Introduction and background
In my capacity as Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, I have visited Ecuador from 19 to 29 November 2018. First of all, I would like to thank the Government of the Republic of Ecuador for inviting me, as well as for allowing me to conduct my visit in an independent manner. I regard this invitation as an indication of the Government’s willingness to advance in a constructive dialogue towards the full implementation of the rights of indigenous peoples in the country.
During my 11-day visit, I have met with the President of the Republic, Mr. Lenin Moreno, several Ministers, high-level representatives from different ministries and governmental institutions, the President of the National Assembly, the Judiciary Council, the Supreme Court of Justice, the Attorney General, the Public Prosecutor and the Human Rights Ombudsperson, among others. I have also met with representatives from the civil society, academia, the private sector and the members of the UN system in the country.
I have also participated in one national assembly in Quito and two regional assemblies in Lago Agrio and Yakuwasi, Victoria del Portete, organised by the Confederación de las Nacionalidades Indígenas de Ecuador, CONAIE, its confederations ECUARUNARI, CONFENIAE and CONAICE, and its federations and organisations. I would like to express my gratitude to CONAIE for the hard work in organising and coordinating these very important meetings. Through them, I have had the opportunity to meet with hundreds of representatives of indigenous communities, peoples and nationalities from the Sierra, the Coast and the Amazon. Furthermore, I visited the Shuar Centre of Kupiamai and the community of Tundayme in the Morona Santiago and Zamora Chinchipe Provinces, and the Sápara community of Jandayaku in Pastaza. In the city of Latacunga, I met with representatives of indigenous peoples of the Sierra to hear about indigenous justice, while in Cangahua, members of the Kayambi people introduced their actions and proposals on intercultural bilingual education to me. I was sorry not to be able to visit the territories of the indigenous nationalities of the Coast, but I had the chance to meet with members of the Épera, Chahi and Awá nationalities in Ibarra. I also held meetings with authorities of Waorani nationality, including from the Bameno community, and had separate meetings with indigenous women. I would like to express my deepest regrets to the communities that had invited me, but where I could not visit due the short time available for my mission, in particular to the community of Molleturo, affected by the Rio Blanco project. Please rest assured that I will carefully consider all the information you have submitted to me in my final report.
In all these meetings, I have received an enormous amount of oral testimonies and written information. While I will be reviewing this information in detail over the coming months for the preparation of my final report to the Human Rights Council to be submitted in September 2019, I would hereby like to share some preliminary observations and recommendations.
My visit to Ecuador takes place in the year of the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the 2008 Montecristi Constitution. Therefore, I thought it would be timely to assess the progress in the implementation of the Constitutional commitments regarding the building of a plurinational State, including the effective application of the collective rights of indigenous communes, communities, peoples and nationalities in light of Ecuador’s international human rights obligations in this regard. I also wanted to follow up on the outstanding observations and recommendations made by my predecessors, Rodolfo Stavenhagen in 2006 and James Anaya in 2009.
As a result of the efforts of indigenous peoples to organise themselves and mobilise to assert their collective rights, important developments have taken place in Ecuador since the late 1980s in terms of recognition of the collective rights of indigenous peoples. Several autonomous State institutions were established under the direct control of indigenous peoples and nationalities. These helped implement intercultural bilingual education, intercultural health and development with culture and identity, while strengthening indigenous peoples’ own organisations and governance systems. Progress was also made in the recognition and titling of indigenous lands and territories, as mentioned by Special Rapporteur Stavenhagen in his 2006 mission report.
The Ecuadorian 1998 Constitution recognised some important collective rights of indigenous peoples. Also in 1998, Ecuador ratified ILO Convention 169 on the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples in independent countries. In the first decade of the 21st Century, Ecuador reaffirmed its commitment to those rights voting in favour of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007. At the international level, it continued supporting indigenous issues both in the human rights and climate change arenas, as well as co-chairing the 2019 celebration of the International Year of Indigenous Languages. Most recently, it has signed the Escazú agreement, which I hope will soon be ratified.
The 2008 Montecristi Constitution declared Ecuador as a plurinational and multicultural State, enshrined the direct and immediate enforceability of international human rights instruments, and recognised 21 collective rights of the indigenous communes, communities, peoples and nationalities in its article 57. It also re-stated the recognition of indigenous justice. Recognition of the rights of nature and affirmation of sumak kawsay (‘good living’) as the overall aspiration for all public action were also important features of the Montecristi Constitution, which sought to provide a solid basis for the creation of a new model of State.
However, the envisioned plurinational State, built through intercultural dialogue, has not yet been achieved. During the past decade, there was a regression in the respect, protection, and fulfillment of the rights of indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples and nationalities were excluded from the state’s decision-making processes, including on issues directly affecting them. Moreover, assertion of their rights was frequently met with violence and criminalisation. In the past years, I addressed the Government of Ecuador through several communications expressing my concern for human rights violations, including in the context of social protest and the peaceful defense of indigenous rights to their lands, territories and natural resources due to extractive projects imposed without consultation and consent. Excessive use of violence by public forces and declarations of states of emergency were used to control social protest. In my view, it is very important that these violations are addressed by the current Government, that non-repetition is ensured and that adequate remedies are provided for the victims.
In this sense, I was informed about the petitions of amnesty submitted by CONAIE within the framework of the current dialogue with the Government. Seven pardons and one amnesty to indigenous human rights defenders have been granted, and the National Assembly is considering a simplified process to grant 137 pending petitions. I sincerely hope that there are prompt advances on this issue.
A process of mainstreaming interculturality and collective rights through the Equality Councils was also fostered along the last ten years. This went together with the elimination of the indigenous autonomous institutionality within the State, and the elaboration of national development plans without meaningful participation of indigenous peoples and according to a monocultural interpretation of the sumak kawsay. In my view, equality has been applied in a way that ignores the pre-existing conditions of discrimination of indigenous peoples due to historical and other reasons, and the rights recognised to them under international human rights law. The imposition of this misguided concept of equality has made indigenous peoples’ collective rights invisible, increasing discrimination and undermining progress in terms of plurinationality and interculturality.
During my visit, I was very glad to hear that the new Government has decided to open channels of dialogue with indigenous peoples to answer to their demands and concerns. This dialogue, which started one year ago, is a major and positive change compared to the past conflictual relationships. In my meetings with the President and Government representatives, I was informed about measures adopted or to be adopted in line with some of the mandate submitted by CONAIE as basis for the dialogue.
As positive results of this dialogue process, I have been informed about the creation of the Secretariat of Intercultural Bilingual Education as well as the reestablishment of the Indigenous University, Amawta Wasi. I wish to underscore the importance of allocating sufficient resources to these institutions and ensuring their autonomy.
I have also learned about the appointment of indigenous persons for high-level positions in State institutions, such as the National Electoral Council, the Council on Citizens Participation and Social Control, as well as candidates for the Constitutional Court. I celebrate these appointments, and look forward to the positive changes they may bring about.
Nevertheless, two main concerns have been expressed by indigenous peoples with regard to the current situation. First of all, there has been disappointment over the slow progress in the adoption of concrete measures to address the key issues affecting their fundamental rights, such as their land and territorial rights; the lack of respect for their own authorities, autonomy and self-government, including indigenous justice systems; the inadequate operationalisation of free, prior and informed consultation and consent, or the failure to fulfil their economic, social and cultural rights in an intercultural way.
Secondly, they have reiterated their deep concern over measures announced by the Government regarding the activation of former mining and oil concessions, as well as the granting of new ones. In this sense, I was informed about the activation of several mining concessions and the concessions granted in the XI Oil Round, as well as of a new XII Oil Round (‘intracampos’) for eight new oil blocks in Sucumbíos, plans to start exploitation in the Ishipingo block, and the building of hydroelectric dams. I am seriously concerned as these announced measures and initiatives, which will have serious impacts on the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples, have been taken without adequate consultations or the obtainment of the consent of the affected indigenous peoples.
Considering the expressed will of the Government to foster continuous and intercultural dialogue with indigenous peoples, and the concerns shared with me by indigenous peoples, I would like to provide some preliminary comments on what I consider priority issues to be addressed by the new Government in order to ensure compliance with its Constitutional commitments and international human rights obligations with regards to the rights of indigenous peoples. These comments should not be considered exhaustive, and will be further elaborated in my final report, after examining the submissions received from indigenous peoples, Government institutions and others during my visit.
Lands, territories and natural resources.
According to relevant international human rights law, there is a set of rights, which are essential for indigenous peoples to enjoy the full breath of their individual and collective human rights. These are their rights to their lands, territories and natural resources. After his mission in 2006, Special Rapporteur Stavenhagen concluded that there was no adequate adjudication system to recognise and implement indigenous peoples’ rights to their ancestral lands and territories. According to the information received from State institutions and indigenous peoples, I am afraid this state of affairs has not substantially changed.
Procedures for adjudication of indigenous rights to their lands, territories and resources remain inadequate and are not coherent with international human rights standards on this matter. Requirements for granting title, such as managing plans agreed by the State, are contrary to indigenous right to self-determination. The Constitutional option to develop indigenous territorial districts (circumscripciones territoriales indígenas) has not generated any positive results, due to the procedural difficulties for its adequate implementation.
Even in the cases where ancestral lands have been titled, this does not guarantee neither control nor protection of indigenous lands and territories. Protected areas and other environmental protection policies as well as economic activities considered of national interest are imposed on indigenous lands and territories without their consent. This forces obligations on indigenous peoples such as the right of passage servitude, which supersede their rights to self-determination, ownership, control and management of their lands, territories and natural resources.
I would like to encourage the Government of Ecuador to enter into a constructive dialogue with indigenous peoples and nationalities to develop an accessible, effective and adequate adjudication system that allows for the full enjoyment of their rights over their lands, territories and natural resources in compliance with international human rights standards.
Legislative, administrative and policy measures adopted in the past without adequate consultation with indigenous peoples and which have an impact on their territorial rights, should be reviewed and amended or repealed, and no new measures should be adopted without the full participation of and consultation with indigenous peoples. I would like to particularly call the attention of the Government to the concerns expressed by indigenous peoples regarding the draft water law, which should recognise community water management systems and prioritise human needs, while considering the serious impacts of water shortage and water pollution on the well-being and rights of indigenous peoples to food, health and a safe environment, among others.
Impacts of extractive and infrastructure projects on the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples
Most of the information and concerns shared with me by indigenous peoples are related to the operations of extractive industries, mainly mining, oil extraction and logging, the development of infrastructures, such as hydroelectric dams, or agrobusiness activities affecting their lands, territories and resources. The imposition of such projects without adequate consultation or consent of the affected communities and peoples is based on the arguments of the State sovereignty over natural resources and on the declaration of national or public interest.
In my visits to indigenous communities and through my dialogue with indigenous peoples, I have seen and observed that so-called development projects have violated and continue to violate their fundamental rights. These include their right to self-determination, their territorial rights, their right to meaningful participation in decision-making, and the right to pursue their own economic, social and cultural development, amongst many others. Moreover, the imposition of these projects has been linked to serious cases of violence and criminalisation against those who opposed them, as has been the case of the community of Molleturo and the Rio Blanco project, Province of Azuay. In Tundayme, in the context of the Mirador mining project, in the Province of Zamora Chinchipe, I was able to visit the place where the body of Shuar leader José Tendentza was allegedly found tortured and murdered in 2014. According to the information received, no perpetrators have been identified and brought to justice in this case or in the cases of the murders of Bosco Wisum and Freddy Taish. Many similar cases have also been brought to my attention.
Forced displacement is a particularly worrisome impact linked to development projects in a context of inadequate recognition of indigenous territorial rights. Forced displacement has manifold and severe impacts on fundamental human rights. I have been informed of forced displacements in the communities of Tundayme and Nankints in which excessive use of force was deployed, property was destroyed, and no measures were adopted to provide alternative settlements, necessary basic services and adequate compensation. These cases should be thoroughly investigated, any violation of human rights addressed, and remedy for those affected should be ensured.
I have also received information and was able to see in Lago Agrio, the absence of adequate remedy and compensation to the communities that have suffered for decades due to the impacts of oil exploitation on their lands and territories. No adequate rehabilitation measures have been undertaken, and the persistence of pollution in their rivers, aquifers and soils continues to adversely impact their health as well as food production.
These serious human rights violations, including to the collective right of consultation, have been recognised in recent provincial court decisions, such as in the cases of Rio Blanco and Sinangoe. I look forward to the full implementation of these court decisions. In connection with these, I have received information concerning alleged undue pressures on some of the judge involved in such cases. I intend to look further into these serious allegations.
Consultation and consent
The lack of adequate consultation and consent procedures, in accordance with international human rights standards and jurisprudence, has been repeatedly denounced by indigenous peoples and also been noted by human rights treaty bodies and other human rights mechanisms. I would like to also recall the Inter-American Court on Human Rights decision on Sarayaku versus Ecuador in 2012 in this regard.
The Ecuadorian Constitution recognises consultation with indigenous peoples and nationalities as one of their collective rights. According to the Constitution, this right must be enforced both in the case of policies or programs (administrative consultation) and in the case of legal instruments (legislative consultation). Popular and environmental consultations also provided for in the Constitution are participatory mechanisms for the general population different in nature to the consultation and consent rights of indigenous peoples under international law and jurisprudence.
According to the information received, there are no adequate enabling mechanisms or processes, which allow indigenous peoples to exercise this right. Decree 1247, which has been implemented with regards to oil exploration and exploitation, is not in accordance with international human rights standards as enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples and ILO Convention no. 169. The collective right to consultation cannot be reduced to socialisation and information meetings, disregarding indigenous peoples’ own procedures for decision-making and indigenous authorities. The current situation seems to indicate a systematic violation of this right. Moreover, effective consultation processes have allegedly led to division and confrontations among indigenous communities.
I have been informed about different options that are being discussed by indigenous peoples on how the rights to free, prior and informed consultation and consent should be operationalised. At this stage, I would like to stress that any potential regulation has to be the result of a good faith and inclusive dialogue between indigenous peoples and the State in order to ensure implementation of these rights, which constitute important safeguards of the fundamental right of indigenous peoples to self-determination.
Indigenous authorities and institutions
The rights of indigenous peoples to their own governing institutions and authorities is recognised both in the 2008 Constitution and in international human rights instruments.
The registry of indigenous organisations by the National Secretariat for Policy Management has been criticised by CONAIE and other organisations as discretional and a source of undue interferences in the election of indigenous representative authorities. Allegedly, parallel authorities have in some cases been registered such as in the cases of the Shiwiar, Sapara, Achuar and Waorani nationalities, or the CONFENIAE, as well as the Tungurahua Indigenous and Peasant Movement (MIT). At the same time, I have been told that the requirements for indigenous authorities to obtain legal personality are extremely complicated and lack an intercultural approach. This situation has a direct impact on the right to self-government and on indigenous peoples’ territorial rights, since registration is a prerequisite to demand land title. Adequate procedures to recognise indigenous government authorities and institutions in accordance with international human rights standards should be developed in cooperation with indigenous peoples.
I received information about indigenous peoples’ exercise of their self-governance and self-determination rights. For instance, the A’i Cofán of Sinangoe have delevoped their own law on control and protection of their ancestral territory, including their own indigenous guard. The Kichwa people of Sarayaku has developed a proposal called Kawsa Sacha (living forest). The Shuar-Arutam have adopted their own autonomous projects such as their Life Plan and the Sapa-Entza proposal. The Waorani community of Bameno has also developed their proposal for the Yasuní under the name ‘Let us live’. In my view, the Government of Ecuador should consider supporting indigenous peoples’ own governance, autonomy and development proposals, which can contribute to ensure plurinationality.
Indigenous jurisdiction and access to justice
A key element in the building of plurinationalism and interculturality is the full recognition of indigenous justice and the adequate coordination and cooperation between indigenous and ordinary justice systems. The recognition of this right was acknowledged as one of the most progressive features of the Ecuador Constitutions with regards to the rights of indigenous peoples.
Special Rapporteur Anaya in his assessment of the implementation of the Constitutional obligations in this regard, noted the lack of progress in developing the necessary legislative and policy measures to foster cooperation and coordination between the indigenous and ordinary justice systems. According to the information received in my meetings with the Council of the Judicature, the National Assembly, and with indigenous organisations and authorities in charge of indigenous justice, there seems to have been no progress in this regard. In these sense, I was glad to receive information from the Council of the Judicature on the proposed agreement with CONAIE to ensure progress in key aspects of cooperation and coordination between both systems, the establishment of a truth commission and capacity-building of ordinary justice operators on indigenous peoples’ rights and justice systems.
Serious problems persist in terms of the full recognition of indigenous jurisdiction. I have been informed of the interference of ordinary justice into processes under consideration of indigenous justice; of the denial of the ordinary justice to decline in favor of indigenous justice, and of cases of double judgement due to lack of recognition of indigenous justice decisions. Limitations on indigenous jurisdiction in cases of murder have been decided by the Constitutional Court. In this sense, I would like to stress that international human rights standards do not establish such limitations.
According to indigenous justice authorities, the view of the Government and the ordinary justice system lacks understanding of the indigenous justice and remains discriminatory and racist in this regard. Indigenous justice systems are only considered to be appropriate to deal with domestic, minor offenses, while the ordinary justice is considered more appropriate to deal with serious criminal matters.
In my meeting in Latacunga, I was also informed of other problems faced in obtaining the full implementation of indigenous justice. Efforts developed by indigenous peoples themselves in terms of strengthening the capacity of indigenous justice systems to ensure due process, harmonisation with international human rights standards and the incorporation of indigenous women were also highlighted to me.
Moreover, in a very worrying development, I have been informed of the criminalisation of indigenous authorities for exercising their jurisdiction. I had the opportunity to meet with Jose Sarmiento Jiménez, Sergio Paucar Huerta and Maria Sarmiento Chuqui who are detained in the detention center of Turi, imprisoned under accusations of kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping, and damage to property. Many other similar cases of criminalisation under serious accusations were described. Some indigenous authorities from Cotopaxi, including from the Kañari and Panzaleo peoples, have several criminal cases against them for the exercise of their justice functions. I intend to look deeply into this matter both for the elaboration of my country report and in my future thematic report on the issue of indigenous jurisdiction.
Indigenous peoples in isolation and initial contact
During my visit, I was able to receive detailed information on the situation and concerns regarding indigenous peoples in isolation and recent contact. I was informed that the Ministry of Justice is developing a policy in this regards, and that some measures have been taken to ensure their protection, in compliance with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ precautionary measures and international standards, including related UN Guidelines.
Nevertheless, substantive recommendations made by me and my predecessors seem not to have been adequately considered. In my view, to ensure the protection of indigenous peoples in isolation and recent contact it is essential to address the underlying causes that affect their fundamental rights and that lay at the bottom of the conflicts that have happened in the last years involving isolated groups, Waorani communities and third parties. These underlying causes are linked to the lack of recognition and protection of the ancestral territories of the isolated indigenous groups. As already mentioned by former mandate-holders, the Intangible Area Tagaeri Taromenane (ZITT) does not cover the full extension of their ancestral lands. Moreover, there has been no adequate protection from illegal intruders, which are pushing the isolated indigenous groups into the lands and territories of other indigenous nationalities, particularly the Waorani. More concerning is that the State itself is granting extractive concessions affecting those ancestral lands. According to the information received, while the extension of the Yasuní National Park has been welcomed as a positive development resulting from the 2018 popular consultation, the decision to proceed with oil exploitation in the buffer area (Ishipingo field) may have serious and unforeseen impacts on the isolated indigenous peoples and peoples in recent contact in the area.
The lack of development of a comprehensive peace plan together with the Waorani people is a major failure for protection of all the Waorani groups, including those in isolation. I also received information about the developments in the criminal charges against Waorani persons involved in the 2013 massacre. Considering the alleged failures in due process, the length and lack of clarity of the legal case, and the lack of an adequate intercultural approach, the dismissal of the case has been recommended by many actors. I would like to call on the Government of Ecuador to effectively address the above mentioned underlying causes affecting the Waorani and the isolated indigenous groups in the area, and work together with the Waorani nationality with a view to achieve a lasting peace in the area.
Special problems faced by indigenous peoples with small populations
Amongst Ecuador’s nationalities and peoples, some are facing aggregated challenges due to their small populations and extreme risks of losing their languages and becoming extinct. During my dialogue with indigenous peoples, I was informed of at least two indigenous peoples who have disappeared in Ecuador.
The Sapara nationality in Ecuador has an estimated population of about 400 persons. With only two remaining Sapara speakers amongst them, there is a high risk of disappearance of the Sapara language and hence culture, recognised by UNESCO as intangible world heritage. Some of the inputs I have received describe the situation of the Sapara as a case of genocide.
According to the information provided during my meeting with Sapara representatives in the community of Jandayaku, there is an increasing presence of strangers within the Sapara territory. Conflict with other settlers within their territories has increased, as the result of the inadequate consultation process developed within the framework of the XI Oil Round. In this context, cases of threats, attacks, smear campaigns and murders have allegedly occurred against the Sapara representatives opposing oil operations. Violence and threats are negatively impacting the daily life of the Sapara, as they are afraid to go hunting or working on their plots. The Sapara also informed me about the undue interference of state institutions in the recognition of their elected authorities.
I call on the Government to promptly investigate these cases, bring perpetrators to justice and enter into substantial dialogue with the Sapara nation and their own selected representatives on their demand to suspend concessions affecting their lands and territories as well as to develop their own paths of development.
I also had a meeting with representatives of the Épera, Chahi and Awá nationalities from the Coastal region. As in other parts of the country, these nationalities highlighted to me the encroachment on their lands of legal and illegal activities such as in particular logging, mining and palm oil plantations and the severe impacts these activities have on the environment, water, agricultural fields, food security and health. The situation of these three nationalities, as well as the six others living in the northern part of the country, is aggravated by the insecurity and pressings problems in the border area to Colombia, including the impacts of aerial fumigations, and the presence of the military, illegal armed actors and drug traffickers. Further, I heard about the forced recruitment of children and youth as well as cases of sexual abuse and trafficking. Overall, the representatives of these nationalities conveyed to me their feeling of having been abandoned by the State. They told about the absence and discontinuation of social service provision due to the security situation in the northern area, as well as the lack of targeted resources to tackle the special needs and problems in this region. I welcome the information received from the United Nations Country Team and the Defensoría del Pueblo about the intention to build an early warning system to monitor and prevent the operation of illegal actors and associated violence.
Sumak Kawsay, intercultural, bilingual education and intercultural health
In all my meetings with indigenous peoples, it was evident to me that they have a clear understanding of sumak kawsay (“good living”), which puts emphasis on autonomy and the inherent relationship to their lands and territories. Nonetheless, this understanding has not been adequately reflected in the three “good living” development plans of the Government (2009-2013, 2013-2017 and 2017-2021). These plans have been promoted by the State with little substantial participation of indigenous peoples, while indigenous own development proposals and initiatives have not been considered by the State.
In many of the communities I visited, I was told about the closure of intercultural, bilingual schools during the last decade, as a consequence of the government’s aim to centralise the education system in the so-called millennium schools. This has severely affected indigenous children’s access to adequate education due to the longer distances to educational facilities, additional economic burden on families for transportation, as well as security risks on the roads. The use of one common curriculum, often in Spanish and with no reflection of indigenous peoples’ worldviews, is endangering the survival of indigenous languages, cultures, traditions and identities. Furthermore, I was informed about the negative health impacts of the nutritional school programmes that do not take into account indigenous local production and food culture. My visit to Cangahua was inspirational for me as an example of the strong initiatives taken by indigenous peoples themselves to define and call for the intercultural education system they want.
In terms of intercultural health, there has not been a reestablishment of an autonomous, indigenous-led institution so far. At present, the National Directorate of Intercultural Health under the Ministry of Health is responsible for intercultural health initiatives, counting amongst others support childbirth by indigenous midwives. This institution however lacks an institutionalised space of representation or participation of indigenous organisations, peoples and nationalities. As a consequence, indigenous peoples informed me about the lack of recognition of their ancestral knowledge, medicine and traditional health systems, as well as the lack of coordination and integration between indigenous and national health systems.
Indigenous peoples across the country also told me about how their general health situation has worsened due to pollution by extractive projects, large-scale agriculture, such as flower and palm oil plantations, and the specific problem of fumigation in the north of the country. At the same time, indigenous peoples have very limited access to adequate and culturally appropriate health facilities to tackle these new health issues.
In this context, I am concerned to hear that the financial law and public budget for 2019, which is presently being discussed in the National Assembly, contains a major cut in the allocated funding to the social sector compared to 2018. This would have clear negative effects on the reconstruction of autonomous indigenous institutions in the social sector, as well as the access to social, economic and cultural rights of indigenous peoples.
Indigenous women and girls
Indigenous women in Ecuador play a key role as defenders of their lands, territories and resources as well as transmitters of languages, cultures and traditions. This role has caused unbearable pressure on them in recent years. Throughout my visit, indigenous women and girls told me about increasing aggressions, intimidation, threats, sexual harassments, and murder. I was also informed about several cases of criminalisation of indigenous women leaders due to their active role in protecting their peoples. Most often, these cases are not properly investigated and there is a high degree of impunity and lack of access to justice as a consequence.
Indigenous women also explained to me how they continue to face multiple discriminations, for being women, for being indigenous and often for being poor. In the context of the extractive industries, there are differential impacts on women in terms of the health consequences they suffer from, as well as increased burdens of taking care of those who become sick due to pollution of the water, land and air. I was also informed about the existence of prostitution and human trafficking in communities hosting extractive industries.
Since the meeting between a delegation of indigenous women from the Amazon and the President of the Republic in March 2018, several ministries have been working on initiatives proposed by these indigenous women. I encourage the Government to fully comply with proposals made by the indigenous women, including those related to securing the rights to lands, territories and resources.
In this statement, I have touched upon the main achievements and concerns highlighted to me during my mission to Ecuador. There are of course several additional issues that I will seek to address in my final report, including the issues of migration and urbanisation, indigenous youth, indigenous community radios and indigenous media amongst others.
My main concern has been how to recover the path towards plurinationalism. I must conclude that there is no way to make the commitments in the Constitution true without the full recognition and implementation of indigenous peoples’ rights in accordance with international human rights law. Protection of rights of nature cannot be achieved without protection of stewards. I am hopeful that definite steps towards this goal can be achieved through the ongoing open dialogue between the Ecuadorian State and indigenous peoples and nationalities.
I encourage the United Nations system, with the support of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to stand by and provide support to the Government and indigenous peoples in this process, as well as to ensuring the integration of the rights of indigenous peoples in the United Nations Development Assistance Framework of 2019-2022.
Allow me to reiterate my gratitude to the Government for the invitation and cooperating throughout the visit. Rest assured, I remain available for any support requested to advance the fulfillment of the rights of indigenous peoples in your country.
I would also like to express my gratitude to the Offices of the United Nations Resident Coordinator as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for their support to ensure the success of the visit.
But most importantly, allow me to thank from the bottom of my heart all the indigenous peoples who have welcomed me to their territories and who have come from near and far to share their experiences and concerns with me.
I remain deeply committed to supporting Ecuador in building a truly plurinational and multicultural society and I look forward to supporting your efforts in this regard.