WECAN Announces International Women’s Day Delegation in Solidarity with Sápara and Kichwa Women Allies

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Sapara and Kichwa women leaders with allies in New York City during the United Nations General Assembly, September 2015 – Photo by Emily Arasim 

From WECAN’s urgent petition: ‘No Extraction In The Amazon! Women of Ecuadorian Amazon and International Allies Reject Oil Concessions, Stand For Rights of the Earth and Communities’ (Click here to add your signature today!)

In late January, the government of Ecuador signed a contract with Chinese corporation Andes Petroleum, handing over rights for oil exploration and extraction in two controversial Amazonian blocks which overlap the traditional territory of the Sápara and Kichwa peoples of the Ecuadorian Amazon. The Sápara indigenous people are a small, threatened group of only 300, which have official recognition by UNESCO as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”.

Concession plans open up almost a million acres in the center of Ecuador’s road-less southeastern Amazon, where Indigenous communities have successfully prevented extraction for decades. The concession means large swaths of deforestation and irreversible devastation of the forest’s magnificent ecological, social and cultural diversity.

The implications of this contract for the rights and health of local communities and ecosystems, as well as for climate disruption at a global scale, cannot be overstated. Approximately 20 percent of the carbon dioxide produced from burning fossil fuels is absorbed by tropical forests around the world, and this is just one of many critical ecologic functions. Consequently, protecting the Amazon rainforest, the largest of the world’s tropical forests, must be central to environmental and economic policies.

Within this context, Indigenous peoples and their rights must be respected and protected because it is their intimate relationship with their forests and their courageous ongoing struggles to defend their territories that has and will continue to bring about the highest protection of the Amazon rainforest.

The government of Ecuador and China have signed these most recent oil contracts just a month after pledging at the UN COP21 climate negotiations in Paris to take action along with 195 countries to keep global warming below 2.0 degree Celsius. Scientists have stated that we must keep 80% of global fossil fuel reserves in the ground to avoid climate catastrophe. Oil extraction in the Amazon will contribute to the negation of the Paris Agreement and the demands of science.

Additionally, the Ecuadorian government claims to have consulted the Sápara in accordance with Article 57 of the constitution, which requires Free, Prior, and Informed Consultation (FPIC). However, rather than consult the communities, as Ecuador’s constitution requires, and obtain their consent, which is required under international law, the government has wager a campaign to divide the Sápara. Despite the government’s false claims of community approval and attempts to create its own Sápara federation, the only legitimate federation of th Sápara does not recognize any agreement for access to Sápara territory.

The Sápara people and the Kichwa of Sarayaku have denounced the new contracts as a violation of their fundamental rights, and have made clear their intentions to keep resisting extraction and protecting their rainforest.

In solidarity, WECAN denounces and calls for cancelation of the new oil contract for Block 79 and 83 in the Ecuadorian Amazon; demands action by the government of Ecuador to heed the calls of the Sápara and Kichwa to immediately halt all further exploration and extraction in the Amazon; and calls for international action to expose the rights violations in Ecuador. WECAN also calls for alternative options to be explored by the Ecuadorian government and international community to address oil extraction caused by economic pressures.

Additionally, WECAN expresses urgent concern about the violence against Indigenous women working to protect their territories and their families and cultures.

Click here to read and sign the full petition, including poignant declarations directly from the Indigenous women Earth defenders of the Ecuadorian Amazon.

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Oil extraction in the Northern Ecuadorian Amazon – Photo by Emily Arasim

Action and Delegation Details

As part of an ongoing response to current events in Ecuador (detailed in our petition), the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International, in collaboration with Amazon Watch, is organizing a Delegation to Ecuador for this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8, 2016.

We will join our Amazonian women allies at forums, marches and press conferences, uniting in solidarity to denounce to the dire threats facing the living systems of the Amazon and it’s Indigenous communities as a result of the Ecuadorian governments new oil contract with Andes Petroleum.

In particular, the WECAN delegation will stand with and work to bring light to the stories, struggles and solutions of the Sápara and Kichwa women, who continue to put their bodies on the line to defend the rights of their communities and the health and wellbeing of the planet for generations to come.

The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network delegation will consist of Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN Executive Director), Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation leader, WECAN Special Projects Advisor, Representative of the Indigenous Women of the Americas: Defenders of Mother Earth Treaty Compact 2015, signed between Indigenous women of the US and Canada, and women of the Sapara and Kichwa people of Ecuador) and Emily Arasim (WECAN Media and Communications). WECAN is very honored that Casey Camp Horinek will be joining us to share her critical leadership and knowledge and to continue to build a powerful link between Indigenous women of the North and South.

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Gloria Ushigua, President of the Association of Sapara Women, speaks on the situation in her homeland at the International Rights of Nature Tribunal in Paris, France, December 2015 – Photo by Emily Arasim

The delegation will commence on March 6/7 in Quito, Ecuador where WECAN will host strategy sessions before departure to Puyo, east-central Ecuador.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, the Delegation, in solidarity with Indigenous Sápara women and the Kichwa of Sarayaku, will help organize and participate in a direct action, march, press conference and forum in Puyo, working to bring international attention to the grave and intertwined social and ecological threats posed by expanding oil extraction in the Amazon, with particular focus on the dual violations against Indigenous women, and their powerful resistance and solutions building.

On March 9, the WECAN Delegation and several of the Indigenous women leaders will travel back to Quito to hold a press conference with the assistance of local allies, highlighting the movement of women coming to Ecuador for International Women’s Day in solidarity with the Sapara and Kichwa women, and making it known that the world’s eyes are on Ecuador to cancel recent oil contracts in recognition of the Rights of the Indigenous communities of the Amazon, the Rights of Nature, and the vital importance of protecting the Rainforest as a climate change mitigation imperative.

Through WECAN outreach, United Nations representatives have been made aware of and invited to participate in the Ecuador Delegation. Regardless of their attendance, they will be petitioned to write letters in support of the Kichwa and Sapara women, for presentation in Ecuador by the Delegation. WECAN International will additionally compose and send letters to international leaders calling for support and intervention.

WECAN is also engaged in conversations with allies about alternative solutions to addressing Ecuador’s pressure to drill for oil.

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Rainforests of the Ecuadorian Amazon – Photo by Emily Arasim

WECAN is asking global women and allies to circulate blogs/statements/news resources, add their name to the signature campaign, plan/participate in global solidarity events, and/or share photos/message of solidarity on social media. WECAN will be hosting a  network-wide call in advance of the delegation, to further inform and engage global women allies to take action.

In the Bay Area, California, WECAN US Women’s Climate Justice Initiative Steering Committee member, Pennie Opal Plant of Movement Rights and Idle No More SF Bay Area, will organize and lead a parallel action on March 8th.

Throughout the time on-the-ground in Ecuador, WECAN will conduct video and print interviews with Sapara and Kichwa women and document the marches and actions taking place in Puyo. Videos and interviews will be published and shared internationally following the delegation, and will potentially be incorporated into a larger documentary on women and climate struggles and solutions.

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Please contact WECAN Communications Coordinator, Emily, at emily@wecaninternational.org with questions, comments and media requests.

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