Responses to Extractive Industries
Extractive industries create serious social, cultural, environmental, and human health impacts. Indigenous peoples are disproportionally affected because of their political exclusion, their ties to and reliance on the land, and their vulnerability as cultural minorities. Las Lianas supports Ecuador's indigenous peoples respond to the threats caused by extractive industries.
Challenge to Mining Law
On March 17, 2009, CONAIE, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, brought suit to challenge the constitutionality of Ecuador's new mining law. The suit, presented to the Constitutonal Court, is based on the charge that application of the the law violates a number of fundamental rights. These include indigenous peoples' right to consultation regarding extractive activities, territorial rights, and the right to access to water and a clean environment, all established in the constitution. Las Lianas is part of the legal team representing CONAIE in this suit.
Oil Information Center
Throughout the Ecuadorian Amazon, oil companies offer trinkets and to use threats to win entry into areas where they want to work; agreements reached with communities represent ad hoc responses to local situations rather than a nationwide application of constitutional rights.
Las Lianas works to understand the role of oil companies in the Amazon region and make the information we gather available to impacted communities. We have built a library of information about oil development in Ecuador, including copies of virtually all “contracts” signed between indigenous communities and the many oil companies operating in the Amazon region.
This material, never before compiled, highlights unfair relations between oil companies and indigenous peoples and provides information essential for local resistance and for shareholder activism. We make it available to indigenous organizations and their NGO allies through our Quito office and publish articles on key findings.
Las Lianas’ current work on extractive industries is informed, in part, by our experience providing technical and legal assistance to the Secoya nationality as they responded to oil development in their territory. Between 1998 and 2001, we advised the Secoya in their dialogue with Occidental Exploration and Petroleum Company, as they sought limit the impacts of oil exploration in their land and their community. This dialogue led to creation of a precedent-setting Code of Conduct that the Secoya signed with Occidental in October 1999 (available in English, Spanish, and Pai Coca, the Secoya language). Designed to defend rights of indigenous peoples established in the (1998) Ecuadorian Constitution and international treaties but infrequently applied, the Code was an important new tool in the Secoya's on-going struggle to participate in decisions affecting their land and community.
Following that success, and after several months of negotiations held under the Code, our team helped the Secoya win important environmental and cultural protections, as well as compensation for oil development that, for the first time in such agreements, addressed long-term community needs. The negotiations also established an innovative community-based monitoring program to watch over oil activities in Secoya territory.
From 2000 through 2003, Las Lianas provided technical support for the Secoya monitoring team, with the aim of ensuring Occidental’s compliance with Ecuador’s environmental laws and its own environmental impact statements. Monitoring also provided the Secoya with a better understanding of changes in their local environment and the sources of change.