University of Minnesota

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of
Racial Discrimination, Ecuador, U.N. Doc. A/48/18, paras. 128-146 (1993).



Forty-second session


Concluding observations of the Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination


128. The Committee considered the eleventh and twelfth periodic reports of Ecuador (CERD/C/197/Add.9 and CERD/C/226/Add.1) at its 971st, 972nd and 983rd meetings, held on 10, 11 and 18 March 1993 (see CERD/C/SR.971, 972 and 983).

129. Introducing the report, the representative of the State party said that there was no systematic racial discrimination in Ecuador and that the inequalities that did exist were the result of the social, economic and structural problems encountered by all developing countries. The Government was constantly trying to improve its legislation to promote equality and would receive the advice and comments of the Committee in the best possible spirit.

130. The representative pointed out that the 1989-1992 National Development Plan referred to in the report was a particularly important instrument, since more emphasis had been placed on planning than in the past. The Plan came under the authority of the Vice-President and was binding on the public sector. One of the main obstacles to its implementation was the influence of external factors on the economy. In that connection, approximately 30 per cent of the State budget went to pay off Ecuador's foreign debts.

131. Members of the Committee expressed their appreciation for the high quality of the reports submitted by Ecuador. It was noted that the reports emphasized that Ecuador was a multiethnic and multicultural society and that the State was endeavouring, through the National Development Plan, to promote the groups and cultures which were contributing to the creation of a national identity. However, it was pointed out that the reports did not contain demographic information on the ethnic composition of Ecuadorian society. In particular, members of the Committee requested specific data on the birth, death and life expectancy rates of indigenous populations as compared with the population as a whole. Members also pointed out that the reports did not contain enough concrete examples of how victims of racial discrimination were protected by the legal system.

132. It was noted that the report placed considerable emphasis on the exploitation of natural resources and environmental protection. In that regard, more detailed information was needed on the effect of such programmes on the cultural and social life of indigenous populations, especially those living in the Amazon region. Such programmes did not appear to be of direct benefit to the populations whose lands were being used and no mention of their views on the subject had been included in the report.

133. In relation to article 2 of the Convention, members of the Committee wished to know which groups were considered as "indigenous nationalities"; how an individual was identified as belonging to a given nationality or minority; what was meant by "popular cultural characteristics" as referred to in paragraph 13 of the eleventh periodic report; and whether there were any distinctions among aliens as to the extent of their rights that were guaranteed.

134. With respect to article 4 of the Convention, members wished to know what the actual practice of the courts was with regard to penalties for participation in racist organizations or activities; whether there had been any rulings in that regard under the relevant law; and whether the Government envisaged any revisions to the relevant sections of the Penal Code.

135. Concerning article 5 of the Convention, members of the Committee wished to know what the exact criteria were that were used by the authorities in deciding when instruction would be provided in indigenous languages; to what extent children who received instruction in an indigenous language also received training in Spanish; why the right to vote was denied to illiterates, who tended to come from indigenous communities; how funding for the rural educational system compared with funds allocated for white or white-mestizo students; whether the budget for the bilingual education system for indigenous peoples had been significantly reduced in 1991; and what measures were being taken in response to an increase in health problems among indigenous communities, particularly those linked to environmental degradation resulting from oil exploration.

136. Members of the Committee also wished to know what percentage of members of Parliament were members of indigenous communities; how indigenous people were represented in local government; to what extent indigenous communities were involved in decision-making on questions of direct concern to them, such as land allocation and delimitation; whether title to indigenous lands was held by individuals, families or communities; how "ethnobiological reserves" were designated; how respect for the cultural values of native populations was ensured in practice regarding development projects, including exploration for hydrocarbons; what role was played by indigenous organizations in monitoring the implementation of laws governing the exploration and exploitation of natural resources in indigenous areas; whether indigenous communities and organizations were consulted in decisions concerning the exploitation of resources; whether compensation was made to indigenous persons whose livelihood was jeopardized by new industries; to what extent indigenous communities profited from the exploitation of hydrocarbons in the Amazon region; whether the Government had investigated the illegal acts of paramilitary groups in indigenous communities and what measures had been taken to better protect those communities from further acts of intimidation and coercion; who had set up the various Quechua organizations referred to in paragraph 21 of the eleventh report; whether the large number of imprisoned indigenous leaders had been released; whether indigenous groups were precluded from forming their own political parties; the extent to which article 48 of the Constitution applied to large landowners; whether indigenous peoples were provided with tools, loans, technical assistance or any other infrastructure when they were allocated land; and what protection was afforded indigenous communities in order to discourage attacks by larger landowners.

137. With respect to article 6 of the Convention, members of the Committee wished to have more information on the Commission on Human Rights, in particular how it was established and what its current activities were; on statistical data relating to remedies available for acts of racism; on sentences handed down in connection with racist acts and on whether complaints about such acts had been brought before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; and whether violation of the environmental regulations issued by the National Environmental Department gave rise to any sort of civil liability or criminal responsibility.

138. With reference to the indigenous uprisings in 1990 and the dialogue subsequently established with the leaders of the indigenous communities, members asked what demands the indigenous groups had made, particularly in regard to land, and what was the outcome of that dialogue. Members of the Committee also asked the representative to comment on allegations that paramilitary groups in the province of Imambura were operating against indigenous communities with the acquiescence of the Government; and on allegations that an indigenous community leader had suffered ill-treatment in prison.

139. Replying to the questions and comments of the members of the Committee, the representative of the State party stated that he had transmitted to his Government the requests for further information made by members of the Committee. Precise responses to those questions would be communicated to the Committee in the next report Ecuador would submit.

140. Concerning the general framework for the protection of human rights, the representative explained that constitutional reform was currently being considered, including the possibility of creating the post of Ombudsman under the judicial branch. At present, the Procurer General of the Justice Ministry was responsible for reviewing and investigating human rights complaints.

141. With respect to representation of indigenous communities in government, the representative stated that the present Constitution did not provide for an indigenous representative in Congress. All representatives were elected by the people without regard to colour or race. Since the indigenous uprisings in 1990, representatives of the Ecuadorian Government had been participating in ongoing dialogue with leaders of the various indigenous communities. A list of 16 points had been put forward by those communities, which included demands for better access to the means to exploit their lands.

142. In regard to the exploitation of resources on indigenous lands, the representative stated that the President of Ecuador had personally studied the problem of petroleum exploitation in the Amazon with a view to ensuring the protection of the environment and the interests of the indigenous communities who lived there. According to Ecuadorian law, rights to resources below the surface belonged to the Government but exploration was carried out with due regard to providing appropriate compensation to the indigenous communities. That had been the case particularly with the Huaoranis, a stone-age tribe numbering only about 2,715 individuals which was not at all integrated into Western civilization.

Concluding observations

143. The Committee commended the regularity with which the Government of Ecuador had reported on the implementation of the Convention in that country.

144. The Committee noted that one of the objectives of the National Development Plan was to ensure the recognition of Ecuador's multiethnic and multicultural character. The Committee expected that indigenous communities would benefit from the implementation of the Plan as far as their economic, social and cultural status was concerned.

145. The Committee encouraged the Government, in its next report, to provide detailed information on the implementation of the National Development Plan so that the Committee could fully assess the conditions in which the indigenous communities lived. The Committee expressed particular concern that economic exploitation of the Amazon region should be undertaken only after full consideration of the interests of the indigenous communities in the preservation of their identity. The Committee trusted that the Government would take effective steps to achieve that.

146. The Government of Ecuador was called upon to report on the functioning of the judiciary in connection with the Convention and especially upon the status and functions of the ad hoc Commission on Human Rights established by the Ecuadorian National Congress.



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