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PRESS RELEASE - Visionary ‘Living Forest’ Proposal To Be Launched by Kichwa People of Sarayaku in Ecuador

July 20, 2018

MEDIA ADVISORY

July 19, 2018

CONTACTS:
Samai Gualinga (Sarayaku): +593 984-850-138 or samaigualinga@gmail.com
Kevin Koenig (Amazon Watch): + 415-726-4607 or kevin@amazonwatch.org
Emily Arasim (Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network): +1 505-920-0153 or emily@wecaninternational.org 
Jade Begay (Indigenous Environmental Network): +1 505-699-4791 or jade@ienearth.org

Visionary ‘Living Forest’ Proposal To Be Launched by Kichwa People of Sarayaku in Ecuador

Proposal for New International Category of Forest and Rights Protection to be Presented to Government Officials and International Dignitaries

What: The Kichwa Pueblo of Sarayaku will officially launch its Kawsak Sacha, (Living Forest) proposal in Ecuador this July 2018, with a four day exhibition and conference in Quito that will showcase Sarayaku's way of life, culture, and vision, and will involve a formal presentation to the Ecuadorian government and international dignitaries. 

With Kawsak Sacha, Sarayaku proposes a new international category for the permanent protection of native land, free of natural resource extraction, and based upon the interconnected relationship indigenous peoples have with their forests, water, and spirits. 

The launch is timed to coincide with the anniversary of Sarayaku's historic victory at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which found that the Ecuadorian government violated the community's rights when pursuing oil drilling activities without their consent.

Key Events: 

  • Press Conference: July 23, 10 am Pabellón del Hábitat (Parque Arbolito), Quito
  • Exhibition: July 25-28, 10am – 9pm Pabellón del Hábitat (Parque Arbolito), Quito
  • Declaration Launch: July 26, 5pm (Teatro Capítol on Av. Gran Colombia), Quito
  • Film screening + Discussion: July 27, 5pm Children of the Jaguar followed by discussion: “Six Years after the IACHR Judgment: Achievements and Challenges.” 
  • Pabellón del Hábitat (Parque Arbolito), Quito

Full schedule here

Who: Over one hundred representatives of the Kichwa people of Sarayaku, including leaders, elders, women, youth, along with national indigenous representatives and special guests from around the world.

Interviews and Multimedia: Representatives of Sarayaku will be available for interviews at the press conference and throughout the four-day exhibition. Photos and video can also be made available upon request.

Background: Currently, no international designation for conservation exists that recognizes the unique relationship between Indigenous peoples and the forest. For Sarayaku, the systems of natural protected areas created thus far by the Ecuadorian state and international organizations, which do not result in full consultation or the participation of indigenous peoples, are not a solution, and in fact degrade and violate basic indigenous rights to autonomy and sovereignty. 

Sarayaku's successful efforts to stop oil activities on their lands have kept an estimated 100 million barrels of oil in the ground, essentially a de-facto no-go-zone beneath 330,000 acres of standing primary, roadless rainforest. Yet their land is not permanently protected, and continues to be a focus of possible new drilling plans. Meanwhile, Sarayaku leaders have received threats for their adamant opposition to oil extraction. 

Kawsak Sacha, if recognized and upheld by Ecuador or other international entities like IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), could serve as a new way to protect indigenous managed forests - an essential defense mechanism to keep the Amazon from turning from a carbon sink to a carbon source at a time when the world must keep two-thirds of  all fossil fuels in the ground to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. 

Sarayaku is known as the Pueblo del Medio Día, which roughly translates into 'People of the Zenith'. This comes from a prophecy of their ancestors, who saw a future where many of their indigenous brothers and sisters would give up when faced with the onslaught of threats - oil and mining extraction, agro-business, logging, rubber tappers, and missionaries. Their elders saw that Sarayaku would remain strong, like the sun at its noonday zenith. The Kawsak Sacha Living Forest Proposal provides hope for the Amazon and the world - a concrete solution for protecting forests and the climate while respecting and implementing indigenous  rights and life plans. 

Quotes:

“Sarayaku has fought off oil companies for 35 years. We have expelled companies from our territory, taken our legal case to the Inter-American Court and won. So this experience has well positioned us to present our Living Forest Proposal to the world. We, indigenous peoples, fight for our existence, not our extermination. We want our rights to be respected! Our proposal is a collective and unified effort of our people- men, women, children and elders- responding to the voice of the forest. Our proposal is not only for Sarayaku, but for all humanity and all life on the planet. We’ve had to travel long distances from our territory, leaving our children and way of life, to bring forth a message and proposal for life to the world. We are all responsible for creating and sharing consciousness with our children and future generations. This is what we must do to survive. But we don't just want to survive and exist; we want to thrive.” -- Mirian Cisneros, President of Sarayaku

Quotes from international allies present at the launch: 

“For nearly two decades, Amazon Watch has been a close ally and supporter of the Kichwa people of Sarayaku because we recognize their visionary leadership in protecting rights, forests, and the climate. Against all odds, they have resisted oil extraction on their territory and won, giving hope for respect for indigenous peoples rights everywhere. Now, Sarayaku is sharing a holistic and indigenous-led model for permanent protection of their sacred forest and all of our collective future. We urge the Ecuadorian government and the international community to heed Sarayaku’s call for permanent protection of the Living Forest.” -- Leila Salazar-López,Executive Director, Amazon Watch

“The Kichwa of Sarayaku have been unyielding in their defense of their inherent rights and protection of not only the physical nature of the forest and their pristine ecosystem, but for the consciousness and creative principles of the living spirit of the forests. Our relatives, the Kichwa peoples of Sarayaku have demonstrated their solidarity with Indigenous peoples of the North, from UN climate meetings, to Standing Rock, and most recently with their attendance at the 17th Protecting Earth Indigenous Conference held in the forested coastal region of North America. The Sarayaku have been true allies in our fights to protect the sacredness and territorial integrity of Mother Earth and all life. It is without hesitation that the Indigenous Environmental Network stands with the Kichwa People of Sarayaku as they launch the Kawsak Sacha(Living Forest) proposal to permanently protect their ancestral homelands. Their campaign is timely as Indigenous peoples from the South to the North are rising up to unite to restore balance from a changing climate, protect the world’s remaining cultural and biodiversity, and to stand with one voice to keep fossil fuels in the ground.” -- Tom BK Goldtooth, Executive Director, Indigenous Environmental Network 

"The Living Forest Proposal represents many years of work and advocacy, and embodies countless generations of ancestral knowledge and vision of the people of Sarayaku. The Women's Earth and Climate Action Network commends and expresses the deepest support of and solidarity with this Proposal. In the context of the global struggle for just climate solutions, Indigenous rights, biodiversity protection, an end to fossil fuel extraction, this Declaration - directly from Indigenous leaders in the heart of Amazon Rainforest - is not only important, it is transformative and groundbreaking. WECAN International joins with international organizations calling on the Ecuadorian government to respect the directive of the people of Sarayaku, as they call for protection of their territory and present a tangible vision for a Living Forest and a thriving future for people worldwide." -- Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International

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