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
The Indigenous population in Ecuador accounts for approximately 1.1 million people. Ecuador voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007 and has ratified ILO Convention 169. However, the Indigenous population does not have full guarantees of civil, political, cultural, and territorial rights, and are still facing a number of serious challenges, and there aren't any specific public policies in place to prevent and neutralise the risk of disappearance of Ecuador’s Indigenous Peoples.
Indigenous Peoples in Ecuador
The current population of Ecuador is 17,475,570 inhabitants (National Institute of Statistics and Census INEC, August 2020), and there are 14 Indigenous nationalities totalling nearly 1,100,000 inhabitants, grouped into a number of local, regional and national organisations.
24.1% of the Indigenous population live in the Amazon, divided into 10 nationalities. Of the Andean Kichwa population, 7.3% live in the Southern Mountains and 8.3% in the Coastal region and on the Galapagos Islands. 60.3% of the Andean Kichwa live in six provinces of the Central-Northern Sierra; and the remaining 8.3% live in the Coastal region and the Galapagos Islands.
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%and 79% of the total population. The rest are spread in small groups across the country.
There are different nationalities with very little populations that 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, we can find 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. There is also an aggressive presence of large-scale mining on the Shuar territory.
Four events directly affected the living conditions and economic and social rights of Ecuador’s Indigenous Peoples and nationalities in 2020: the aftermath of the great popular protest of October 2019; the unleashing of the COVID-19 pandemic; the rupture of the main oil pipeline and subsequent oil spill; and the political dispute surrounding the 2021 presidential and congressional elections.
Potential progress for Indigenous Peoples in Ecuador
A presidential call for a referendum to be held in February 2018 aimed to ensure the support of the Indigenous movement and environmental groups by including questions on banning extractive activities, for example, metal mining in ecologically fragile areas, and on limiting oil exploitation in Block 43 of the Yasun National Park: 67.5 percent voted in favor of increasing Yasuní National Park’s Intangible Zone by at least 50,000 hectares and reducing the oil extraction area in the park from 1,030 to 300 hectares.
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.
The Ecuadorian government is investigating Marlon Santi (president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, or CONIAE) for alleged sabotage and terrorism in connection with his participation in a protest against government exclusion of Indigenous representatives from a high-level, international meeting about Indigenous issues.
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.
An Ecuadorean appeals court has upheld a ruling that Chevron should pay damages totalling $18.2bn (£11.5bn) over Amazon oil pollution. Chevron said the judgement was "illegitimate" and "a fraud". Texaco, which merged with Chevron in 2001, was accused of dumping toxic materials in the Ecuadorean Amazon.