Yasunidos Discuss Ongoing Struggle for Conservation

The International Legal Studies Program (ILSP) LL.M Board hosted "Yasuni: A Struggle for Conservation and Democracy," a discussion with members of the Yasunidos movement in Ecuador, including Pablo Piedra Vivar (LL.M '13), about their struggle for conservation and democracy in Ecuador. Pablo, who is a lawyer helping the Yasunidos, and his colleagues were in DC to urge the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to hear their case. While in DC, Pablo, Eduardo, and Patricia came to WCL to present the history of the Yasunidos movement and explain their ongoing stuggle for conservation and democracy. In 2013, President Correa, the President of Ecuador, announced it would open areas in Yasuni National Park, one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, to oil drilling, which ended an initiative launched in 2007 by President Correa, which promised to leave Yasuni undisturbed and not open for fossil fuel exploration in exchange for international investment in Ecuador. Yasuni National Park has a tremendous amount of biodiversity and two communities of indigenous peoples who live in voluntary isolation. These indigenous communities have been living in Yasuni for hundreds of years and move around to preserve the forest and be near familial or ancestral grounds. Following the announcement that Yasuni would be open to oil drilling many in Ecuador reacted by protesting this decision. Then they worked to gather thousands of signatures in order to get an initiative on the ballot to protect Yasuni. Pablo and Patricia explained this effort and how the government has ignored these calls and repressed the movement by, among other things, invalidating the signatures gathered and trying to undermine the movement by criticizing them in local media. They also explained that this movement, which started out as one based on conservation of the Yasuni national park, has grown to be about democracy and political rights too and that has lead them to look for redress outside of Ecuador and petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Professor David Hunter introduced the panel and served as moderator.