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Ecuador’s conflict between oil extraction, indigenous rights and REDD

By Chris Lang, November 6, 2012. Source: REDD-Monitor

Photo: REDD Monitor

Last month, the Government of Ecuador announced a new round of oil concessions covering a total area of almost three million hectares of indigenous peoples’ land. The area includes the territories of indigenous peoples who are involved in the government’s Socio Bosque scheme.

Meanwhile, on 26-27 October 2012, the Ninth UN-REDD Programme Policy Board Meeting took place in Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo. At the meeting, the Government of Ecuador presented a report about REDD in Ecuador. The government must have just forgotten to mention the oil concessions.

Leaders of the Shuar, Achuar, Shiwiar, Sápara and Kichwa indigenous peoples have rejected all oil industry activities on their lands. But the bidding process is planned to go ahead this month.

Indian Law Resources Center wrote to the co-chairs of the UN-REDD Programme Policy Board requesting that the Policy Board investigates “the impact of the oil and gas concession process on Socio Bosque, on the rights of indigenous peoples and on the objectives of the UN-REDD Programme”. The letter also requests that the Policy Board identifies concrete actions to be taken by UN-REDD and the Government of Ecuador to protect the human rights of indigenous peoples. The letter is below in English and Spanish.

The threat to Ecuador’s Indigenous Peoples and their forests is not REDD, it is the oil industry. But so far, neither UN-REDD nor Socio Bosque have managed to stop the oil concessions in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The question is whether UN-REDD or Socio Bosque can stop oil extraction and if so, how?

Ecuador is home to the Yasuní initiative, which is supposed to leave oil below the Yasuní National Park in return for US$3.6 billion – about half the value of the oil. But the money has not appeared. A recent article in Le Monde Diplomatique describes the project as “beset by difficulties”. Yasuní is now accepting money from corporations and has raised a total of US$200 million.

Indigenous organisations in Ecuador have also written letters protesting the oil concessions:

Sarayaku indigenous peoples have produced a “call to action” video to protect their territory from the oil industry and Amazon Watch has set up a petition to be sent to Ecuador’s President, Rafael Correa:

October 26, 2012

Carola Borja Under Secretary for Climate Change Ministry of Environment, Ecuador Co-Chair, UN-REDD Programme Policy Board

Ibrahim Thiaw Director of the Division of Environmental Policy Implementation UNEP Co-Chair, UN-REDD Programme Policy Board

Dear Co-Chairs:

The Indian Law Resource Center is a non-profit law and advocacy organization established and directed by Indians of the Americas. We have consultative status with the United Nations and the Organization of American States, and we have been advocating for indigenous peoples’ rights to lands, territories and resources for over 30 years.

The purpose of this letter is to bring to your attention serious concerns brought to us by indigenous peoples in Ecuador, including those participating in Ecuador’s National REDD Program, Socio Bosque. We believe that this may be of interest to you in light of the fact that the Government of Ecuador is presenting its Semi-Annual 2012 Progress Report on Activities Implemented under the UN-REDD Programme Fund during this, the ninth session of the UNREDD Policy Board.

Note that the Government of Ecuador has been promoting petroleum activities in indigenous peoples’ lands associated with Socio Bosque. The Government announced this month the opening of the 11th Round of petroleum concessions which will open up close to three million hectares of indigenous peoples’ ancestral territory to development. The concession process involves the territories of indigenous peoples participating in Socio Bosque. The Sapara nation, for example, which possesses legally recognized land title and has included part of their territory in a contract with Socio Bosque, has seen their lands placed into concession blocks by the Government, to be auctioned next month without their consent. While the Sapara people have entered into a REDD contract with the Government of Ecuador to preserve their lands and biodiversity, the Government is now severely undermining that effort.

We have received troubling reports from indigenous nations and confederations in Ecuador that the petroleum concession process is going forward without indigenous peoples’ free, prior, and informed consent (see attached). In fact, various indigenous leaders have rejected any presence of petroleum activities on their territories, citing great risks to their rights and environmental integrity. Leaders have also criticized the recently passed Decree 1247, which establishes the protocol for free, prior and informed consultation in the licensing process, as failing to comply with international law, and for being developed without consultation of indigenous peoples.

These developments appear to constitute serious human rights violations, and they call into question the adequacy of protections for the rights of indigenous peoples in Ecuador’s National REDD Program, Socio Bosque. As you are aware, under REDD safeguards and related policies, UN-REDD, which is funding Ecuador’s National REDD Program, and FAO as the implementing agency, have an obligation to ensure that REDD projects are not contributing to violations of the rights of indigenous peoples.

We therefore respectfully request that the Policy Board in its oversight capacity undertake the following actions:

1) Thoroughly investigate the impact of the oil and gas concession process on Socio Bosque, on the rights of indigenous peoples, and on the objectives of the UN-REDD Programme.

2) Identify concrete actions to be taken by UN-REDD and the Government of Ecuador to ensure that the human rights of indigenous peoples, including rights to their lands, territories and resources, are fully protected, consistent with international law and relevant UN-REDD policies.


Armstrong Wiggins Washington Office Director Indian Law Resource Center Tel: (202) 547-2800 Fax: (202) 547- 2803 [email protected]

CC: UN-REDD Policy Board Indigenous Peoples Observers Dr. Yemi Katerere, UN-REDD Secretariat Head President of the Republic of Ecuador Rafael Correa Minister Marcela Aguiñaga, Ministry of the Environment Ecuador Minister Wilson Pastor, Ministry of Non-Renewable Natural Resources of Ecuador Mr. Max Lascano, Manager of Socio Bosque Program Mr. Diego Zorilla, UNDP Country Representative, Ecuador Mr. Jorge Samaniego, FAO, Country office Representative, Ecuador Mrs. Margarita Astralaga, UNEP/ROLAC Regional Director Ms. Barbara Hess, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Director Ecuador Office

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About The Author

Dr. Danny Weil is a public interest attorney who has practiced for more than twenty years and has been published in a case of first impression in California. He is no longer active as a lawyer but has written seven books on education, has taught second grade in South Central LA, PS 122, taught K-1 migrant children in Santa Maria, California and Guadalupe, California, taught in the California Youth Authority to first and second degree murderers and taught for seventeen years at Allan Hancock Junior College in Santa Maria, CA. in the philosophy department.Dr. Weil holds a BA in Political Economics and Philosophy, a multi-subject bilingual credential in education (he is fluent in Spanish) and has a PhD in Critical Thinking.He is a writer for the Truthout Intellectual Project.

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