Unconstitutional Closure of Fundación Pachamama in Ecuador
On 4th December 2013 the Ministry of the Environment in Ecuador closed down the offices of Fundación Pachamama. For the last 16 years, Fundación Pachamama has worked in solidarity with indigenous organizations of Ecuador’s Amazon to defend their rights and their homelands. It played a fundamental role in the establishment of the Rights of Nature in Ecuador’s constitution. It also works to present a new, sustainable vision for development in Ecuador’s Amazon and for the country as a whole. See more at http://www.pachamama.org/advocacy/defend-the-amazon.
The Ecuadorian government’s action followed protests the previous week by indigenous groups, who were seeking to protect 2.6 million hectares of rainforest from new oil drilling. In a television address, President Correa falsely accused Fundación Pachamama of fomenting violence during a protest outside the Ministry of Hydrocarbons. Fundación Pachamama plans to appeal the government’s decision.
The Earth Law Alliance has written to the Ecuadorian Ambassador to the UK in support of the reinstatement of Fundación Pachamama (see below), and we encourage you to write a similar letter to the Ecuadorian Embassy or Consulate in your country.
Letter to the Ecuadorian Embassy in the UK:
Ms. Ana Albán Mora
Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotenciary of Ecuador to the UK
Flat 3B, 3 Hans Crescent
London SW1X 0LS
28th December 2013
Dear Ms. Mora
The Earth Law Alliance is a non-governmental organisation concerned with the development, implementation and enforcement of Earth Law at the local, national and international level. Our organisation’s objectives are supported by a number of leading environmental lawyers and thinkers around the world.
We were very disturbed to hear that the Ecuadorian non-governmental organisation, Fundación Pachamama, was closed down by President Correa on 4th December 2013 and that it has not yet been reinstated despite widespread indignation and dismay at its unjust closure.
As the first country in the world to recognise in its constitution that Nature has legally enforceable rights to exist, persist, maintain and to regenerate its cycles, structures, functions and its processes in evolution (Art. 71), we were under the impression that Ecuador was one of the leading countries in the world in terms of recognising environmental as well as human rights – and that it was working with its indigenous people to provide a better future for all of its citizens and for the environment. However, these principles have been severely undermined with the closure of Fundación Pachamama and the false accusation that it has been stirring up dissent and violence due to its stand against oil development in and around indigenous territories in the south and central region of the Ecuadorian Amazon.
The Earth Law Alliance supports Fundación Pachamama’s work via the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. Our understanding is that Fundación Pachamama has always been non-violent and that it has remained within the rule of law. Indeed, Fundación Pachamama is upholding the constitutional principle that “Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognitions of rights for nature before the public organisms….. The State will motivate natural and juridical persons as well as collectives to protect nature; it will promote respect towards all the elements that form an ecosystem” (Art. 71).
For 16 years, Fundación Pachamama has given a vital voice to Ecuadorian citizens who seek only to protect the rainforest and their ancestral territories, and to be consulted before any potentially damaging actions take place around their communities, as is their legal right. This is what we would expect to happen in a democratic society and we vigorously defend the right of organisations, wherever they are located, to speak up and be heard without impediment, on issues of public interest such as this.
According to international law United Nations ILO Convention 169, “the right of Indigenous peoples to determine their own process of development” is guaranteed. Ecuador has ratified ILO Convention 169 and acknowledges in its national constitution indigenous nations’ rights to protect and maintain their territories. Fundación Pachamama has been a voice and means for indigenous nations to claim the rights that the government has legally bound itself to honor, making its decision to shut down the organization one based in hypocrisy.
We urge you to uphold your constitution and we will maintain a spotlight on the Ecuadorian government’s action until Fundación Pachamama is allowed once more to operate freely within its democratic rights. Furthermore, we urge you to apply the precautionary principle when considering further exploitation of the rainforest, also in accordance with your constitution: “The State will apply precaution and restriction measures in all the activities that can lead to the extinction of species, the destruction of ecosystems or the permanent alteration of the natural cycles” (Art 73).
Lisa J Mead
for the Earth Law Alliance