EO President Talks Indigenous Rights, Legal Theory with “Oil and Water” Co-Subject at University of Arizona Film Event

EO President Talks Indigenous Rights, Legal Theory with “Oil and Water” Co-Subject at University of Arizona Film Event


EO President David Poritz (left) on stage for a discussion of "Oil and Water" with Hugo Lucitante (center) and James Anaya (right) at The Loft Cinema in Tuscon, Arizona.

"Oil and Water" was once again the central topic of an interesting academic discussion on Wednesday night in Tuscon, Arizona. EO President and Co-Founder David Poritz and Hugo Lucitante, co-subject of the documentary film and representative of the Amazonian Cofán community attended the screening at the Loft Cinema and participated in a discussion that ranged from Lucitante's experiences in his native Cofán village to the effectiveness of EO's model of improving oil and gas development practice with voluntary standards.

Presented by Arizona State Museum’s Native Eyes Film Showcase with the Indigenous People Law and Policy Program of the University of Arizona's James E. Rogers College of Law, the event was moderated by Professor of Human Rights Law and Policy James Anaya. Professor Anaya brought his considerable experience in the areas of human rights, international law, and legal issues affecting Indigenous Peoples to the event, including work as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


The Loft Cinema marquee announcing the screening of "Oil and Water" this week.

During the discussion, Poritz explained that his belief, which many people find to be implausible, that oil and gas development could be closely linked with social responsibility and produce positive outcomes for affected communities is central to Equitable Origin's mission. When the discussion turned to the effectiveness of voluntary standards as drivers of positive change in the oil and gas industry, Poritz noted that voluntary standards can effectively fill the "governance gap" left by inadequate legal regulation of development activities. By providing clear guidelines for social and environmental performance that stand in for functional regulations, voluntary standards can demonstrate what effective guidelines look like and in doing so facilitate governments' closing of the governance gap.

After Poritz explained how the EO System offers economic and reputational incentives for better social and environmental performance to oil and gas developers, Anaya brought up the principle of "interest convergence" put forth by American civil rights era legal scholar Derrick Bell. Bell's hypothesis was that "whites will promote racial advances for blacks only when they also promote white self-interest." Anaya noted that the principle could be applied broadly to human rights--that outside groups are more likely to act in support of rights for marginalized groups if they believe their actions will benefit both groups.

As the discussion wound down, a member of the audience asked Poritz what success for EO would look like 20 years from now. Poritz answered that climate change is clearly today's most urgent issue, and that he hoped and expected fossil fuel development activities will have declined significantly in the next two decades. For EO, success over those intervening 20 years would include vastly improved practices at a large portion of development sites as the overall number of sites around the world dropped off.

Proceeds from the event went to the Cofán Survival Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the Cofán people and their culture.