Achuar and Shuar against oil extraction, Ecuador


Since the 1970s, oil activity has become the principal source of revenue for the Ecuadorian government. This activity has mainly concentrated in the north of the Ecuadorian Amazon. However, the Ecuadorian government has tried many times to expand this resource extractive frontier toward the centre-southern Amazonian provinces. This latter region is considered one of the best conserved rainforest areas and the ancestral territory of diverse indigenous peoples. One of these attempts of oil expansion was the concession of the oil block n.24. It was granted to the oil company Arco Oriente Inc. in 1998, without previous information and consultation to the directly affected inhabitants. They are mainly Shuar and Achuar indigenous peoples who rely on the rainforest ecosystem for securing their livelihoods. Once the contract was signed the oil company tried to initiate its exploratory activities without success due to the local opposition. As a result, Arco sold the block to Burlington Resources Ecuador Ltd in 2000 which experienced the same strong local resistance; it consequently withdrew from the project. However, in 2012, the government of Ecuador has started a new round of oil concessions in south-east Ecuador which are today quite controversial and debated.

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Basic Data
NameAchuar and Shuar against oil extraction, Ecuador
ProvinceProvinces of Pastaza and Morona Santiago
SiteMunicipalities of Taisha and Pastaza
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Specific CommoditiesCrude oil
Project Details and Actors
Project Area (in hectares)200,000
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date1998
Company Names or State EnterprisesArco Oriente Inc. from Ecuador - subsidiary of Arco International Oil Angas Company in the period 1998-2000
Burlington Resources Ecuador Limited - in the period 2000-2008
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Energy and Mines
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAccion Ecologica, Pachamama, CDES, Amazonwatch (US), Friends of the Earth (US), CEOLS- Central Ecuatoriana de Organizaciones Sindicales Libres.
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Shareholder/financial activism.
Street protest/marches
Exchanges of oil experiences with indigenous organizations from the north of the Ecuadorian Amazon
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Oil spills, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Block 24 was declared under a state of emergency from 2001 to 2008, due to the Shuar and Achuar opposition. In 2008 the Block returned to be property of the Ecuadorian state.
Development of AlternativesShuar and Achuar organizations are working ito manage their territory following a process of planning in which activities such as tourism or non-forestry resources exploitation are being promoted.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.As a result of the strong opposition, the block 24 was declared under state of emergency in 2001. In 2008, all the concessions (blocks 7, 21, 23, 24) from the oil company Burlington were expropriated by the Ecuadorian government. The main cause was a controversy related to the increase of the Ecuadorian governments revenues coming from its participation in the oil contracts. However, the company also complained for a lack of legal security on the part of the Ecuador in the blocks 23 and 24. As a result, in 2008 this oil company started an international arbitration against Ecuador which is still in process. However, the trial already rejected the case related to the blocks 23 and 24 in 2010.
Sources and Materials

ILO Convention 169

Constitution of Ecuador


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Grunwald, P., J. Scheu and A. Almeida. 2005. 'Bloque 24: Burlington Resources Incorporated.' Atlas Amazonico del Ecuador. Agresiones y resistencias. Inventario de Impactos petroleros'. Accion Ecolgica and CONAIE.
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Emily McAteer & Simone Pulver. The Corporate Boomerang: Shareholder Transnational Advocacy Networks Targeting Oil Companies in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Global Environmental Politics. 2009.
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Jimbicti Pandama, Teresa. 2004. 'El petroleo en la region amazonica: el bloque 24 y los derechos colectivos en la Nacionalidad Shuar'.

CIADI-Centro Internacional de Arreglo de Diferencias Relativas a Inversiones. 2010. Burlington Resources Inc contra Republica del Ecuador. Decision sobre jurisdiccion.(see pdf)

Melo, Mario. 2006. 'Hacia una politica petrolera orientada al cumplimiento de los derechos humanos'. In: Petroleo y desarrollo sostenible en el Ecuador. 3. Las ganancias y perdidas. Ed. Guillaume Fontaine. Pp. 287-298. Ed. FLACSO-ILDIS-PETROBRAS.

Gina Chvez, Isabela Figueroa, Paulina Garzn, Mario Melo, Victor Lpez, Norman Wray. 2002. Tarimat. Firmes en Nuestro Territorio FIPSE vs. ARCO. Ed. CDES-CONAIE.


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Other CommentsSimilar conflicts are to be found also on the Peruvian side of the frontier, e.g. of the Achuar against Occidental Petroleum.
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ContributorSara Latorre
Last update08/04/2014