Federación Independiente del Pueblo Shuar del Ecuador (FIPSE) c. Arco Oriente s/ Amparo [ENG]
Court support for collective rights of indigenous organizations to cultural and land integrity. Violation of International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples. Right to consultation and participation in the design, implementation and evaluation of plans and programs potentially affecting those peoples.
On April 27, 1998, oil company Arco Oriente Inc. signed an hydrocarbon development agreement with Ecuador. Although 70% of the land belonging to Federación Independiente del Pueblo Shuar del Ecuador (FIPSE) was within the area to be devoted to the project, its members were not notified of the terms of the agreement or the related environmental impact. FIPSE, in a Special Meeting of its members, decided to prohibit all individual negotiations or agreements by FIPSE Member Centers or Associations with the company. This was notified to both the State and the company. However, Arco entered the land and signed an agreement with several persons obtaining authorization to have company experts conduct an environmental impact survey. FIPSE filed an amparo action requesting its right of inviolability of domicile, political organization, and internal forms of exerting authority. The Constitutional Court decided Arco's behavior was incompatible with International Labor Organization Convention No. 169 and the Constitution, since both protect the right of indigenous peoples to be consulted and to participate in the design, implementation and evaluation of national and regional development plans and programs potentially affecting them directly, the rights to preserve their individual customs and institutions, and their cultural identity, as well as the rights to property and possession of ancestral land. The Court ordered the company to refrain from promoting approaches or meetings seeking dialogue with individuals, FIPSE Centers or Associations without due and legitimate authorization by FIPSE's Meeting of Members.
Keywords: Federación Independiente del Pueblo Shuar del Ecuador (FIPSE) c. Arco Oriente s/ Amparo, Right, Self-Determination
In April 2000, the rights Arco had in the land to be used in the development project were transferred to Burlington, an American oil company. Faced with the indigenous peoples' refusal to negotiate and in their effort to advance development activity, Burlington made attempts to approach a few indigenous leaders. Due to these actions, indigenous communities federations (FIPSE, FINAE y FICSH) reopened the Interfederational Committee of Defense of Shuar and Achuar Peoples' Land. Thus, it was possible to disrupt the dialogues and negotiations that the company had started.
Applicants: Federación Independiente del Pueblo Shuar del Ecuador (FIPSE) sponsored by Centro de Derechos Económicos y Sociales (http://www.cdes.org). Defendant: Arco Oriente Inc.
This decision is a valuable precedent, because it grants legal protection to the indigenous communities' traditional ways of political organization and representation. This protection is an indispensable tool for these communities to be able to effectively defend their substantive rights. Furthermore, the decision had a strong impact on indigenous peoples, as they started to see the court way as an effective tool to defend their rights.