Ecuador: Austerity measures in the face of COVID-19 could lead to social instability and affect human rights

In the midst of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the austerity measures proposed on 16 April by President Lenín Moreno could lead to further social instability and affect human rights, Amnesty International said today.

“Given the devastating impact of COVID-19 in Ecuador, any austerity measure that does not respect human rights will put people's lives and health even more at risk, particularly those most vulnerable to the pandemic,” said Fernanda Doz Costa, deputy director in the Americas at Amnesty International.

“Lessons must be learned from the October 2019 crisis. In order to avoid new periods of social instability in Ecuador, President Moreno must carry out an in-depth analysis of the implications that these austerity measures would have on human rights and adequately consult the Ecuadorian people. In addition, the International Monetary Fund must not introduce debt payment requirements that could undermine Ecuador's ability to guarantee economic, social and cultural rights and ensure that the country has the necessary fiscal capacity to do so.”

On 16 April 2020, one month after a state of emergency was declared due to the pandemic, the president presented two urgent draft bills to the National Assembly, which must consider them within a maximum of 30 days.

Given the devastating impact of COVID-19 in Ecuador, any austerity measure that does not respect human rights will put people's lives and health even more at risk, particularly those most vulnerable to the pandemic
Fernanda Doz Costa, deputy director in the Americas at Amnesty International

The draft Organic Law on Regulation of Public Finances contains measures agreed with the International Monetary Fund, including new limits on government expenditure and debt. These measures had already been proposed by the government following the mass protests of October 2019, as part of the draft Economic Growth Bill that was rejected by the National Assembly in November.

The draft Organic Law on Humanitarian Support to Combat the COVID-19 Health Crisis proposes fiscal adjustments in order to generate resources to respond to the pandemic, such as the creation of an income tax on individuals and corporate earnings, changes to employment conditions and other measures to generate government revenue and mitigate the crisis caused by the pandemic.

Amnesty International reiterates that the measures adopted must be temporary, legitimate, necessary, reasonable, proportional, non-discriminatory and must be subject to review and accountability. Even in times of crisis, government authorities have the obligation to guarantee the rights to health, social security, food and other social rights to all people without discrimination. This obligation must be at the centre of future negotiations on external debt and fiscal policy in the country. Any future commitment regarding Ecuador’s debt must not jeopardise the government’s ability to comply with its human rights obligations.

In order to avoid new periods of social instability in Ecuador, President Moreno must carry out an in-depth analysis of the implications that these austerity measures would have on human rights and adequately consult the Ecuadorian people
Fernanda Doz Costa, deputy director in the Americas at Amnesty International

Amnesty International calls on the government and the National Assembly to evaluate the impact that these measures could have on human rights before adopting them, in particular on the right to health and the rights of vulnerable groups including those living in poverty, those with low incomes, people with disabilities, uninsured people, people with chronic illnesses and older people. The evaluation must also integrate a gender perspective. In addition, it must guarantee the genuine participation of individuals and groups affected in its design and implementation, including Indigenous Peoples.

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Duncan Tucker: duncan.tucker@amnesty.org