Former president Rafael Correa led the Ecuadorian “citizens’ revolution” from 2007 to 2017. During this period, the state assumed a more powerful role, and economic and social reforms brought positive results. Petrol contracts were renegotiated, tax income increased and poverty reduced, while investments were made in health, education and infrastructure. Social organisations were active in the development of the new constitution in 2008, which recognises Ecuador as a plurinational state and strengthens a public model which regulates the economy and secures fundamental rights for all, including Mother Earth. The constitution was ratified by a national vote with support from 64% of the population despite resistance from conventional media, business interests, the opposition and the Catholic Church.
This progressive decade also bore the effects of difficulties and contradictions. When Ecuador’s economy, based on primary exports, was affected by low oil prices and a dip for major economies such as China, conservative forces and the conventional media blamed the government for the economic crisis. Correa’s administration was also criticised for its lack of cooperation with civil society organisations and restricting their possibilities in terms of political participation and influence. His natural resource management was particularly controversial, and the issuing of new oil concessions in the rainforest led to a great deal of unrest.
Lenin Moreno was elected as Correa’s successor in 2017, but rather than continuing Correa’s citizens’ revolution, he changed the political course of the country towards the right, with welfare cuts, tax reductions for the rich, the undermining of pension rights and workers’ rights, a new trade agreement with the USA and new loans from the World Bank.
The social organisations, especially indigenous organisations and the growing feminist movement, are key players in the fight against the reintroduction of a plundering, neoliberal economic model. In October 2019, cuts in public spending led to vigorous protests, led by the indigenous movement in the country. In June 2022, the social movement mobilized again for a national strike that paralyzed large parts of the country. These mobilizations have led to increased polarization in society and a harsher climate for social organization and mobilization.
The Norwegian People’s Aid programme in Ecuador began in 1985. At national and local levels, we collaborate with farmers and indigenous peoples’ organisations that are working for fair distribution of power and resources. They fight for responsible natural resource management, including water and land distribution, better conditions for small-scale agricultural producers, access to loans and markets, and food sovereignty. They also work to promote human and indigenous rights, defending their territories against agribusiness and extractive industries.
Norwegian People’s Aid helps strengthen partners’ organisational development, including political education, leadership development and work for equality, so that they may be better prepared to participate in decision-making processes and political advocacy work at both local and national level.