Helena Gualinga, is a young indigenous activist from Ecuador. (Photo: Alice Aedy).

His name is Sumac Helena Siren Gualinga, but they know her as Helena Gualinga. At just 19 years old, she is one of the indigenous activists who seek the conservation of the Amazon. Gualinga belongs to the Quechua Sarayaku community. Helena Gualinga participated, for the second time, in the Conference of the Parties (COP 26), an international forum of the United Nations that seeks to engage the nations of the world in the fight against climate change, which was held in Glasgow until November 12, 2021.

The women with the surname Gualinga are known for their fight in favor of the rights of indigenous peoples and nature. Helena is Nina’s sister, Patricia’s niece and Cristina’s granddaughter, all activists, all surnamed Gualinga.

In a recent interview that Helena Gualinga offered to Trade from Ecuador, The young activist showed her disappointment with the last COP 26, because she believes that there is a debt with the Amazon. In addition, he stressed that, although the Ecuadorian government has shown itself in favor of the fight against climate change, the policies of the administration of President Guillermo Lasso are extractivist.

Gualinga referred to the announcement by the Ecuadorian government about the creation of a new marine reserve for Galapagos, a news that was applauded internationally for its conservationist nature, however, the activist has indicated that “When there is a global conference, and mitigation policies against climate change and to protect key points, such as the Amazon, are being discussed and negotiated, it does not do justice to announce the Galapagos reserve”. For her, although the new reservation is important, only “it was an easy way out to try to look good with everyone, but the government’s agenda is extractivist, “he told the Ecuadorian newspaper.

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When the announcement of the new marine reserve was given, Helena’s sister, Nina, expressed her concern about the lack of concrete proposals for the preservation of the Amazon. At that moment, Nina Gualinga wrote on his Twitter account that it is “super important” that Galapagos is more protected, however, He denounced that Lasso did not mention that his administration “is going to destroy the jungle and indigenous territories by doubling the oil exploitation.” In addition, he indicated that “we are at COP26 to talk about climate change and leave fossil fuels. In Ecuador, Lasso is going to double oil exploitation and cause destruction and more climate crisis”.

Helena Gualinga has confirmed what was said by her sister and has mentioned that “the government we have now is not environmentalist. We see how climate justice and transition are being talked about, but that is not a priority in the policy of this Government ”. He has pointed out that the current administration takes an environmentalist discourse to international spaces, but the reality in the country is different: “What we see in Ecuador is that oil exploitation is going to double and the oil frontier is expanding”.

In mid-October, representatives of the indigenous peoples and nationalities of Ecuador sued Guillermo Lasso before the Constitutional Court to prevent oil and mining exploitation. The discontent of the indigenous groups falls on decrees 95 and 151, issued by the Ecuadorian president, which seek to expand oil and mining extractions in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

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The lawsuit indicates that the right of indigenous peoples and nationalities to be consulted on the expansion of extractive activities in their territories has been violated. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is a specific right of indigenous peoples recognized in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Through the CPLI, indigenous peoples can give or deny their consent to a project that affects them or their territories. Once they have given their consent, they can withdraw it at any stage of the process. On the other hand, FPIC allows them to negotiate the conditions under which projects are designed, implemented, supervised and evaluated. This principle is enshrined within the universal right to self-determination.

On the presence of indigenous peoples at the Conference of the Parties, Gualinga told Trade that “this is a pending issue”, since the existence of indigenous delegations has been their own effort and they have not had any other type of support: “We have ensured that there is more visibility and more spokesperson for indigenous peoples. It is not an effort of the COP or of the governmentsRather, it is something that the indigenous community has worked on. The results we see now are the product of more than 30 years of efforts ”.


Ecuador: they expand the Galapagos marine reserve but there are indigenous protests because oil and mining exploitation is also growing
Indigenous groups of Ecuador sued Guillermo Lasso before the Court to prevent oil and mining exploitation

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