COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION
OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES
UNDER ARTICLE 9 OF THE CONVENTION
Concluding observations of the Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
The Committee commended the regularity with which the Government
of Ecuador had reported on the implementation of the Convention
in that country.
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.
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.
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.