Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 April 2014, 10:56 GMT

State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Ecuador

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 11 March 2008
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Ecuador, 11 March 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48a7eaddc.html [accessed 24 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Along with Rafael Correa, who took office as president on 15 January 2007, four indigenous persons and one Afro-Ecuadorian managed to get elected to the 100-seat Congress. Correa has stated he will seek to establish a Bolivia-style Constituent Assembly of national indigenous leaders to rewrite the constitution to include empowerment for Ecuador's indigenous majority.

Despite growing political influence, in 2007 indigenous and Afro-descendant minorities in Ecuador continued to suffer discrimination at many levels of society. According to Ecuador's Ministry of Social Development, 70 per cent of the estimated 600,000 Afro-Ecuadorian citizens continued to suffer widespread poverty and very pervasive educational and societal discrimination in 2007. Despite the absence of official discrimination, there were still no special government efforts to address these problems in 2007.

The UN Special Human Rights Reporter on Indigenous People raised concerns at the lack of consultation on extractive projects in indigenous territories and the negative impact of resource extraction activities on the environment and indigenous living conditions.

Indigenous activists, environmentalists and rights defenders report frequent threats and violence against them by police, soldiers and private security forces, including the laying of unsubstantiated charges. This legal team representing indigenous communities suing a multinational oil company for pollution caused by drilling between 1964 to 1992 in Sucumbíos province has also been affected by such activities.

Much of Ecuador's wealth lies in the Amazon rainforest region, where some indigenous populations still live in voluntary isolation. According to the Ecuadorian NGO Acción Ecologica, of the 400,000 barrels of oil per day produced in Ecuador more than 32,000 barrels annually spill into the Amazon river systems, mostly in areas inhabited by indigenous groups like the Cofanes.

An estimated untapped 900 million barrel oil reserve has been identified in the heart of the biodiverse rainforest. In light of ecological concerns – including the future of indigenous populations – Ecuadorian officials have indicated to the UN that Ecuador would ban exploitation of huge oil reserves if compensated by the international community for its effort to save the Amazon region and its indigenous inhabitants from ecological collapse.

In September 2007 the Ecuadorian government for the fourth time ordered the suspension of all activities at the controversial Junin open-pit copper mining project located in the ecologically diverse Tropical Andes of Ecuador.

In light of the forthcoming Constituent Assembly to rewrite the country's constitution, open-pit mining may be altogether barred in Ecuador, along with future large-scale mining projects.

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