Civil society in Ecuador has its origins in charitable and voluntary organizations that provided services to the poor and vulnerable at the beginning of the 20th century. In the 1950s these organizations evolved into developmental civil society organizations (CSOs) that provided assistance to the disabled, engaged in family planning, and supported educational programs. During the 1960s and 1970s, CSOs emerged to focus on urban development, environmental protection, and women’s issues. The expansion of public services (education, health, water, and irrigation) during this period also led to the formation of parents’, teachers’, and students’ associations; housing, water, and irrigation associations; as well as neighborhood associations. In the 1980s and 1990s, new CSOs dedicated to protecting civil, political, cultural or indigenous people’s rights, gender equity and the environment were created. It was during this period that organizations like the CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities in Ecuador) were established, and civil society actors actively engaged with government and played a key role in drafting the 1998 and 2008 Constitutions.
Today, Ecuador has an active and diverse civil society comprised of corporations, foundations, private and public sector unions, professional and business organizations, and numerous informal organizations, such as church groups, sports clubs, and youth groups. Although Ecuador has a high level of CSO membership, the level of civic engagement and citizen participation is low. Notably, since the Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional the obligatory affiliation to Chambers of Commerce and professional associations on May 14, 2008, the number of members of these types of CSOs has diminished. On the other hand, the government in February 2007 created the Secretary of People, Social Movements and Citizen Participation, which is in charge not only of CSO registration, but also responsible for maintaining communication with CSOs and encouraging citizen participation. During President Lenin Moreno’s administration from May 2017 to May 2021, it became possible for non-profit social organizations to be registered electronically through the ministry related to the specific activities of the CSO.
In the past decade, CSOs have been subjected to restrictive regulatory measures. First, Executive Decree No. 16 of 2013 created the National Secretary of Politics Management, which is responsible for regulating social and civic organizations. The Secretary and other government agencies routinely hacked CSOs’ email accounts without court order; blocked online content published by activists; imposed excessively burdensome fines on CSOs; and seized CSOs’ assets. Moreover, Executive Decree No. 16 was used to justify involuntary termination on vague grounds; for example, in December 2013, the government dissolved Foundation Pachamama on the grounds that it was not “fulfilling its objectives” and that it was “acting like a political party that affects the internal security of the state as well as public peace.” [On November 17, 2017, the Ministry of Environment issued a resolution reinstating Foundation Pachamama’s legal personality.] Second, Executive Decree 739 of 2015 required all CSOs to report the funding they receive and activities they conduct to the executive branch of the government, thereby deterring contributions for critical causes (see: https://www.movedemocracy.org/case-studies/ecuador).
In October 2017, Decree 193 entered into force, replacing Executive Decrees 16 and 739. While Decree 193 simplifies requirements for granting legal personality to social organizations, the project director of Fundamedio, Mauricio Alarcón, has argued that CSOs that applaud the revocation of Executive Decrees 16 and 739 do not understand that Decree 193 “is more of the same.” Decree 193 continues the government practice of regulating social organizations by executive decree rather than by a law, as the Constitution mandates, and fails to define procedures for dissolution.
On May 24, 2021, Guillermo Lasso was sworn in as President of Ecuador. He has expressed his full support and respect for CSOs and affirmed in his initial speech that there will be an atmosphere of total freedom for their operations. One month later, in June 2021, Ministerial Decision No. MIES-2021-036 came into effect. It contains “General Rules for the Attention of Procedures of Social Organizations and the Application of the Regulation for the Granting of Legal Personality to Social Organizations, issued by Executive Decree No. 193 of October 23, 2017.” This Ministerial Decision will be applied to all social organizations that are registered with, or request to be registered with, the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion with regard to the following processes:
- Approval of the Statute and Granting of Legal Personality;
- Reform and Codification of Statutes;
- Internal Democratic Regime (Board registers and register of inclusion and exclusion of members);
- Dissolution and Liquidation;
- Operation Control;
- Certification of Legal Existence; and
- Replenishment of Documents.
The Ministerial Decision is generally viewed as a positive development because it allows government bodies to adopt more effective measures to regulate social organizations. Unfortunately, however, the Ecuadorian state still regulates the right of association through a model that has mostly abandoned the rules of the Civil Code and the principle of constitutionality. For example, since 2010, the Organic Law on Citizen Participation has been in force, but it is interpreted in a narrow perspective that requires all CSOs to acquire legal status before operating.
|Organizational Forms||Corporation, Foundations, National and Foreign Social Organizations, and Management or Social Organizations, which are founded by institutions or the state and may apply for inclusion within the registry system.|
|Registration Body||State Ministries through the RUOS (Unique Registry of Social Organizations) and SUIOS (Unified System of Social Organizations Information) website.|
|Approximate Number||66,979 (according to the social organizations unique registry – www.sociedadcivil.gob.ec).|
|Barriers to Entry||Second and third degree Corporations and Foundations may not attain legal status without possessing USD 4,000; Registration applicants must submit the nationality, general data and identity cards of all its members.|
|Barriers to Activities||Limited political activity and and wide public discretion to control and dissolve CSOs.|
|Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy||CSOs and media outlets that are critical of the government may be subject to disproportionately burdensome financial penalties, unfair court proceedings, and may be dissolved by an administrative procedure.|
|Barriers to International Contact||No legal barriers.|
|Barriers to Resources||Required accreditation from RUOS (Unique Registry of Social Organizations) to access public resources.|
|Barriers to Assembly||Wide discretion for protesters to be penalized for any political act based on the vaguely written Organic Integral Penal Code, which has 29 articles about crimes against the constitutional state structure, such as sabotage and paralyzation of public services.|
|Population||17,289,554 (April 14, 2022); According to National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC): 17,602,676 (June 2021)|
|Type of Government||Republic|
|Life Expectancy at Birth||male: 74.8 years; female: 80.87 years (2021 est.)|
|Literacy Rate||male: 93.8%; female: 92.1% (2017 est.)|
|Religious Groups||Roman Catholic: 79%; other: 21% (Pew Research Center, 2014)|
|Ethnic Groups||Mestizo: 72.6%, Indigenous peoples: 7.1%, African descendents: 7%, montubios: 6.8 %, White: 6.1% and Other: 0.3%..|
|GDP per capita||$11,618 (2017 est.)|
Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency.
|Ranking Body||Rank||Ranking Scale
(best – worst possible)
|UN Human Development Index||86 (2021)||1 – 187|
|World Justice Project Rule of Law Index||92 (2021)||1 – 138|
|Transparency International||105 (2021)||1 – 180|
|Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index||86 (2021)||179 – 1|
|Freedom House: Freedom in the World||Status: Partly Free
Political Rights: 31
Civil Liberties: 40 (2021)
|Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 40
1 – 60
International and Regional Human Rights Agreements
|Key International Agreements||Ratification*||Year|
|International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||Yes||1969|
|Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1)||Yes||1969|
|International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)||Yes||1969|
|Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR)||Yes||2009|
|International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)||Yes||1966|
|Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)||Yes||1981|
|Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women||Yes||2002|
|Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)||Yes||1990|
|International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW)||Yes||2002|
|Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)||Yes||2008|
|American Convention on Human Rights||Yes||1977|
|Additional Protocol to the Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights “Protocol of San Salvador”||Yes||1993|
* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty
The current Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador was approved by referendum on September 28, 2008 and was published in the Official Registry number 449, on October 20, 2008. Constitutional amendments, which eliminated term limits for political office, entered into force December 21, 2015. Other constitutional amendments went into force on January 25, 2021.
According to the Constitution, all organizations in society are recognized to be an expression of popular sovereignty and may therefore carry out processes of self–determination, influence decisions and public policy, and exercise social control of public bodies at all levels of government (Article 96). Organizations may be structured in any manner to enforce the popular power and its expression, although they must adhere to internal democratic practices and ensure the accountability of the organization (Article 96).
The Constitution creates the Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control as a fourth branch of the State that is in charge of designating authorities such as the General Attorney, the General Prosecutor, and the members of the Judicial Administrative Council, among others. The Constitution provides that all the candidates will be nominated by CSOs and the citizens.
The Constitution also contains a considerable number of articles relating to the protection of human rights, including:
- Article 66.13: Freedom of association – The State recognizes and guarantees the people the right to associate, meet, and speak freely and voluntarily.
- Article 66.11: The right to maintain the privacy about one’s convictions- No one can be compelled to testify about himself. No one can require or use, without authorization of the holder of his legitimate representative, personal information on religious beliefs, affiliation, or political thinking or data concerning his health and sex life, except for medical needs.
- Article 66.19: The right to personal data protection- This includes access to and decision-making power over information and data, and its corresponding protection. Data gathering, filing, processing, distribution, and spreading shall require the owner’s authorization or a legal mandate.
- Article 66.6: Freedom of expression – The State recognizes and guarantees the people the right to the free development of personality, with no more limitations than the rights of others, and the right to think and express one’s thoughts freely and in all its forms and manifestations.
The Constitution guarantees the full exercise of these rights by stating the following:
- Article 11.1: Rights should be exercised, promoted and claimed either individually or collectively before the competent authorities, and these authorities shall ensure compliance.
- Article 11.3: The rights set out in the Constitution and international human rights instruments are self-executing by and before any public, administrative, or judicial, servant or server, either ex officio or at the request of a party.
- Article 10: The recognition of the rights and guarantees set out in the Constitution and international instruments on human rights shall not preclude other rights arising from the dignity of individuals, communities, peoples, and nationalities that are necessary for their full development.
Constitutional amendments that restructure the National Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control entered into force on February 14, 2018. They are available in the Suplemento Registro Oficial No. 180 of February 14, 2018.
On May 3, 2018 “Instruction Guide No. 21” for the application of the Regulation for the Granting of Legal Personality to Social Organizations was issued with Executive Decree No. 193 of October 23, 2017 within the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion. The Instruction Guide was published in Registro Oficial number 233 of May 3, 2018.
On August 1, 2018, the Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional the National Assembly’s February 2015 constitutional amendments . As a result, the press is no longer considered as a “public service” but as a “right of the population.”
National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector
There is no comprehensive law in Ecuador regarding CSOs. The basis of the sector’s legal treatment is the Civil Code, which has been in effect since 1861. The Civil Code provides the President of the Republic the authority under the Regulation for Approval of the Statutes, Reforms and Codifications, Liquidation and Dissolution, and Registration of Members and Directives, of the Organizations under the Civil Code and Special Laws (“The Regulations”) to establish and dissolve CSOs.  Thus, CSOs are governed by Executive Decrees, which have been promulgated to address issues of operations, organization, and oversight.
Through Executive Decree No. 16, which was published on June 20, 2013, President Correa abrogated Presidential Decree No. 982 of March 25, 2008 and established new requirements, controls, and ambiguous causes for the dissolution of CSOs. Decree No.16 also created new procedures for CSOs to obtain legal status and required international organizations to undergo a screening process to obtain permission to work in Ecuador.
Other relevant national laws and regulations include the following:
- Código Civil (Civil Code).
- Delegación para aprobación de fundaciones y corporaciones (Delegation for the approval of Foundations and Corporations) November 30, 1998.
- Estatuto del Régimen Jurídico Administrativo de la Función Ejecutiva (Statute for the Juridical-Administrative Regime of the Executive Branch) March 18, 2002.
- Reglamento para la aprobación, control y extinción de personas jurídicas de derecho privado, con finalidad social y sin fines de lucro, que se constituyen al amparo de lo dispuesto en el Título XXIX del Libro I del Código Civil, aplicable a todos los Ministerios de Estado. (The Regulation for Approval or the Statutes, Reforms and Codification, Liquidation and Dissolution and Registration of Members and Directives of the Organizations under the Civil Code and Special Laws). Enacted on September 11, 2002 reformed on February 6, 2007, September 17, 2007, April 8, 2008, and on October 27, 2008.
- Reglamento a la Ley de Extranjería (Regulation of the Foreigners Law) July 7, 1986.
- Registro Electrónico de Fundaciones y Corporaciones (Electronic Registration of Foundations and Corporations) March 31, 2009.
- Instructivo para estandarizar los trámites y procedimientos para la aplicación del Reglamento para la aprobación, control y extinción de personas jurídicas de derecho privado, con finalidad social y sin fines de lucro, que se constituyen al amparo de lo dispuesto en el Título XXIX del Libro I del Código Civil, aplicable a todos los Ministerios de Estado. (Special administrative rules to standardize the procedures for the execution of the Regulation for Approval or the Statutes, Reforms and Codification, Liquidation and Dissolution and Registration of Members and Directives of the Organizations under the Civil Code and Special Law) May 4, 2009.
- Código Tributario (Tax Code) June 14, 2005.
- Ley reformatoria para la Equidad Tributaria en el Ecuador (Reformatory Law for Tax Equity in Ecuador) December 29, 2007, amended on July 16, 2013.
- Ley de Régimen Tributario Interno (Law of Internal Regime of Taxation) November 17, 2004, amended on August 12, 2013.
- Ley de Control Tributario y Financiero (Law for Finance and Tax Control) December 29, 1988.
- Ley de Registro Único de Contribuyentes (Law for the Unique Contributor Registry) August 12, 2004.
- Reglamento para la aplicación de la Ley Orgánica de Régimen Tributario Interno (Regulation for the Application of the Law of Internal Regime of Taxation) June 8, 2010, amended on January 23,2013.
- Ley Orgánica de la Contraloría General del Estado (Law of the Estate Control) June 12, 2002.
- Reglamento a la Ley Orgánica de la contraloría General del Estado (Regulation of the Law of the Estate Control) July 7, 2003.
- Control Externo de las Entidades de Derecho Privado (External Control of the Private Entities) January 13, 2003.
- Ley Orgánica del Sistema Nacional de Contratación Pública (Law for the Public National Contractual System) August 4, 2008, amended on October 14, 2013.
- Contratación de Asociaciones de Primero y Segundo Grado (Regulations for Contracts with Social Organizations of First and Second Degree) May 12, 2009.
- Ley de Modernización del Estado (Law for the Modernization of the State) December 31, 1993.
- Ley para la Reforma de las Finanzas Públicas (Law for the Reform of the Public Finances) April 30, 1999, amended on December 29, 2007.
- Ley que regula las declaraciones patrimoniales juramentadas (Law that Regulates the Patrimony Declaration) May 16, 2003
- Ley Orgánica de Transparencia y Acceso a la Información Pública (Law of Transparency and Access to Public Information) May 18, 2004.
- Ley Orgánica de la Función de Transparencia y Control Social (Law of the Transparency Branch and Social Control) August 7, 2013.
- Código del Trabajo (Labour Code) December 16, 2005.
- Reglamento De Transferencias De Recursos A Personas Naturales O Juridicas De Derecho Privado Sin Fines De Lucro Con Finalidad Social (Regulation Of Resources Transfers To Persons And Legal Entities Of Non-Profit Private Law With Social Purpose) November 20, 2013. Instructivo Para La Regulacion De Los Observatorios De Justicia Que Se Encuentran Bajo El Control Del Ministerio De Justicia, Derechos Humanos Y Cultos (Instruction Notice to Regulate the Justice Observatories under the Ministry of Justice, Human Rights and Religious Sects) December 27, 2012.
- Instructivo Para La Acreditacion De Organizaciones De La Sociedad Civil Que Reciban Recursos Publicos (Instruction Notice to Accredit Civil Society Organizations that Receive Public Resourcest to Work in Agricultural Projects), September 19, 2012
- Decreto Ejecutivo 355 que reforma el reglamento del sistema unificado de información de organizaciones sociales adentro Decreto 16 (Executive Decree 355 that reforms the regulation that has to do with the Unique Registry of Social Organizations within Decree 16), July 3, 2014
- nstructivo para normar los trámites relacionados con el registro de Directiva, Acreditación, Inactividad, Reactivación, Disolución y Liquidación de Organizaciones Sociales que estén bajo el control del Ministerio de Inclusión Económica y Social MIES. (Instruction Notice to regulate the procedures associated with the registration of Directive, accreditation, downtime, reactivation, dissolution and liquidation of Social Organizations that are under the control of the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion MIES), July 24, 2014.
- Política sobre Organizaciones Sociales aprobadas por el Ministerio de Industrias y Productividad. (Policy on Social Organizations approved by the Ministry of Industries and Productivity), October 30, 2014.
- Instructivo para establecer procedimientos estandarizados en la transferencia de expedientes de organizaciones sociales en aplicación del Reglamento para el Funcionamiento del Sistema Unificado de Información de las Organizaciones Sociales –SUIOS (RUOS). (Instruction Notice to establish standardized procedures to transfer social organizations’ files in order to implement the Regulation for the unified system of social and civic organizations information functioning), February 13, 2015.
- Administrative instruction to regulate the procedures of social organizations that are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Transport and Public Works, March 7, 2016. Acuerdo Ministerial Número 12- 2016.
- Ministerial Agreement 12-2016.
- Instructivo de aplicación del Reglamento del Sistema Unificado de Información de Organizaciones Sociales y Ciudadanas.
- Administrative instruction for the application of the regulation of the Unified Information System of Social and Citizen Organizations (Executive Decree 739 published on August 21th, 2015) that are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion. This administrative instructive is in force since October 25, 2016.
- Decreto Ejecutivo 739 que contiene la codificación y reforma del decreto ejecutivo 16 de 20 de junio de 2013 (Executive Decree that contains codification and reform of the Executive Decree 16 of June 20th, 2013).
- Regulation 180 for the competition of merits for the selection and designation of the major and alternate directors and alternate representatives of civil society to the National Councils for Gender, Intergenerationals, People and Nationalities, Disabilities and Human Mobility (Registro Oficial 740 of April 25, 2016).
- Instruction for the Application of the Regulation of the Unified Information System of Social and Citizen Organizations (Executive Decree 739 published on August 21, 2015) that are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion. (October 25, 2016).
- Regulation for the Granting of Juridical Personality to Social Organizations (Executive Decree 193) (Registro Oficial Suplemento 109 of October 27, 2017).
 Enacted on September 11, 2002, amended on February 6, 2007, September 17, 2007, April 8, 2008, October 27, 2008, and September 26, 2012.
Two of the newest laws include the following:
1. On January 29, 2022, Ministerial Decision No. SDH-SDH-2022-0006-R, or “The Regulation of Procedure for the selection, subscription and execution of Technical-Financial Cooperation Agreements with Non-Profit Social Organizations for the Strengthening of Comprehensive Care for Victims of Gender Violence in Ecuador,” was passed. The purpose of these Regulations is to regulate the procedure for selecting, signing, and executing inter-institutional cooperation agreements between the Secretariat of Human Rights and non-profit national legal entities governed by private law. The Regulations will be applicable and enforceable for all non-profit social organizations, as well as for the Human Rights Secretariat within the framework of the signing of technical-financial cooperation agreements to strengthen victim assistance of gender-based violence, and they are expected to strengthen the comprehensive care for victims of gender violence through Shelters and Comprehensive Care Centers in Ecuador. It was published in the Supplement of Official Registry No. 11 of February 25, 2022.
2. On May 21, 2021, Ministerial Agreement No. MIES-2021-036 was passed. It contains “General Rules for the Attention of Procedures of Social Organizations and the Application of the Regulation for the Granting of Legal Personality to Social Organizations, issued by Executive Decree No. 193 of October 23, 2017” and was published in the Official Registry No. 474 of June 16, 2021. The scope of this rule is that social organizations will approve their statutes and obtain legal personality in the State Portfolio only if their goals and objectives are framed in programs and services aimed at the care and protection of priority attention groups and populations that are is in a state of poverty and vulnerability. In addition, they promote the comprehensive development and upward social mobility of the population that requires social inclusion services and strengthen the people and economy, in accordance with the provisions of the Organic Statute of Organizational Management by Processes of the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion.
In addition, a Constitutional amendment that restructures the National Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control is available in the Suplemento Registro Oficial No. 180 of February 14, 2018.
Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives
1. Draft Law of Non-Profit Organizations. On August 2, 2018, the National Assembly discussed the draft Law of Non-Profit Organizations, which is in the first stage of approval. The National Assembly will hold a second discussion, after which, if approved, the draft law will be sent to the President for his observations. If the National Assembly approves the draft law after receiving those observations, it will be enacted. This legislative process does not have a time limit but typically takes between 6-12 months. In general, the draft law seeks to avoid inefficient procedures and the arbitrariness of state decision-making regarding the creation or dissolution of CSOs. It also seeks to clarify that the freedom of association does not depend on the existence of a corporation or a juridical person.
The enactment of the draft law would be a positive development for civil society for several reasons.
First, the establishment of an CSO could be done before a Public Notary, and CSOs would not need the approval of the Executive or any other entity belonging to the executive branch of the government for their establishment, operation, or dissolution.
Second, the Public Registry of CSOs would be in charge of the Citizenship Participation Council. The Council would oversee CSO operations and have the power to declare the dissolution of an CSO only in the following cases: a decrease in members to less than the minimum required by law; completion of the term stipulated in anCSO’s statute; an offense declared in a final judgment that establishes as a penalty the dissolution of an CSO; or other causes expressly determined in the CSO’s statute.
Third, CSOs would not have to provide any information about their operations to any entity or branch of executive power.
Finally, foreign CSOs would have the same rights and obligations as national CSOs.
2. CSO registry system. At the end of 2014, the government completed a new registry system, called RUOS (Unique Registry of Social Organizations), for CSOs as required by Decree 16. Since 2015, CSOs have been waiting to have their names transferred to the site. Although Decree 193 replaced Decree 16, it continued many of the earlier decree’s regulations. However, the new information system that is intended to replace RUOS is still pending implementation.
3. Organic Law Project of Non-profit Organizations. On July 4, 2018, the Specialized and Permanent Commission for Citizen Participation and Social Control sent to the President of the National Assembly the report for the first debate of the Organic Law Project of Non-profit Organizations. The bill seeks to guarantee the constitutional right of freedom of association and repeals rules that have minimized the exercise of this right by establishing a series of procedures and bureaucratic requirements. It also seeks to generate flexible mechanisms promoting the right of freedom of association and ensuring the strengthening of organizations instead of pursuing their extinction. In 2021, the bill was still being debated.
According to Article 4 of Decree No. 193 there are three types of CSOs:
- Foundations; and
- Other structures of national or foreign social organizations.
Article 9 of Decree No. 193 also states that corporations will be classified in the first, second, and third degree:
1. Corporations of the first degree are those that bring together individuals under a common goal and include associations, clubs, committees, professional associations, and centers;
2. Corporations of second-degree are those that bring together multiple corporations of the first degree, such as federations, chambers, or unions; and,
3. Corporations of third-degree are those that bring together multiple corporations of the second degree, such as confederations, national unions, and similar organizations.
Public Benefit Status
The tax law and its corresponding regulations exempt CSOs dedicated to public benefit, religious activities, women, children and family development, culture, arts, education, research, health, sports, professional, unions, indigenous people, cooperatives, federations, confederations and other associations of peasants from paying the annual income tax. To receive this exemption the CSOs must satisfy the following requirements: (i) income from donations must be less than 15% of total income; (ii) the organization must be a nonprofit organization; (iii) all income must be dedicated to the object of the organization; and (iv) any excess income should be re-invested in the organization. There is no special tax treatment for income from foreign sources.
Barriers to Entry
Decree No. 982 included several provisions that increased barriers to obtain legal status for CSOs. First, CSOs could not obtain legal status without possessing at least USD 4000 in the case of second- and third-degree organizations or USD 400 for first-degree organizations. Second, the Decree mandated that all of a CSO’s members be individually identified on an internet-accessible registry in order for the CSO to legally exist.
Decree No. 193, which superseded Decrees No. 16 and 739, maintains the former’s burdensome provisions for organizations to obtain legal entity status.hic Decree No. 16, which itself succeeded Decree No. 982, created more burdensome provisions for organizations to obtain legal entity status. There were three critical points in Decree No. 16:
- CSOs must prove they possess assets in kind or cash as follows: first-degree corporations must prove assets in kind or cash of USD 400; and second- and third-degree corporations and foundations must prove assets in kind or cash of USD 4000. However, a social organization is exempt from this asset requirement if its objectives are in the “defense of rights.”
- All bylaws must respect the conditions established by the Decree for the authorities to approve organization.
- The organization must submit the nationality, general data, and identity cards of all its members to the registry.
In addition, The Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion published Ministerial Agreement No. 12 on October 25, 2016 to repeal or abrogate the former Ministerial Decision No. 00366 of 2014. The new Ministerial Agreement stipulates that civil organizations that work and develop activities within the field of competence of the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion will only have their statutes approved and obtain legal personality if their aims and objectives are framed in terms of the following: defense of groups of priority attention or populations that are in a state of poverty and vulnerability, promotion of development and social mobility, or strengthening the economy. These aims and objectives are based on the Statute of Organizational Management by Processes of the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion.
An Instruction Notice in February 2015 also established standardized procedures for the transfer of social organizations’ files as a means to implement the Regulation for the Unified System of Social and Civic Organizations Information Functioning.
Article 19 of Decree No.193 maintained two restrictive provisions related to dissolution of social organizations, including “deviating from the purposes and objectives for which it was constituted” and “engaging in partisan politics activities”, which are reserved for political parties and movements registered within National Electoral Council.
The wide discretion given to public servants to dissolve CSOs was previously demonstrated in the resolution of the Environmental Ministry issued on December 4, 2013, to dissolve Foundation Pachamama on the grounds that the CSO was not “fulfilling its objectives” and was “acting like a political party that affected the internal security of the state as well as public peace.” On February 12, 2014, the Ministry of Environment turned down Pachamama’s appeal and ruled that its fundamental and constitutional rights had not been violated.
Another high-profile case of restrictions being imposed on civil society occurred on July 20, 2016, when the Education Ministry began legal proceedings for the dissolution of the National Education Union (UNE). UNE is one of the oldest and largest trade unions in Ecuador. Because the proceedings are unconstitutional UNE has appealed for direct intervention of the Director General from the International Labour Organization (ILO). The Ministry of Education also reported that there are nine other CSOs that were notified in July 2016 about their alleged breach of regulations regarding the election of officers and registration under the statutes governing each organization.
Barriers to Operational Activity
Decree No. 193 establishes that, as in Decree No. 739, foundations and corporations are subject to operational controls regarding the use of public resources, taxation, and customs, among others, and must work towards attaining their corporate purposes. However, Decree No. 193 eliminates the obligation to provide minutes of assemblies, economic reports, audit reports and other information to the State, which was previously stipulated in Decree No. 739. In addition, the Single Registry of Social Organizations (RUOS) was removed in Decree No. 193.
According to the Decree No. 193, corporations and foundations may still face a range of restrictions, such as:
- The ministry that granted the CSO legal existence may verify documents as well as the fulfillment of objectives and purposes.
- The state can control the transfer of public funds to a CSO.
- The state can tax CSOs.
- The state has the right to exercise all the controls established within the laws.
Barriers to Speech / Advocacy
President Rafael Correa continually criticized and verbally attacked CSOs for being out of control and political pawns that are being used against him and his government. His statements helped create a hostile atmosphere for civil society and may have resulted in chilling CSO advocacy activities. Similarly, President Correa cracked down on media outlets that criticize his policies and decision-making. For example, he sued a media outlet that criticized his handling of a protest in 2011 and deployed his lawyers to pressure the judges to rule in his favor.
In addition, in October 2013, a tweet from the official account of the Presidency quoted President Correa “criticizing NGOs that do not contribute to overcoming poverty” after CSOs appeared before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to denounce restrictions on freedom of association and expression in Ecuador. Senior government officials and supporters also attacked the CSO representatives who appeared before the IACHR on Twitter and in the press as politicians, owners of newspapers, and recipients of foreign funding. President Correa also criticized CSOs such as Foundation Pachamama and other environmental groups on his weekend radio program for protesting against negotiations with international businesses over gas and oil exploitation rights in Ecuador’s indigenous territories. After this criticism, the government shut down Pachamama for violating the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 16, namely “interfering with public policies that undermine internal or external State security that might affect public peace.” The government confirmed the closure and dissolution of Pachamama once all judicial measures were exhausted.
Barriers to International Contact
In July 2014, three foreign activists were detained under the pretext that the government needed to check their immigration status. The activists were associated with the environmental CSO Foundation Pachamama, which was shut down in December 2013 for “interfering with public policies that undermine internal or external State security that might affect public peace.” These arrests could deter foreigners from carrying out activities with CSOs in the country.
In addition, the National Service of Ecuadorean Customs can control foreign transactions with CSOs.
Barriers to Resources
There are no legal barriers to seek and secure resources. However, the government at any moment may ask corporations and foundations for their economic reports whenever they deem necessary.
Barriers to Assembly
The Constitutional provisions governing assembly include:
Art. 66.13: The State recognizes and guarantees the people the right to associate, meet, and demonstrate or protest freely and voluntarily.
Art. 98: Individuals and groups may exercise the right of resistance against acts or omissions of public authority as well against natural or legal persons that violate or may infringe their constitutional rights and may claim or demand the recognition of new rights.
There is no specific law on assembly or public gatherings, but there are laws that affect this right:
- The Organic Code of Territorial Organization, Autonomy and Decentralization places municipalities or city halls and rural governments in charge of promoting the association of micro-entrepreneurs. Municipalities are also responsible for the use of public spaces, so if there are public gatherings, demonstrations, or marches, the organizers must ask for the Municipality’s permission.
- The Penal Code sets forth the police duty to guarantee all kinds of civil or religious associations and entitles the police to prevent and dissolve those that have as their objective to disturb the peace or commit an offense. Police authorities shall determine appropriate measures applicable to the case.
There are several key barriers that affect the freedom of assembly:
If an assembly, protest, or public gathering is planned for a public place, the organizers are required to secure permission from the municipality and the Police Superintendent within the Ministry of Interior. There are no regulations, however, regarding how many days before holding an assembly, protest, or public gathering that notice is required or what information the organizer must provide.
There is no fixed period of time in which the regulatory authority must respond to the application. However, there is a general regulation for all the executive authorities, as well as the Police Superintendent, to respond to any petition within 15 business days. There is a presumption of approval where the authority does not respond.
Since advance notice is required, spontaneous demonstrations are not allowed. Indeed, the Penal Code in Article 153 states that “Whoever promotes, directs or organizes parades or public demonstrations in streets, squares and other open spaces, whenever done without written permission from the competent authority, … shall be punished with imprisonment of one to three months and a fine of nine to twenty-six dollars of the United States of North America.”
Time, Place, Manner Restrictions
In ordinary circumstances, there are no prohibitions for assemblies at any place or time. However, according to the Constitution, the President can declare a state of emergency in the entire country or in certain parts of the country when there are “severe external or internal conflicts.”
Under the newest Penal Code regulations, Articles 345 and 346 establish sabotage and paralyzing public services as “crimes against the constitutional state structure.”
A March 16, 2020 decree declared a “state of exception” to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decree suspended certain individual rights under the constitution, including the right to association and assembly. The decree also allowed the government to use digital tools to surveil individuals under mandatory isolation or quarantine.
|UN Universal Periodic Review Reports||Universal Periodic Review: Ecuador (2016)|
|UN Human Rights Committee||Concluding observations on the combined twenty-third and twenty-fourth periodic reports of Ecuador (2017)|
|Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs||Ecuador|
|USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes||Not available|
|U.S. State Department||2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices|
|Fragile States Index Reports||Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index|
|IMF Country Reports||Ecuador and the IMF|
|International Commission of Jurists||Not available|
|International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library||Ecuador|
|Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos||Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos) named: “Situation of Human Rights in Guayaquil. 2014 Report|
While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change. If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at email@example.com.
New Initiative to Strengthen Civil Society (April 2022) (Spanish)
The Laboratory for Social Strengthening and Public Innovation is an initiative of the Citizenship and Development Foundation (FCD), which has the support of USAID and works within the framework of the project “Innovating democracy and government alliances” together with Citizen Participation and CORDES. This initiative seeks to strengthen civil society in Ecuador through the creation and technical assistance to CSOs in different locations in the country.
Launch of the Coalition for Freedom of Association (April 2021) (Spanish)
On February 16, 2021, the Coalition for Freedom of Association formed. It is composed of 15 civil society organizations working in the defense of human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean.
IACHR Announces Observation Mission to Ecuador in Response to Protests (October 2019)
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will conduct a working visit to Ecuador from October 28 to 30, 2019, at the invitation of the state, in order to observe the human rights situation in the country on the ground, specifically in connection with the current social protests and acts of violence going on there.
Massive Mobilisation of International Civil Society on Global Anti-Chevron Day (May 2019)
268 organisations, networks, social movements and trade unions from different continents, representing more than 280 millions of persons, are mobilised to denounce the Chevron’s impunity in Ecuador and ask the president of Ecuador to support the Chevron case in favour of the indigenous and peasant communities.
Dialogue with Civil Society: Halfway There (May 2018) (Spanish)
After a deterioration during the government of Rafael Correa, the relationship between the State and civil society organizations (trade unions, environmentalists, indigenous people, unions, foundations, etc.) is halfway there: although everyone highlights the dialogue announced by President Lenin Moreno, each sector has demands -especially legal ones-that remain unchanged.
Campaign for Popular Consultation and Referendum Ends in Ecuador (February 2018)
Advocates of Yes and No to constitutional reforms are ending their campaigns prior to the popular consultation and referendum on February 4, 2018 in Ecuador. Propaganda actions have taken place on social networks, statements in the media, rallies and caravans throughout the country. In order to close the campaign, the national government, which promotes a strategy to attract voters on the issues in the consultation and referendum, will hold a mass rally in Guayaquil, Guayas province. Those who favor the No vote will also meet in the port city.
Ecuador adopts a new approach towards foreign investment (January 2018)
The Government of Ecuador has indicated that the visits yielded positive results for Ecuador, in terms of international commercial treaties. The government expects to finalise a commercial agreement with the EFTA in 2018 and to resume negotiations with the US to conclude a commercial agreement similar to the one Ecuador signed with the EU.
Pachamama NGO will return to work (November 2017) (Spanish)
The Pachamama Foundation recovered its juridical life four years after having been legally dissolved by an order of former President Rafael Correa.
The repeal of decree 16-739 does not improve the situation of civil society (November 2017) (Spanish)
Threats and excessive observation and regulations on civil society remain practically intact with Decree 193,” said the lawyer and project director of Fundamedio, Mauricio Alarcón, after the repeal of Decrees 16 and 739 by Decree193 that President Lenin Moreno did on Monday, October 23, 2017. Alarcón believes that organizations that applauded the repeal do not understand that “it’s more of the same.” “You have to do a thorough analysis,” he said.
President Moreno has revoked two executive decrees (October 2017) (Spanish)
On October 23, 2017, President Lenin Moreno issued Executive Decree 193, which replaced Executive Decree No. 16 of June 4, 2013 and Executive Decree 739 of August 21, 2015.
Civil society is organizing to demand a popular consultation (September 2017) (Spanish)
Civil society is organizing to demand a popular consultation in reaction to the statements of President Lenin Moreno. The president said that “to conduct a consultation we will always be thinking of: improving our political system to have more democracy and deepen citizen participation to achieve absolute transparency in the election of the authorities to strengthen the balance between the functions of the State.
Code of Participation “Stabs” Civil Society (August 2017) (Spanish)
Among the objectives of the new Code of Citizen Participation bill is the control of all types of organization, including neighborhood leagues, students, women’s groups, and youth groups. The bill also proposes restrictions on citizens to present bills and obstructs the conduct of the popular consultation.
Decrees 16 and 739: Simple mechanisms to dissolve organizations? (May 2017) (Spanish)
What do the civil society organizations that are concerned so much about power have? The answer comes from the side of questionsing power in areas such as respect for basic rights or simple disagreements with state policies. When Correa signed decrees 16 and 739 he put us on a hunt: these were supposedly meant to better organize the civilian sector. But it was not like that. These are the tip of the iceberg of a mechanism created from the executive to control, silence and limit civil society organizations.
Freedom of association in check (May 2017) (Spanish)
“We have a very vibrant and large civil society in our country. We have more than 90,000 registered organizations. And sometimes – as a chancellor who traveled from one multilateral space to another- we always see the three or four same organizations of civil society financed by countries.” These were the words of Chancellor Guillaume Long, last May 1, during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). This is because decrees in question contemplate, among other causes, the dissolution of organizations for “deviating from the purposes for which they were constituted” and for “engaging in partisan political activities and activities that undermine the internal or external security of the State.”
Draft Organic Code of Citizen Participation and Social Control (April 2017) (Spanish)
On March 31, 2017, Assemblywoman Jhoanna Cedeño Zambrano presented to the President of the National Assembly the project called “Organic Code of Citizen Participation and Social Control” in order to initiate the process of approval and promulgation.
State of civil society (April 2017) (Spanish)
A new bill ratifids what has been a daily practice. Although on the one hand, the Constitutional Charter grants citizens a large number of rights, on the other hand the interpretation of public bodies remains that the state must administer these rights in accordance with the designs, needs, ideologies and concepts of those who manage power. That is, respect for rights is subject to the discretion of public servants and judicial operators.
“We don´t want Ecuador to end up like Venezuela” (March 2017) (Spanish)
The presidential opposition candidate, Guillermo Lasso, began the campaign for the second round of elections to be held on April 2. He said in his speech that “We have two options, either we continue with the dictatorship of Country Alliance [the other party] or we achieve the government of change. We do not want Ecuador to end like Venezuela we do not want to have our own Nicolás Maduro. ” He recalled that one of the first projects to be carried out in the first week of his winning the presidency will be to send “an executive decree to pardon all persecuted politicians in Ecuador.” Lasso also said, “We are going to repeal Decree 16. That decree that has tried to act as a shackle in the hands of Ecuadorian civil society.”
Ecuador: Universal Periodic Review, October 2016 (October 2016)
The administration of President Rafael Correa has expanded state control over media and civil society and abused its power to harass, intimidate, and punish critics. Other concerns include limited judicial independence, poor prison conditions, and women’s and girls’ limited access to reproductive health care due to fear of prosecution. The government has failed to implement recommendations it had accepted during the 2012 UPR of Ecuador on all these issues.
How to register social organizations (August 2016) (Spanish)
The registration process must be done through the Single Registry System of Civil Society Organizations. This public database consists of organizations that meet the requirements established in the Civil Code and binding Executive Decrees that establish the regulations for civil society organizations’ constitution, operation, registration, accreditation and control.
The Two Readings of the UN Human Rights Report (August 2016) (Spanish)
Government and civil society had two divergent readings on the report that the Human Rights Committee of the UN presented on the situation in Ecuador. While the ruling party complained about “bias” and disqualified social organizations, they claimed that the objections of the UN are “strong” in the Ecuadorian case
Nine Organizations Face Dissolution (July 2016) (Spanish)
The Ministry of Education reported that the case of the UNE is not alone, since there are others nine organizations that have been notified: Ecuadorean Foundation for Productive and Technological educative Development, Foundation Amauta Ayllu, Culturales Experimental Foundation, Association of Teachers School Paraguay , Central Parent Committee Family of Montúfar High School, Students and Professionals Federation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, Help and Support Corporation, and International Committee of Christian Professionals and Entrepreneurs of Ecuador. All of them were informed about the breach of regulations, especially regulations regarding the election of officers and registration under the statute governing each organization.
National Union of Educators (UNE) Faces Dissolution (July 2016) (Spanish)
After 66 years of legal standing the National Union of Educators (UNE) faces possible dissolution. This happens after notification from the Ministry of Education, through the Department of Education of the Metropolitan District of Quito.
Citizen group takes stock of the citizen participation ordinance (February 2016)
On 25 February 2016 the Quito Metropolitan Council approved the city ordinance regulating the system of citizen participation and social control in the Metropolitan District of Quito. Interestingly, more than 80% of comments from the so-called “Permanent Forum of Quito”, a citizen group made up of more than 30 civil society organizations, have been collected by the Council. Thanks to this ordinance, the whole population of Quito will have greater voice in the Council, as people may participate in the discussions.
Condemning Denial-of-Service (DDoS) Attacks on Fundamedios (January 2016)
Human Rights Foundation (HRF) strongly condemns the multiple denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on Fundamedios, Ecuador’s most prominent free press organization. These attacks began just days after the nonprofit launched Censuracom.ec, a website designed to expose the government’s crackdown on independent media during 2015.
Constitutional Amendments Approved in Ecuador (December 2015) (Spanish)
With a vote of 100 to eight, the National Assembly voted to approve a package of 15 constitutional amendments. One hundred and nine representatives were present for the vote. Several opposition lawmakers boycotted the final debate, meanwhile others left before the vote took place. There was one abstention. As required by the constitution, the amendments were presented before the National Assembly for the second time following a year-long socialization of their contents throughout the country. The amendments touch on a wide variety of subjects, including declaring communication to be a public service, changes to regulations governing public sector workers—including the extension of the right to unionize—and a reduction in the age requirement for the office of president, dropping from 35 to 30. The most controversial amendment was a proposal to eliminate term limits for political office. With the approval of the package of amendments term limits are eliminated, however the changes approved by lawmakers includes a provisional measure that will make it so the change only takes place after May 24, 2017.
Dissolution of Fundamedios Threatens All CSOs (September 2015) (Spanish)
The Government of has completely blurred the concept of freedom of association and, in practice, limited citizen action. The latest example of this is the announcement of the closure of Fundamedios, the only nonprofit organization dedicated to defending journalism and freedom of expression.
CSOs Call for Repeal of Decree (September 2015) (Spanish)
Civil society organizations disagree with the changes incorporated into a new decree and are calling for its repeal because of its violation of the right of free association. The president, Rafael Correa, issued amendments to Executive Decree 16. Its aim is to establish requirements and procedures for the operation of the Unified Information System for Social Organizations (SUIOS).
Fundamedios Threatened with Dissolution (June 2015) (Spanish)
Arguing that Fundamedios has shown a clear intention to establish itself as a “political actor,” the National Communications Secretariat (SECOM) urged the organization to comply with statutes. It referred to Article 26 of Presidential Decree 16, which states that one of the grounds for the dissolution of social organizations is to “deviate from the aims and objectives for which it was created.”
CSOs brief CEDAW on Situation of Women in Ecuador (March 2015)
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this afternoon met with representatives of NGOs and the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsman) of Azerbaijan to hear information on the situation of women in Gabon, Azerbaijan, Ecuador and Tuvalu, whose reports will be considered by the Committee this week. Speakers from NGOs in Ecuador called the attention of the Committee to the setback in the national machinery for the protection of the rights of women and the protection of victims of violence, caused by the elimination of Commissariats in 2003 which were replaced with a transitional mechanism with a much lower budget, resulting in the lack of guidance and systematic policy to prevent violence against women.
Decree No. 16 keeps social organizations on the edge (February 2015) (Spanish)
The social and civic organizations have struggles under the influence of Decree No. 16 in diverse ways. They have had to completely separate their activities from politics and accepted censorship on their aims.
Government enacts rule to have organized implementation of Decree No. 16 (February 2015) (Spanish)
The registration of social organizations has been complicated and complex. The government has trouble organizing and directing all local groups, as established by Decree 16, which created RUOS. This system, which is run by the Ministry of National Policy Management, has drawbacks.
Facebook Pages of Government Critics Censored (September 2014) (Spanish)
On September 24, 2014, Facebook eliminated the video “What Correa does not want you to see” from the social networking website after it received allegations of a violation of copyright from the Spanish company Ares Rights on behalf of the Ministry of Communication (SECOM) and the state television of Ecuador. The video, which could still be seen on Youtube, showed images of police repression of students in recent demonstrations that occurred on September 17-18. Other Ecuadorian website administrators critical of the government report that their websites have been attacked or closed down.
Deadline to Complete the New Registry System (July 2014) (Spanish)
A new decree was promulgated on July 3 in order to give to all CSOs six additional months to update their information that must be submitted to either Social and Economic Inclusion Ministry (MIES) or State Communication Secretary (in case where organizations work with journalism). The information relates to the creation of the civic and social organizations and their objectives, money administration and resource origin.
At odds with Ecuador, USAID moves to leave (July 2014)
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) says it plans to leave Ecuador amid an impasse with the government, just six months after the agency was kicked out of Bolivia, in what analysts say is another sign of the waning US influence in the region. In a letter to USAID partners in the country on Thursday, acting Mission Director Christopher Cushing said the decision to leave Ecuador comes “as a result of the Government of Ecuador’s decision to prohibit approval of new USAID assistance programs.
Activistas son detenidos en distintos actos represivos (July 2014) (Spanish)
On On July 17, 2014, three foreign advisers to Pachamama were detained by Ecuadorian police in Quito. The three activists were part of a march organized by the United Front of Workers and Trade Unions as well as an event called “Farewell Fundación Pachamama.” Pachamama was closed by the government in December of last year. The three foreign activists were detained under the pretext of checking their immigration status.
Ecuador Uses Presidential Decree Powers to Shut Down NGO (December 2013)
El Gobierno cierra la ONG Pachamama por protestas (Diciembre 2013)
Ecuador the latest ‘XXIst Century Dictatorship’? (February 2013)
NGO petition yields results for Amazon (January 2013)
NGOs to publish manifesto on proposed draft regulations (January 2011)
Ecuador: Modify proposed Communications Law (August 2010)
The foregoing information was collected by the ICNL NGO Law Monitor partner in Ecuador.