Judges rule three government bodies failed to adequately consult the community before putting their territory up for sale, indefinitely suspending the auctioning of their lands to oil companies.
Historic win by Ecuador’s Waorani could re-shape oil extraction activities across the region
The Waorani people of Pastaza this week won a historic ruling in Ecuadorian court protecting half a million acres (202,342 hectares) of their territory in the Amazon rainforest from being earmarked for oil drilling. The decision by the three-judge panel of the Pastaza Provincial Court immediately voids the consultation process with the Waorani undertaken by the Ecuadorian government in 2012, indefinitely blocking the auctioning of their lands to oil companies.
The ruling sets a major precedent for indigenous rights across the Amazon
More than 200 indigenous Waorani people and their supporters marched to the court in the Amazon city of Puyo last week to begin their high-stakes hearing against the Ecuadorian government.
The Huaorani, Waorani, or Waodani, also known as the Waos, are native Amerindians from the Amazonian Region of Ecuador.
After long protesting oil extraction in its territory, the community sued three government bodies – the Ministry of Energy and Non-renewable Natural Resources, the Secretary of Hydrocarbons and the Ministry of Environment – for violating their rights and putting their territory up for an international oil auction.
Indigenous protesters carried spears and came in their traditional dress. For the Waorani, this includes clothes made from special palm leaves found in the rainforest, as well as face and arm paint, normally reserved for special occasions and battles.
On Friday they won the case against three government bodies for conducting a faulty consultation process with the community before putting their territory up for sale in an international oil auction.
The ruling immediately suspends any possibility of selling the community’s land for oil exploration. It also sets an important precedent for other communities in Ecuador’s southern Amazon rainforest, trying to keep oil extraction out of their territories.
"Today, the courts recognise that the Waorani people, and all indigenous peoples, have rights over our territories that must be respected," said Nemonte Nenquimo, one of the Waorani plaintiffs and representative of the Coordinating Council of the Waorani Nationality Ecuador Pastaza (CONCONAWEP).
"The government’s interests in oil is not more valuable than our rights, our forests, our lives," she added.
The ruling exposed a litany of deeper underlying failings on the part of the Ecuadorean government
In the verdict, the three-judge panel cited a pattern of structural flaws in the 2012 consultation process. These included wide-ranging failings with its design and implementation, including;
- bad faith and false reporting on compliance
- unintelligible communications
- grossly insufficient time allocation
- unaddressed complexities of translation, and poorly crafted informatic materials.
But importantly, the ruling also exposed deeper underlying failings, declaring that the government disregarded the Waorani’s traditional governance and decision-making practices, omitted the inclusion of the Waorani’s legitimate traditional elder leaders pikenani in any significant way, broadly failed to guarantee that the Waorani fully understood the implications of the government’s plans for oil drilling in their territory, and did not ensure that they were given the opportunity to make a collective decision regarding those plans.
“This is a major precedent for indigenous rights across the Amazon. Today, the court has recognised a pattern of deceit, bad-faith and manipulative tactics in the Ecuadorian Government’s attempt to earmark the Waorani people’s lands for oil extraction” said Mitch Anderson, Executive Director of Amazon Frontlines.
“This is a huge step forward in the battle to ensure indigenous people’s rights over their lands are respected. Guaranteeing indigenous peoples’ rights to decide over their future and to say ‘No’ to destructive extractive projects is key to protecting the Amazon rainforest and halting climate change.”
Please note, the Ecuadorian Government has announced that they will appeal the court’s decision. The Waorani are standing firm in their struggle to defend their lands and lives, and they are calling upon the world to help. Sign this letter to Ecuador’s government to demand respect for Indigenous Rights and the court’s ruling.
Source : LeonardoDiCaprio.org
NO OIL DRILLING ON WAORANI LAND! Stand with the Waorani People - Sign the Petition
On April 26, 2019, the Waorani people won a historic legal victory to protect 500,000 acres of their rainforest from oil extraction. Tell the Ecuadorian government to respect indigenous rights and the court’s decision: the most biodiverse place on earth is not for sale!