Open letter on the launch of negotiations of the Trade Multipart Agreement between the EU and Ecuador.

Press release

Open letter on the launch of negotiations of the Trade Multipart Agreement between the EU and Ecuador.

Brussels, 15 January 2014

Dear Ms Ashton,
Dear Mr De Gucht,
Dear Member States Ambassadors,
Dear Members of the European Parliament

In the context of the first round of negotiations of the Trade Multipart Agreement between the European Union and Ecuador, which is taking place these 13-17 January 2014 in Brussels, FIDH expresses it deep concern regarding the widespread crackdown on civil society organisations that is currently taking place in Ecuador and calls upon the EU to duly address the situation.

It is well established that, in order to ensure that trade and investments benefit to development, to human rights and to the most vulnerable, both private and public sectors have to be made accountable and that this requires freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and independent civil society watchdog organisations. These are essential essential components of sustainable development, and essential conditions to ensure the effective implementation of the dispositions supposed to address environmental and human rights concerns in the future agreement with the EU.

The realisation of those essential conditions are however clearly under threat. Indeed, on June 2013, President Rafael Correa adopted “Presidential Decree 16” that grants the government broad power to oversee and dissolve non-governmental organisations, and that prohibits “political activities reserved to parties and political movements... that interfere with public policies that undermine national or external security of the state or compromise public peace”. On December 4 2013, and on the alleged grounds of « violence [and]... interference in public policy », the Decree was used to close the offices of Foundation Pachamama, after its participation in a protest against petroleum projects in areas of the Ecuadorian Amazon populated by indigenous peoples.

The closure of this organisation, widely known for its work regarding the rights of Amazon indigenous groups, illustrates how the right of environmental organisations to protect environment and local communities is currently violated in Ecuador. The attacks perpetrated against civil organisations, thus silencing them, are dangerous and worrying signals that the EU should address to ensure the trade agreement, including in its sustainable development chapter, is negotiated in good faith. It appears obvious that if Ecuador is to integrate this trade deal with the EU, environmental civil society organisations will have to be granted the right to speak out and act without fear for retaliation.

Thus, in this context, FIDH urges the EU to:

  • Condemn the arbitrary closure of Foundation Pachamama
  • Call on the Ecuadorian government to take immediate measures to halt the intimidation and restrictions faced by civil society organisations
  • Call on the Ecuadorian government to amend, review or repeal the Presidential Decree 16 in order to bring its legislation in full conformity with international standards.

The negotiation should globally be used to foster human rights, and the application of anti-terrorism laws to indigenous peoples in Ecuador should be put to an end in that regard.

More broadly and in line with the Lisbon treaty and the EU strategic framework and action plan on democracy and human rights, FIDH calls upon the EU to:

  • Provide for effective and enforceable mechanisms that ensure the protection, respect and fulfilment of human rights in the trade agreement under negotiation and consult civil society to that end,
  • Conduct an impact assessment on human rights that conforms to the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights Impact Assessments of Trade and Investment Agreements.

Thanking you for your attention to this letter, I remain,

Sincerely yours,

Karim Lahidji
FIDH president

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