Update on Ecuador’s Constitutional Assembly

May 31, 2008 | By The Pachamama Alliance

In last month’s New Moon, Fundación Pachamama reported very promising advances in influencing Ecuador’s Constitutional Assembly in favor of fundamental social and environmental principles, including Rights for Nature, plurinationality, and the right of Indigenous Peoples to Free, Prior, Informed Consent.

In May, the tables began to shift, creating more difficult conditions to push through these important initiatives, due mostly to an increased presence of Ecuador’s President, Rafael Correa, backed by a handful of powerful actors, mainly from the extractive industries (oil and mining, particularly). Together, these groups are advocating for a stronger central government and pro-neolibral laws. Needless to say, such laws do not include such forward thinking, environmentally sustainable and socially just principles as those being promoted by Fundación Pachamama and its allies.

Notably, even though the Assembly had temporarily approved specific articles recognizing Rights for Nature and Plurinationality, under strong influence from President Correa (who has previously said he would respect the autonomy of the Constitutional Assembly and their decisions) and the extractive industries, those articles have been “watered down” so that they no longer maintain the most critical elements of the original articles.

Moreover, during the negotiations in the Assembly about whether to include the right of Indigenous Peoples to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC), the President lobbied to not only exclude FPIC, but also the right to Prior Consultation – a weaker version of the former which is recognized in Ecuador’s existing Constitution (1998). Instead, the President has lobbied for a pro-industry proposal for the right to “community participation” – a standard for “community involvement” also backed by such institutions as the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation which establishes very weak standards for local communities to decide whether and how “development” projects should take place on their ancestral territories. The “right to community participation” is essentially an open ticket for extractive industries to push forward projects that are not supported by local communities.

In face of these new obstacles, Fundación Pachamama is not backing down. In fact, Fundación Pachamama has invested significant time in hosting a series of strategic meetings with international leaders to call attention to the changing tides of the Constitutional Assembly. Specifically, Fundación Pachamama was able to get the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, to come to Ecuador and address the Constitutional Assembly in favor of plurinationality and FPIC. Pachamama has also pushed forward with a wide-spread public information campaign through public media to gain wide public support for the Rights for Nature.

Given that there are two months left of the Constitutional Assembly, Fundación Pachamama will continue to advocate in favor of the incorporation of fundamental social and environmental rights in Ecuador’s new constitution, together with key allies, such as the National Indigenous Organization (CONAIE), the Universidad Andina, a handful of strategic Assemblymembers, as well as numerous NGOs representing civil society.