The Republic of Ecuador is in the northwestern region of South America. The country has an area of 256,370 km² and is made up of twenty-four provinces, 221 cantons, and 1499 parishes , . It borders with Colombia, Peru, and the Pacific Ocean. It also has maritime limits with Costa Rica. The country encompasses part of the Amazon rainforest, the Andean Mountain range, and has 2,237 km of coastline (the three main regions of the country), as well as the entirety of the Galapagos Islands.
The climate varies among the regions. In the coastal region, the weather ranges from an arid tropical climate in the southwest, dry to humid in the center-south, and very humid in the north . The average temperature ranges between 24-25ºC, although it can be less than 22ºC in mountainous areas. Its annual precipitation levels vary from less than 60 mm to more than 2000 mm . The Sierra (mountain) region goes from very humid tropical climate to temperate semi-humid, and hot and dry in the inter-Andean valleys and cold in the high mountains (3000 m). The average temperature oscillates between 8 and 20ºC. The region registers two rainy seasons between March-April and October-November , . The average annual rainfall varies between 800 and 1,500 mm. Finally, the Amazonian region has a humid tropical climate. The average temperature is 24-25ºC, which fluctuates very little, with maximums of up to 40ºC in the month of May , . Precipitation in this region is constant, with a slight increase between March and July and a decrease in August and January because of the movement of the Intertropical Convergence Zone .
The main spoken language in Ecuador is Spanish but there are others such as Quechua and Shuar. The capital of the country is Quito. The country is one of the world's major oil exporters, and it is listed as the main exporter of bananas, flowers, shrimp, and cocoa , .
The National Institute of Statistics and Censuses of Ecuador (INEC) reported that the country in 2022 already has 18 million inhabitants . There are 14 Indigenous nationalities in the country (Tsáchila, Chachi, Epera, Awa, Kichwa, Shuar, Achuar, Shiwiar, Cofán, Siona, Secoya, Zápara, Andoa and Waorani), totalling more than one million people, living mainly in the highlands (68.20%), followed by the Amazon (24.06%), with only 7.56% living on the coast. The Kichwa is the largest group (85.87%) with nearly 800,000 members. The highland province with the largest rural Indigenous population is Chimborazo, followed by Imbabura and Cotopaxi . It is expected that by 2050, Ecuador's population will reach 23.4 million people .
Ecuador has 14 main cities (Ambato, Azogues, Esmeralda, Guayaquil, Ibarra, Lacatunga, Loja, Machala, Manta, Milagro, Puyo, Quito, Riobamba, Santo Domingo Tsáchilas, and Tulcan). Guayaquil and Quito are the two biggest cities in the country. The provinces of Guayas and Pichincha account for 43.6% of Ecuador’s population. In 2019, Guayaquil and Quito had 2.7 and 2.0 million people, respectively . In 1960, 34% (1.5 million people) of the Ecuadorian population lived in cities, nowadays 64% (11.5 million people) of the population is urban which represents a rate of urban population growth of 10.6% per year .
In 2021, Ecuador was the 63rd biggest economy in the world and the 7th in Latin America with 106,166 million of current dollars . The currency of Ecuador is the US dollar adopted in 2000, previously the country had the Sucre, and the exchange rate was 25 sucres per US dollar. Ecuador's economy is mainly based on oil. However, the agricultural sector is also important since its products are in the international markets; banana and cocoa are two of the most exported products from Ecuador .
On June 11, 2019, the World Bank Board of Directors approved the 2019-2023 Country Partnership Framework (CPF) with Ecuador. This document establishes a funding and technical assistance program to support the country’s development and growth efforts. Prepared with the Government of Ecuador and considering consultations with different civil society and private sector groups, the CPF addresses the need to support macroeconomic stabilization, protect the most vulnerable sectors and reactivate sustainable growth. To this end, the CPF prioritizes three work areas: 1) supporting fundamentals for inclusive growth; 2) boosting human capital development and protecting vulnerable populations; and 3) enhancing institutional and environmental sustainability. The health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic led to a deep recession that had a major impact on growing poverty levels in Ecuador. The crisis widened the macroeconomic imbalances that the country had struggled to overcome since the middle of the last decade. It also highlighted several structural weaknesses such as the lack of macroeconomic buffers, limited access to capital markets, a high rate of employment informality, an ill-prepared health system and marked disparities in access to public services .
On July 20, 2022, Ecuador established the first Digital Innovation Hub in the country. It was promoted by the Alliance for the Entrepreneurship and Innovation, in a joint effort between the public and private sectors, as part of the Agenda Digital Transformation Summit Ecuador 2022 event, organized by the Chamber of Innovation and Technology of Ecuador.
The "Ec Digital Innovation Hub" is a collaborative innovation ecosystem that allows companies to promote the adoption of technologies, through joint work between the public, private, academic, startups and specialized services sectors. One of its objectives is to activate the country's companies in processes of adoption and transfer of emerging technologies for progress; develop the capabilities of human talent in technology for a digital economy; promote an effective connection between companies, entrepreneurs, and academia to solve local and world needs; and generate more investment .
In October 2019, Ecuador was thrust into the international spotlight when a movement of millions of protesters closed the streets of the capital in a protest against the termination of fuel subsidies. After two weeks of protests, during which the president fled the capital, the government agreed to continue the subsidies. Remarkably, the wave of protests was led by activists and organizers from Ecuadorian indigenous groups. How does the Ecuadorian indigenous movement have so much influence? Ecuador has 1.1 million indigenous people, or about 1 in 16 Ecuadorians. As in many other Latin American countries, Ecuador's indigenous population is marginalized, with high rates of poverty. After centuries of discrimination, indigenous Ecuadorians are 4.5 times more likely to live in poverty. The typical indigenous Ecuadorian receives only five years of formal education .
Yet despite this marginalization, indigenous groups in Ecuador mobilized to improve their circumstances. In 1986, activists from fourteen indigenous nations formed the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE). Now, there are more than 2,500 indigenous schools in Ecuador .
During the decades between the founding of CONAIE in 1986 and the protests in 2019, indigenous activists campaigned extensively against oil drilling on indigenous land and in support of public services by indigenous citizens. Although some CONAIE campaigns were unsuccessful, others were highly successful .
In 2017, Lenín Moreno replaced Rafael Correa as president of Ecuador. Contrary to President Correa, Moreno rejected socialist policies in favor of a neoliberal economy and an agreement to secure a loan from the International Monetary Fund. In October 2019, as part of this agreement, President Moreno eliminated fuel subsidies. Without the subsidies, many indigenous farmers feared that they could not afford the cost of oil to transport their products to markets. CONAIE activists announced a large march in the capital, with more than 20,000 demonstrators. In the capital of Quito, protesters paralyzed the streets and fought against the police. After two weeks of protests throughout the country and a meeting with members of CONAIE, President Moreno revoked the decree that eliminated the subsidies. The indigenous forces had won .
Despite their victory in the October 2019 protests, the indigenous peoples of Ecuador struggle with poverty and inequality. There are still threats against indigenous land, and there are huge obstacles to achieve full equality. However, the indigenous activists of CONAIE have real power to defend and advance the rights of indigenous Ecuadorians .
The social context in Venezuela has impacted Ecuador because it is the third host country for Venezuelans: more than 400,000 Venezuelans have settled since 2015. However, during the last years, Venezuelans have encountered greater obstacles to access livelihood opportunities and basic services as a consequence of changes in immigration policies, and the impact of COVID-19, which has left more than 740,000 people in need of humanitarian aid . This situation, the national population growth, and climate change has caused Ecuador to face threats to its food and water security, with over a tenth of its population currently undernourished and living in poverty. As a response, its government is incorporating new patterns of land use and developing regional water infrastructure to cope with the related challenges. However, food production for both domestic consumption and market-oriented exports can be increased while meeting ecosystem water demands in some regions by integrating environmental and sustainable management .
In 2007, Ecuador approved a new constitution in which the concepts of “Good Living” (Sumak Kawsay) and “Rights of Nature” were incorporated into the new Ecuadorian Constitution in 2008. The “Good Living” concept was derived from the traditional native beliefs of “Sumak Kawsay” which treats the Planet Earth as “Pachamama” (the Mother Earth) and promotes harmony between humans and nature through the sustainable management, and equity in accessing natural resources. The “Rights of Nature” recognized the Nature as a subject of rights. Article 71 of Chapter seven of the Ecuadorian Constitution (2008) recognizes that nature has right to exist, persist, maintain, and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions, and its processes in evolution. This provides a unique biocentric view with a recognition of the intrinsic value of nature . Ecuador has six clear policies for biodiversity conservation based on the concepts of “Good Living” and “The Rights of Nature”. The National System of Protected Areas is the most effective in-situ conservation instrument at the country level . On 7 August 2017, through Ministerial Agreement 29, Official Registry 52, Ecuador agreed to issue the National Policy for the Management of Wildlife (NPWM). This document is pivotal to establish guidelines for decentralized management of wildlife and coordination systems for policy implementation . The Ministry of the Environment, as the National Environmental Authority, shall develop the guidelines for the exercise of the powers on wildlife granted to the provincial, municipal, and metropolitan decentralized autonomous governments, in accordance with the present policies .
Ecuador’s fourth National Development Plan (NDP) 2017-2021- known as "Toda una Vida" - defines a set of development policies and goals aligned to the 2030 Agenda. The NDP is also in line with the interests of the European Union and its Member States, as identified with Ecuador in the "2019 EU country assessment", namely: political and economic stability, adequate management of migration flows in the country, trade and investment, climate change and security. The NDP aims to build a society that respects human rights in all dimensions, ensuring a decent life regardless of group or social classes. It also considers the eradication of gender violence as one of the main priorities. The NDP also includes a policy objective on the right to health, education, and comprehensive care during the life cycle of citizens, in particular through the consolidation of the National Health System with a family, community and intercultural approach based on social and territorial equity .
During the last programming period 2014-2020, EU’s cooperation with Ecuador has been supporting sustainable and inclusive economic growth strategies that have contributed to economic diversification, export promotion and poverty reduction efforts by the Government. For the period 2021-2027, EU’s cooperation with Ecuador will focus on three priority areas where the EU can make a substantive impact, as highlighted in the Multi-annual Indicative Programme (2021-2027): 1) Support to sustainable trade and investments (EU trade agreement, Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, EU Bilateral Investment Treaties); 2) Enhance climate and environment action on green innovation and productivity. Ecuador climate change action, circular economy and bioeconomy provide a framework for a transition to a more diversified, post-oil economy; and 3) Good governance (decentralization, fiscal reforms). Institutional strengthening, also entailing the respect of the rule of law and the separation of powers would help to increase the citizens’ confidence and have a positive impact on the country's political stability. Areas of intervention may include public finance management, decentralization and support to subnational government, anti-corruption and transparency, domestic revenue mobilization, macroeconomic policy, democratic participation and civil society, and welfare services policy, planning and administration, statistical capacity building and training of public administration employees .
The EU will also provide International Technical Assistance to the Ministry of Production, Foreign Trade, Investment and Fisheries to achieve a transition to the European Green Pact (Green Deal). This support will be for EUR 929,230 and will last for 18 months, until July 2023. The aid will seek to strengthen the associative and organizational capacity and cooperatives within the foreign trade sector; consolidate the main production chains of the export agro-industrial sector; promote innovation and green technology to increase productivity and competitiveness; and support the improvement of technical standards associated with phytosanitary, environmental, and social aspects .
In principle, the International Technical Assistance will focus on six value chains of commercial relevance for Ecuador and the EU: bananas, non-traditional fruits, vegetables, cocoa, coffee, and fishery and aquaculture products . In addition, Ecuador already has important advances in green economy regulations such as the label on its products .
Ecuador, a megadiverse country with high levels of biodiversity and endemism, has maintained the highest deforestation rates of South America during the last 20 years (annual rates of 1.5% and 1.8% for the 1990–2000 and 2001–2010 periods, respectively) , . The Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment  estimated in 2012 that c. 77,647 ha, representing c. 0.7% of Ecuador's forest cover in the year 2000, of ‘natural vegetation’ (the majority of which being natural forest) were lost per year between 2000 and 2008. The main drivers of deforestation are: 1) the agrarian policy, which considered forests as "wastelands" and unproductive, and encouraged the expansion of the agricultural frontier; 2) extractive wood industry; 3) expansion of industrial monocultures (banana, African palm, cocoa); 4) extractive industries (oil and mining); 5) the shrimp industry, which is the most important factor for the destruction of the coastal mangrove forest; 6) immigration processes, and 7) forest fires .
Agricultural expansion is related to the increase in the demand of products which is caused by demographic growth, urbanization and evolving socioeconomic conditions . For instance, the rapid growth of megacities in the High Andes (e.g., Quito, Cuenca, or Ambato) imposes pressure on ecosystem services not only in terms of land but also water trade-offs among human consumption, irrigation for agriculture, mining operations, and hydropower production , .
Biodiversity and its benefits need sustainable management through local participation and political support that enables finance, capacity, research, innovation, technology, and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits, while respecting the rights and the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in Ecuador. Agricultural value chains should be enhanced for initiatives like “Ecuador Premium & Sustainable” which includes deforestation-free practices, sustainable promotion, and traceability (PND). Promoting sustainable practices supported by local people and national stakeholders and supported by funding will allow Ecuador to keep and even increase the benefits people get from nature and biodiversity while reducing their impacts without compromising future production and wellbeing .
Mining and mainly gold mining have negatively impacted Ecuador in many aspects such as social conflicts, land use/cover change and pollution. There are three stages of Ecuadorian mining history: pre-Columbian, colonial, and republican times. In its beginnings, this activity did not have regulations or a legal foundation. The first Mining Law dates to 1830, and it has been modified until the most recent update in 2009. In socio-economic terms, there are conflicts between inhabitants in favor and against these activities and problems associated with human health. In environmental terms, the findings suggest historical contamination of water sources by heavy metals, which has altered the surrounding aquatic and terrestrial systems. It is suggested to implement public policies to balance socio-economic and environmental aspects in gold mining activities in Ecuador, strengthening the use of new technologies and education to raise awareness of the serious effects of mining activities .
In the Tropical Andes, a temperature increases of 0.5–1°C has been registered over the past few decades, contributing to dramatic receding of glaciers . Negative changes will be exacerbated because climate models predict a substantial warming of 5–6°C by the end of the century, with the largest increase occurring at high elevations , . For instance, observation and modelling studies report contractions of the distribution ranges of Andean species, and negative effects on species population densities and individual performance . In terms of human health, it has been published that climate change will possibly increase the emergence and prevalence of species related to zoonotic diseases  and that climate change is already impacting mental health in parts of Ecuador .
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