When the forest screams. The rights of nature and indigenous rights as a mutually reinforcing resistance platform for the indigenous peoples of the Ecuadorian Amazon

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Guzmán Torán, Juan José
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Global Campus of Human Rights
Indigenous peoples from the Ecuadorian Amazon have historically been dispossessed from their cultural heritage and ancestral territories. In the past, these actions have been justified by the need for natural resources derived from indigenous lands. However, this has led to the destruction of natural and culturally significant environments, in addition to other human rights violations. This research will focus on contemporary efforts by Ecuador to protect its nature through the auspices of constitutional and legislative regimes. In 2008, the government of Rafael Correa incorporated the ‘rights of nature’ into the Ecuadorian constitution, which in essence gave nature legal personality. That is, nature became a subject of rights, to be protected despite human needs. In this context, the rights of nature protect it from its commodification, thus contributing toward the fulfilment of indigenous peoples’ rights in contexts of extractivism. This research explores the impact of this constitutional recognition, analysing how indigenous Amazonian communities legally and politically use the rights of nature. Concerning the legal uses, lawsuits filed by indigenous groups, in circumstances where the rights of nature were invoked, tended to fail. Despite the legal obstacles, the rights of nature have been progressively incorporated into resistanceorientated discourses/actions of Amazonian indigenous communities, becoming a robust political tool against the destruction of traditional territories. The findings of this research support the conclusion that the incorporation of the rights of nature – into the Ecuadorian legal system and in human rights discourse/practices of Amazonian indigenous communities – empowers Amazonian indigenous groups. Indigenous empowerment in this region has been found to comprise the ability to communicate in legal, political, epistemological and ontological spheres though resistance-based platforms. This form of engagement has been used as a vehicle to voice opposition to neocolonial practices as regards the exploitation of culturally significant natural environments and the destruction of indigenous ancestral lands.
EMA - European Master's Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation, Global Campus of Human Rights Headquarters
Global Campus - Europe
Second semester University: University of Deusto, Bilbao.
indigenous peoples, Ecuador, Amazonas, natural heritage, cultural heritage, human rights violations, peoples rights, land tenure, right to property, environment