The Yasuní-ITT Initiative: forgone, but not forgotten!

August 16, 2013

Yasuní, situated in the Amazon, is one of the most biological diverse parks in the world and it hosts several indigenous groups, of which two are living in voluntary isolation. However, the park also contains oil reserves. Ecuador proposed to leave the oil reserves of the ITT block in Yasuní untouched if the international community donates at least half of the revenues ($ 3.6 billion) the state would receive by extracting it spread over 13 years. The other half of the pie would be provided by Ecuador and the donations would be invested in nature conservation, renewable energy, and social projects.

The Yasuní-ITT Initiative was supported by countries (i.e. Germany and Spain), celebrities (i.e. Leonardo diCaprio, Al Gore, Desmund Tutu, and Vandana Shiva) and organizations/institutions (i.e. the UN Development Program, the EU, and the World Resource Institute).

However, President Rafael Correa announced to forgo with the initiative and start drilling for the oil. He argues that rich nations failed to back the initiative with the necessary $ 3.6 billion. Indeed, over five years the initiative only raised $ 336 million, mostly coming from European countries and organizations[1]. Furthermore, he stated that it was one of the most difficult decisions he had ever to take during his presidency, but the international community had to co-operate on this part and take up co-responsibility as to tackle climate change and protect this beautiful park. He said ‘the world has failed us’[2].

The state argues that the drilling will be done in the most environmentally conscious way to avoid deforestation and destruction of this pristine park with all its inhabitants as much as possible. Therefore, Correa argues that it would only affect 1% of the park[3]. But there are already oil extraction activities happening at the borders of the park.

You may wonder now, that when once starting drilling for oil in Yasuní, what will happen to this part of the Amazon and the rest? Will there be hope for environment, biodiversity and indigenous groups?

Yes, there is always hope! And we should never give up trying to conserve these important habitats, biodiversity hotspots and carbon sink of the world (the Amazon has the function of taking up carbon from the air, therefore it is often referred to as ‘the lungs of the earth’).  We should always try to do whatever we can and remember, ‘be a drop in the universe which makes a difference’. And so the path to real and universal sustainability will continue.

Indeed, proponents of the Initiative have gathered in Quito (the capital of Ecuador), to protest against this decision and 78% of Ecuadorians are against drilling in Yasuní. And a twitter action was started worldwide before the President announced this unfortunate news.

Furthermore, the initiative can still be replicated by other megadiverse developing countries with such values as oil and gas in natural parks. For instance, the idea can be implemented in Costa Rica, Indonesia, and Madagascar.

And finally, we are also doing much from the Netherlands since through the new Dutch foundation, Friends of Yasuní (NL) we[4] will continue our work for Yasuní. The aim of the organization is to spread awareness about the importance of the park and its (human and non-human) inhabitants as well as supporting sustainability projects and ecotourism in the park. A conference on the biodiversity of Ecuador and Yasuní will be organized in November this year where Friends of Yasuní (NL) will present its activities and ideas.

Hope, aspire and dream! Let’s make it reality!

More information?

- More about Friends of Yasuní’ (NL) on the Facebook page.

- More about the Yasuní-ITT Initiative on projects & activities.

- More about the oil drilling decision see:


- countries-buy.html

View from the boat in Yasuní National Park. Source: Carlos Larrea, 2013. 

[1] Source: Planet Ark, 2013, on:

[2] Source: BBC, 2013, on:

[3] Source: BBC, 2013, on:

[4] We = Marieke Andringa (vice-chair/secretary), Nicky Buizer (treasurer), Cindy Johnson (communications), Carlos Montenegro (policy liaison) and, me (Lavinia Warnars) (chair). 



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