FLOK: Policy paper on Traditional and Ancestral Knowledge

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Authors: Ampam Karkras, Ana Lúcia Tasiguano, Germán Cachiguango, Alejandro Lema, Carlos Yemberla [1]

Project - April 2014


Indigenous peoples and communities, active repositories of ancestral knowledge and know-how, confront the permanent risk of their own survival, as a result of the threat posed by the State itself with its natural resource-extraction policy, executed by public instances or the private sector, against the cultural survival of the communities and peoples, including those raised by the XXI-century socialist models or by the Good-Living Socialism.

External social and environmental pressure, together with migration, modern life-style invasion and destruction of the indigenous ways of life weaken the preservation of Nature -or Pachamama- as well as the transmission of traditional knowledge to present and future generations.

The danger of losing the indigenous language, the traditional means of transmitting know-how and knowledge, occurs for acculturation reasons, for undue appropriation by outsiders; indeed, many traditional practices, believes and associated knowledge has been lost or is are in the process of extinctionan extinction process. It is urgent to favor the appraisal and preservation of the know-how and knowledge possessed by the elders, the communities and the indigenous peoples throughout the world. In addition, the application of homogenizing public policies affects the preservation, protection and management of ancestral knowledge, as well as the peoples' and communities' culture.

Many political decisions and actions are pending. Notwithstanding, devastation policies continue to be implemented. Consequently, it is the diverse societies’ turn to fight from all spaces and in all possible ways in order to continue with the process started, in search of the common good, which means respecting and guarantying the rights to the existing cultural diversity existing in the country and in the world over.

This is the diverse and adverse context where ancestral knowledge and know-how develop. Interpretation and usage (of knowledge and know-ho) must be understood within that context but, especially, the Sumak Kawsay shall be the relevant framework for their meanings.

The indigenous nationalities' and peoples' know-how and knowledge derive from the teaching of community life and its continuous practice. The community aspect does not only encompass relations among human beings, but amongst all elements that comprise and supplement life in general. Know-how transmission spaces are far from being a complex infrastructure and from involving specialized human beings. Know-how reinforcement is continuously operated by the wise men or women from every nationality and peoplesThe wise men or women from every nationality and peoples continuously operate know-how reinforcement, which enables a wide understanding of life and the important factors in maintaining the spiritual and material balance claimed by the Pachamama-Nature and by human beings.

We consider that the application of the national and international standardized frameworks is imminent for the benefit of Ecuador's peoples and nationalities, of the region and the world. In that context, we present the good experiences undergone in the public scenario and propose alternative models to achieve a balanced coexistence, from the local territory stance, closing the cycle with the application of public policy agendas, so that the peoples and nationalities can guarantee the recovery, strengthening and the existence of know-how and knowledge and their own ways of existence, which has planetary implications because, by doing so, the balance of life of all living beings in the planet is sustained.


All the peoples in the world have undergone different processes in the construction of their own wisdom and ways of thinking and acting. It is about the rationality and logics that operate within every culture. For example, the Egyptians or the Romans were able to build their knowledge from the logics of reason, which measures, estimates and establishes objectives and goals to define a universal rationality, valid for all nations of the world. The issue is that this is one of the core features of the Western culture. Nevertheless, there are other ways of producing know-how and knowledge that have been built by different indigenous peoples[1] of the world, which modern science (dis)qualifiesdis) qualifies as empirical, traditional, ancestral, country-based and intuition driven[2].

Consequently, Ecuador's nationalities and peoples, as political and historical entities, integrated prior to territorial, political, ideological and economic conquering processes of the Inca culture, Spanish invasion, Colonialism and Republican era[3], have organized their existence on the basis of their know-how, rooted in the life of their community. Nowadays, these peoples and nationalities base their existence on migration, loss and denial of the elements comprising their identity and on political and cultural assimilation, as the result of a discriminatory and racist society, and a State that promotes exclusionary political practices.

In spite of the fact that the indigenous peoples were submitted, they were able to support a bridge-chakana[4], materialized by the know-how for building a life and communicating among human beings and with all beings in nature, which was nourished by know-how and knowledge based on millenary practices. This umbilical cord would allow going back in time and guaranteeing continuity in space. Due to the uprooting and displacement, many nationalities' practices and much of their know-how have been kept clandestine.

Ancestral know-how is a very wide category. An One of the approaches is made by to it is that of academics, which that takes ancestral know- how as an object hanging from the tree of time, without considering the peoples who conceived it and completely displacing the men and women who have dedicated their lives to safeguard and keep that know-how in force. They rather take it as any other object that could be manipulated for their own profit within the capitalist market. Whereas from the power perspective, the approach to nationalities and peoples remains as a basic description of the existing cultures of Ecuador, as a factor of diversity with no political or historical perspective; for the indigenous peoples, the existence of know-how is associated to the survival of people.

The concept of peoples and nationalities constructs intercultural perspectives and approaches in different policy environments, as the new idea of diversity has existed from the integration of the first hunter-collector communities; then,. wWe now start to accept that concept as an element of our perception and as a reference-representation framework, and we even understand it as part of our regulatory (legal) and practical (structure and politics) horizon. In addition, the new approach becomes real in daily life, in cultural and political spheres, asbecause the nationalities and peoples demand its presence in contemporary society.

The common good

In current ethical and political discourse, the common good is often a rhetorical, historically defined concept. Within the Aristotelian-Thomistic classical tradition, the notion of common good considers the wellbeing of individuals as part of a community, and the community's well being focuses in the individuals who integrate the community. Nevertheless, it lost effectiveness with the individualistic turn of Western philosophy that prioritizes the human being as the rational being who is above everything else.

Within the Western paradigm, inspired by the logics of radical (hobbesian) liberalism, competition is placed over survival. Therefore, the mutual destruction of humans is ignored based on the general agreement that elevates the leader by means of the delegation of individual power, so that the leader can be erected from the generic and authoritarian individual, invested by the ruling power from the struggle amongst individuals, groups or social classes, promoting the emergence of the good life ideal, whose bourgeois prototype is an existence with fullness of goods, an effective reality for large groups of society in the XX century world. In contrast, in most peripheral countries, with far more restrictive models of enjoyment of goods and services as a result of technological progress and intense concentration of wealth have been the typical feature.

In the indigenous people groups, life acquires a holistic sense, and common good, a transcendent character. The arrangement of reality comes into place in such a way that it gives rise to the human phenomenon. Learning about and taking advantage of reality without altering or damaging itit is a basic right of that human phenomenon. In other words, a dilemma between the common good and life is unthinkable, becauseas the common good is alive and life is equivalent to the common good in its full manifestation. A logical rationality is not conceived either as disconnected from passion, as both are integrated in a set of supplementary factors that forge collective wisdom. In that respect, David Choquehuanca, the Aymara (Bolivian) intellectual and chancellor, maintains that good living means "to restore the experience of our peoples, to restore the Culture of Life and to restore our life in full harmony and with mutual respect for mother nature, for the Pachamama, where everything is life, where we are all wywas- animals raised by nature and the cosmos"; in that way, the cosmocentric vision is given a meaning, opposite to the anthropocentric vision of European modern life, which sheds an individualistic interpretation.

For ancestral peoples, Kawsay means LIFE rather than LIVING. That erroneous interpretation of Kawsay from the Western view limits its meaning to human life, whereas when ancestral cultures refer to LIFE, its signifier includes life of all beings, that means, it is supplementary for all lives. The infinitive action of TO LIVELIVING influences action within the scope of immediate considerations and individualism.

Within the context of the commons, the logics of plural community approaches crystallizes other types of rationality that views the nationalities' and peoples' ancestral way of thinking and other wisdoms as elements integratingintegrating elements in the institutional structures. Notwithstanding, we should notice that the development models implemented in Ecuador ignore or leave out that know-how and knowledge.

Critique of the Capitalist and Socialist Models

The model in force in today's world is the capitalist system that was able to overpower the socialist system with the fall of true socialism in 1991. The capitalist system, in spite of its crisis with Neo-liberalism, has been globally expanded, strengthening the private property of production means, where the market, the State and society are closely interrelated. Its relevant characteristics include the prevalence of Western democracy, the free market of industry and company goods and services and the right to individual initiative, relegating collective and community rights.

The case of Ecuador tries to embody XXI century Socialism, proposed in Rafael Correa Delgado Government's discourse, "Our proposal (XXI century Socialism) is welcomed because it is not traditional socialism, it is not about trying to nationalize the means of production, (...) it differs from traditional socialism in many ways (...), for example not understanding the complex social relations and trying to categorize the advancement of society in simplistic laws", in addition, he stated that; "It is necessary to find a new concept of development, harmony with nature, development with the local elements. To make people live happy but not in opulence. What we do share with traditional socialism is the importance of collective action and overcoming those falsities that indicate that individualism and competition is society's engine" ” [5]

That discourse, based on the nationalities' and peoples' historical formulation was accepted as precept of the 2008 Constitution and transferred to the national development plans, versions 2006, 2007 and 2013. In 2013 version, the so calledso-called Good-Living National Development Plan ("PNBV" in Spanish) established the Good Living- Socialism[6] concept in point 2.

Nevertheless, after having used those wisdom precepts from the indigenous peoples' wisdom, such as balance, harmony, solidarity, reciprocity, among others, along the PNBV basic foundations, objectives, strategies or policies to strengthen ancestral know-how and knowledge are not formulated; on the contrary, the development of knowledge and technology is endorsed to a public, academic instance, such as YACHAY[7] that in entry 5.1.2 on technology, innovation and knowledge it indicates the following: "These learning and creation processes (of the Yachay) are enriched through dialogue between traditional knowledge, ancestral know-how, other forms of non-scientific knowledge, and different pieces of scientific knowledge (SENESCYT, 2013).

In any case, this new model of development brought up the Sumak Kawsay to debate in the Ecuadorian society, as the paradigm for the original peoples and nations, which has allowed a community life that promotes equity, balance and sensitivity into daily life. The context for survival of ancestral know-how

Ancestral wisdom, with a history of over 12000 years of continuous executionfulfillment, has survived 500 years of denial by the Western culture. This millenary know-how, transmitted from one generation to another by oral lore, is maintained with difficulty. However, supporters of this know-how are its own practitioners.

Know-how can be found in the communities' oral lore or in oral memories[8]; traditionally, they have been called mythologies. Mythology is a way of delegitimizing or denying original peoples' history by official-history. The ancestral memory is referred to as ñawpak rimary[9]- a leading word, that is to say, memory is a milestone guiding the community from the past into its future, maintaining its validity.

Although indigenous peoples maintain their knowledge with oral tradition, it is nowadays necessary to record it on physical means. It is possible for traditional forms of transmission to disappear because of the frequent practice of putting oral tradition in writing. The custom of engaging in conversation at dusk around the fire is vanishing as society changes and writing takes over traditional socialization mechanisms. That fact, which has called for little reflection, becomes a defensive answer with the menace of extinction of know-how extinction, maintained through oral tradition. Accepting the death of oral tradition to give birth to know-how poses considerable danger.

On those circumstances, it is necessary to reflect on the way know- how is incorporated into written signs. In the capitalist globalization process, all historical and cultural products from people throughout the world are incorporated into the market under the shape of multiculturalism and know-how diversity, and become functional within the logics of offer and demand. Know-how, orally sustained by its practitioner, is somehow protected and distant from the market because, as capitalism has no access to it. However, once know-how is written in the dominant language, you can assume that the gap between wise men and women from indigenous groups and the global market is bridged. Nevertheless, globalization bounties may never cross that bridge in order to improve the living conditions of the peoples who sustain know-how. Consequently, it is mandatory to make that type of effort in the indigenous languages as well.

Transmission of wisdom is a ludic world. Activities like soil preparation, seeding, harvesting, animal breeding and hunting, art crafting like weaving, knitting, carding, among others, are full of know-how, not taught under formal schooling systems. The entire life is a great ritual of learning how to live. But that learning process is not formal; for example, for kichwa children, playing is the pedagogy of enculturation. Therefore, each game or activity must show us a "secret" for adult community-life[10].

The white-mestizo State promotes a policy of discredit, discrimination and ridicule of ancestral know-how through its education institutions, public administration, Catholic Church and communication means. Power, with all its colonial characteristics, produces two types of sanctions for the subjected peoples: one is related to cultural repression and coaction of the community; whereas the second way is compensation. They are both tailored to individuals who are excluded from the group. The intention is to try to isolate the individual from his/her convenience and from the community, for him/her to join the dominant group, by means of economic or cultural promotions. State policies are recorded under these two types of logics, both of them intended for indigenous peoples.

On the other hand, there has been a systematic persecution of wise men and women. Wise men and women represent a threat to the establishment of dominant institutions. Consequently, the intention has been to avoid socio-political influence and to create adversity amongst the indigenous peoples. Indeed, a very violent persecution took place until they were physically eliminated [11].

In spite of all the types of persecution undergone by our peoples and know-how, they have survived until now. Today we do not depend on large farms or on the church regime. Nevertheless, all of our people's accumulation of know-how, transmitted by our forefathers to this day, is not being duly sustained and with the same effort our parents did so. Indigenous access to formal education is a new challenge to social, political, economic and cultural vindications, and it represents the possibility of giving a new image to our culture and know-how. Finally, it is well known that it is in times of cultural rebirth when attachment to past elements, which identify us, emerges.

Alternative models of peoples' and nationalities' know-how, thought and knowledge

The need to undertake ancestral wisdom to promote life

In face of the unsoundness of the Western-paradigm and the numerous effects of the unbalance of life in the planet, ancestral know- how and the way to produce life in nationalities and peoples embody an alternative for the entire humanity. It is within this scope that further freshness and potential of said know-how are found.

Ancestral know-how is not built in laboratories but in its natural environment and community; its effectiveness dates from the beginning of human life in Abya Yala and it has satisfied real needs. We should consider that not everything that has gone through the Western science and technology laboratorylaboratory has had an answer for the life of other civilizations; it has rather caused serious problems in terms of planet harmony.

Original peoples propose, from our cultural and linguistic experiences, notions such as the PACHAMAMA[12] and the SUMAK KAWSAY[13].

In a way, Pachamama is our great huaca[14]in the numinous sense of understanding. From the perspective of an understanding, indigenous peoples have different celebrations focused in offerings as acts of intimate reciprocation. These acts, which, for traditional anthropology may be acts of belief or folk facts, for the ceremony officiant there is a "logical" explanation for them, as they are ways of creating energy in order to establish relations that may activate other existential senses. That understanding takes place in equalitarian contexts. There can only be dialogue among similar counterparts, if equality is fractured, dialogue cannot take place because some will give orders and others will obey them. Without equality the only thing left is asymmetry, so thatwhere some benefits of it and others are affected.

Guiding principles in ancestral know-how management:

a) Unitarian perspective and universal harmony

For the indigenous Nationalities and Peoples, the world is an eternal and harmonic unity, without beginning or end, where everything is interrelated and is mutually influencing one another. In those terms, we could say that we are not alone, we harmoniously live and share the same space with our brothers, animals, plants and minerals. Therefore, it is our duty to look after and protect the entire planet. Similarly, we enjoy the same territory, where we share the most beautiful landscapes, such as our phakchakunas (waterfalls), our kuchakuna (lakes) and Guardian Mountains, which are protected by the great mother, maker of life, Pachamama.

b) “Runa” harmony human being-nature

The "runa" is identified by behavioral codes, transmitted from one generation to the other, and its main codes include: shuk yuyaylla (a single way of thinking), shuk shunkulla (a single heart) and shunk makilla (a single strength). In his/her relation with nature, the “runa” has an intimate connection with the agro-ecologic and the astronomy calendars. Those orientations have enabled the regulation and estimate of hunting, fishing and picking activities, as well as the internal exploration of the Amazon. In the Andes, with those calendars, indigenous peoples and nationalities have organized soil preparation, planting and harvesting activities.

c) Reciprocity

Reciprocity promotes balanced exchange systems that support community survival based on agricultural production, know-how, knowledge and symbolism, which generate actions and feelings within a community knit. These millenary practices contribute to the community-production secret world and challenge the capitalist production way at its foundation.

d) Redistribution

Their practices are different from Western thinking; redistribution marks a sense of mutual solidarity among humans, in the communities, where families, nuclear or expanded, share what they have, not only material goods but also spiritual goods; this practice confronts Western thinking where redistribution applies to the surplus.

e) Community-based work, "minga"

The essence of the ancestral coexistence and work is expressed in the Ayllu -family and Ayllullakta- community, where ayllu does not only refer to territory, but also to culture, identity, worldview and kinship. This practice makes evident a role distribution system instead of a hierarchical system in community activities.

6. Ecuadorian Political and Regulatory framework for ancestral know-how and knowledge

International Regulatory Framework

All international instruments related to the environment, intellectual property and ancestral knowledge guide and promote environmental care, environmental protection and rational use of the environment; by inspiring and informing nations and people, and helping them improve their quality of life without compromising the life of future generations. World Intellectual Property Organization

The Inter-government Commission for Genetic Resources and Intellectual Property, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore of the World Intellectual Property Organization suggests that intellectual property-related issues, as it is associated with one of the elements for the International Regime, is to be dealt with under the sui generis regime for the protection of Collective and Holistic Traditional Knowledge that shall be built within the Biological Diversity Convention framework.

FAO's International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources[15] in Art. 9- Farmer's rights-. Recognizes the enormous contribution that the local and indigenous communities and farmers of all regions of the world, particularly those in the centers of origin and crop diversity, have made and will continue to make for the conservation and development of plant genetic resources which constitute the basis of food and agriculture production throughout the world.

Art. 31[16] of this international instrument recognizes an indigenous people’s right that of maintaining, controlling, protecting and developing their cultural patrimony, traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions and their science, technology and culture manifestations. In addition, it is recommended that participating States adopt any measure upon enquiry to the peoples and with their cooperation.

The United States forum on Forests exhorts the States to recognize and appraise the cultural diversity of the collective and holistic, traditional and indigenous peoples on forests, as the vital elements for the survival of the peoples themselves, as well as for the implementation of a true sustainable development model. Lastly, it indicates that such collective and holistic traditional knowledge cannot only be evaluated on its industrial service or on its potential contribution to agro-forest knowledge, but also on the idea of being a necessary habitat for the existence of the peoples who have historically preserved it.

According to those standards, governments and the international communities have recognized the transcendental value of traditional collective and holistic knowledge for the preservation of biological diversity and its sustainable use. Therefore, efforts are focusing on the search for preservation mechanisms, sustainable use and benefit distribution. Collective and holistic traditional knowledge shall be protected by the same intellectual property-right systems, by taking part in all of them or through a different system, given that it is a sui generis regime.

National Regulatory Framework

The Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador, in Art. 57, number 12, acknowledges as a nationalities and indigenous peoples' collectivepeoples’ collective right to "to uphold, protect and develop collective knowledge; their science, technology and ancestral wisdom; the genetic resources that contain biological diversity and agricultural biodiversity; their medicine and traditional medical practices, with the inclusion of the right to restore, promote and protect ritual and holy places, as well as plants, animals, minerals and ecosystems in their territories; and knowledge about resources and properties of fauna and flora." In addition, the Supreme Standard prohibits all types of appropriation of their knowledge, innovation and practices.

The State undertakes to guaranty a sustainable development model, environmentally balanced and respectful for cultural diversity, which may preserve biodiversity and the capability of natural regeneration of the ecosystems, and ensure satisfaction of present and future generation's needs. Similarly, the State shall ensure active and permanent participation of the affected individuals, communities, peoples and nationalities in the planning, execution and control of all activities that may generate environmental impact.

The State undertakes to consult and value the community's opinion in accordance with the criteria established in the law and international human-rights instruments, although it recognizes the right to a higher instance for final decision making, which ignores binding consultation processes as guaranteed in agreement 169 of the IWO[17](#sdfootnote17sym)on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries

Case studies of ancestral know-how application

Incidence of community Governments on territory management

As we have described, know-how and knowledge of life was established in ancestral wisdom, throughout its scopes, and indigenous know-how has influenced territory organization and administration. Millenary socio-political schemes were based on those millenary practices, which were represented in the community's social roles, rather than in hierarchies of power. Men and women undertook community responsibilities, some of them to keep memories alive and the possibility to express them at strategic timesmoments, while others were in charge of the arts, of crystallizing events in textile, canvases, planks and stone, as well as with the use of “quipus” and through indigenous oral chants[18](#sdfootnote18sym).

That knowledge lasted in time and enabled leadership to rest upon community principles, even in adverse times moments of political transformation. During the Agrarian Reform in Ecuador, communes were created based on the creation of communes was provided for, on the basis of the "huasipungo´s" location, with all other types of authorities, which affected the territory with which indigenous peoples associated their natural and social balanced systems. Nevertheless, community- survival strategies promoted again the empowerment of a new "government" system in the rural area, which was the space for ancestral peoples. That event rooted the development of particular good-government characteristics based on know-how and knowledge.

Currently, the indigenous movement of Ecuador is broadening the concept, as it establishes de recognition of community territorial governments representing the intercultural exercise of the new democracy that intends to guarantee efficient administrative management by a Plurinational State, in order to benefit all the diverse society. In practice, it is still a challenge, struggle and learning path. Nevertheless, that government form exists with some particular characteristics:

  • The community government, organized in Ayllukuna (nuclear or expanded families) responds) responds to population demands,
  • Power is under a government council, which is the voice of the community's demands to an extreme situation.the external world.
  • They are elected by their own community and count with everyone's participation rather than with the vote of those of legal age.
  • Decision makingDecision-making is carried out through the collective participation - community assemblies.
  • The Ccomplementary participation of men, women and children is promoted.
  • The use of the indigenous language is maintained in all its processes.
  • The commune or community, peoples or nationality maintain a holistic view of the territory.
  • Direct participation of the peoples and nationalities is pursued.
  • Active and permanent guide by ancestral authorities is promoted.

As a territory-protection strategy in the Ecuadorian Amazon, with the spontaneous colonization led by the State, the nationalities have adopted different ways of organization of Western type, such as communes, centers, associations, cooperatives, federations and nationalities. In the case of the base organization, called Centroe[19](#sdfootnote19sym), the maximum authority is the Trustee, who shall be the legal, official and jurisdictional representative of the community to defend its associates' rights. The members and the Trustee, in order to exercise their functions and meet their responsibilities, additionally count with a Violation Regulation, approved by the General Assembly from March 1966, which is adapted to the cultural and environmental reality of the Amazon Basin and is periodically updated.

These community-government systems restore the value of using the word as the first record of commitment in community contexts, the value of the social observatory of leaders' actions, and the protection of human population and territorial elements. In that way, its processes become the basis of what is called alternative governments [20](#sdfootnote20sym) led by local authorities, elected by popular vote, particularly in places with a majority of indigenous population. Consequently, that has influenced on changes in territory planning by governments not led by indigenous individuals. Such governments see those practices as appropriate for their administration and apply an inter-cultural view in the dialogue between know-how systems.

Outstanding changes in those alternative offices are considered alternatives and include:

  • Participatory planning
  • Accountability
  • Budget redistribution
  • Local-development action approaches emphasize gender, intercultural character, naturaland natural resource-Pachamama protection.

Exercise of a community government sovereign system

Next, we share an example of much deeply rooted governability by virtue of its geographic distance from urban life. In the Pachamama Community of Kichwa peoples, located in the boundary of Chimborazo and Cañar provinces, Tixán parish, the territory was recovered at the time of the agrarian reform in Ecuador for what it has legal status. Nevertheless, the standards provided by the Ministry of Agriculture were not applied by its community membersits community members did not apply the standards provided by the Ministry of Agriculture as they were far from their reality. Their communitarian objective has been the preservation of water sources and highland management. Their economy is based on sheep trade and agricultural activities.

Their community life demands a change of attitude from the State when relating with it or trying to influence it, which is relevant and would enable the State to exercise sovereignty from the local stand pointstandpoint.

  • Use of the territory's own language, according to the place where it may intervene.
  • Understand and respect the space/time dynamics in order to carry out planning activities.
  • Ecuadorian State’s powers shall reinforce, in all aspects, the nationalities' and peoples' own forms of government, as they are the majority of those who preserve the resources put to the service of the entire Country, such as water, forests, healthy food, pure air, medicine plants.
  • The application of policies, plans, programs and projects must be performed from the perspective of the nationalities, and in accordance with their demands in current contexts.

Principles in public policymaking in favor of ancestral know-how

Nationalities and peoples' responsibility with respect to their participation in the definition of their own policies is based on the new 2008 Constitution; there cannot be an actor other than them, who may undertake those responsibilities, and affect their worldviews. In the case of Ecuador, there is the nationalities and peoples development council (CODENPE for its acronym in Spanish). That entity produced the Public Policy Agenda for Equality in Diversity (“Agenda de Políticas Públicas para la Igualdad en la Diversidad”) both as a guide and contribution to the institutional transformation of the plurinational State, by observing intercultural, plurinational, Sumak Kawsay and Pachamama concepts, as well as the following principles:[21]

  • Territorial, organizational and intercultural participation: Itgathers indigenous nationalities' and peoples' expectations from the different natural regions of Ecuador. It applies the know-how associated with the nationalities' and peoples’ organizational structure within the plurinational and intercultural framework; it ensures the necessary dialogue and consensus.
  • Universality: It includes the universe of indigenous Nationalities and Peoples of Ecuador.
  • Legal basis: The 2008 Constitution sustains the document that indicates that in the Plurinational State indigenous nationalities and peoples have the right to make policies and demand their compliance in order to reach the Sumak Kawsay.

  • Clear and pertinent objectives: Each policy quantitatively and qualitatively identifies its specific objectives, results and actions. Its formulations are consistent with the objectives in the National Plan for the Good Living.

  • Management model: The six policies: "export" CODENPE's management model to the State. The model consists of a series of mechanisms and good experiences that enable the nationalities and peoples to become the authors of their own Good Living.

  • Mainstreaming: Part of the emergency of applying the formulations, and within them, the six policies, is their interrelation with the five powers of the State, with different ministries, with decentralized autonomous governments and with other strategic institutions that guarantee the execution of such formulations and policies.
  • Decolonization: It promotes concrete training actions for decolonizing state and private institutions that may allow the eradication of colonial practices. It surmounts the policy on indigenous inclusion in the current State.
  • Individual and collective rights: All the actions proposed are intended to exercise the individual and collective rights, considering the historical disadvantage that Ecuador's indigenous peoples have suffered and the fact that they are again relegated by actions in favor of the individuals coated by the category of citizens.
  • Power distribution: The traditional forms of the use of power and accumulation are questioned from the nationalities' and peoples' good-government practices stance. Consequently, political participation is confronted, segmented in political parties, where the democracy of the majorities over the minorities is rooted, in connection with patronage and the individual, to the detriment of the common good, and where alliances are made to advance their own projects and condemn all types of opposition and criticism against the facto power. The exercise of power implies the deliberate and binding consultation of the indigenous nationalities and peoples, with respect to issues that affect their own ways of life and the territory they inhabit.

Public policy recommendations for Ecuador's nationalities and peoples

Institutional innovation as a complement to the public policy

Institutional innovation is important to guarantee policies that strengthen Ancestral Know-How; in those circumstances, the presence of institutions like the specialized technical body (“Organismo Técnico Especializado”) is necessary, as indicated in the Constitutional, Art. 156[22].

To innovate deeply in their internal structure, institutions’ new functions would be as follows:

  • Territorial planning to implement the new model of development that shall be institutionalized by the Sumak Kawsay
  • Coordinate enforcement and evaluation of intercultural public policy, from the equality in diversity agenda, as well as from those correctly proposed by planning instances and management-performance ministries. Ancestral knowledge management, research and innovation
  • Guarantee the application of collective rights and strengthen peoples' and nationalities' reestablishment.
  • Promote care and protection of the Pachamana from the Nationalities and Peoples worldview.
  • Furthermore, it is essential that public policies for peoples and nationalities are mainstreamed in the five powers of the state.

Implement nationalities' and peoples' demands in the State's public policies

Indigenous peoples public-policy proposals have been submitted from two scenarios. One corresponds to the public-policy agenda for equality in diversity, produced by CODENPE, entity in charge of the development of Ecuador's peoples and nationalities. The second proposal was submitted by former leaders of the indigenous movement, systematized in the I summit of leaders in 2012.

The first one, corresponding to the public-policy agenda for equality in diversity, formulates 6 public policies:


Establish strategic actions for all State institutions', public and private, fulfillment of Nature's (Pachamama) rights.

Strengthen and protect women and family rights of Nationalities and Peoples.

  • Restore and revalue Nationalities' and Peoples' science, technology and art to incorporate them into the formal and not-formal education system.
  • Generate mechanisms so that Nationalities' and Peoples' can be the actors of the Good Living programs, plans and projects, with the corresponding allocation from the State's general budget, in order to achieve the Sumak Kawsay
  • Provide training on the knowledge and application of Collective Rights in the five powers of the State, in order to promote its plurinational and intercultural character, based on the Constitution and International Instruments.
  • Create indigenous Nationalities' and Peoples' economic systems consistent with their worldviews, by identifying activities in four phases: financial, productive, trade and services.

In the second case, former leaders particularly refer to the "communitarian economy and production" as the essential basis to achieve the Sumak Kawsay, and include the following among the main obstacles:

The current situation of our communities is defined by several factors in terms of production: their own production systems- based on ancestral know-how and practices, on seed and organic-farming technique management, on our ways of organizing work and managing crops- have been weakened. The new generations need incentives to embrace agriculture. Community land is insufficient and, in many cases, eroded. Similar problems arise in face of artisanal production. In that context, they propose the following:

  • Strengthen and expand our communities', peoples' and nationalities' economy and production, within the scope of the social and solidarity-based economic system provided for in the Constitution.
  • All public policies related to access to production factors shall include specific modalities, particular mechanisms and preferential treatment for the communities, based on the acknowledgement, revalorization, recovery, strengthening of production know-how, technologies and practices that we have preserved for centuries under adverse conditions.
  • Promote sustained lines of research, with methods that allow dialogue on know-how, that enable to recover information and know-how from our elders, who are "livinge libraries."
  • The public acquisition scheme shall create specific, flexible lines for the direct acquisition of community production, without having to turn it in to companies or corporations that negotiate with the State.
  • It is necessary to establish community-access to credit lines, by revising and curving requirements according to our reality and our conditions, which are different in terms of property and production ways, as ours stimulatestimulating community agriculture and ensuringe minimum viability conditions as the basis for food livelihood and surplus generation, pursuant to the terms provided in the Organic Law of Food Sovereignty.
  • We require concrete pricing policies and a specific insurance to protect our production.
  • We propose a joint effort with the internal revenue service -SRI- in order to identify mechanisms that will not pose obstacles to our performance as economic agents, but rather operate as support and redistribution means, suitable to our condition.
  • Community production requires incentives, as it develops in the midst of disadvantages and is forced to compete, without that being its vocation. Among the incentives to consider, we propose a subsidy for agro-ecological production
  • We consider that recovery and appraisal of our own seeds is extremely important. They are the result of long handling and improvement processes for their adaptation to diverse soil and weather conditions, for plague resistance, and for long-term reproduction, - which does not occur with commercial-format, "improved" seeds. Those seeds, which are strategic rather than commercial goods, patrimony of the country and humanity, shall be the basis for public initiatives of quality and crop-output improvement.
  • We propose the identification of marketing policies intended to the exchange amongst small and medium-size producers, both at national and international levels, in order to fully take advantage from fare-trade and alternative international trade, provided for in the Constitution, as well as from solidarity trade amongst the peoples, in order to foster boost the new regional integration.
  • The new Commune Law shall be an outstanding instrument to solve production problems in our communities. For that, our direct participation is necessary in their debate and final formulation. Therefore, we request the National Assembly to promote direct participation spaces.


  • Nature plays a fecundity role in our know-how; but its existence and continuity no longer depend on the natural but rather on the social environment. That social environment in which wisdom survives could be called the “ecology of knowledge”. This document deals with knowledge from the ecological perspective. That notion can be perceived as a forced link between the concept of ecology and the conception of know-how. In the same way a plant needs an ecosystem for survival, wisdom requires a favorable social environment for its existence; it needs a nurturing environment that offers the supplies to feed its livelihood. Next, it is about the recognition of a life space for know-how to settle, with those Women and Men who sustain know-how, the conditions for their survival and the resources for their existence and continuity. In addition, it is about the acknowledgement of risk and threats confronted during life.
  • The population of national States across the world is not homogeneous but diverse in terms of languages, cultures, know-how, knowledge, customs and expectations.
  • Planet Earth is a unique village, mostly made of water and a small portion of land, which shall be protected by all human beingsbeings, as it is the only home for present and future generations.
  • Know how, knowledge and practices embodied in each wise man and woman has millenary validity. That wisdom, built from the Pachamama-Mother Earth intimate and continuous relation, as we have expressed from the beginning, has the sense of maintaining and reestablishing the cosmic, corporal and spiritual balance. Today, these pieces of knowledge are presented as alternatives, with answers to the needs of humanity as a whole.
  • Although there is the State's openness to incorporate ancestral know -how within the State’s political agenda, it is necessary to evaluate the process, as it is observed that both mental and institutional decolonization together with the depreciation of ancestral know-how continue to be barriers that hinder pertinent interaction between both epistemological sources. On the other hand, the academy has a structured a mentality for the defense of Western science, which does not allow from the reciprocal intervention of both know-how types.
  • Ancestral know-how has been kept undercover and almost frozen for five centuries. Nowadays, know-how needs to be revaluated, fed and strengthen. In that process, the spaces of prestige that were taken away in colonial times need to be restored. Those spaces are the indigenous communities that are now occupied by conventional science. Next, it is necessary to place ancestral know-how at the same level as conventional science, as well as counting with the necessary resources for its development, strengthening and continuity in the future. That process shall take place in the indigenous communities, under their own knowledge and practice logics. Meanwhile, conventional science and ancestral know-how shall live together in the national system of education.
  • The recovery of prestige shall be obtained by restoring the spirit and the essence of the Andean-Amazonian ancestral wisdom. If conventional science has its laboratories and scientific centers, ancestral wisdom shall recover its holy sites for knowledge creation, recreation and realization. Once ancestral spaces are restored and ancestral practices are strengthened, a dialogue between similar counterparts could take place. Otherwise, discrimination will continue to exist or, in the best scenario, those spaces will be absorbed by the conventional system.
  • People with ancestral wisdom have always kept their hands opened. Notwithstanding, there has not been a reciprocal answer from the Western, scientific counterpart. There is some hope that soon they could seat as equals.
  • Finally, what needs to be done is to maintain the continuous exercise of know-how in all scenarios of social life. There may not be the required support but there is the task of sustaining and securing know-how.
  • Nation-states shall first undertake actions that will allow the recovery, protection and strengthening of ancestral knowledge and know-how in their own territorial spaces.
  • Ancestral know how-constitutes a significant contribution to the embodiment of the social economy of knowledge within the national productive-matrix transition to change.
  • Public policy shall be the answer to the construction of a new plurinational State, which implies that policy shall be guided by the concepts of intercultural and plurinational character, Sumak Kawsay and Pachamama from the ancestral stand point.perspective.


  • COMISION DE ACUERDO DE CARTAGENA (1996)- Caracas, Venezuela - Decisión 391 Régimen Común sobre Acceso a los Recursos Genéticos.
  • Correa, R. (2011), El Reglamento Nacional al Régimen Común sobre acceso a los recursos genéticos en aplicación a la Decisión 391 de la Comunidad Andina.
  • CODENPE (2009-2010) – Políticas públicas para la igualdad en la diversidad.
  • Ramirez, R. (2014) – Hacia la independencia intelectual.
  • De la Cruz, R. (2011) – Marco de Políticas y Regulaciones sobre Recursos Genéricos, Conocimientos Tradicionales y Propiedad Intelectual Vigente en la República del Ecuador
  • Corporación de Estudios y Publicaciones (2010) – Constitución de la República del Ecuador.
  • Andrango, A. (2007) – Ley Orgánica de las Instituciones Públicas de ‘Pueblos Indígenas del Ecuador que se Autodefinen como Nacionalidades de Raíces Ancestrales.
  • García S. (2013) – Sumak Kawsay o buen vivir como alternativa al desarrollo en Ecuador: Aplicación y resultados en el Gobierno de Rafael Correa (2007-2011).
  • Watson, P. (2009) – Historia Intelectual de la Humanidad.
  • Federación de Centros Shuar (1976) – Solución Original a un Problema Actual.
  • Rostworowoski María, (1983) Estructura Andinas del Poder, Lima Perú.
  • CONAIE (2012) Proyecto Político para la construcción del Estado Plurinacional e Intercultural, Propuesta desde la visión de la CONAIE 2012.
  • CODENPE (2012) Legislación para el Fortalecimiento de las nacionalidades y pueblos Indígenas del Ecuador.
  • SENPLADES, (2013) Buen Vivir, Plan Nacional 2013-2017


[1] The culture of peoples who are original from the Andes, Amazon-basin and Coast has been generally confronted with the Western culture. The culture of the Abya Yala original peoples was not created to be opposed to the Western culture or at a later time. It emerged at its own time-space, without confrontation to any other previous culture. Therefore, it is not said to be scientific "as well," or lacking of scientific sense, there are other principles that either create or lead it.

[2] Intuition is a field that has been diminished in the West, because it is marginal to Cartesian reasoning.

[3] CODENPE's text: "Las Nacionalidades y Pueblos del Ecuador", September 1998.

[4] The Chakana is the ordering element in the Andean society. It is the regulation that makes couple, family, ayllu, community, peoples and nation coexistence utilitarian. (CONAIE, Proyecto Político para la construcción del Estado Plurinacional e Intercultural, p. 27, Quito, Ecuador)

[5] http://www.ecuadorinmediato.com/index.php?module=Noticias&func=news_user_view&id=52922&umt=presidente_correa_defiende_socialismo_del_siglo_xxi_para_ecuador

[6] The Good Living is the way of life that allows happiness and the permanence of cultural and environmental diversity; it is harmony, equality, equity and solidarity. Neither opulence nor infinite economic growth is pursued

[7] The city of knowledge (Yachay), one of the most ambitious projects in education and technological development of the Government, will be administered by public company Yachay EP. The entity was created by executive decree 1457, from March 13th. 2013, by presidentby president Rafael Correa.

[8] Memories have their own recording codes. We can find them in "artistic" narrations, dream interpretations, reading of nature signs, among others.

[9] Kichwa language

[10] There are many secrets that our parents tell us, including the following:

  • You should not touch the lamb's forehead because when it grows old it will become wild and could attack us.
  • Eating chicken feet will make us good workers.
  • Guinea pigs' hearts should not be eaten because it can make us too shy to fight an enemy.

[11] Wise men are those who understand worldviews, chair ceremonies and, their influence on the socio-political and cultural life is very powerful. These wise men and women have become an obstacle to "mestizo" (half-breed) domination. That is the reason for their persecution up to now. (Personal reference to Jesús De la Cruz, Morlán, January 2008).

[12] The Kichwa notion of Pachamama portraits theportraits the idea of a female-gender being. Pacha= total, cosmos, time-space and realization. Mama =mother. From this perspective, Pachamama would be the female Time-Space of the total reality. Pachamama is understood as the articulation of three basic communities: nature community, human community and spirit community. The connection among these three communities implies spiritual, cultural, economic, political and ethical notions. The spiritual sphere has to do with the feeling-thought existence. In economic terms, it refers to profit for the benefit of the entire community. In cultural terms, it is related to reciprocity and development of care amongst the entire community. In political terms, it is related to the way communities and their relations are organized, whereas ethics looks for mutual raising or reciprocal accompaniment.

[13] Sumak Kawsay is the Andean paradigm of life, as in the West, it establishesit establishes progress and development as the ultimate realization of life; in the Andean vision, Sumakand Sumak Kawsay is the fullfillness of life, meaning the continuous process of incompleteness and accompaniment of the entire community.

[14] It expresses the entire range of light. It meant everything whose beauty or excellence would exceed those of others of the same kind, like a fruit, flower or tree. Huaca were also monstrous beings or ugly things that caused horror and amazement, such as the large Antis snakes. Huaca are the things that deviate from their natural course, such as the birth of twins, both among humans or animals, or the two-yolk egg, or breech-birth children, or children born with six fingers or toes, or humpbacked, or anyone with a major defect in his/her body or face like cleft leap or crossed eyes. (Luis E. Valcárcel: Historia del Perú Antiguo. ed. J. Mejía Baca. Lima, 1978).

[15] In agriculture, reproductive or vegetal multiplication material of varieties cultivated currently or in the past, of wild species and weeds and special genetic reserves. https://www.google.com.ec

[16] United Nations statement

[17] Art. 6. Number 2. Consulting in accordance with this Agreement shall be performed in good faith and in a way suited to the circumstances, in order to reach an agreement or achieve the acceptance on the measures proposed. IWT Agreement 169

[18] Rostworowski, María, Estructuras andinas del poder, p. 99-101, Lima-Perú 1986.

[19] Shuar Federation Center - Original Solution to a Current Problem Sucúa – Ecuador - 1976.

[20] Guamote (1.992) and Cotacachi (1.994) Mayors, pioneer provinces in local administration and planning changes. Currently, other governability spaces are nationally represented by the Orellana, Zamora Chinchipe and Morona Santiago prefectures, particularly in terms of the Pachamama-Nature protection management and in the strengthening of ancestralof ancestral cultures’ know-how in the Ecuadorian Amazon region.

[21] It is necessary to point out that creation of the CODENPE, as a result of social mobilization and historical struggle, is cristalysedcrystalized in order to exercise the public policies ruling-role for this population group. For year 2003, CODENPE was able to produce public policies that dessapeareddisappeared in the emerging execution of social projects, in face of the lack of attention from State entities, created for that specific purpose. In future years, this practice significantly reduced the frequency of updating or reformulating public policies for the indigenous peoples. In accordance with Arts. 156 and 157, the CODENPE should be part of the national counsilscouncils for equality (in Spanish "Consejos Nacionales para la Igualdad") which), which shall have power in the formulation, mainstreaming, observation, follow up and evaluation of the policies referring to nationalities and peoples.

[22] The national counsilscouncils for equality are bodies responsible for ensuring full validity of rights and their exercise, as consacratedconsecrated under the Constitution and under human rights international instruments. The CounsilsCouncils shall exercise their powers in intercultural, human discapacity and mobility policymaking, in accordance with the law. To meet their objectives, there will be coordination with ruling and executing entities and with entities specialized in the protection of rights at all government levels.

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