At an historic assembly in Ecuador two weeks ago, roughly 1000 Kichwas “overwhelmingly” agreed to mobilize against the Calgary-based oil company Ivanhoe Energy.
The government of Ecuador recently gave Ivanhoe drilling rights on the Kichwa’s traditional land within the UNESCO Sumaco Biosphere Reserve in western Ecuador.
The biosphere reserve, located near the Yasuni National Park, has been declared one of the world’s 10 “hot spots” of biodiversity. The region is inhabited by roughly 20,000 indigenous People and Ecuador citizens.
The concessioned area itself, sometimes referred to as “Block 20”, is crucial for the well-being of more than a dozen Kichwa communities.
The assembly was convened by one of the threatened Kichwa communities on April 16, 2010.
The Rukullakta Kichwa community says that they have not been consulted about Ivanhoe’s plan to drill in their territory and that the government has failed to obtain their Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
The government of Ecuador is legally required to seek out their consent, according to the International Labour Organization’s “Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention” (ILO Convention 169), which Ecuador ratified in 1998.
Further, the Governing Council says that, in addition to being a UNESCO site, the entire region is currently protected by Ecuador’s Constitution.
During the Assembly, the Governing Council of the Rukullakta Kichwa community resolved to:
1) Reject outright oil activities in their territory, especially Pitayaku; and the wells planned by the Canadian company IVANHOE Energy in block 20 without the consent of communities;
2)Through traditional forms of Justice, punish those who do not respect the decision of the Supreme Assembly;
3) Support the uprising, called on by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE).
In late February, CONAIE’s President Marlon Santi called for a “progressive escalation” of anti-government protests aimed at President Correa’s “neoliberal and colonialist” policies which threaten and undermine all of Ecuador.
Santi, who is himself Sarayaku, was among those attending the Kichwa’s Assembly, along with other Leaders from CONFENIAE and CONAKINO.
For his part, Santi urged everyone: “We can not allow multinational companies to enter without the consent of communities, all must respect the decision of the people of this corner of the Amazon.”