By Suzanne Forcese
“This is one of the most important and worthwhile cases of this century. We will have a precedent that will not just be important for Ecuador, but important for the entire world. It is crucial for climate change discussions, and crucial for the discussions we’re having on biodiversity protection.” - Monica Feria-Tinta, Barrister Bar of England & Wales specializing in Public International Law
On December 1, 2021, the Constitutional Court of Ecuador issued a landmark ruling in the Los Cedros case. Here is what WATERTODAY learned from Mari Margil, Executive Director, Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights (CDER), Washington.
Situated in North Western Ecuador, Los Cedros Reserve covers more than 4800 hectares of primary cloud forest safeguarding the headwaters of four watersheds.
In 2017, Ecuador’s national environmental agency authorized two corporations to conduct exploratory mining in Los Cedros, a zone designated as Protected Forest in 1995.
Los Cedros is a place of significant biodiversity and fragile ecosystems, including the humid forests of Choco, the tropical Andes Mountain Range, and a cloud forest. It is also a habitat for 178 species of flora and fauna threatened with extinction.
Concerned about the impacts of mining in Los Cedros, the nearby municipality of Santa Ana de Cotacachi went to court to dispute the government’s authorizations to the mining corporations. The municipality argued such authorization was in violation of the constitutional Rights of Nature and other rights
In 2019, the case was selected by the Constitutional Court of Ecuador. This is the highest court of Ecuador with the power to select cases to review the application of constitutional rights and to define their legal content.
Verdicts issued in selected cases set standards of general application (erga omnes effect).
The Los Cedros case dealt with activity authorized by the government of Ecuador - authorized on-line without specific procedure to assess the impact of the mining on the Rights of Nature.
Lawyers, conservationists and more than 17 international scientists submitted Amicus Curiae, academic papers on the significance of the Los Cedros Biological Reserve in the case to protect the reserve.
Los Cedros Biological Reserve
The Reserve is a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) which makes it critical to the global persistence of biodiversity and health of the planet.
Margil stated “We congratulate the community and everyone who worked so hard, for so long, to protect nature with Los Cedros. This is a very important ruling by the Court that will mean greater protection of at-risk species and fragile ecosystems across Ecuador.”