Yasuní Green Gold is an international campaign that was created with the support of the government and Orellana and local indigenous people, in the Yasuní region. It aims to raise awareness of the region and create a network of support for the conservation of the park and protection of the local people of the Yasuní.
The original National Government proposal
In May 2007 the national government of Ecuador put forward an innovative idea: they would refrain from exploiting the ITT oil block in the Yasuní in exchange for receiving $350 million annually from the international community for the next ten years. The figure is what they estimate to be half the amount of money they would have received from oil revenue. The proposal originally stated that the money should be received by July the following year.
The proposal was a bold one, with an inspiring set of principals behind it.
- It was the first time a national government had sought international support to keep its oil underground.
- The idea that rich nations would help a developing country withstand immense pressure from the oil industry and enable it to stand firm in the fight against climate change had the potential to be revolutionary.
- If successful, it could become a model for other developing nations across the world to save their own environmental and cultural treasures without having to sacrifice their economic development.
There were fundamental problems with the way the Ecuadorian Government framed the proposal.
- It did not clearly guarantee the preservation of the Yasuní. Instead, it set a time limit for financial pledges - after which, presumably, the Yasuní would be thrown to the mercy of big oil.
- It also left open the possibility that, even if funds were successfully raised from the international community, they could at any minute be re-paid by the Ecuadorian Government and the Yasuní exploited.
- Exactly where the money raised would go and how it would be managed was never clearly expressed.
- Local Yasuní bodies were not invited to participate in the proposal or in any future planning, casting doubt on how much money would be channelled into the development of much-needed local alternative economic activities.
(below the campaign outlines how it believes the proposal can be positively developed)
What has happened to the national proposal to save the Yasuní since May 2007?
Since the proposal was presented in May there have been some positive advancements. Ecuador is in the process of creating a new constitution. At the moment it has some very advanced environmental and human rights articles which if approved would go to support the preservation of the Yasuní and respect the rights of the indigenous people.
The government has also extended the deadline on two occasions giving more time to rally international support.
On the other hand the weak points in the proposal have still not been addressed or improved upon. Its vagueness and its poor presentation to the world suggests a lack of dedication that has not inspired much confidence. The government have failed to put all the necessary resources and efforts into the proposal in order to make it successful. They began promoting the proposal way too late and opened a bank account after the first deadline had already passed. News on what is happening is unclear and unconfirmed and the official government ITT website is rarely up-dated.
Divisions in the government over the ITT proposal have also emerged and recently the main advocates of the proposal have begun to resign. However it seems that these tensions have been brewing for some time. Original proposals, developed by social movements in Ecuador to keep the oil underground, aimed to assert the concept that no-one can pay for the right to pollute the planet. However, on falling into the hands of neo-classical economists, the proposal has been translated to fit with current free-market ideas of carbon trading and 'debt-for-nature-swaps' - ideas that have already proven ineffective in reducing carbon emissions.
Such divisions in the Ecuadorian government explain contradictions in policy which have created mistrust, most notably illustrated by the licence recently given to drill in Block 31, also inside the Yasuní. Also the promotion of the Manta-Manaos corridor which would convert the river Napo into a motorway of trading ships between Brazil and China.
At the same time, on a local level, many things have not changed. Huge oil spills continue to occur with companies refusing to take responsibility. Local communities continue to be repressed, and those speaking out against the multinationals arrested.
What kind of support did the proposal get?
Within the government of Ecuador and in local bodies many people have been working hard to support and develop the proposal to preserve the Yasuní.
A survey carried out in Quito and Guayaquil, the two largest cities in Ecuador, showed huge support for the original proposal. However, the message from the people of Ecuador was clear - with or without the money, the Yasuní must not be exploited.
Outside Ecuador countries such as Spain, Norway and Germany have responded positively and International funding bodies like The Clinton Foundation have shown active interest in the proposal.
Organisations and individuals from across the world have stepped oup in support or launched campaigns, such as Yasuní Green Gold, Amazonia por la Vida and Save America's Forests, to contribute to national efforts to save the Yasuní.
A year after launching the proposal, the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, announced that only the Spanish have actually put up any money and warned that time is running out. Howeer, in order to get international support Ecuador's government needs to be clear, consistent and provide a guarantee for the protection of the Yasuní and its peoples. Correa's government on the other hand appears to be hesitant to make such guarantees without solid international support and hence the process has come to a standstill.
Are financial pledges from the international community the answer?
No, not if they are 'buying' the preservation of the Yasuní and the lives of its inhabitants. Paying for the Yasuní to remain unexploited undermines the human rights of those that live within the zone and other international environmental laws because the Yasuní is a protected park and the people that live within it have a basic right to life. A price cannot be put on these rights and should not be demanded. This was also recognised by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights who ordered special protective measures on the behalf of the Taromenane and Tagaeri.
Certainly money should be given to Ecuador to support the development of alternative economic activities and to help the country preserve its forests and escape from its oil dependence. This is not charity; it is something that is beneficial for the whole world in preventing climate change. Certainly, the Yasuní should be protected because of its unique biological, ecological and cultural importance. But these are separate issues. It is wrong to use the preservation of the Yasuní and the lives of people as bargaining chips. This can only lead to schemes which attempt to put a price on things which are priceless.
What is the Yasuní Green Gold position on the national proposal?
We want to encourage and support the national government to develop and improve its original proposal.
How are we going about doing this?
- We would like an unlimited extension to the period of time the Ecuadorian Government has given to reach an agreement on the preservation the Yasuní. The deadline has currently been extended for the second time till July 2009. But this approach of giving an extra three months here, or five months there, has not generated confidence in the government's seriousness about finding such a solution.
- Once the looming deadline has been lifted it will then be necessary for the national government to consult with affected parties, most importantly the local and indigenous people of the region. We suggest that in order to create a clear, coherent and fully representative proposal for securing the future of the Yasuní that governments, NGO's, local people and other concerned parties to work together. We would like to see this process kicked off with an international conference involving all of these parties, with the purpose producing the best solution possible.
- The government of Ecuador must commit to and take responsibility for unconditionally conserving the Yasuní and protecting the rights of the indigenous people of the region. Such a policy must be coherent, consistent and fully implemented.
- At the same time the international community, including governments, NGO's and international organisations, must commit to working with the Ecuadorian government and the local people to create the best possible proposal to preserve the Yasuní. Once a decision has been made, they must wholeheartedly support it and fight to make sure it is carried out properly.
What must not happen?
- By working to create a united co-ordinated front with this network so we can be the most effective in supporting the national Government in creating a positive, effective and representative proposal.
What has been achieved already?
- Any decision to keep the oil underground must be final and non-reversible. The Government should not be able to pay back any money it's been given by the international community and drill up the oil.
- The Yasuní must not be included in any sort of carbon trading scheme, in which the people of the region would lose the rights to their own forest. Carbon trading is a false solution to climate change. The purpose of saving the Yasuní is to find a real one.
- Nor must there be any debt cancellation schemes that trade the Yasuní off on the international market.
- There must be no backhanded deals or the kind of buck-passing so common in international climate change negotiations. Once a decision has been made it will be the responsibility of the national and local governments to make sure promises are met.
- All decisions made must be consistent with the conservation of the Yasuní. There can be no parallel projects which have a negative impact on the Yasuní, it's bio-diversity or indigenous cultures.
- The deadline for the proposal has already been extended twice suggesting a wish to give the alternative to exploitation a chance.
- The publication of a photographic book on the region putting across the local experience of life in the Yasuní region.
- The July issue of the New Internationalist magazine is all about the Yasuní and the Yasuní Green Gold Campaign with updates are continuing every month...
- A network of people throughout Europe is developing of people working together to try and help save the Yasuní, join us too!