GENEVA (29 November 2018) – A UN human rights expert has called for urgent action by the Government of Ecuador to protect the rights of indigenous peoples as a surge in demand for extractive resources and new development projects puts additional pressure on the indigenous population.
At the end of an 11-day visit to the country, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, urged the Government to take action to build the plurinational and multicultural society that was envisioned in the 2008 Constitution.
“A plurinational state has not yet been achieved. True plurinationality requires respect of indigenous peoples’ rights to their lands, territories and resources as well as permanent institutions that allow for the participation and autonomy of indigenous peoples and nationalities in shaping their self-determined development,” said Tauli-Corpuz.
Indigenous peoples across the country have opposed the Government’s consideration of new mining and oil concessions and have called for alternative models of development. Over the last decades, such projects have had severe impacts on indigenous peoples’ lands and resources, including pollution of the environment and water sources, deterioration of health, food insecurity and been the cause of conflict within indigenous communities.
Tauli-Corpuz welcomed the new Government’s initiative to establish a continuing dialogue with indigenous peoples, including commitments to restore intercultural bilingual education and provide amnesty to indigenous leaders, who were criminalised during the previous regime due to their mobilisation against extractive projects.
“Today, Ecuador stands at a crossroad. After a decade of regress, there is some hope that the new government will advance on the implementation of indigenous peoples’ fundamental rights,” said Tauli-Corpuz. She said the next steps require concrete actions on key issues such as adequate processes of free, prior and informed consultation and consent, recognition of indigenous autonomy and justice as well as urgent measures to rebuild the intercultural health and education institutions.
The Special Rapporteur also assessed the progress and remaining challenges in terms of cooperation and coordination between indigenous and ordinary justice systems, the specific situation of indigenous peoples in isolation and initial contact in the Amazon as well as the particular challenges that indigenous women face.
Tauli-Corpuz held meetings in Quito, participated in regional indigenous assemblies and visited indigenous territories. Hundreds of indigenous representatives attended the meetings with the Special Rapporteur, representing the regions of the Coast, the Sierra and the Amazon.
The full report from her mission will be presented to the Human Rights Council in September 2019.
Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (The Philippines), the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, is an indigenous leader from the Kankana-ey Igorot people of the Cordillera Region in the Philippines. As an indigenous leader, she has worked for over three decades on building movement among indigenous peoples and as an advocate for women's rights. Ms. Tauli-Corpuz is the former Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (2005-2010). She was actively engaged in drafting and adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights, Country Page – Ecuador
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