Ecuador: Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (Confederación de las Nacionalidades Indígenas de la Amazonia Ecuatoriana, CONFENIAE)
Making up over 40 per cent of the population, Ecuador has an extremely high proportion of indigenous people (data varies a great deal however depending on the source). This includes 13 indigenous peoples with their own language, which are recognised as “nationalities”. The Kichwa, who dwell in the country’s highlands, constitute the largest group. In Amazonia, the Shuar form the largest group, comprising approximately 110,000 indigenous people. Other indigenous peoples are the Chachi (approx. 8,000) and Tsáchila (3,000) in the west of the country in addition to the Huaorani (2,000), Siona, Secoya, Zápara (approx. 900) and Achuar (5,500) in the Amazon region. The legal basis for the indigenous peoples has been changed extensively since 1998. With adoption of the new constitution, they received legal protection and recognition: the rights of the indigenous peoples and the Afro-Ecuadorians are provided for in this document. In this context, a board known as the Council for Development of the Nationalities and Villages of Ecuador (Consejo de Desarrollo de las Nacionalidades y Pueblos del Ecuador, CODENPE) was set up with the aim of calling for validation of the indigenous rights. In 1998, Ecuador ratified the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention No.169 on indigenous and tribal peoples.
The national indigenous peoples’ organisation (Consejo Nacional de Coordinación de Nacionalidades Indígenas, CONAIE) has won recognition of the collective rights of the indigenous peoples within Ecuador through its tireless campaigning. To achieve this legal recognition, the CONAIE had to undertake a great many activities, including protests and strikes in addition to participation in elections with their own party, “Pachakutik” (MUPP-NP). The CONAIE was thus able to become an important player in national politics. The organisations of the indigenous peoples of the lowlands have joined forces within the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE), which counts among the founding members of COICA. Main areas of conflict in this region are oil exploitation and the associated pollution of the environment, and the threat to the indigenous peoples’ natural environment through the spread of monocultures.
Today the CONFENIAE represents 13 organisations representing the nine indigenous nationalities with a total of 850 communities. Successes could be achieved in the development of a bilingual education system for example.
Text updated: Maryhen Jiménez (April 2010)