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Carter Center Slideshow: Life on the Edge: Ecuador's Border with Colombia

  • The Carter Center conducted a conflict–related development analysis in two towns along the Ecuador northern border. The analysis focuses on development in the border zone, including access to justice and human rights, citizen security, and youth and social inclusion, and will serve as input for the creation of public policies for development in the northern border zone by Ecuador’s government. All Photos: The Carter Center/ D. Hakes | Carter Center Slideshow (2008)

  • Lago Agrio is a frontier town that exemplifies the many problems facing Ecuador’s border region: a large number of asylum seekers fleeing violence in Colombia, health problems from Colombian fumigation efforts and from oil companies’ pollution, violence, and poverty. All Photos: The Carter Center/ D. Hakes

  • The Carter Center jointly with the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) and two local NGOs (Fondo Ecuatoriano Populorum Progression and Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano) work here to conduct a conflict–related development analysis study of the Ecuadorian–Colombian border. The analysis focuses on priority issues for the border zone, including access to justice and human rights, citizen security, and youth and social inclusion. There are more than 58,000 Colombians in Ecuador’s northern border in need of international protection; thousands more remain unregistered and therefore invisible, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. All Photos: The Carter Center/ D. Hakes

  • This girl’s family is not registered as refugees because her father does not have their birth certificates. He was unable to grab anything when they fled Colombia at night several years ago. Eight months after seeking help from the Colombian consulate, he still has not received copies. Without refugee status, he is not guaranteed basic rights like the right to legally seek a job, to education, health services, or the right to obtain identity and travel documents. All Photos: The Carter Center/ D. Hakes

  • Buenaventura Morales, left, and his neighbor plan to rent a small plot of land to grow rice, which they will trade for other necessities among the large community of asylum seekers nearby. Neither are able to find jobs in the underdeveloped region. "We have come, we have suffered," said Buenaventura. "Some days there is work, most days not." All Photos: The Carter Center/ D. Hakes

  • Buenaventura Morales stands in the small plot of land he will rent to grow rice. He has knocked down the large trees, but stumps and heavy ground foliage remain. Refugees have the right to seek employment, but the process to receive refugee status often takes a long time, meaning asylum seekers may not be able to legally work for a year or two. Refugees seeking employment face other challenges, including lack of access to the job market and bureaucratic difficulty in obtaining a work permit, according to the UNHCR. All Photos: The Carter Center/ D. Hakes

  • The town of General Farfan has fared better than many other border communities in the province. Several international organizations have assisted residents with their community–building projects like trash clean–up and recycling, cultural events between Colombians and Ecuadorians, and educational support. Many border towns in Ecuador have strong solidarity with Colombian asylum seekers, generously sharing their limited resources. All Photos:The Carter Center/ D. Hakes

  • In contrast to the cleaner water of General Farfan, just 30 minutes away the primary water source of Barrio La Florida is heavily polluted from oil drilling. The oil company tried to cover up the pollution by burying it and left without informing the local community. Oil soon seeped through the soil, water, and air. Now, many residents have respiratory problems or other ailments, and children are born with birth defects. Most animals have died, and crops cannot be grown here. The air smells heavily of petroleum. All Photos: The Carter Center/ D. Hakes

  • Sludgy water, oil barrels, and other pollutants remain in this community. Oil companies left some 71,000 polluted areas across Ecuador, according to Jose Fajardo, president of the Frente de Defense de la Amazonia. The Carter Center consortium’s conflict–related development analysis includes a project profile to help to improve access to justice for people living in the border zone. All Photos: The Carter Center/ D. Hakes

  • There are signs of hope though. Rosa Lopez leads the Frente de Mujeres de Sucumbios, a women’s coalition that provides leadership training, encourages women to get involved in local political decision–making, and educates women that domestic violence is unacceptable. The Carter Center consortium’s conflict–related development analysis works with organizations like hers to encourage social inclusion to women, a traditionally marginalized group. All Photos: The Carter Center/ D. Hakes

  • Frente de Mujeres de Sucumbios also has a small hospital that provides maternity and pediatric care for the poor. Approximately 20 women give birth here each month. All Photos: The Carter Center/ D. Hakes

  • The Center’s conflict–related development analysis suggests media programming on local issues at community radio stations like Radio Sucumbios. Programs discuss government presence, security, oil contamination, farming, and local news. For rural citizens, who comprise 70 percent of Radio Sucumbios’ audience, this programming is vital to keeping them informed. All Photos: The Carter Center/ D. Hakes

  • Radio Sucumbios engages its listeners to discuss issues affecting them by phoning in questions and conducting interviews with local officials, in an effort to improve social inclusion in the area and reduce tensions. All Photos: The Carter Center/ D.Hakesmming is vital to keeping them informed. All Photos: The Carter Center/ D. Hakes

  • The more remote the community the less international assistance and attention it is often given. Jose Edilberto Reyes is a community leader from Puerto Nuevo, a border town three hours away from Lago Agrio by off–road vehicle. He tries to unite a community torn by cross–border violence and extreme poverty. Puerto Nuevo is a forgotten place, he said. All Photos: The Carter Center/ D. Hakes

  • Visiting places like Lago Agrio, Puerto Nuevo, and other communities along Ecuador’s border with Colombia can be discouraging to those wanting to help. But investing in the region's future and giving opportunity where there is none is a good first step toward change. The Carter Center consortium’s conflict–related development analysis recommendations will serve as inputs for the creation of public policies for development in the northern border zone by Ecuador’s government. All Photos: The Carter Center/ D. Hakes