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Synthesis/Regeneration 15   (Winter 1998)

Boosting Sustainable Development in Ecuador

by Martha Cecilia Burgos, Ecology and Development Foundation

The environment and, more specifically, natural resources, form the base over which sustainable development is built. Their adequate use and conservation determine the quality of life of the population and establish the conditions for the improvement of the short, medium and long term general situation of the country.

The commitment which the social protagonists face is to assure the fulfillment of that stated in the Constitution of the Republic (Art. 19, No 2), "respect of the right of the people to live in an environment free of pollution." It is the duty of the State to guard this right so that it is not affected and to control the preservation of nature.

Environmental problems have increased vigorously in the last decade. This is due to the neoliberal style that less developed countries have adopted to satisfy the basic and fundamental needs of their populations. The increase of poverty, high rates of infant mortality, high fertility, and the irrational use of natural resources have considerably affected the processes of development of Third World countries.

Environmental action in Ecuador is emerging in the present decade as part of the effort to catch up with the desired sustainable development and avoid highly critical problems like: deforestation, erosion, pollution, mangrove destruction, destruction of great works of infrastructure, and industrial pollution. In addition, one can include the lack of education and consciousness of the social protagonists of the civil society.

At the same time, in the country, an environmental agenda has been included in some state institutions, regional organizations and the private sector, which, in some ways, has attenuated the direct social and environmental impacts.

The Ecology and Development Foundation considers that one of the ways to elevate the quality of life of the Ecuadorian population is through environmental preservation. For this reason, for seven years it has been developing campaigns of consciousness and environmental education in the whole country.

In the international context, our organization held in 1995 the "First International Biennial for Sustainable Development of the Amazon." From November 10-14, 1997 the "Second Biennial" took place. This was an academic, investigative, and expository event that, on this occasion, has the valuable backing of the Federation of Green Parties of the Americas, furthering, in this way, from Ecuador, the objectives of Agenda 21 of Brazil, and other International Treaties.

The Ecology and Development Foundation considers that an environmental agenda should be adopted as a political objective of the State in order to show the world the virtue of the biodiversity, Andean ecosystems, coastal and insular systems, and beautiful scenery which our natural surroundings possess and which, used rationally, will be converted into a source of foreign exchange for the national treasury.

The Ecology and Development Foundation initiated an aggressive campaign for the creation of the Ministry of Environment in the country in 1996. This institution is functioning at present. Its goal is to harmonize the legal and institutional framework of the public sector, which currently finds itself dispersed, and to coordinate the actions of the private sector which affect the environment.

Our institution has established links with the Ministry of Education and Culture, Ministry of Tourism, Non-Governmental Organizations, Universities, local communities, country dwellers, native indigenous communities, and other groups with good intentions. In this way, the social protagonists have an active part in the environmental plans, programs, and projects which are being developed.

We have carried out and planned agroproductive, agroindustrial, micromanagerial, and self-managed community projects in the Amazon, Coastal, and Highland Regions for the benefit of the poorest communities of the country.

Considering that one of the fundamental pillars for developing the environmental consciousness of the population is the diffusion of information about the problems which relate to this topic and their possible solutions, the Ecology and Development Foundation has launched a radio program, "Man, Society, and Environment," which is broadcast every Saturday. In this way, we are able, in practice, to deliver a direct message for collective awareness.

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