QUITO, ECUADOR – The indigenous Waorani community in Ecuador won a landmark lawsuit on Friday against three government bodies for conducting a faulty consultation process with the community before putting their territory up for sale in an international oil auction.
The ruling immediately suspends any possibility of selling the community’s land for oil exploration. It also sets an important precedent for other communities in Ecuador’s southern Amazon rainforest, trying to keep oil extraction out of their territories.
“Today, the courts recognise that the Waorani people, and all indigenous peoples, have rights over our territories that must be respected,” said Nemonte Nenquimo, one of the Waorani plaintiffs and representative of the Coordinating Council of the Waorani Nationality Ecuador Pastaza (CONCONAWEP).
“The government’s interests in oil is not more valuable than our rights, our forests, our lives,” she added.
In March, the Waorani community sued the Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources, the Secretary of Hydrocarbons and the Ministry of Environment for conducting a faulty consultation process with the community in 2012 before putting their territory up for sale in an international oil auction.
According to both national and international law, communities must be consulted before any extraction process is planned on or near their territory in what is called the free, prior and informed consultation process. As a result of the 2012 consultation process with the Waorani, and seven other indigenous nationalities, the Amazon rainforest was divided into 16 different oil blocks and put up for sale in an international oil auction. Last year, the government reduced the size of the oil auction to two blocks, removing block 22 that overlaps Waorani territory, but it quickly added that the region would not be exempt from future drilling plans.