The Ecuadoran government is committed to promoting large-scale mining, and to do so it must implement national legislation that, although contrary to constitutional principles, satisfies the economic interests of multinational mining companies that have been reluctant to invest in the country until they are guaranteed total control over the royalties the industry will produce.
Indigenous peoples in Ecuador
1.1 million peoples in Ecuador are indigenous peoples
14 indigenous nationalities grouped into local, regional, and national organisations can be found in Ecuador
24.1 per cent of the country's indigenous population live in the Amazon
Ecuador’s indigenous population numbers some 1.1 million peoples composed by 14 indigenous nationalities. Ecuador voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and has ratified ILO Convention 169. Yet, its indigenous population does not have full guarantees of civil, political, cultural, and territorial rights, and are still facing a number of challenges.
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted
Ecuador voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on 13 September 2007.
After more than eight years of a new Constitution and 20 years of having ratified ILO Convention 169, an international legal instrument dealing specifically with the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, there are still no specific public policies in place to prevent and neutralise the risk of disappearance of Ecuador’s indigenous peoples.
Indigenous peoples in Ecuador
The indigenous population of Ecuador numbers some 1.1 million out of a total country population of 16,464,448 inhabitants.
There are 14 indigenous nationalities living in the country, grouped into local, regional, and national organisations.
24.1 per cent of the indigenous population live in the Amazon, divided into 10 nationalities.
Of the Andean Kichwa population, 7.3 per cent live in the Southern Mountains and 8.3 per cent live in the Coastal region and on the Galapagos Islands. The majority of them, however, 60.3 per cent, live in the six provinces of the Central-North Mountains. Of these, 87.5 per cent still live in rural areas and 21.5 per cent in the urban sector.
The Shuar, who form a nationality of more than 100,000 people, have a strong presence in three provinces of the Amazonian Centre-South, where they account for between 8 per cent and 79 per cent of the total population. The rest are spread in small groups across the country.
There are different nationalities with very little populations, who are in a highly vulnerable situation. In the Amazon, the A’i Cofán with 1,485 inhabitants, the Shiwiar with 1,198 inhabitants, the Siekopai with 689 inhabitants, the Siona with 611 inhabitants, and the Sapara with 559 inhabitants. On the coast, the Épera with 546 inhabitants and the Manta with 311 inhabitants.
Main challenges for Ecuador’s indigenous peoples
The public policies ensuring automatic or full guarantees of indigenous rights in Ecuador, particularly civil and political, cultural and territorial, generally have not improved.
A key problem for the Waorani peoples revolves around the state’s persistent promotion of the exploitation of oil on their territory known as the Waorani Reserve and the Yasuní National Park.
Also, there is an aggressive presence of large-scale mining on the Shuar territory.
Food sovereignty is fundamental to Sumak Kausay, or good living, an indigenous way of life grounded in the construction of social systems that are based on the reciprocity between humans and nature. That’s how it’s understood by the principal indigenous and campesino organizations in Ecuador, like the National Confederation of Campesino, Indigenous and Black Organizations, or FENOCIN, which is closely aligned to the national government, and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, or CONAIE. The two, along with smaller organizations, are looking to join forces to get laws approved that guarantee food that is safe, healthy and permanent.
Several hundred protesters set off from an Amazon province where a Chinese company has been authorised to develop a huge open-cast copper mine. Ecuador's main indigenous organisation, Conaie, says mining will contaminate water and force people off their land. President Rafael Correa says it will help fund much-needed development. He has accused Conaie of trying to destabilise the country. Thousands of his supporters joined a rival demonstration in the capital, Quito.