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QUITO, Aug. 1, 2014 – Ecuador’s Ambassador to the United States Nathalie Cely and Minister of Environment Lorena Tapia this week led a delegation of international experts and scientists to the Ecuadorian rainforest and convened a dialogue focused on: “Achieving Equilibrium in the Amazon: Balancing Economic Development, Human Rights and Environmental Justice – Past, Present and Future.”

In Quito, at the Instituto de Desarrollo Empresarial (Institute for Business Development), Ambassador Cely and Minister Tapia led the high-level discussions centered on finding ways to balance environmental and social justice in the context of foreign direct investment as well as examining how best to develop responsible policies and procedures that will ensure economic growth does not inflict environmental and social degradation. The group heard from key Ecuadorian officials across the government, including Vice President Jorge Glas and Secretary General of the Public Administration Vinicio Alvarado. Collectively, these discussions further emphasize the commitment by the Ecuadorian government to safeguard the country’s environment, people and natural resources.

During the three-day visit, the government officials and international experts discussed:

• The strong commitment Ecuador has made to protect the environment and its people through its constitution and laws, learning from past bad actors who polluted the rainforest with substandard operations and remediation efforts;
• The potential benefits that new technologies can have to limit and mitigate impacts of extracting natural resources from the environment;
• How Ecuador can best achieve the balance between attracting foreign, long-term investments from international companies and ensuring that they are held accountable and contribute to the Ecuadorian society and economy;

“Our first priority has been and will continue to be striking that essential balance of protecting the environment, human rights and the rights of corporations who want to do business in Ecuador. Other countries may consider lowering their standards in order to attract investments, however that is something Ecuador simply won’t do,” Cely said.

“The discussions we held in Ecuador with these scholars and scientists brought many important ideas to the table and also encouraged us to review additional opportunities and policies. These will be particularly helpful as we continue our work to integrate our obligations under our Constitution to protect our environment, natural resources and people. We are inspired by the ideas that came from this dialogue and will continue our work to become a shining example to the world for protecting the environment.”

Cely, Tapia and Ministry of Environment officials led the delegation on a tour of several sites in the Ecuadorian Amazon, including former oil extraction sites that are today still suffering from the improper dumping of byproducts from the drilling operations and hollow attempts at remediation decades ago. Those sites included visits to areas near the Lago Agrio region where the group saw waste pits that still were layered in oil pollution and now are in the process of evaluation by the government to determine the best course for remediation. The Republic of Ecuador is continuing its efforts to identify remaining pollution and remediate those sites.

The group also visited Panacocha where PetroAmazonas has implemented some of the most technologically advanced systems for oil extraction that have become the model for any new operations. Under the watchful eye of the Ministry of Environment, PetroAmazonas has developed these sites with careful consideration of the environment, including conducting inventories of vegetation and wildlife and efforts to ensure that any impact is limited or mitigated.

Before departing Ecuador, the experts met with Vice President Glas for an hour-long session to share their experiences during the visits to the rainforest and hear about Ecuador’s vision for long-term, sustainable development while putting the protection of the environment and its people above all. They also discussed remediation efforts that are underway to address past pollution as well as best practices to consider to avoid such situations in the future.

Ecuador is the first country that has taken the important step to confer rights to nature, a clear, ironclad commitment to the future of the Ecuadorian people and land. This delegation and discussions served as a further demonstration of the government’s commitment to this obligation. The Republic of Ecuador will continue this important dialogue as part of its overall efforts to achieve the appropriate equilibrium for the country, its economy, environment and people.