Creating a Robust Tribal Consultation Process


As Published in the July/August 2022 Issue of Washington Lawyer. Vol. 37, No. 1, pp. 42-3

By Thomas Andrew O’Keefe

The United States of America has a long and sordid history of egregious human rights violations committed against Indigenous peoples that includes physical and cultural genocide as well as forcible removal and usurpation of tribal lands. Even today, many Native American communities find themselves exposed to toxic pollution emanating from energy and mining projects operating on nearby federal property. This contamination jeopardizes water supplies and contributes to inordinately high rates of asthma, cancer, and other serious health maladies among Native Americans.

Recognizing the U.S. government’s frequent failure to adequately and effectively confer with sovereign tribal nations on federal policy matters that affect them, Joe Biden promised during the 2020 presidential campaign to create a robust consultation mechanism that would be consistent across all federal agencies and meaningfully engage tribal nations if he were elected president. Within days of taking office, President Biden issued the Memorandum on Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships.


07/23/22. 10:41:00 pm. Categories: Articles ,

South America: Future Global Green Hydrogen Hub?


As posted on American University's Center for Latin American and Latino Studies Blog, June 3, 2022

A handful of South American countries have long produced hydrogen using fossil fuels for their domestic hydrocarbon, steel, and petrochemical industries, but early efforts by Brazil, Chile and Uruguay to shift to renewable and carbon-free energy sources, along with the emergence of new lower-cost technologies, could position the continent as a leading global green hydrogen supplier.

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06/06/22. 01:29:00 am. Categories: Articles ,

Putting "Teeth" in the Requirement for Consultation with Indigenous Peoples


As Posted on American University's Center for Latin American and Latino Studies Blog, October 28, 2021

In no other region of the world have as many countries ratified International Labor Organization Convention 169 – requiring that governments consult Indigenous communities before approving projects that may detrimentally impact them – as Latin America, but human rights due diligence standards adopted by companies involved in investment projects are proving much more effective in guaranteeing adequate and effective consultations rather than government action. This is true even though ILO 169 requires that governments consult with local communities before giving the green light to investment or development projects that affect Indigenous lands, natural resources, and water supplies.

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10/31/21. 06:46:00 am. Categories: Articles ,

South America: Reality Check on Lithium Fantasies


As posted on American University's Center for Latin American and Latino Studies Blog, July 14, 2021

The urgent need to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and transition to an energy matrix centered on renewable energy guarantees a steady demand for lithium, but speculation that South America is on the cusp of a lithium boom is premature. The chemical is critical in the production of rechargeable batteries for mobile devices, electric vehicles, and, increasingly, renewable energy storage systems. The so-called Lithium Triangle of Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile holds just over half the world’s currently known lithium deposits, while Brazil and Peru have large amounts of spodumene hard rock that contains lithium.

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07/14/21. 06:35:00 pm. Categories: Articles ,

The Inter-American System in an Era of Declining United States Hegemony


As published in the Middle Atlantic Review of Latin American Studies, Volume 4, Number 2 (2020), pp.194–212.

Author: Thomas Andrew O'Keefe


The inter-American system encompasses the institutional and legal framework promoted by the United States of America following the first International Conference of American States in Washington, DC, in 1890 as a means of consolidating US hegemony in the Western Hemisphere. After WW II, it became most identified with the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (aka the Rio Treaty). The first significant challenges to US dominance and leadership within the inter-American system appeared in the 1970s and 1980s, although it did not become symptomatic of a wider decline in US hegemony in Latin America until the administration of George W. Bush. In particular, many countries withdrew from the Rio Treaty, refused to participate in the inter-American human rights system, and utilized the OAS to repudiate US foreign policy on Cuba and the “War on Drugs.” Furthermore, new hemispheric organizations appeared such as the Union of South American Nations and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States that purposefully excluded the United States. During the Obama years, a frustrated US Congress threatened to cut US contributions, while administration officials retreated from taking a proactive role in the OAS. For its part, the Trump government has boycotted hearings of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and reduced its funding. The article concludes with a discussion of the inter-American system without the domineering presence of the nation which spawned it to promote its own geopolitical priorities, precisely when an effective regional body is crucial for addressing many hemispheric challenges.


01/06/21. 10:55:00 pm. Categories: Articles ,

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