The Shiwiar Nation of Ecuador Raises Its Voice Against Oil Drilling in Its Territory

Shiwiar houses in the Kurintsa community. Photo credit: Amazon Watch

In the Kurintsa community, headquarters of the Shiwiar Nation of Ecuador (NASHIE), an assembly was held from June 20th to 22nd with the participation of the the presidents and delegates of the fourteen communities and four associations that make up NASHIE. More than 100 people attended this meeting and tackled important topics such as the state of the Southeast Petroleum Round (Ronda Petrolera Suroriente); the right to prior, free and informed consultation; and the socio-environmental impacts of oil exploitation.

Some facts about the Shiwar territory

The territory of the Shiwiar Nation is located in the Ecuadorian Amazon in the province of Pastaza, between the Bobonaza and Conambo rivers on the border with Peru. Their territory has an area of 222.615 hectares (860 square miles) and a population of 1,200 inhabitants.

Their territory – like others in Pastaza – is isolated. There are no roads or other land routes of access, so the only way to get to these communities is by air in small planes. Within the territory, canoes are used to get around.

The indigenous territories in Pastaza are known for the excellent state of preservation of their tropical forests. In the case of the Shiwiar territory, the total amount of deforestation in 2016 was 2.624 hectares, or, 1.17% of the territory. Any plans to develop extractive projects in these territories is a serious threat to the conservation of these forests, on which the life and culture of the indigenous peoples depend on.

Image credit: Amazon Watch

The South East Oil Round in the Shiwiar Territory

In 2012, the Ecuadorian government kicked off the Southeast Oil Round, and seven of the 21 blocks that make up the round (80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87) overlap with the entirety of the Shiwiar Nation’s territory.

In 2016, a contract for oil exploration and extraction was signed with a Chinese-owned company, Andes Petroleum, for blocks 79 and 83, the latter affecting nearly 2,000 hectares of Shiwiar territory. In addition, blocks 28, 74, and 75 were granted to the Ecuadorian state company, Petroamazonas.

With the arrival of Lenin Moreno to the Ecuadorian Presidency and in the context of the dialogues his office has been holding with the indigenous movement, the Secretary of Policy Management announced in December 2017 the cessation of oil and mining concessions that fail to comply with the right to free, prior, and informed consultation.

In response, the indigenous organizations have requested that an audit be carried out on the fulfillment of the this right in the blocks already granted and, if necessary, that these contracts be annulled. The government has yet to respond to their proposal.

Despite this announcement, two months later the Minister of Hydrocarbons, Carlos Perez, announced that a new auction of oil blocks will take place by the end of this year. The Southeast Round, as it is called, will include the blocks that affect Shiwiar territory, and apparently ExxonMobil and Shell have expressed interest in bidding on the blocks.

We were not consulted!

One of the activities developed in the Assembly of Kurintsa was the revision and analysis of official information from the Secretary of Hydrocarbons that indicates that for the two blocks that affect Shiwiar territory (80 and 81), a process called “prior consent” was conducted. However, the communities declared that this “consultation” was not agreed upon with their representative organization, NASHIE, nor carried out through the tradicional decision-making process, such as the Assembly, as required by international agreements such as Convention 169 of the ILO (International Labor Organization) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Regarding this, Hector Santi of the Kurinsta Community expressed:

"It was not a consultation, they came only with offers that we know are false. We were not in any way consulted as our rights say. As Shiwiar we had already spoken out against this project of oil exploitation and since we also opposed this supposed consultation, hydrocarbons entered our territory using indigenous people living in the city."

Another strategy that the Hydrocarbons Ministry used to argue that the "prior consultation" was carried out was the signing of the "Social Investment Agreement between the Secretary of Hydrocarbons of Ecuador and the Representation of the Communities of the Area of Influence of the Hydrocarbons Block". Yet in the case of blocks 80 and 81, these agreements were signed by organizations that do not represent the elected leadership of the Shiwiar Nation .

None of these "Investment Agreements" were signed by NASHIE, the legitimate representative of the Shiwiar communities. Strikingly, one of these documents was signed by the “Shiwiar Association of Pastaza,” an organization that does not exist.

As the President of the Juyuintsa Association expressed:

"Those who live in the city, who do not pass through the communities, are the ones who have participated in these consultations, and they have even dared to invent organizations. Those who signed those documents did so without the support and knowledge of our communities "

The participants in the Assembly also raised concerns that a local government agency has signed these agreements, given that these are political administrative units that do not represent the organizational structure of the Shiwiar and have no authority to make decisions about lands for which the Shiwiar have an ancestral territory title.

Kurintsa Resolution

After extensive discussion and analysis, the Shiwiar issued a final resolution of the Assembly, which is now the mandate of the Governing Council of the NASHIE and which must be complied with and enforced.

Among the main resolutions are:

  • Reject the agreements of commitment for blocks 80 and 81, signed by false leaders and false organizations that do not represent the members of our nationality.
  • Strongly reject the prior consultation process that was carried out in 2012 and any other prior consultation or socialization that the government attempts to carry out with us in the future.
  • Strongly reject the new Southeast Petroleum Round that the national government intends to carry out in our ancestral territory.

The Shiwiar women had the last word of the Assembly. With a firm voice, they recited:

"I do not want to know anything about oil. We live well with our way of life, cultivating and hunting. Women have a firm position and we want men to have the same and not to make mistakes.

"We do not want oil companies in our territories. Leaders, be firm, do not be fooled and be attentive to what other people who live in the city are doing. They do not represent us.”

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