Key concerns of the Special Rapporteur
The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people Mr. Rodolfo STAVENHAGEN visited Ecuador from 24 April to 4 May 2006. His report (A/HRC/4/32/Add.2) was submitted to the 4th session of the Human Rights Council from 12 to 30 March 2007. AITPN summarises the key concerns of the Special Rapporteur.
1. Failure of the Government to give full effect to the constitutional principles concerning indigenous rights through secondary legislation and regulations on various constitutional rights remains one of Special Rapporteur's concerns. The constitutional rights including land ownership and territorial rights of indigenous peoples have not yet been incorporated into adequate secondary legislation, which has made the management of public policies, administration of justice and allocation of resources to these peoples difficult.
2. Various governmental authorities created by presidential or ministerial decree to tackle issues of particular concern to indigenous peoples, such as Council for the Development of Ecuadorian Nationalities and Peoples ( CODENPE), Department of Bilingual Intercultural Education (DINEIB), Department of Health for Indigenous Peoples (DNSI) and National Department for the Indigenous Peoples (DINAPIN) lack the necessary legislative support and budgetary resources to allow them adequately to meet the needs of these peoples.
3. Most indigenous people in Ecuador live in extreme poverty, and meet fewer indicators of social and human development than other sectors of the population. In the inter-Andean corridors and the Andean heartlands, where demographic pressure on the limited natural resources is greater, indigenous agricultural production and living conditions are precarious, causing growing emigration to the cities and abroad, a phenomenon that particularly affects indigenous communities. Indigenous women and children are particularly vulnerable in this process.
4. Oil operations, mining, illegal logging and oil palm plantations are carried out primarily in indigenous territories, with negative effects on the environment and the communities' living conditions. The use the armed forces to secure the interests of oil, mining and logging companies operating in indigenous territories has triggered various abuses and complaints, and led to numerous conflicts with the indigenous population, who oppose the operations of these companies. As a result of such incursions, the Tagaeri-Taromenani people, who are un-contacted, semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers, are facing a situation of near extinction. Their survival and "untouchable" territory are threatened by such factors as pressure from illicit logging activities and the incursion of settlers.
5. In addition to the above, the plight of the indigenous communities on the northern border is further complicated by the aerial spraying of illicit crops, carried out in neighbouring Colombia under the auspices of Plan Colombia. This has serious negative effects on the Ecuadorian indigenous border populations.
6. Another serious concern facing the indigenous communities in Equador is drug trafficking. The growing of drugs like coca is rapidly replacing environment friendly crops.
7. Indigenous people make up the majority of workers in farms and suffer health problems due to the lack of hygiene in the workplace. Thousands of working children and young people are exploited and there is no State supervision. In Cotopaxi, there are farms where conditions are reminiscent of the worst periods of slavery, as workers are often paid mere two or three dollars per day, for 20 hours' work. Because of discrimination, indigenous women migrant workers are particularly vulnerable, becoming easy prey for trafficking and slavery networks, in addition to other abuses at workplace.
8. A 2004 survey on indigenous health shows that the percentage of indigenous people with access to piped water is three times less than the rest of the population, as is the case with access to domestic sanitary facilities connected to main sewerage. In all, 23 per cent of indigenous homes lack sufficient food and 36 per cent find it difficult to meet food costs (this figure is higher than among mestizos). Indigenous child mortality (aged under five) is 50 per cent greater than the national average (51 per thousand live births compared to 35 per thousand). Chronic malnutrition among indigenous children is more than double that of mestizo children (46.7 per cent compared to 21.2 per cent).
9. The Department of Health for Indigenous Peoples (DNSPI) states that indigenous health has not received the attention it deserves under the Government's general policies. The problem is acknowledged, as is the need to take steps to resolve it, but the necessary resources are not allocated. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are together promoting 93 indigenous health initiatives designed to ensure that the Government's health model is properly intercultural. Only 0.25 per cent of the total State budget is allocated to this area.
10. During the 2004 local elections there was ill-treatment and ethnic discrimination within polling stations and that these problems remain a major factor in the political exclusion of indigenous peoples. A study carried out by an intercultural election observation mission in various provinces during the 2004 local elections also concluded that the Supreme Electoral Court is promoting discriminatory practices against the country's indigenous citizens, given the lack of any specific policy to promote the rights of indigenous peoples within the electoral process.
11. Indigenous peoples have also serious concerns over the adverse impact of the free trade treaty that is being negotiated by the Ecuadorian Government with USA since November 2003 on their lives and livelihood. The indigenous peoples fear that the effects of the said treaty on the indigenous economy, particularly small producers, will be disastrous.
12. There are no legal provisions stipulating the scope of the judicial powers vested in the indigenous authorities under article 191 of the Constitution or the manner in which these powers are to be exercised. No law has been passed to harmonize these powers and functions of indigenous authorities with the national system. The absence of specific laws has often led and leads to numerous conflicts of jurisdiction between indigenous and legal authorities, apparent abuses by both authorities, instances of their taking the law into their own hands and even the formation of self-defence groups which claim that their actions are protected by indigenous customary law.
13. A large section of the indigenous children do not have access to schooling. A 2003 study in Cotopaxi showed that 526 rural children did not go to school, as their homes were too far away. The Department of Bilingual Intercultural Education (DINEIB) which is legally responsible for education programes for indigenous peoples and nationalities lacks the necessary resources to perform all the tasks assigned to it. Bilingual intercultural education is provided in 2,802 schools in 16 provinces, to some 123,400 pupils of 14 nationalities under DINEIB. As per a study, more than 1.3 million children still do not receive breakfast and lunch regularly. The meals are provided in state schools under the programme as an inducement to ensure their attendance at school.