10 Oct 2008

Monday Evening – Campaign and Book launch in Amnesty UK

We were so pleased to have the Ecuadorian Ambassador’s second in command (the Ambassador was not in the country), Anita (mayor of Orellana), Ginés and Tony Juniper speaking at the event. We also had a special message from Penti, a Waorani leader in the Yasuní, who had been unable to attend the event in person but instead sent a powerful speech.

The Embassy representative began by presenting the national proposal followed by Anita who gave an emotional speech about growing up in Coca, her fight for the human rights of her people and the hope that they all had that the international community would help the oil to be kept in the ground. She also gave a special thanks to Amnesty who had been so instrumental in fighting for the release of fellow human rights activist, leader and friend, Guadalupe Llori who had been wrongfully imprisoned for a year.

Ginés Haro, Co-director of the Yasuni green Gold Campaign, then followed up Anita’s message with the memory that when he left Orellana Anita had said to him “don’t forget us”. He had never been able to and hoped that those present would not forget the Yasuní and would work with the campaign to fight for its preservation and the rights of it’s inhabitants.

Tony Juniper, previous leader of FoE Interntional, now part of the Princes Trust finished off the speeches with a reflection on the international Environmental context, the move into the post-Kyoto era and the possibilities for the Yasuní.

Then followed an interesting set of comments from the audience. Some interesting points were brought up in during the discussion things such as the contradictions in the governments behaviour, plans and statements that seem to contradict attempts to be progressive in the human and environmental rights particularly the people of the Oriente. This is so true, there are so many issues which complicate the situation as you can see on the campaign page where we talk about national parallel projects and legislation which is at odds with the ITT proposal.

However the campaign believes that keeping a dialogue open with the national government and supporting positive actions is crucial. Although we need to be open and critical, we also need to make sure we properly support the positive things coming out of the government such as this initiative. There are problems with it and these need to be addressed, however such huge proposals are very rarely perfect first time round and need to be worked on with all the concerned parties.

If we only criticise and do not work on the positive aspects the only people who benefit are the oil companies. They have so far been taking advantage of the division and differences between people so it is important that we come together on the ground that we have in common – that is to preserve the Yasuni and its people.

Another point was that the ITT is not the Yasuní. This is very true, the Yasuní is much bigger than just this reserve and other parts of the Yasuní are already being or have already been exploited for oil. However this block is the furthest into the Yasuní that the oil companies have been – it is right in the heart of the park and if it goes ahead it will open up the whole area to logging and contamination – the people of the Yasuní will have no where left to go that is safe.

The ITT block is symbolic in saying the buck stops here, oil companies can go no further, there are more important things. As Anita said, we have to start putting life before oil.

1 comment:

Yasuni Green Gold said...

Thanks for a wonderful evening at Amnesty
I have just returned from the Yasuni Green Gold book launch at Amnesty international in London. The evening was highly informative and well co-ordinated.

I was especially moved by Anita Rivas', (mayor of Orellana Province), heartfelt speech. It must take some courage to take on big oil and corruption. In addition, she stood up in front of the international community and officials of Ecuador and spoke intelligently about their plight.

The other speech from one of the indigenous living in the Yasuni area. This was delivered by a lady and her daughter who did a magnificent job of conveying the passion and intelligence of the message. My apologies for not remembering the names.

The other speakers added further background and dimension to the whole debate, as did audience members.

Despite the will and enthusiasm of all attending, it really feels like there will need to be a lot of work done if Yasuni is to be guaranteed a lasting form of protection. Governments are good at making promises, but big oil continues to destroy the environment. They have all the money and power.

Nelson Torres, First Secretary, Ecuadorian Embassy announced that they wish to embrace a scheme where they would be compensated $250 million dollars for ten years, in exchange for doing nothing to the land in the way of exploitation. The downside is that there is 10 weeks left until that deadline expires and the scheme hasn't even been seen by the UK government yet.

Some audience members expressed caution getting into bed with the markets and government as history has taught us to be wary.

The chair, David Ransom, eloquently reminded all that we have a lot of lessons to learn from South America and its' native people. Any solution won't be satisfactory unless it has the full participation of the peoples in Yasuni.

My heartfelt thanks to everyone that made this evening possible including New Internationalist Magazine and Amnesty International.

Simon on 10/06/2008 also published on the NI yasuni blog www.newint.org/yasuni/2008/10/03/yasuni-green-gold-campaign-and-book-launch-event/#comments