Campaign of the Month: YASunidos

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YASunidos is an independent, democratic, pacifist, nonpartisan, inclusive and diverse movement in Ecuador. It seeks to protect Life, the Amazon and the Peoples in Voluntary Isolation through effective enforcement of the Constitution of Ecuador, as well as through a transition towards a post-extractivism socio-economic model that will lead the country towards equity and towards the Sumak Kawsay (Good Life).

What is Yasuní?

  • Yasuní is a National Park in the Amazon region, in the provinces of Pastaza and Orellana in Ecuador

  • It covers an area of 982,000 hectares

  • It was declared National Park in 1979

  • An even larger area of the park was declared a Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO in 1989 due to its natural and cultural wealth

  • Yasuní was a wildlife refuge at the end of the Ice Age.

What does Yasuní represent?

  • It is the symbol of the Good Life.

  • It is the resistance emblem of environmental struggles in Ecuador

  • It represents the transition towards a socioeconomic model that is friendly towards nature and all animals, including humans

  • It seems like utopia next to other lifestyles

  • It is a global banner to fight climate change and to keep fossil fuels in the ground

  • It is the confirmation of nature’s rights that Ecuador, as a country, have recognised

Who lives in Yasuní?

The Waorani, the Kichwas, the Shuar, settlers and mestizos coexist in this area. The Tagaeri and the Taromenane, known as Isolated Indigenous People, also live in the Yasuní, and are known for not having any contact with anyone else. Their existence there is safeguarded by various constitutional, international and legal tools.

The territory of peoples living in voluntary isolation is known as the “Intangible Zone” and covers an area of 700,000 hectares. It was marked off in 1999 in order to protect the life of these peoples from the catastrophic extractive activities.

What will happen if the oil exploitation of Yasuní is increased?

  • We will emphasise our reliance on world capitalism, being mere exporters of raw materials

  • We will be denying our multiculturalism, and any possibility of rethinking our society based on world views different to the western world view

  • We will be violating the Isolated Peoples and nature’s rights as well as our own Plan for the Good Life

  • We will expose our society to irreversible damage from anthropogenic climate change

  • We will further delay the necessary transition towards a post-oil country

  • We shall lose the biological knowledge yet to be discovered of our rainforest; an example of this is the discovery of at least 441 new animal and plant species in the entire Amazon basin following a research of only 4 years.

Should the extraction be stopped if there is any sort of contact with Isolated Indigenous Peoples?

In March 2008, the Ministries of Heritage, Mines and the Environment agreed a Code of Conduct for oil companies which argues that all oil activities must be stopped at the first sign of the presence of Isolated Indigenous Peoples. This Code was also endorsed by Chinese oil companies a few years ago, at their own initiative. Finally, the Assembly dictated the same guidelines for the exploitation of Blocks 31 and 43 (ITT [Ishpingo, Tambococha and Tiputini]). However:

  • In March 2008 there was a tragic contact with illegal timber merchants in Block 14 and the activities did not cease

  • In August 2009 there was evidence of another attack on a family in Block 17. As a preliminary measure, the Ministry for the Environment requested from the Ministry of Mines and Oil, through document no. MAE-D-2009-0429, the cessation of the oil activities in the area where the attack had occurred. This request was never answered and the activities did not cease

  • In March 2013 there was another unfortunate contact in Block 16 and yet the activities did not stop.

What economic benefits will we obtain from the exploitation of the ITT Block?

  • The latest information reveals that Ecuador will not receive 18 billion dollars for the ITT oil, but instead it will only receive, at best, around 14 billion dollars; this value will be even lower if the Assembly’s recommendations are followed and the Ishpingo well, which is located inside the Intangible Zone, is not exploited

  • The 18 billion dollars originally offered, divided into 13 years of exploitation, equal the annual budget of the Ministry of Defence

  • Oil exploitation in Ecuador has been taking place since 1972, and in these over 40 years little or nothing positive has been obtained from the oil extraction activities.

What other economic activities can replace the oil extraction?

The right to education, health and housing are guaranteed Human Rights that must not be subjugated by the extraction of natural resources. Exploiting the Yasuní has not been and will not be the solution for our country; there are other ways in which we can improve our quality of life:

  • Increasing tax by 1.5% for the largest 10 economic groups in the country would mean a profit of $20.6 billion over 25 years. That is, $2.3 billion more than what would be obtained from the exploitation of the ITT Block.

  • Nationalise the mobile phone business

  • Focus subsidies

  • Invest in local community tourism

  • Implement renewable energies

  • Develop bio-knowledge

Organising against Yasuní ITT

YASunidos is the main organisation behind the mobilisations against Yasuní ITT. At the moment the main goal is to collect 600,000 signatures, which gives the right for the state to organise a national referendum on whether or not to extract oil in Yasuní ITT. At the time of writing, YASunidos has collected more than 500,000 signatures and it is expected they will reach the 600,000. YASunidos has suffered all forms of pressures to stop their mobilisations, with intimidation to their members, and a group of local mayors with interest in the extraction of the oil coming up with a fake form to collect signature to invalidate the process.

The movement has been very creative in their actions, with many street actions and also a widespread use of social network.

To know more and to support YASunidos you can contact them:

a. Email: info@yasunidos.org

b. Twitter: @Yasunidos

c. Facebook: Yasunidos

d. Website: http://www.yasunidos.org/

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