ELLA Policy Brief: Ecuador’s Yasuní–ITT: Rethinking the Conservation vs. Extraction Dilemma


Ecuador’s innovative proposal for not developing its Yasuní-Ishpingo Tambococha Tiputini (Yasuní-ITT) oil fields presents an alternative strategy for resolving the conservation versus extractive industry development dilemma. Ecuador proposed the creation of a global fund to finance sustainable development activities in the country in exchange for indefinitely refraining from extracting the Yasuní oil deposits. In the spirit of co-responsibility, Ecuador asked the rest of the world to contribute up to 50% of the income it would forgo by choosing conservation. The initiative has been launched and is underway, though not without some controversy. This case study describes this innovative proposal and its relevance to current extractive industries and land use concerns, and finally, discusses some interesting questions for debate that the case raises.

Key Lessons:

* Because land expropriation is no longer seen as a viable option, government-driven processes to establish collective or individual land rights in rural areas are a crucial first step for ultimately securing social licence. From there, Latin America shows a variety of social licence strategies that are working, reducing conflict and bringing long-term stability to extractive projects.

* When states and responsible corporations develop compensatory mechanisms to address land degradation and social and environmental impacts, reliable, long-term access to resources is more likely.

* While land remediation is often enforced in extractive industry regulations, giving back land freely to its former owners or local communities is a socially responsible corporate practice that can help to improve the image of a company, and the extractive industry sector in general.


ELLA. ELLA Policy Brief: Ecuador’s Yasuní–ITT: Rethinking the Conservation vs. Extraction Dilemma. ELLA, Practical Action Consulting, Lima, Peru (2012) 5 pp.

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