The Constitutional (Supreme) Court of Ecuador, the country’s most powerful judicial body, published a ruling recognizing, for the first time, the right of Indigenous communities to have the final decision over oil, mining, and other extractive projects that affect their lands.
Ecuador now has one of the most powerful legal precedents in the world on the internationally recognized right of Indigenous peoples to Free, Prior and Informed Consent, a powerful legal tool for Indigenous survival and the protection of huge swaths of forests and mega-biodiverse ecosystems.
The ruling stems from the A’i Kofán community of Sinangoe’s 2018 lawsuit that annulled 52 gold-mining concessions granted by the government along their most important river. Sinangoe hosted the Court’s first ever hearing in Indigenous territory in the heart of the Amazon on November 15th, 2021.
This decision signals that the nation’s highest court backs the right of all Indigenous peoples to have the final say over extractive projects that may affect over 23 million acres of Indigenous lands and forests nationwide.
The ruling highlights the need for the State to obtain the consent of the affected communities before undertaking oil, mining or other extractive plans or projects, based on Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination.
Coming only two months after the COP 26 meeting in Glasgow, where governments, including Ecuador, recognized the crucial role indigenous communities play in meeting the world’s forests, climate, and biodiversity goals, today’s victory, and Sinangoe’s years-long battle against gold-mining is an example of the type of frontlines Indigenous-led climate action needed in order to meet those goals and stave off a global climate crisis.
Indigenous territories worldwide cover an estimated 22% of the Earth’s surface, safeguard 80% of the world’s biodiversity and hold at least 17% of all forest-stored carbon.
According to average total carbon stock data published by the UN and the ministry of the Environment of Ecuador, Indigenous Territories of Ecuador store between 2.4 to 2.9 billion tonnes of carbon in their forests and soils, with 68% of that carbon stored in Amazonian indigenous lands. Additionally, with nearly 4.6 billion barrels of oil found throughout the country, this Court victory has significant climate implications for Indigenous communities throughout Ecuador.
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