Helen Clark: Yasuni-ITT Side Event with the Government of Ecuador

Jun 20, 2012

Remarks by Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
Yasuni-ITT Side Event
With the Government of Ecuador
Rio de Janeiro, Wednesday 20 June at 1-2.30 pm

I am pleased to be part of this discussion on the Yasuni-ITT Initiative - an important example of how sustainable development efforts can move us towards the “Future We Want”.

UNDP - as the manager of the Yasuni-ITT Trust Fund - is proud to be associated with the Initiative. As President Correa has so eloquently described, Ecuador has – through this initiative - presented an innovative model of how to fight climate change, while at the same time protecting one of the world’s richest areas in biodiversity and the rights and livelihoods of the indigenous people who depend on it.

Ecuador should be congratulated for its committed efforts to carry this Initiative forward, not least since foregoing the most financially lucrative option – in this case to extract oil – can be a big sacrifice for a developing country. Instead of prioritizing financial gains, however, the Government of Ecuador has decided to keep the rainforest standing, alive, and working for us all.

The importance which Ecuador attaches to its natural heritage is also exemplified by the fact that it is the first country which grants rights to nature in its Constitution.

The public support which the Yasuni Initiative has received in Ecuador is also impressive – according to recent opinion surveys, a very high 87.7 per cent of the population was in favor of it.

Notable also is the role of civil society, in both awareness raising and financing. I understand that Ecuadorian citizens have raised nearly three million USD in voluntary contributions, and that about ten per cent of the total resources received by the Yasuni-ITT initiative trust fund have come from individuals.

The Yasuni reserve is not only a unique biodiversity hotspot; it is also home to more than 15,000 people whose livelihoods and culture are associated with it. Resources from the Yasuni fund will benefit peoples living there.

Overall, the investments to be financed by the Trust Fund will be guided by sustainable development priorities, including on energy efficiency, renewable energy, conservation, social development, and income generation.

The Yasuni initiative is a good example of what we at UNDP describe as a “triple win” approach to sustainable development, where initiatives deliver economic, social, and environmental benefits simultaneously. We believe these kind of approaches hold great potential for advancing sustainable development, and we hope that outcome of Rio+20 will encourage more countries to adopt them.

The Initiative also presents a new approach to dealing with common but differentiated responsibilities when facing global challenges. The resources mobilized for Yasuni are considered contributions from countries or individuals. There are no donors but rather sharing contributors, with Ecuador being the largest contributor. This kind of shared responsibility provides a new conceptual framework for international co-operation which could be followed and built upon around the world.

The Yasuní ITT Trust Fund, established by the Government of Ecuador and UNDP on 3 August 2010, receives and manages contributions in support of the Initiative. It is the first national, multi-partner trust fund established by UNDP.  By working on its design with the Government of Ecuador, we have gained knowledge and an understanding of how to prepare and operationalize this kind of mechanism.

UNDP is currently in the process of developing its own Biodiversity Strategy. It promotes the protection and sustainable use of natural heritage, as well as the social and economic values of biodiversity and its importance for people’s wellbeing. The Yasuni-ITT initiative, and Ecuador’s position in general towards its natural heritage, are cited as good examples from which to learn.


Since the global community has a shared stake in the natural heritage and global public services provided by unique environments like that of Yasuni, then it also has a shared responsibility to help to preserve such places – not least when it is located in a developing country as Ecuador is.

The importance of international backing for the success of the Yasuni-ITT Initiative can, therefore, not be overemphasized– and we sincerely hope that more support will be forthcoming.

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