Target: Inter-American Court of Human Rights
Goal: Commend verdict finding Ecuadorian government guilty of approving a massive energy project on the land of indigenous Sarayaku without any prior consultation
Recently, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights reached a landmark decision in the defense of indigenous rights. The court found the Ecuadorian government guilty of approving a massive energy project on the land of indigenous Sarayaku without any prior consultation. This decision demands payment of damages and sends a firm message throughout all sovereign American states; national governments must consult with indigenous peoples prior to any utilization of their land. Commend the court for upholding the value of the indigenous voice in modern discourse, and encourage strong enforcement of this precedent in the future.
The decision comes after a long, arduous battle between the Sarayaku and federal energy interests. Starting in 1996, Ecuador’s oil firm, Petroecuador, signed a deal with another energy company to begin prospecting land sacred to the Sarayaku. No Sarayaku were consulted in this decision.
Over the next seven years, almost 500 boreholes were drilled and over 1,400 kg (more than 3,000 pounds) of explosives laid in the ground for seismic surveying. Massive amounts of trees were destroyed and numerous water sources severely polluted. The contract ended in 2010, leaving the Sarayaku with a land exploited and little recourse to restore the ecological vibrancy it once held.
However, that changed with the recent ruling of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The court explicitly declared that the Ecuadorian government had violated the right of Sarayaku villagers to prior consultation and communal land usage, in addition to threatening the very lives of Sarayaku individuals and families. Because of this long-term breach of rights, the state must not only pay damages, but clear all remaining explosives and reform its consultation system. Such consultation must begin in the infant stages of any project, not just at the point where community approval is needed.
While the ruling offers redemption for the Sarayaku, it can never replace the many years of pollutive development that tarnished their sacred land. Prevention of future long-term destruction in the name of resource extraction and manipulation begins with mutual, sincere consultation of native peoples and energy officials. The court deserves commendation for standing resolute in defending the Sarayaku, but also must be encouraged to uphold its renewed responsibility to ensure enforcement of this ruling.
Dear Inter-American Court of Human Rights,
I am writing with a reinvigorated hope for the future of indigenous consultation in the process of development projects on native land. Your recent ruling, which requires the Ecuadorian government to pay damages for sanctioning a long-term energy project without prior indigenous consent, represents a historic decision in defense of indigenous peoples, and their right to their land.
The court deserves heartfelt praise for defending the Sarayaku and providing some recourse for the recovery of their land and their cultural identity. In addition, the court must also recognize the precedent it is now obligated to uphold. This much is certain: prior consultation and consent of affected indigenous peoples must be garnered in all development approvals and transactions. What has been less certain, historically, is developmental entities adhering to this obligation.
Moving forward, what is needed is strict enforcement of the consultation process and repeated recognition of the precedent you have set forth in the Sarayaku-Ecuador ruling. If done effectively, diligently and cooperatively, the preservation and flourishing of indigenous culture will be a new certainty in this modern world.
[Your Name Here]