Amazon Indigenous groups respond to Petroecuador's statement on the end of trade financing of Ecuadorian oil by European banks

Tuesday February 02, 2021

'The statement shows that the Amazon rainforest and its protection are not part of the Ecuadorian Government's agenda'

The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE), the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA), the Coordination Council of the Waorani Nationality of Ecuador Pastaza (CONCONAWEP), the Federation of Communes Union of Natives of the Ecuadorian Amazon (FCUNAE), and the Alliance of Organizations for Human Rights in Ecuador, celebrate the decision of the three European banks (BNP Paribas Group, Credit Suisse and ING) to exclude Ecuadorian oil trade from their financing portfolio. This crude is extracted from the Amazon and primarily destined for the USA. This declaration recognizes that, in Ecuador, oil companies and the State fail to comply with international environmental and social policies and standards, and violate human and the rights of nature in one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, such as the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Faced with this decision, we regret the response of Petroecuador EP, in which the national company affirms its alleged compliance with all international health, safety, and environmental standards. This shows a lack of knowledge and outdated information regarding the protection of the rights of Indigenous peoples and current climate commitments, and prevents the country from aligning with them. In the same tone, Petroecuador’s press release presents a landscape free of conflict and violations of human and rights of nature — such as pollution, oil spills without accountability or proper remediation, the lack of consultation and consent of the peoples and nationalities in the allocation of oil blocks in their territories, among others.

The lived reality of communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon differs from these affirmations. The open pit  burning of oil waste, and the spills produced by the lack of adequate prevention measures, contradict Petroecuador’s claims. In the last year, there have been two major oil spills in the northern Ecuadorian Amazon: on April 7 along the Coca and Napo rivers, and on November 27, in the Shiripuno. Both have directly affected the lives of over 120,000 people (Indigenous and non-Indigenous), who depend directly on rivers to live and on the flora and fauna with which they coexist. The spills also affect isolated Indigenous peoples, who, without protection by the State, are exposed to extermination. The first spill occurred precisely due to the negligence of Petroecuador and the OCP consortium.

In 50 years of oil exploitation, no government has developed consultation and consent processes for oil extraction or any other extractive industry (mining, agribusiness, etc) to fulfill international standards. This is why, in 2012, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights declared the Ecuadorian State responsible for non-compliance of prior consultation. Despite this, the State has tendered oil blocks without consultation in the past eight years. The case that the Waorani communities won in 2019 demonstrated a systematic violation of prior consultation and consent, self-determination, and self-government.

While the announcement of the European banks makes it clear that the Amazon is a global priority for humanity, the Petroecuador EP statement shows that the Amazon and its protection are not part of the Ecuadorian Government's agendas.

"The oil activity does not guarantee life, it does not respect the territories or the populations that inhabit them, and several court decisions have already shown this. If Petroecuador claims to handle 80% of oil production, then, it is the main party responsible for the environmental disaster produced in various areas of the Ecuadorian Amazon," said Marlon Vargas, president of CONFENIAE.

Petroecuador also mentions that proof of its compliance with current environmental and social regulations are the 250 environmental licenses and the biennial audits. However, this statement and the realities of the communities affected by the company only reveal the lack of policies that effectively regulate the hydrocarbon industry to guarantee that public and private companies fully comply with the standards and commitments, including those signed and ratified by Ecuador, such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and others associated with the Paris Agreement.

In this sense, Petroecuador EP reveals a position that promotes negligence and impunity regarding environmental and social damages generated by oil exploitation in the Amazon. In order to (re) build policies in accordance with the vision of those of us who live in the Amazon and the international policies in place, the Ecuadorian government must recognize the effects linked to the oil industry in our territories which have led to the decision of the banks involved in its financing.  

During the pandemic, Indigenous populations have shown that the only thing that guarantees their lives is taking care of their territories. For this reason, we are emphatic in pointing out that an extractive activity cannot be prioritized over the life of Indigenous and peasant communities and the protection of nature. Today, oil exploitation in Ecuador does not translate into taxes or profits for the country; on the contrary, it has led to ecocide and genocide. In addition, many oil companies owe back taxes to government and, in other cases, they have also pursued arbitration claims against the State, leaving multimillion-dollar debts (Perenco in both cases, among others).

 Our organizations propose to the Ecuadorian government another path:

  • Stop the destruction of natural resources and protect strategic ecosystems, especially the Amazon region, as a mechanism to mitigate climate change.
  • End the tender of the Sacha oil concession announced on the same day that three European banks made public their interest in stopping financing the Ecuadorian oil trade. That announcement is a contradiction in the current context where financiers flee from oil investments in Ecuador.
  • The immediate declaration of a moratorium on oil activities in the Amazon. This implies not authorizing new oil concessions and seeking new investments in accordance with the climate emergency. The extraction of resources in the Amazon is not economically or socially viable, it only produces destruction, social conflicts, disease, and death. The banks' decision is a recognition of the end of the extractivist model in our country.
  • Finally, we urge the other banks that have not yet made a shift of policy, to follow the decisions of BNP Paribas Group, Credit Suisse and ING as a way to ratify their commitments to the environment and human rights.

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Media contact: Andrés Tapia, CONFENIAE, +593 98 446 5175