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A Landmark Lawsuit Sets New Precedent for Indigenous Land Rights in the Amazon

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Waorani indigenous people march toward the provincial court to demand the non-exploitation of oil in their territory, in Puyo, Ecuador, on April 11th, 2019.

The indigenous Waorani community in Ecuador won a historic lawsuit against the government late last month when a three-judge panel ruled that a consultation process conducted with the community in 2012 was inadequate and violated the community’s rights.

The ruling immediately suspends any possibility of selling the community’s territory for the sake of oil extraction. The lawsuit represents 16 Waorani communities that live deep in Ecuador’s southern Amazon rainforest, in an area that has long been part of the government‘s oil development plans.

“Today, we have protected our forest from oil drilling, we have protected our water from contamination, we have protected our children from sickness,” said Oswando Nenquimo, spokesperson for the Waorani of the province of Pastaza, in an April 26th press release.

But April’s ruling is more than just a win for the Waorani. It also sets an important precedent for other indigenous communities in the Amazon fighting against extraction activities in their territory, and opens the door to reshape the country’s controversial free, prior, and informed consent process.

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