Amazon tribe wins final court battle to protect their rainforest from oil drilling

Earlier this year, the Waorani won a court case protecting their territory in the Amazon rainforest from oil drilling, but the Ecuadorian Government appealed the court’s decision.

In July the Waorani won the appeal. The decision by the panel of three judges now permanently nullifies the consultation process with the Waorani undertaken by the Ecuadorian government in 2012 and indefinitely suspends the auctioning of their lands to oil companies.

During the verdict, the judges cited a pattern of structural flaws in the 2012 consultation process. These included wide-ranging failings with its design and implementation, including bad faith and false reporting on compliance, unintelligible communications, grossly insufficient time allocation and unaddressed complexities of translation.

The government disregarded the Waorani’s traditional governance and decision-making practices and omitted the inclusion of their legitimate traditional leaders. It failed to guarantee that they fully understood the implications of the government’s plans for oil drilling in their territory, and did not ensure that they were given the opportunity to make a collective decision regarding those plans.

The verdict also prevents the auctioning of sixteen oil blocks that cover over seven million acres of indigenous territory and it provides a legal precedent for other indigenous peoples across the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Watch: The Waorani people won a landmark lawsuit in Ecuador

“This victory is for my ancestors. It’s for our forest and future generations. And it’s for the whole world,” said Nemonte Nenquimo, President of the Coordinating Council of the Waorani Nationality of Ecuador-Pastaza (CONCONAWEP) and plaintiff in the lawsuit.

“We have shown that life is more important than oil and that united we can protect our way of life, the Amazon rainforest, and our planet from destruction.”

The lawsuit highlighted the gap between the government’s desire for oil revenues to relieve international debt and indigenous peoples’ internationally recognized rights to informed consent and self-determination.

After decades of contamination and cultural disruption in indigenous territories across the Amazon, the court ruling represents a victory for indigenous peoples fighting for what is left of their wild forests.

“Indigenous peoples collectively own nearly 70 percent of the Ecuadorian Amazon, but they also control more than a quarter of the entire Amazon basin,” said Mitch Anderson, Executive Director of Amazon Frontlines.

“This battle goes beyond the courtroom, it’s a testament to the Waorani people’s knowledge of their forest, their way of life and their resilience in defending their homeland against all odds. Indigenous stewardship is the key to safeguarding the Amazon from destruction.”

A global digital campaign warning that “Waorani territory is not for sale” contributed to the victory. The campaign resulted in a global movement of solidarity with the Waorani struggle, garnering more than 340 000 signatures and public support from international celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo.

Source: Capricorn Review