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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk concludes his official visit to Ecuador

23 January 2023

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk at UNDHR75 event in Quito, Ecuador, with (on his right) first UN Human Rights HC for Human Rights José Ayala-Lasso and UN Resident Coordinator in Ecuador Lena Savelli. © OHCHR

Quito, 23 January 2023.

My mission to Ecuador has been my first to a Latin American country as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Although it was only a short visit, I had the opportunity to meet with President Guillermo Lasso and members of his Government, the Constitutional Court, human rights defenders, representatives of indigenous peoples, representatives of the UN system and of the diplomatic community in Ecuador and a number of other important actors.

In all the meetings, I had excellent exchanges both with the authorities and with a wide spectrum of civil society actors. I am very grateful to all of them for their attention to a broad range of human rights issues and for the very constructive and promising dialogue we have had.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and the 30th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action that led to the founding of the UN Human Rights Office. While here in Ecuador, I have had the honour to participate in an event, co-organized with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility, with the first UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, José Ayala Lasso.

Thirty years ago, Ambassador Ayala Lasso had not only played a central role in the negotiations that led to the creation of my Office, but he also laid the foundations for the Office as an institution.

Ecuador is a country that has ratified all of the nine international treaties that represent the pillars of international human rights law. On the international scene, it has also taken the leadership on issues, such as the efforts to achieve a binding international instrument on business and human rights. I would like to recognize and salute Ecuador’s active role and continued commitment to multilateralism, including as a member of the United Nations Security Council.

I would also like to recognize Ecuador’s efforts to receive and integrate refugees and migrants from various countries in the region – the approach of the State, but also the valuable work of fellow UN agencies and civil society organizations, and the warm reception by the Ecuadorian people themselves.

At the same time, as emerged from my dialogues with the authorities, human rights defenders and representatives of the indigenous peoples, Ecuador is facing a number of human rights challenges, which I understand have also been addressed in the Universal Periodic Review:

  • The overall situation of profound socio-economic inequality, further exacerbated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting challenges in people’s enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. Specific issues in this regard include child malnutrition, and the particular impact of this inequality on rural, indigenous, Afro-descendant and Montubio populations, which often experience racism, discrimination and stigmatization;
  • The worrying situation in Ecuador’s penitentiary system, where a number of massacres occurred over the last two years;
  • The deterioration of the security situation, through the growth of transnational organized crime, and its impact on the most vulnerable people;
  • The concerns about violence against women, including the growing incidence of femicides;
  • The issue of extractive industries – oil production and mining – particularly in the Amazon region, the dilemmas faced in generating income, their potential for social conflict and their impact on the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as on the environment;
  • Business and human rights, with emblematic cases that have still not been resolved;
  • The rights of children and adolescents, particularly in the context of a troubling tendency to increase the maximum penalties for juvenile offenders;
  • The challenges faced by human rights defenders themselves and the need for protection of their role in society.

My Office is already providing technical assistance to Ecuador on some of these challenges. I would like to single out three areas: the penitentiary situation, the use of force, and the rights of indigenous peoples.

On the prison system, my Office provided technical assistance for the elaboration of the Government’s Public Policy on Social Rehabilitation, adopted last year, which I very much welcome. We have also collaborated in the elaboration of the Law on the Use of Force, adopted in 2022, which properly incorporates international human rights standards, and could become an example for other countries in the region.

In both cases, the real challenge is in the implementation. I reiterated to President Lasso my Office’s commitment to continue supporting Ecuador’s efforts to deal with both of these important challenges. We also support the President’s efforts to reduce prison overcrowding by ensuring that people sentenced for less serious offences be released and non-custodial punishments preferred.

I would also like to highlight the openness of my Office – and of the UN in Ecuador – to increase our contribution to the continued dialogue between the authorities and the indigenous peoples’ movement.

Following protests by indigenous peoples in June 2022, an important process of dialogue between indigenous peoples and the Government was created, under the auspices of the Episcopal Conference of the Catholic Church.

At the same time, we are also aware of the need for further and continuous review of progress on the 218 commitments that emerged from that dialogue. Let us not forget that dialogue is not a one-off event; it needs to be a process that will address all the elements of injustice and inequality inherited from the past.

As for the potential use of the armed forces in public security tasks, I would like to point out that their use in this area – as reaffirmed in a judgment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights – needs to be subject to a number of restrictions: it should be exceptional, time-limited, subordinated and complementary to the work of civil corporations and accountable to civil authorities, among other criteria.

Finally, I would like to express my commitment to continue working with Ecuador’s authorities and civil society – and to reiterate my admiration and support for Ecuador’s human rights defenders, whose work, just like in many other parts of the world, remains the vehicle of progress on human rights.

I leave Ecuador inspired by the words of one young Ecuadorean man, who I met yesterday in the context of a project to help refugees and migrants and who, for me, exemplified the sense of solidarity I encountered in many of my meetings.

“We are young people. We make no distinction between who is Ecuadorian and who is not. Our concern is the here and now and to make the world a better place,” he said.

It is a fitting expression of the values set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Muchas gracias.


For more information and media requests, please contact:
Liz Throssell (travelling with the High Commissioner) – [email protected]

In Santiago (OHCHR Regional Office for South America):
María Jeannette Moya – +56979996907 / [email protected]

In Geneva:
Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / [email protected]
Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / [email protected]
Jeremy Laurence - + 41 22 917 9383 / [email protected]

In New York:
Laura Gelbert - + 1 917 208 6656 / [email protected]   


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