On 20th August 2023, 5.2 million citizens of Ecuador voted in a national referendum to keep the oil in the soil at Yasuni. 3.6 million others voted to extract the oil. The referendum held 10 years after the original petition, showed the triumph of a citizenry with the capacity to fight for their rights. In the face of opposition from vested interests, this vote affirms restorative justice for the entirety of the wounded Amazon and its people. It sent a strong signal that another world is possible.
This is a great lesson in the meaning of democracy and participation that places care for life at the center of the struggle to overcome multiple crises. Activists from around the world recognize that Ecuador is now a reference point for forging citizenship that looks to the future in a new and visionary way. For the world, and particularly for Latin America, a just transition for people and nature. Throughout Latin America, the people especially the Indigenous peoples, through resistance struggles, are confronting the pollution and damage caused by oil extraction and moving to protect territories that must be liberated.
Oilwatch International salutes the people of Ecuador on this historic victory. And the larger mission of the Yasuni people is to heal their land and to restore the collective rights of peoples, and nature. Voting to keep an estimated 1 billion barrels in the ground at Yasuni is a remarkable climate action worthy of emulation.
The chairman of Oilwatch International Steering Committee, Nnimmo Bassey, stated that the victory of the people of Ecuador is one that should be shared largely across the globe. “The vote on Yasuni is the real climate leadership the world sorely needs. After a long wait, we celebrate the victory of the people of Ecuador. This is a major step towards depetrolizing the world and combating climate change and its ravages. This victory is a strong signal to polluters that their impunity must stop.”
Coordinator of Oilwatch International Kentebe Ebiaridor while celebrating the outcome of the referendum stated that it is a huge victory not just for the indigenous people but for nature as well. With efforts such as these, there is hope that the rights of nature can be respected and endangered species will gradually recover. He applauded the bravery of the Ecuadorians and urged other communities around the world to emulate the same gesture.
Oilwatch agrees with the broad network of activists calling for an end to fossil fuels expansion that it is time for the fulfillment of the common but differentiated responsibilities of the polluting countries, the payment of the ecological debt from the North to the South, and the battle against false solutions to the climate crisis should see Yasuní as the territory from which genuine and just transition has signaled a start that cannot be postponed.