Lessard, my principal supervisor; no words can express my endless gratitude for her unconditional support and confidence in this project. I thank Cecilia Benoit and Laura Parisi, my co-supervisors, for encouraging my curiosity, challenging my assumptions, and helping me explore the interdisciplinary route safely. I am indebted to Anthony Bebbington, my external examiner, for the questions and comments at the oral examination that ultimately sparked my interest in assessing this project beyond “the local.” Some sections of this book (most notably, parts of the introductory chapter and Chap. 6) were published as “Human Rights Trade-offs Human Rights Trade-offs in a Context of ‘Systemic Lack of Freedom’: The Case of the Smelter Town of La Oroya, Peru” in the Journal of Human Rights, I am thankful to the journal editors for authorizing the use of this material. The Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) made possible the implementation of this study by providing me with two generous scholarships. The Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarships allowed me to work full time toward the completion of this project. The CGS-Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement allowed me to conduct research activities at the Centre for Development Studies at the University of Bath, UK, under the supervision xi
of Séverine Deneuline. I offer her my deepest gratitude for inspiring my work, for her continuous sharing of knowledge, and for the opportunities provided to keep exploring the value of the human development approach for Latin America. During my doctoral studies at the Law and Society Programme at UVic, I benefited not only from the inspiration of living on this pristine island but also from the support and feedback of professors Judy Fudge, Jeremy Webber, Michael McGonigle, and James Tully. I thank them for their precious time and exchange of information in the early stages of this project. I thank my community of friends in Victoria, especially Ania Zbyszewska, Mike and Kate Large, Jean Phillip Sapin, Jing Qian, Supriyo Routh, Agnieszka Zajaczkowska, Johnny Mack, Lorinda Fraser, Nicole O’Byrne, and Kerry Sloan, for all their intellectual and emotional support during those years. They remain part of the vivid memories of a life in an environmentally conscious location, which is ironically distant from the story I narrate in this book. After completing my doctoral studies, I left the La Oroya project dormant for a while to embark on new processes of professional and intellectual growth. Every single event and opportunity during those years was substantial in making this project mature and finally ready for publication. In particular, I would like to acknowledge the contributions of the following institutions that helped me to strengthen my identity as a socio-legal scholar. The Human Rights Research and Education Centre (HRREC) at the University of Ottawa (UO) granted me the 2013 Gordon F. Henderson Postdoctoral Fellowship, which allowed me to deepen my knowledge of the political economy of extractivism in Latin America and its positive and negative impacts on human rights. During my stay at UO, I had the opportunity to teach two courses that served as a laboratory to test some ideas of this book: “Human Rights: International Protection” (Faculty of Law) and “Mining, Development and Human Rights in Latin America” (School of International Development and Global Studies). I thank my students in both courses for our animated discussions and their overall interest in the course topics. I thank the Director of the HRREC, John Packer, and Assistant Director, Viviana Fernandez, for the multiple opportunities to present my work in progress. To my mentor and friend, Penelope Simons, I thank you for trusting me and for bringing me back the passion for what we do; Penelope has positively influenced my work more than she can imagine. Lucie Lamarche and Sonya Nigam opened the first significant door to me in Canada, and I thank them for this.
To my colleagues Salvador Herencia, Olabisi Delebayo, Jael Duarte, Joaquin Bardallo, Siobanh Airey, Piere-Giles Belanger, Alvaro Cordova, Roger Merino, Ana Estefania Carballo, and Johannes Waldmüller, many thanks for the exchange of ideas about Latin America, development, business, and international human rights law. I have to also express my gratitude to the Institute for Global Law and Policy (IGLP) at Harvard Law School, especially to director David Kennedy, for the opportunity of being part of a vibrant community of scholars from around the globe. My research has significantly benefited from an incredible exchange of ideas at the IGLP workshop in Doha, Qatar (2014) and more recently at the IGLP Regional workshop in Latin America hosted at Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia (2015), where I presented the conceptual framework of this book. I am particularly grateful to Helena Alviar, Cynthia Farid, Cyra Choudhury, Jose Miguel Barreto, and the rest of the participants at the writing workshop who provided invaluable comments and suggestions to improve the conceptual chapter. In Lima, the Interdisciplinary Group on Human Development at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (GRIDHAL-PUCP in Spanish) could not have given me a warmer intellectual welcome back home. I am particularly thankful to Javier Iguiñez, Catalina Romero, Ismael Muñoz, Efrain Gonzales, Fidel Tubino, Marcial Blondet, Gonzalo Gadmio, Felipe Zegarra, Jean Marie Ansion, Patricia Ruiz Bravo, Gianfranco Casuso, Norma Correa, Silvana Vargas, and Jhonatan Clausen for inviting me to join the group and their thorough feedback on a presentation about the La Oroya case early in 2015. I am doubly grateful to Jhonatan, who read more than one chapter of the book and enriched them through the “eye” of an economist. There are many other colleagues and friends who deserve acknowledgment for their support and prompt feedback on diverse chapters of this book, including Liisa North, Martin Scurrah, Lisa Laplante, Helena Degratsi, William Sacher, Teresa Torres, and Eduardo Dargent. I’m indebted also to Cesar Bedoya, Juan Aste, Eliana Ames, Hugo Villa, Raul Chacon, Maria Jose Veramendi, Astrid Puentes, Serena Khader, Pablo Gilabert, Nicolas Perrone, Eric Palmer, Jerusa Ali, and Jimena Sierra for contributing to this project in diverse ways. And Ricardo Valdiviezo, Carlos Santiestevan, Elizabeth McIntyre, and Aaryn Zhou provided invaluable research assistance at different stages of the project.
My gratitude to Colette Stoeber for her magnificent assistance in language editing and to Rosario Pacherres for helping me with transcriptions. I am also deeply grateful to the participants in this study, especially to members of the community of La Oroya, for opening their hearts and sharing their valuable experiences, which provided the essence of this book. To my family in Peru, thank you for your unconditional love and encouragement. To Adita, Max, Beria y Bitia, thanks for being the village that is always there to help me conquer my dreams. To my sister Beria, thanks for putting your art in the design of my graphics. To my family in Canada (The Yeomans), thank you for reminding me that there is no difficulty in life that cannot be resolved by a good glass of wine. Last but not least, to my boys, Christopher and Marcel, for their morning kisses, for their patience, and for absorbing me with their love without undermining my individual identity. Thank you for not letting me give up. I am immensely grateful for this and more adventures to come. Always together.
Introduction: Human Rights Trade-offs in Times of Economic Growth: A Tale from Peru
The La Oroya Conflict: The Intractable Conflict Between Health and Work
A Systemic Human Rights Model of Analysis: An Integrated Approach
Systemic Lack of Freedom in La Oroya: The Socio-Historical Roots and the Political-Economic Background
Experiencing Systemic Lack of Freedom: The Voice of La Oroya
Examining the Trade-offs Between Health and Work in La Oroya: The Long-Term Capability Impacts of Extractive-Led Development
Conclusion: La Oroya at the Crossroads
AIDA AIDESEP BLL CA CDC CEDHA CONACAMI CPC DIGESA EIA EPA ESSALUD FP GDP HDI HDR HRA HRSAM HUD IACHR ICCPR ICESCR
Inter-American Association for Environmental Defense Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle Blood Lead Levels Capability Approach Center for Disease Control and Prevention Centre for Human Rights and the Environment National Confederation of Communities Affected by the Mining Industry The Cerro de Pasco Corporation Peruvian Ministry of Health’s Environmental Health Directorate Environmental Impact Assessment United States Environmental Protection Agency National Health Insurance Public Functionary Gross Domestic Product Human Development Index Human Development Report human rights activist Human Rights Systemic Analytical Model United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Inter-American Commission on Human Rights International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights International Covenant on Social Economic and Cultural Rights xvii
ICMM ICSID IGAC ILO INDECOPI INEI MC MEM MINSA MOSAO NGOs NS OSINERGMIN PAMA La Oroya RDS SIS SDH SPDA TC UDHR UN UNDP UNES USAID WHO
International Council for Mining and Metals International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes Corrective Environmental Management Instrument International Labour Organization Peruvian National Institute for the Defence of Competence and Intellectual Property Peruvian National Institute of Statistics Member of the Community of La Oroya Peruvian Ministry of Energy and Mines Peruvian Ministry of Health The Movement for the Health of La Oroya Non-Governmental Organizations The National Strategy Peruvian Supervisory Board for Investment in Energy and Mining Projects Environmental Mitigation and Management Plan for La Oroya Respondent-Driven Sampling Integral System of Health Social Determinants of Health Peruvian Society for Environmental Law Constitutional Tribunal Universal Declaration of Human Rights United Nations United Nations Development Programme Consortium for Sustainable Development in La Oroya United States Agency for International Development, Peru Mission World Health Organization
Note: Some abbreviations and acronyms have been left in Spanish and the nomenclature has been translated into English.
Map of La Oroya, Yauli, Junin Pictures taken in 2010 while smelting activities were suspended From consequences to root causes The capability approach Values and needs in La Oroya Systemic lack of freedom in La Oroya
22 23 60 70 160 178
Introduction: Human Rights Trade-offs in Times of Economic Growth: A Tale from Peru
This introduction reproduces some arguments from my article: “Human Rights Trade-offs in a Context of ‘Systemic Lack of Freedom’: The Case of the Smelter Town of La Oroya, Peru,” Journal of Human Rights 13:4 (2014), 456–479. I am thankful to the journal editors for authorizing the use of this material.
BACKGROUND In 2006, the Annual Report of the Blacksmith Institute, a US-based nonprofit organization, named the city of La Oroya, located in the Province of Junín, Central Andes-Peru, as one of the ten most polluted places in the planet.1 High levels of lead, arsenic, and cadmium contamination in children’s blood as a result of smelting activities in town prompted the nomination. As La Oroya gained greater visibility internationally, a massive wave of journalists and activists from all over the world flew to La Oroya to report on the situation. Academics started to pay attention to the La Oroya case as well. A transnational human rights network developed and effectively contributed in denouncing the situation of environmental crisis and health deprivation in La Oroya, pressuring governmental authorities and the smelting company, US-based Doe Run Company, to reverse the predicament. But this movement downplayed a contentious aspect of the La Oroya case: the confrontation in the local population between the protection of the human right to health in La Oroya and simultaneous
demands for employment stability.2 Despite their own systematic exposure to dangerous toxic metals along with the entire population, smelter workers and their families claimed that the demands for environmental and health protection threatened their main source of employment and, hence, their right to work.3 From this broader perspective, the La Oroya case portrays not only a scenario of environment and health deprivation but also a seemingly intractable case of human rights trade-offs. How are we to understand people’s compliance to sacrifice health for work? How to make sense of the fact that while the grassroots in this community organizes under the cry “The health of a child is a treasure that is worth more than gold,”4 another important segment of the population contests, “If contamination were as strong as people say, then the children would not be smart and committed to their studies.”5 The La Oroya tradeoffs predicament is deeply puzzling. Indeed, on the one hand, human rights literature often characterizes these rights as indivisible, interrelated, and interdependent.6 This broadly means that there should be no hierarchy among them and that they all deserve the same level of respect, protection, and fulfillment.7 Nevertheless, the reality of cases like La Oroya shows how far away we are from the practical attainment of such aspirations. In La Oroya, community members were faced with the dilemma of choosing between two essential components of human well-being: health and work. At the same time, those intrigued by the La Oroya case often framed the problem in a dichotomized way as one in which we have to deliberate: “What is more important in life: to have health or to secure a job?” This question, although mirroring the crude reality of La Oroya, is both dangerously simplistic and ethically deceptive. It inevitably throws the responsibility of decision onto members of the community without considering how and why this community is confronted with such a dilemma in the first place and without offering any alternative options of protection for both of these rights. This book aims to provide an explanatory account about the La Oroya trade-offs from a multidisciplinary perspective that advances a critical approach to human rights and international development. In doing so, it examines the impacts of almost a century of mining and smelting activities in the life of La Oroya’ residents. The book arose from an initial intuition that one can hardly provide an accurate assessment of people’s perception of environmental harm, and the value of health and job stability in polluted communities, without a thorough study of historical, politicoeconomic, and sociological processes as well as of how such processes
INTRODUCTION: HUMAN RIGHTS TRADE-OFFS IN TIMES OF ECONOMIC...
shape the micro, meso, and macro spheres of people’s live over time. From a broader view, this book also wants to enhance awareness of the extent to which the “local” human rights trade-offs in La Oroya resemble, and are also deeply interconnected to, a “national” trade-off resulting from the promotion of natural resource extraction as a path to secure economic growth for the entire country at the expense of some groups. The historical background of the La Oroya case—linking the very origins of capitalist development based on large-scale mining in Peru—demonstrates the wider economic forces that have structured and reinforced this system of trade-offs over time, forces that have scaled down and up from national to local interests. We must not overlook the consequences of this reality on marginalized individuals and groups’ human rights or on the shaping of governments’ institutional aptitude in designing an economy.8
THE PUZZLE The complexity inherent in the dilemma faced by this community speaks, at first glance, to what Martha Nussbaum describes as a tragic choice resulting from a tragic question.9 This refers to a question for which all possible solutions are morally unacceptable: there are simply no right answers to such a question. Tragic dilemmas leading to tragic questions are, as Nussbaum posits, “blots on a decent society … [and] we should do everything in our power to arrange things so that we are not confronted with such choices.”10 In the case of La Oroya, struggling to choose between defending one’s “health” (and sacrificing access to work or employment stability) and defending one’s “work” (and sacrificing community health) drives the community to equally unfair solutions. Our inquiry about the La Oroya case should avoid reinforcing the tragedy of the situation by automatically assuming that the dilemma of trade-offs is inevitable or unavoidable. The question is therefore, to what extent do existing methods that assess human rights trade-offs or rights in conflict assist us in fully understanding the complexities inherent in the La Oroya dilemma? The answer is, very little. As most of these methods are grounded on the legal discipline, they are primarily designed as tools meant to resolve legal controversies rather than to unveil the historical, economic, political, and social causes behind a human rights trade-offs situation.11 Citing examples of rights in conflict, such as the right to free speech versus individual privacy, authors have previously assumed that human rights tradeoffs are inevitable and that reasonable solutions can be found simply by
counterweighing correlative duties,12 or they have treated human rights in conflict as a matter of normative inconsistencies. In these latter cases, solutions depend upon how legal practitioners interpret the content of rights or how judges rule on the necessity to prioritize the protection of one right over the other.13 Without wishing to undermine the rigor and relevance of such studies in certain contexts, the need for a solution to the La Oroya trade-offs predicament surpasses the realm of the legal discipline. What is in fact at stake goes beyond the necessity for prescriptions based on pure normative reasoning or de-contextual legal engineering. Rather, we need to understand the human rights trade-offs dilemma as symptomatic of structural problems, located in a particular politico-economic context, with identifiable root causes. A context-based analysis on human rights and root causes, thus, should move our inquiry in a different direction.14 Rather than uncritically judging community members for their choices to defend either “health” or “work,” we should instead ask why smelter workers, their families, and other supporters have refrained from supporting mobilization efforts aimed at overcoming health deprivation as a whole in the community. And, most importantly, why did these individuals accept to support what has been referred to as the smelter company’s environmental malpractices when their own children were at risk from smelter pollution?
THE CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK Pushing forward the type of inquiry proposed in this book upholds several conceptual and methodological implications. A first hypothesis is that to fully understand the complexities behind tragic choices leading to human rights trade-offs, we need to move beyond the perpetrator-victim-remedy model commonly used by activists and practitioners to analyze such situations (see Chap. 3). According to this model, particularly dominant within the legal discipline, the production of human rights violations is the result of a concrete, visible act of harm perpetuated by an identifiable actor, the unjust outcome of which deserves immediate redress. Under the lens of a perpetrator-victim-remedy model, or what is otherwise considered to be a naming and shaming strategy, our analysis would stop once Doe Run and the Peruvian state accept joint responsibility for the public health crisis of La Oroya and legal actions are in place for immediate remediation. Although actions and omissions of both actors are indisputably
INTRODUCTION: HUMAN RIGHTS TRADE-OFFS IN TIMES OF ECONOMIC...
related to the human rights trade-offs in this community, their roles only disclose one explanatory layer behind the La Oroya conundrum. As it will be elaborated in this book, we have yet to undertake an analysis of the causes of causes. This inquiry would allow us to dig deeper and wider into the socio-historical roots and politico-economic dimensions that allowed the Doe Run Company to continually contribute to human rights abuses in La Oroya and explain the alarming inaction by the Peruvian state to address such abuses. A thorough analysis will lead us to better understand how the politics of extraction in Peru, influenced by the international discourse of development, along with a history of smelting in La Oroya have shaped social structures, personal values, and perceptions of health and environmental pollution. In looking for a framework capable of unveiling the interconnections described in the La Oroya case, I came across the capability approach (CA) of human development pioneered by Amartya Sen and further developed by Martha Nussbaum.15 Unlike other approaches, the CA has effectively put into conversation the disciplines of economics, ethics, and human rights.16 This is particularly important given the disciplinary assumptions of economists to uncritically treat trade-offs as part of the political process, where inevitably some of us will gain and others will lose.17 This belief, as described by Jack Donelly, was inherent in the conventional wisdom of the 1960s and 1970s that placed human rights concerns second to economic growth when it came to priorities18—an assumption that is still palpable in much of today’s’ international economic politics. As I will discuss further in Chaps. 4 and 6, the CA challenges such an assumption by arguing that economic growth should not be promoted at the expense of human development; and it reminds political economists not to override ethical and human rights concerns in their analysis. The CA is also particularly wary about trade-offs among essential components of human well-being. The CA, particularly in Nussbaum’s version of the approach, acknowledges a plurality of well-being elements that all together represent the indispensable “well-being threshold” below which a life cannot be considered dignified or fully human.19 Of course, as I will discuss in Chap. 6, this is not to neglect the fact that above the “well-being threshold” people may rank higher or lower in some components of well-being, or even admit some temporary or minor trade-off without it necessarily resulting in a situation of absolute deprivation.20 I am neither oblivious to the reality that most national governments, due to insufficient resources,
have to prioritize some well-being-oriented policies over others.21 Yet, neither of these situations closely speaks to the intricacies behind the tradeoffs problem in La Oroya. In this case, structural and cognitive processes have merged historically, relationally, and systemically in impacting the very ability to choose among “Oroyinos,” making it impossible to admit that a lower ranking of health over work (or vice versa) will not harm or negatively impact La Oroya residents’ ability to enjoy a functional and dignified life. These are the long-term capability impacts suffered by a community historically exposed to extractive-led development. From an additional but still interconnected angle, the CA is useful in reminding us to not hamper our analysis by accepting the short-term horizons of vulnerable peoples as the most realistic scenario. Capability scholars often point to the phenomenon of “adaptive preferences” in referring to situations when people conform to or become content with their realities of deprivation—and eventually accept trade-offs between essential aspects of their human well-being—due to the lack of alternatives.22 The expansion of human capabilities provides people with more alternative “livings” to choose among, so that they can avoid succumbing to trade-off dilemmas. At a more general level, as noted by Severine Deneulin, the CA aims to foster a critical normative language to evaluate economic and social policies and practices and to provide the means “[w]ith which to modify them within the horizon of human wellbeing, agency and just relations between people and the environment.”23 For the reasons outlined above, I decided to integrate the CA with a critical-structural approach to human rights to design a model that I call a Human Rights Systemic Analytical Model (HRSAM). The model works to fulfill two analytical purposes. One, it helps to assess the unjust structures that have historically impacted the realization of human rights and, more concretely, placed people in the difficult position of acquiescing to human rights trade-offs. Second, it allows us to evaluate the extent to which the historical diminishment of human capabilities—in both the individual and collective spheres—relates to the fulfillment (or lack thereof) of human rights. In doing so, the HRSAM and its application in the La Oroya case respond to a call for research to better articulate the relationship between human rights and capabilities,24 and also to better understand the process and influential conditions under which people learn to choose among different ways of living.25