OUR RIGHTS, OUR TERRITORY, OUR DECISION
We reject the imposition of a Law of Prior, Free and Informed Consultation drawn up without the due participation and agreement of Indigenous Peoples and without the recognition of the right of consent and self-determination
November 19, 2020
To the National Congress, the Constitutional Court, the Ecuadorian Government, the Ecuadorian People, and the World:
Faced with the historical and ongoing systematic violation of our rights to self-determination and to prior, free, and informed consent by the Ecuadorian State –
Faced with the destruction caused by the extraction of natural resources and by the imposition of government norms and policies on our sacred territories, which are our source of life, culture, and spirituality –
Faced with systematic displacement and the failure to recognize our ancestral property rights when declaring our territories into protected areas and reserves arbitrarily and without our consent, imposing restricciones and responsibilities incompatible with our way of life –
Faced with the licencing and auctioning off of our territories to mining, oil and hydroelectric companies without a consultation process or our consent, an illegal act which effectively nullifies those concessions –
Faced with a historic moment in which the Constitutional Court of Ecuador will soon resolve cases brought by the Waorani People of Pastaza, the A’i Kofán People of Sinangoe, and the Kichwa People of Sarayaku –
Faced with the “prior consultation law” that is currently being discussed in the National Congress without our participation or consent, and in light of the goal of the Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Resources to unconstitutionally regulate our right to prior consent through executive decrees that protect private economic interests –
THE PEOPLES AND NATIONS OF THE ECUADORIAN AMAZON DECLARE:
Our territory! Our rights! Our decision!
OUR TERRITORY is where we develop our identity and where our existence as Indigenous Peoples has meaning. The Government, and now the National Congress, do not understand and are willfully choosing not to understand that all of our territory is connected and depends on a fragile balance and a sacred harmony. Our territory is not an oil well, a gold mine, or a palm plantation. It is our home and the house of our spirits. It is our pharmacy, our supermarket, our school, and our temple.
OUR RIGHTS include the right to consultation as well as the right to prior, free and informed consent regarding any project or activity that may affect our territories and before any law, decree or administrative act is undertaken that affects our life or territory. Additionally, we have the right to SELF-DETERMINATION, to decide our forms of governance and our ways of making decisions, and to freely pursue our own economic, social and cultural development. Prior consultation without consent violates our right to self-determination and represents a mockery of our forms of self-governance. Consultation without consent would turn these constitutional and international rights into a mere formality for the Government, which will lead to deception, abuse and divisiveness. The violation of our right to consultation also leads to the violation of our right to water, health, culture, territory, and a healthy environment.
OUR DECISION is collective and it is firm. We have clarity on this decision because, within our communities and Nations, all the most important decisions are made this way. Consultation and consent mean that the consideration and decision-making process of an entire people is respected. To achieve this, we work collectively in our own spaces to figuratively place all elements of the decision in a collective pot to cook over low heat. Each community cooks its decision in a different way, and that is why it is important for the State to take a focused, differentiated approach and methodology in the consultation process. We all cook decisions TOGETHER in our communities because – for better or for worse – we are ALL going to eat the benefits or consequences of those decisions together. What does this mean? That collective decisions involve a process of thoughtful consideration, debate within our communities, listening to our Elders, and understanding that the result of this process – whether we decide to extract or not – has consequences for our territories and for the lives of all of us who inhabit them, including the living beings that make up Nature, we ourselves, and also our spiritual beings.
The territories are ours. The rights are ours. The decision is ours.
THAT IS WHY WE DEMAND:
To the National Congress: Ground in our right to self-determination we clarify that the development of norms on the right to free, prior and informed consultation and consent with Indigenous Peoples and Nations, as well as the pre-legislative consultation, are only valid if they are undertaken in harmony and respect with our methods and timeframes for the discussion, analysis and the decisions made regarding our rights and our territories are made by us. We will not participate in any process to develop norms or laws that don’t guarantee and respect our own mechanisms of self-governance. Any law that sidesteps our consent will not be valid and will not be enforceable in the territories of the Indigenous Peoples and Nations.
To the Ombudsman’s Office for the Defense of the People: The writing of any draft law by the Ombudsman’s Office on this issue cannot respond to political interests or institutional needs, and cannot attempt to move forward with communication to only certain groups of leaders and meetings with certain organizations. That is neither valid or respectful. It is essential to ensure collective participation, adapt your timeframes and criteria to the forms of organization, analysis, and decision making that we as Indigenous Peoples maintain. We categorically reject the current proposed draft bill pushed forward by the Ombudsman’s Office as it lacks legitimacy and does not recognize the position of Indigenous Peoples and Nations.
To the Constitutional Court: We demand that, due to the gravity and urgency of the issue and the systematic violation of this right, you fulfill your obligation and promptly call a public hearing on the already selected legal cases that have been brought by the following Indigenous Peoples: the 16 Waorani communities of Pastaza, the A’i Kofán of Sinangoe, and the Kichwa of Sarayaku. The National Assembly is moving forward with a bill regarding prior consultation in response to an opinion of the Court, but promulgating such a law in the planned timeframe could not possibly achieve adequate inclusion of the viewpoints of Indigenous Peoples and Nations, who have various viewpoints, situations, and priorities with respect to development. Moreover, Indigenous Peoples and Nations have fundamentally different forms of governance and cultural agreement. It is not acceptable for the Court to push Congress to legislate on this fundamental right without the Court having listened to the Indigenous Peoples and Nations themselves, and without the Court having issued any ruling on the mandatory standards that must apply to the consultation process and free, prior and informed consent.
To the Ecuadorian State: Do not pursue any process of what you call prior consultation in any of our territories until our right to free, prior and informed consent, respecting our systems of governance and life-priorities, is guaranteed and until the State recognizes that the decisions we make are final and obligatory for the State.
We deny and reject prior consultation processes regulated by norms, regulations and unconstitutional executive decrees written in the interests of extractive industries that violate our rights and put our lives and territories at risk; all concessions, contracts, and oil blocks granted without our consent are illegal and null and void.
It is the obligation of all branches of the State to consult us with respect to our right to self-determination before the adoption of any act, by any administrative authority, that could affect our collective rights recognized in the Constitution and international instruments.
To the Ecuadorian people and the world: Join us. We have demonstrated that Indigenous Peoples and Nations are the ones who most effectively protect biodiversity, forests, and water sources; that is to say, life. If our rights to continue doing so are not protected, we are in danger of physical and cultural extermination and as such, nature itself and our shared climate are also in peril.