Sarayaku Ruling Upholds Indigenous Rights in Ecuador and Beyond

July 27, 2012 | By Mia Murrietta


On July 25, 2012, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that the State of Ecuador was responsible for violating the rights of the indigenous Kichwa people of Sarayaku by initiating oil development in their territory without first executing free, prior, and informed consultation with the community.

This ruling is significant in that it establishes a new and higher standard as to how consultation must be undertaken: in good faith, through culturally appropriate procedures that are aimed at reaching consent.

Consultations cannot simply consist in sharing decisions that have already been made. States must make a real effort to establish an open and honest dialogue, based on mutual trust and respect, and with the aim of reaching a consensus. This means not imposing anything upon indigenous peoples or unilaterally forging ahead with projects that will substantially affect their rights.

This should dramatically affect Ecuadorian plans for development of the whole southern Amazon region of Ecuador.

By upholding the community’s rights to free, prior, and informed consultation, the ruling invites closer scrutiny of situations where the interests of extractive industry are superseding the rights of indigenous nations and Nature as outlined in Ecuador’s constitution.

In particular, it is our hope that the XIth round of oil concessions in Ecuador’s south central Amazon region, currently scheduled to open for bidding in October 2012, will be reviewed by all concerned in the light of this new ruling. At minimum, the consultation process associated with the concessions should meet international standards.

The people of Sarayaku, in their statement, refer to this ruling as a “victory,” while also acknowledging that there is still work to be done in implementing and enforcing the measures and principles put forward by the Court.

The Achuar people, along with other indigenous nationalities in the south central Amazon, are committed to maintaining the wild, pristine, and bio-diverse rainforest that is their ancestral home. To that end, they have developed and continue to innovate sustainable alternatives to oil development, alternatives that could offer much long-term benefit to Ecuador and the world.

The Pachamama Alliance remains committed to our partnership with the Achuar and other indigenous peoples to preserve their lands and cultures for the benefit of all life, and acknowledge aligned organizations for their work to further this goal.

We invite people everywhere to join us in creating a just, thriving, sustainable future.

For more information about The Pachamama Alliance, visit or email