Ecuador

Last updated: 17 March 2020

Coronavirus Response

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. For additional details, see the ICNL COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker’s Ecuador entry.

Introduction

Civil society in Ecuador has its origins in charitable and voluntary organizations that provided services to the poor and vulnerable mainly in Quito and Guayaquil in the beginning of the twentieth 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 on February 26, 2007 created the Secretary of People, Social Movements and Citizen Participation, which is in charge of maintaining communication with CSOs, and encouraging citizen participation with matters related to them. This Secretary is also in charge of CSO registration.

In June 20, 2013, Executive Decree No. 16 came into force. It was used to hamper CSO activities on December 4, 2013, when 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 February 12, 2014, the Ministry of Environment turned down Pachamama’s appeal. Finally, on July 17, 2014, the CSO was formally shut down because it was unable to reverse the governmental resolution.

More recently, CSOs that have been critical of the government have begun to face additional pressure. As civil society representatives have become constrained by these excessive controls, it has become more imperative to fill the civil society representatives’ seats at National Councils, as stipulated in Regulation 180 of April 25, 2016, and at other public institutions within the executive branch.

On March 31, 2017, a new proposed bill entitled “Organic Code of Citizen Participation and Social Control” was submitted to the President of the National Assembly. If enacted, the bill would broaden the powers of the Council for Citizen Participation and Social Control and regulate the creation, lifecycle and dissolution of social and citizen organizations. However, the right of indigenous peoples to free and informed prior consultation for environmental projects would not be adequately protected.

On October 27, 2017, Decree 193 entered into force, replacing Executive Decrees 16 and 739. Both Executive Decrees 16 and 739 violated the freedoms of association and of expression; specifically, among other issues, the previous decrees contained several ambiguous grounds for the liquidation of CSOs and provided for the excessive control of CSOs. 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.” Two criticisms of Decree 193 are the following: first, the regulation of social organizations should be accomplished not through an executive order or decree but by a law, as the Constitution mandates; and second, the Decree fails to define procedures relating to the process of dissolution.

Despite other negative developments, on November 17, 2017, the Ministry of Environment issued a resolution which reinstates the legal personality of Pachamama Foundation four years after it was dissolved by the same ministry. This was considered to be a big step in the strengthening of democracy and protection of freedom of association.

Organizational FormsCorporation, 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 BodyState Ministries through the RUOS (Unique Registry of Social Organizations) and SUIOS (Unified System of Social Organizations Information) website.
Approximate Number97,854  (according to the social organizations unique registry – www.sociedadcivil.gob.ec).
Barriers to EntrySecond 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 ActivitiesLimited political activity and and wide public discretion to control and dissolve CSOs.
Barriers to Speech and/or AdvocacyCSOs 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 ContactNo legal barriers.
Barriers to ResourcesRequired accreditation from RUOS (Unique Registry of Social Organizations) to access public resources.
Barriers to AssemblyWide discretion for protesters to be penalized for any political act based on the vaguely written Organic Integral Penal Code. There are 29 articles about crimes against the constitutional state structure such as sabotage and paralyzation of public services.
Population16,080,778 (July 2016 est.)
CapitalQuito
Type of GovernmentRepublic
Life Expectancy at BirthMale: 72.58 years
Female: 78.6 years (2010 est.)
Literacy RateMale: 92.3%
Female: 89.7% (2001 census)
Religious GroupsRoman Catholic: 79%; other: 21% (Pew Research Center, 2014)
Ethnic GroupsMestizo: 72.6%, Indigenous peoples: 7.1%, African descendents: 7%, montubios: 6.8 %, White: 6.1% and Other: 0.3%..
GDP per capita$7,800 (2010 est.)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2010.

Ranking BodyRankRanking Scale
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index86 (2018)1 – 187
World Bank Rule of Law Index25 (2018)100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index41 (2018)100 – 0
Transparency International117 (2018)1 – 180
Freedom House: Freedom in the WorldStatus: Partly Free
Political Rights: 3
Civil Liberties: 3 (2018)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 7
1 – 7
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index82 (2018)179 – 1

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International AgreementsRatification*Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)Yes1969
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1)Yes1969
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)Yes1969
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR)Yes2009
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)Yes1966
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)Yes1981
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against WomenYes2002
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)Yes1990
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW)Yes2002
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)Yes2008
Regional Treaties
American Convention on Human RightsYes1977
Additional Protocol to the Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights “Protocol of San Salvador”Yes1993

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

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 eliminate term limits for political office, have been in force since December 21, 2015.

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. [1] 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).

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.

[1] Enacted on September 11, 2002, amended on February 6, 2007, September 17, 2007, April 8, 2008, October 27, 2008, and September 26, 2012.

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 NGOs. 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 NGO could be done before a Public Notary, and NGOs 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 NGOs would be in charge of the Citizenship Participation Council. The Council would oversee NGO operations and have the power to declare the dissolution of an NGO only in the following cases: a decrease in members to less than the minimum required by law; completion of the term stipulated in an NGO’s statute; an offense declared in a final judgment that establishes as a penalty the dissolution of an NGO; or other causes expressly determined in the NGO’s statute.

Third, NGOs would not have to provide any information about their operations to any entity or branch of executive power.

Finally, foreign NGOs would have the same rights and obligations as national NGOs.

 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 seeks to generate flexible mechanisms promoting the right of freedom of association and ensuring the strengthening of organizations instead of pursuing their extinction. As of July 2019, the bill is being debated.

Organizational Forms

According to Article 4 of Decree No. 193 there are three types of CSOs:

  1. Corporations;
  2. Foundations; and
  3. 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:

  1. 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.”
  2. All bylaws must respect the conditions established by the Decree for the authorities to approve organization.
  3. 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.

Dissolution

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:

  1. The ministry that granted the CSO legal existence may verify documents as well as the fulfillment of objectives and purposes.
  2. The state can control the transfer of public funds to a CSO.
  3. The state can tax CSOs.
  4. 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:

Advance Permission 
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.”

Criminal Penalties
Under the newest Penal Code regulations, Articles 345 and 346 establish sabotage and paralyzing public services as “crimes against the constitutional state structure.”

UN Universal Periodic Review ReportsUniversal Periodic Review: Ecuador (2016)
UN Human Rights CommitteeConcluding observations on the combined twenty-third and twenty-fourth periodic reports of Ecuador (2017)
Reports of UN Special RapporteursEcuador
USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country NotesNot available
U.S. State Department2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
Fragile States Index ReportsForeign Policy: Fragile States Index
IMF Country ReportsEcuador and the IMF
International Commission of JuristsNot available
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online LibraryEcuador
Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos HumanosComité 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 ngomonitor@icnl.org.

General News

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.

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