Eye on the Amazon

Ecuador Announces End to New Oil and Mining Concessions in Big Victory for Indigenous Rights

Ecuador's Indigenous movement shows how we win victories for communities and the climate

Photo credit: Amazon Watch

We're celebrating another major victory for Indigenous rights and the environment this week!

After nearly 10,000 Indigenous people marched for two weeks and over 200 miles from the Amazon rainforest to Ecuador's capital, Quito, they secured a meeting last Monday with President Lenin Moreno. As marchers rallied outside the Presidential Palace, Indigenous leaders met with the president and demanded that the Ecuadorian government respect their rights, their territories, and their cultures. And they won! After the meeting, Moreno administration officials announced an end to all new oil and mining concessions without prior consultation of the local communities.

This is a major victory for Ecuador's Indigenous movement and for the global effort to keep fossil fuels in the ground! It also sends a compelling signal to international commodities markets that new resource extraction without the consent of Indigenous peoples is a clear rights violation and companies who invest in these resources will end up with stranded assets.

Indigenous communities in Ecuador's southern Amazon – the region affected by the majority of the country's mining concessions and planned oil expansion – have repeatedly expressed their adamant opposition to resource extraction on their territories. Government claims of having consulted local communities on these projects have been rejected by the residents, and the Inter-American Court on Human Rights has corroborated the government's lack of adequate consultation.

As our Indigenous partners marched across Ecuador, Amazon Watch and our supporters alerted the press, generated attention on social media, and rallied even more international voices of solidarity. And the strength of the Ecuadorian Indigenous movement, backed by this support, got the job done! In addition to the oil and mining moratorium, the Indigenous movement and the Moreno administration reached other important agreements on issues such as amnesty and pardons for Indigenous people facing criminal prosecution for their participation in 2015 protests, bilingual education, and more.

Some details are yet to be worked out, like whether the "consultation" referred to in the announcement will comply with international standards for Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

Additionally, while the announced moratorium does not address existing oil or mining concessions, it does appear to put an end to Ecuador's plans to tender sixteen new oil blocks in 2018, which the government had announced in November after modifying its hydrocarbon contracts in the hope of attracting greater interest from foreign companies.

Of course, promises like these are only as good as their implementation. Amazon Watch will continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with our Indigenous allies in Ecuador. We call on President Moreno to comply fully with this agreement in good faith in accordance with international standards, and ask our supporters to lend their voices to this call.

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