Understanding Ecuador

A Key Cultural, Economic, and Political Influence in an Increasingly Interdependent World

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“Understanding Ecuador” is a program that has been developed by the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy to raise awareness of Ecuador’s unique cultural heritage, its role as a key political and economic player in Latin America, and its status as a global leader in the fight against climate change and the promotion of biodiversity.

Ecuador has a strong influence in Latin America. A relatively stable democracy, it is the region’s 8th most populous state and, in 2009, had the seventh largest economy in terms of total GDP. This economic influence is also visible politically – as an Associate Member of MERCOSUR, Ecuador is an important voice in Latin America’s ongoing development.

With regards to culture and the arts, few countries in Latin America can rival Ecuador’s remarkable heritage. The Valdivia, Machalilla, Quitus, and Cañari cultures were all present in Ecuador, which was also home to the Inca Empire. These roots are still visible in the country today: 25% of Ecuador’s population is indigenous, and it is one of the few countries in Latin America where the Quechua language family is still in widespread use. In fine arts, Ecuador was the birthplace of many renowned poets, philosophers, and essayists, including Juan Montalvo and Luis Alberto Costales.

Perhaps Ecuador’s greatest strength in an increasingly interdependent world is its approach to the issues of climate change and environmental preservation. Conservation International has identified 17 countries as “megadiverse” on account of their exceptional biodiversity. Ecuador is one of these countries and has not taken the responsibility lightly: In 2008 it introduced legislation that recognizes the legally enforceable rights of nature, becoming the first country in the world to do so.

In recognition of the important contributions that Ecuador can make, and is making, to regional stability and development, the protection of biodiversity, and raising awareness of Latin American cultural history, the ICD has launched “Understanding Ecuador”.

Program Goals

“Understanding Ecuador” pursues the following three specific goals:
  1. To raise awareness of Ecuador’s unique cultural heritage and the importance of this heritage at the local, regional, and global levels.
  2. Toanalyze and assess Ecuador’s role as a key economic and political power in Latin America and internationally.
  3. To explore Latin America’s position as a global leader in the fight against climate change, and in the protection of biodiversity.
  4. To strengthen relations between Ecuador and other countries in Latin America and the wider international community.
  5. To encourage and promote greater economic ties between Ecuador and international partners through trade and investment.

Program Activity

“Understanding Ecuador” consists of a range of activity that aims to pursue the goals outlined above. This activity can be separated into three general areas:

1. “Cultural Diplomacy in Latin America: A Forum for Young Leaders” (CDLA)

CDLA brings together students and young professionals from across Latin America and the wider international community, who have demonstrated ambition and leadership skills, for weeklong study tours. The study tours are held in Berlin, and allow participants to take part in lectures and seminars focusing on the development of Latin America, and expand their personal networks through social and cultural activities.

2. Conferences, Lectures, and Panel Discussions

In addition to the CDLA young leaders forum, “Understanding Ecuador” also holds regular lectures, panel discussions, and conferences on themes related to the program goals. These events feature high-profile speakers from international politics, diplomacy, academia, and civil society, to ensure a thorough, interdisciplinary discussion of the issues in focus.

3. Research and Analysis

As an organization working to strengthen intercultural relations, the ICD conducts and publishes relevant academic research into Ecuador and Latin America, their history and development, and the current challenges and opportunities facing the region. This research is conducted by ICD staff, network members, Alumni, and members of our Advisory Board, and is then made available online.