Oil Extraction in the Ecuadorian Amazon: Incorporating Conflict Resolution Theory and Practice

Published date01 December 2017
Date01 December 2017
C R Q, vol. 35, no. 2, Winter 2017 243
© 2017 Association for Con ict Resolution and Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Published online in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com) • DOI: 10.1002/crq.21205
Oil Extraction in the Ecuadorian Amazon:
Incorporating Con ict Resolution
Theory and Practice
Ann Marie Hager
James Larson
Nene Kumashe Ugbah
Vijay Ramesh
Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park and Biosphere Reserve is one of the
most biodiverse regions in the world; it is home to numerous species of
wildlife, indigenous communities, and approximately $7.6 billion of
crude oil. Oil extraction has led to patterns of environmental and social
damage, situating the government of Ecuador between their respon-
sibilities to uphold indigenous rights and preserve the environment
while advancing the nation’s economy.  e eld of con ict resolution
o ers applicable strategies to the issues facing this dilemma. However,
these strategies have been sparsely used thus far. We suggest that the
implementation of forums, workshops, and grievance mechanisms will
improve communication between stakeholders and build trust that
could alleviate the con icts in the Yasuní.
E cuador’s Yasuní National Park and Biosphere Reserve is one of the
most biodiverse regions in the world (Finer et al. 2009 ).  e region is
also home to millions of gallons of oil underneath its tropical forests. Since
e authors would like to thank the reviewers for their feedback and Dr. Joshua Fisher for
insight and expertise that critically strengthened this paper.
C R Q • DOI: 10.1002/crq
the turn of the twentieth century, there has been an increase in oil explora-
tion in Ecuador and South America at large, but extractive industries have
not been entirely responsible in their treatment of indigenous peoples and
the surrounding environment. As a result, the ecosystem of the Yasuní has
undergone dramatic changes (Deutsche Welle [DW] 2014 ) and indig-
enous communities have had to adapt their way of life while grappling
with the limited rights a orded to them by the state.  ese dynamics have
led to an increase in con ict, principally among indigenous groups, oil
companies, and the Ecuadorian government. Intervention strategies exist
that could alleviate some of these con icts: forums hosted by an inter-
national coalition, workshops hosted by United Nations agencies, and a
grievance mechanism in the form of the Ecuadorian Ombudsman would
serve to improve communication, foster trust, reduce con ict, and over
time build the infrastructure for sustainable resolutions to be negotiated.
is article describes the historical factors that have led to con icts
between the extractive industry, indigenous groups, and national gov-
ernments in the Yasuní region of the Ecuadorian Amazon.  e analysis
explores stakeholder needs, interests, positions, and the drivers of con ict
to identify potential entry points where environmental con ict resolution
(ECR) could alleviate tensions. Intervention strategies, grounded in case
study research, are subsequently proposed to show the ways in which con-
ict resolution theory and practice can be applied to this case. Without
con ict resolution mechanisms that ful ll stakeholder needs, actors make
choices that adversely a ect their socioenvironmental situation in the long
term. ECR mechanisms are particularly salient in this situation because
many of them already exist, but are often not used in an interdisciplinary
manner, as is attempted here.
Background and Context
Environmental con ict related to oil in the Amazon began with the indus-
trial revolution and subsequent proliferation of the automobile as a primary
mode of transportation in the developed world (Vasquez 2014 ). Since the
industrial revolution, world population has risen signi cantly and national
economies have become globalized.  is has led to higher standards of
living across the globe. As a result, the hunt for cheap oil has been and
continues to be at the forefront of many companies’ agendas.  e 1800s
saw large oil conglomerates like Standard Oil (today’s ExxonMobil), Royal

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