Ecuadoran FlagCivic Freedom Monitor: Ecuador

Introduction | At a Glance | Key Indicators | International Rankings
Legal Snapshot | Legal Analysis | Reports | News and Additional Resources
Last updated 4 March 2017

Update: Regulation 180 of April 25, 2016 has recently gained importance. It addresses the "competition for the selection and designation of the main and alternate directors and alternate representatives from civil society to the National Councils for Gender, Intergenerationals, People and Nationalities, Disabilities, and Human Mobility". The call to fill the seats for civil society representatives at the National Councils began in January 2017.


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.

Since June 20, 2013, Executive Decree No. 16 has been in force. Executive Decree No. 16 also created the National Secretary of Politics Management, which is now the authority responsible for regulating the fulfillment of the objectives and activities of social and civic organizations. The Decree 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. For example, in June 2015, the National Secretariat of Communication (Secom) accused the CSO Fundamedios of "deviating from the goals and objectives for which it was constituted." The CSO was threatened with dissolution on the basis that it showed a clear intention to establish itself as a "political actor." In September 2015, the administrative procedure to close Fundamedios was launched and, since December 28, 2015, the Secretary of Secom has been attempting to close down Fundamedios’ web page for alleged copyright violation. These governmental actions are ongoing despite international pressure against Secom.

On July 20, 2016, the Ministry of Education 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 the direct intervention of the Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO). The Education Ministry 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.

As civil society representatives have become constrained by 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. 

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At a Glance

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 77,291 (according to social organizations unique registry-
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 (there are 29 articles about crimes against the constitutional state structure, such as sabotage and paralyzation of public services).

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Key Indicators

Population 16,080,778 (July 2016 est.)
Capital Quito
Type of Government Republic
Life Expectancy at Birth Male: 72.58 years
Female: 78.6 years (2010 est.)
Literacy Rate Male: 92.3%
Female: 89.7% (2001 census)
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 $7,800 (2010 est.)

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

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International Rankings

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale 
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 89 (2015) 1 – 187
World Bank Rule of Law Index 13.5 (2014) 100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index 39.4 (2014) 100 – 0
Transparency International 107 (2015) 1 – 180
Freedom House: Freedom in the World Status: Partly Free
Political Rights: 3
Civil Liberties: 4 (2017)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 7
1 – 7
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index 84 (2016) 179 – 1

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Legal Snapshot

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
Regional Treaties    
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

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, and influence decisions, public policy and exercise social control of public bodies at all levels of government (Article 96). These organizations may be structured in any manner to enforce the popular power and its expression. 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 them. No one can require or use, without authorization of the holder of his legitimate representative, the 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, which includes the access and the decision about the information and data related, and its correspondent protection. The 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, 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 servant or Server public, administrative or judicial, 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, necessary for their full development.

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, effective 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. The 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 ResourcestTo 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 25th, 2016).

[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

At the end of 2014, the government completed a new registry system for CSOs as per Decree No. 16. The registry system is called RUOS (Unique Registry of Social Organizations) ( Since 2015, CSOs have been waiting to have their names transferred to the site.

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Legal Analysis

Organizational Forms

According to the new Decree No. 16 there are four types of CSOs:
  1. Corporations;
  2. Foundations;
  3. National or foreign social organizations; and
  4. Management or social Organizations, which are founded by institutions or the state and may apply for inclusion within the Registry (RUOS)

Article 13 of Decree No. 16 states that corporations will be classifed in the first, second and third degree:          

1 Corporations of the first degree: all those that bring together individuals with an end delimited, such as: associations, clubs, committees, professional associations and centers;
2 Corporations of second-degree: those that are grouped to the first degree or juridical persons, such as federations, chambers or unions; and,
3 Corporations of third-degree: those that are grouped to second degree burns , 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.

The new Decree No. 16, which supersedes Decree No. 982, creates more burdensome provisions for organizations to obtain legal entity status. There are 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 in order for the organization to be approved by the authorities.
  3. The organization must submit to the registry the nationality, general data and identity cards of all its members.

In addition, The Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion published Ministerial Agreement No. 12 on October 25, 2016 in order 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; and 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 (SUIOS).


Decree No. 16 allows for the dissolution of CSOs on the basis of very vague reasons. It provides that authorities may dissolve any organization if they consider the CSO to: “violate repeatedly any regulation coming from the authorities that grants legal existence;” “stray from the objectives and aims for which they were created;” or if the groups are involved in activities that “compromise public peace” or “interfere with public policies that undermine national or external security of the state.”

The wide discretion given to public servants to dissolve CSOs was 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

According to the Decree No. 16, corporations and foundations may 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 National Service of Ecuadorean Customs can control foreign transactions with CSOs.
  5. CSOs are obliged to provide the minutes of meetings, financial reports, auditing reports and other reports that relate to their activities, and they must facilitate the access of public servants to make physical inspections of their premises.
  6. The state has the right to exercise all the controls established within the laws."

Based on the government's dissolution of Foundation Pachamama and Fundamedios, it is clear the government is applying wide discretion to control any CSO activities it deems "against the public order," as per Decree No. 16. 

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

President Correa has 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 have helped create a hostile atmosphere for civil society, and may have resulted in chilling advocacy activities of CSOs. Similarly, President Correa has 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 Rafael Correa has 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 has confirmed the closure and dissolution of Pachamama now that all judicial measures have been exhausted.  

Barriers to International Contact

Decree No. 16 dedicates an entire section to foreign CSOs. They are under the control of the Technical Secretary of International Cooperation –SETECI- and are forbidden to develop activities "incompatible" with their agreed program with the State.

In July 2014, three foreign activists were detained under the pretext that the government needed to check their immigration status. The activitists 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.

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 to 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, such as the following:

  • The Organic Code of Territorial Organization, Autonomy and Decentralization places the municipalities or city halls and the rural governments in charge of promoting the association of micro-entrepreneurs. The 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 correspondent permission in the Municipality.
  • The Penal Code sets forth the duty of the police 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.

Below are 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 there is no response.

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 paralyzation of public services as "crimes against the constitutional state structure."

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UN Universal Periodic Review Reports

Universal Periodic Review: Ecuador (2016)


UN Human Rights Committee Concluding observations (2016) CCPR/C/ECU/CO/6               
ICCPR Human Rights Committee Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee of the UN CCPR/C/ECU/CO/6 (2016)       
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs


USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes

Not available

U.S. State Department 2014 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


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

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News and Additional Resources

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

General News

"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, 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.

News archive

Participación Ciudadana (PC) that monitors elections is under Supervision of the Secretariat of Communications (SECOM) (March 2014) (Spanish)

Ministerio del Ambiente rechaza recurso de apelación interpuesto por Fundación Pachamama (Febrero 2014)

Ecuador Uses Presidential Decree Powers to Shut Down NGO
(December 2013)

El Gobierno cierra la ONG Pachamama por protestas (Diciembre 2013)

Human Rights Watch calls on Correa to revoke Decree No. 16 (August 2013)

Defenders of Pachamama Protest Breach of the Mining Mandate (May 2013)

Ecuador the latest ‘XXIst Century Dictatorship’? (February 2013)

NGO petition yields results for Amazon (January 2013)

Ecuador's president proposes freedom of expression as a function of the State (November 2012)

UNHCR chief highlights role of CSOs on World Refugee Day (June 2012)

Ecuador's indigenous peoples reach Quito after 600km March for Water, Life and Dignity (March 2012)

Ecuadorean Court of National Justice accepts President Correa's pardons in libel cases involving the media (February 2012)

Civil society organizations respond to government regulations in Ecuador (June 2011) 

According to Human Rights Watch the legal actions taken by President Correa represent a step backwards on freedom of expression (March 2011)

NGOs to publish manifesto on proposed draft regulations (January 2011)

Human Rights Watch calls for Ecuador to withdraw proposed Presidential Decree on civil society (December 2010)

Ecuador: Modify proposed Communications Law (August 2010)

Ecuador agrees to keep Amazon Eco-Treasure free of oil drilling (August 2010)

Civil society organisations in Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador and Uruguay aim to strengthen their accountability practices (May 2010) 

Ecuador holds big drive to register Colombian refugees (March 2010)

The foregoing information was collected by the ICNL NGO Law Monitor partner in Ecuador.

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