Below is a statement from Bill Twist, CEO of The Pachamama Alliance, giving greater insight into Correa’s recent decision to pull the plug on the Yasuní-ITT initiative.

The Pachamama Alliance feels this latest development confirms an important point: until the dream of the modern world changes, the Amazon, and the indigenous nations that call it home, will remain under threat.

Most of you have probably seen the announcement that President Correa of Ecuador is planning to terminate the Yasuni-ITT Initiative that leaves crude oil underneath a region of the Amazon untapped in exchange for financial support from the international community. I want to provide some context for this announcement.

Distinguishing the Yasuní-ITT from the Region of Amazon The Pachamama Alliance Focuses On:

First, the Yasuni-ITT Initiative centers on an area in the far north-eastern part of Ecuador that makes up approximately 200,000 hectares of the Yasuni National Park. It is an extremely important part of Ecuador’s Amazon region. It is separate from the similarly important rainforest regions of the far larger southern and central part of Ecuador (3.5 million hectares and home to seven indigenous nationalities) where The Pachamama Alliance has been working for the past 18 years.

Under-reported Factors Playing a Role in Correa’s Decision, & Potential Consequences for Indigenous Nations:

Second, one of the main reasons that President Correa made the decision to pursue oil development in the Yasuni ITT block was because of the poor response Ecuador has received so far from international oil companies to the government’s 11th Oil Round that opens up blocks of rainforest for oil exploration in Ecuador’s south-central Amazon region. The indigenous and local opposition to the 11th Round was clearly a factor in the discouraging participation.  The Yasuni-ITT block looks to the State like a surer option for gaining revenues from oil development. So, in one sense the president’s announcement is a partial victory for our work. It is going to take some of the immediate pressure off of the Achuar and off of the people of Sarayaku and the other indigenous nationalities of the south-central.

There is Still Great Cause for Hope for the Yasuní:

The bad news, however, is for the Yasuni National Park, a true biological treasure for the world. However, proceeding with oil development there certainly won’t be quick and easy. A recent survey in Ecuador reported that over 90% of the population is opposed to oil development in the Yasuní. A properly designed and executed process of prior consultation with the affected indigenous communities will need to be completed. And Fundacion Pachamama and a number of other civil society organizations in Ecuador are already at work organizing to find solutions that will allow the Yasuni to remain protected and oil free.

The International Community is Not at Fault in the Way Correa Claims:

The other point that I want to be sure to clear up is that the failure of the initiative was not a failure of the international community as President Correa suggested in his announcement. A huge part of the reason the initiative didn’t raise the money intended was the result of faulty design of the project. Below is part of a reply that I sent to a journalist from England who inquired about Correa’s announcement:

“I think the president’s decision is certainly unfortunate. However the failure of the plan was more the result of Ecuador’s execution than of the lack of the international community’s interest. The plan as proposed by Ecuador had holes in it that could have been fixed but for some reason weren’t.

  • Ecuador was never willing to actually commit to leave the oil in the ground. They were not willing to have a penalty with teeth in it if some future administration decided to exploit the oil.
  • The whole time Ecuador was trying to enroll international support they were also moving forward with plans for the 11th Round—oil exploitation of adjacent rainforest lands nearly 20 times the size of the Yasuni ITT oil block.
  • And to top it off Ecuador was spending as much each year in subsidies that encourage fossil fuel use in the country as it was trying to raise in the Yasuni ITT Trust fund. International donors that looked closely at the plan didn’t step up because the plan lacked integrity.

Each of these three problems could have been fixed, and in fact still could be.”

The Importance of Changing the Dream of the Modern World is Underscored:

This latest development reinforces what the Achuar told us years ago:  That “the real work to be done, if we ever truly are going to save our rainforests, is to change the dream of the modern world.”

Knowing this, The Pachamama Alliance is more committed than ever to strengthen and expand its educational programs around the world, and to take the participants in our programs to even greater depths of engagement, transformation, and activism. We are in the process of developing educational programs that go both deeper and further for our constituency.

Please stay tuned. The Pachamama Alliance will be closely following further developments.