President Guillermo Lasso issued executive decree 95 on July 7, 2021 and executive decree 151 on August 5, 2021. These two executive decrees formalize and clear the way for immediate enactment of plans to bring about profound transformations in the Ecuadorian government’s policies on oil and mining. These documents have aroused our grave concern due to the violation of our essential right to participate in decisions that affect us. The planned policy shifts raise the risk of serious and irreparable damage resulting from the expansion of resource extraction activities. Furthermore, they turn a blind eye to existing social conflicts, as well as previous legal judgments and directives that have declared the Ecuadorian State to be responsible for the violation of collective rights. Such legal determinations have been rendered both in the national justice system and under the purview of multilateral organizations with which Ecuador has commitments and obligations, such as the Inter-American System and the United Nations’ Universal Human Rights System.
Decree 95, based on a limited, black-and-white narrative, protects the interests of the private sector and financial entities. It proposes a “transition” in which control and management of strategic sectors pass from the hands of the State to transnational companies. This transfer will mean that the Executive reviews, accelerates, and facilitates several enabling processes to authorize the bidding and/or concession of oil fields. It also allows for various regulatory changes to evade the constitutional framework that was designed to guarantee rights and sovereignty with regard to the administration of resources. Moreover, we note with great concern that the decree – which is already moving forward – will have a serious impact on the State’s tax revenues, to the detriment of the economic, social, and cultural rights of the population. In addition, it imposes a model of participation contracts that ensure profits to corporations while transferring the cost of risks to the State and, of course, to us: those of us who inhabit the affected territories.
Decree 151, meanwhile, misleadingly seeks to position Ecuador as an attractive mining investment. It follows a narrative that seeks to promote mining as the path to development and the best alternative for overcoming the current economic crisis. This is of great concern to us because several of our local grassroots organizations have declared their territories to be free of mining. We do not want this new mining policy to be used as a justification for increased attacks and stigmatization of people who oppose mining. Decree 151 proposes revisions and acceleration of the processes for environmental and social licenses that are a required part of mining concessions. Likewise, it changes the contractual conditions between the parties to weaken the position of the State and to facilitate unfettered operations undertaken by corporations.
Both decrees create institutional channels to expand resource extraction. They fail to include any guarantees for human rights, the collective rights of indigenous peoples, the rights of environmental defenders whose work is currently criminalized, and the rights of nature. Hence, for indigenous peoples, it is becoming clear that the environmental commitments signed by Lasso during his political campaign constitute yet another lie. In issuing these decrees, the State is failing to comply with its commitments and its international human rights obligations, including the Escazú Agreement, which recently entered into force.
Mr. Guillermo Lasso, we remind you that government ministries should not be institutional channels to serve the resource extraction interests of oil and mining companies. On the contrary, the State apparatus must be dedicated to the protection of the collective interests of the population, human rights, collective rights, and nature.
Currently, both the oil fields and the mining industry affect the majority of our territories. The impact will be even greater if there is an expansion in extractive activities. These extractive activities violate both our right to determine our own processes of economic, social, and cultural development as well as our right to maintain the essential relationship with our ancestral territories on which our physical and cultural survival is based. These rights and this essential relationship with our territories has never been understood or respected by any Ecuadorian government; as a result, our way of life and the future of our Peoples and Nationalities are gravely affected. The announcement of increased oil and mining production signals the continuation and deepening of these detrimental practices. Therefore, the decision to promote the ethnocide and extermination of the Indigenous Peoples who inhabit Ecuador falls squarely under the responsibility of Mr. Guillermo Lasso and his cabinet.
The issuance of the decrees violates our right to prior, free, and informed consultation and consent in the face of any decision, whether normative or administrative, that affects us[A1] . This right has been recognized in ILO Convention 169 as well as in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and in article 57 numerals 7 and 17 of the Ecuadorian Constitution of 2008, which was ratified by the Constitutional Court of Ecuador. We further note that the Ecuadorian State has been found responsible both by the national courts (Provincial Courts and the Constitutional Court) as well as by international courts (the Inter-American Court) for violating the right of prior, free, and informed consultation and consent. This fundamental right is a cornerstone for the exercise of the rest of our rights, especially the right of self-determination, the right to determine our own decisions about our development processes, and the right to participate in processes or State decisions of any kind that may affect us. In addition, the State has failed to comply with its international obligations derived from commitments made as part of the Paris Agreement, as well as the multiple instruments on human rights which call for the suspension of resource extraction activities in order to combat climate change – the effects of which are irreversible.
It is incomprehensible that the current government has issued these decrees, particularly in light of the most recent report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), highlighting the urgency of halting fossil fuel production in the Amazon. The report recognizes that we are at a turning point that will define the fate of humanity. Policies favoring resource extraction are all the more outrageous in the wake of findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which declared that the climate emergency can be mitigated only if urgent decisions are taken at the highest levels of government to halt global warming. The most urgent priority is the elimination of fossil fuel production as well as the cessation of activities that cause widespread deforestation and pollution, such as mining.
We denounce that the intention of the policies put forth in Decrees 95 and 151 is to promote the strategic interests of oil and mining companies, who seek free reign and access to carry out their activities within our territories. With the issuance of these decrees, the government is returning to the neoliberal free-for-all of the 70’s and 80’s. The policies of those times resulted in devastating effects on our territories that are still apparent today, as evidenced in the Chevron-Texaco case. The false promise of development based on resource extraction has been promoted for decades and has never materialized. Our Amazonian populations are the poorest in the Ecuador, with the lowest rates of satisfaction of basic needs and the least amount of access to basic services. Despite the long history of environmental and social crimes resulting from corporate abuses, President Guillermo Lasso insists on violating the Constitution and changing the rules of the game with respect to mechanisms for resolving conflicts and controversies, by pushing for Ecuador’s inclusion in the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and other mechanisms of international arbitration that are skewed in favor of corporate interests.
Moreover, regarding plans to promulgate specific regulations modifying the State’s obligation to respect the right to prior consultation and consent, we demand that the President of the Republic and his cabinet adhere to the Confederation of Indigenous Amazonians (CONFENIAE)’s Resolutions on legal requirements guaranteeing the Right to Consultation and Prior, Free, and Informed Consent on the part of Amazonian Peoples and Nationalities. The CONFENIAE Resolutions of April 6, 2021 are based on a participatory process that took place among the Amazonian peoples.
The organizations that have signed on to this pronouncement have come together in unity to reject the policy changes planned by the national government. We will continue to take action, to struggle, to resist, to practice self-governance, and to exert territorial control. This is what we have done throughout our history due to the ongoing necessity to protect our lives and the integrity of our territories.
This declaration was originally published on Puyo, August 19, 2021.