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Ecuador: Discrimination and environmental racism against people of African descent must end, say UN experts

23 December 2019


GENEVA / QUITO (23 December 2019) —The Government of Ecuador must step up efforts to enforce the law and implement plans to end racial discrimination suffered by Afro-Ecuadorians and people of African descent, a group of UN human rights experts* has concluded after visiting the country.

“People are suffering particularly in their ability to access justice, security, land, clean water, education, healthcare, housing and economic opportunity,” said the chair of the UN Working Group on People of African Descent, Ahmed Reid, presenting a statement at the end of the visit.

“Only 7.2% of the population are Afro-Ecuadorians, but they make up 40% of those living in poverty. Ecuador must implement and enforce laws and policies to protect their rights and end the discrimination, exclusion and extreme poverty they suffer.”

The Working Group drew particular attention to the province of Esmeraldas, where nearly 70% of the population has African heritage.

“Esmeraldas is one of the poorest provinces in Ecuador – 85% of people live below the poverty line, 23% have access to only the most basic services, and 15% are illiterate,” said Mr Reid.

“We welcome the Government’s national initiatives to combat racism, discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance faced by Afro Ecuadorians, but it is clear that much work remains to be done to target these unacceptable levels of exclusion and poverty.

“People of African descent are also suffering ‘environmental racism’, with systematic contamination of their water supplies and the environment, intimidation of their communities, and an insufficient response by the State.

“The State should not remain indifferent to human rights abuses and violations by extractive industries and other companies. It must end impunity for human rights violations and environmental racism.”

The delegation, which also included human rights expert Ricardo Sunga, praised the progressive provisions of the country’s Constitution and recognition of the collective rights of people of African descent.

During their visit, from 16 to 20 December, the Working Group travelled to Quito, San Lorenzo and Esmeraldas. Its full report and recommendations will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2020.


The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent was established on 25 April 2002 by the then Commission on Human Rights, following the World Conference against Racism held in Durban in 2001. It is composed of five independent experts:  Mr. Ahmed Reid (Jamaica) current Chair-Rapporteur; Ms Dominique Day (United States of America); Mr. Sabelo Gumedze (South Africa), Mr. Ricardo A. Sunga III (the Philippines) and Mr. Michal Balcerzak (Poland). 

The Working Group is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the United Nations Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work. 

UN Human Rights, country page – Ecuador

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