Earlier this week, Ecuador’s Secretaría Técnica de Cooperación Internacional (Technical Secretariat for International Cooperation—SETECI) revoked operations permits for 26 foreign NGOs in the country, effective immediately. SETECI announced the changes in a bulletin, which also mandated that 16 other NGOs subscribe to new operating agreements within 15 days. According to a spokesperson for SETECI, “those who do not complete the requirements will not be able to continue operating.”
In a July 2011 executive decree, all foreign NGOs operating in Ecuador were required to sign new agreements with the state that would permit greater government oversight over their operations and finances. Some of the new restrictions prohibit NGOs whose activities threaten “the public peace” or that carry out “lucrative labor, of a political or proselytizing nature.” The decree also stated that foreign NGOs whose activities appear to be different than their stated goals would be shut down.
Last year, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said that certain NGOs operating in Ecuador were “extremely right-wing” and attempting to “replace the governments and impose their politics.” In the past, the Ecuadorian government has also shut down NGOs that were accused of supporting Indigenous protests against mining projects or suspected of ties to the guerrilla Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC).
Several of the NGOs on the SETECI list appear to be linked to religious organizations, such as the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee in the U.S. and the Catholic Institute of International Relations in the United Kingdom, which provide a variety of health, environmental and social services in Ecuador. Nine of the 26 NGOs are based in the U.S.
The Ecuadorian decree is not the first of its kind. In 2010, neighboring Venezuela banned foreign funding for NGOs in the country, citing concerns that foreign agencies like USAID were intervening in Venezuelan politics by providing millions of dollars to organizations that claimed to promote democracy.