Following the approval, by about 80%, of the drafting of a new Magna Carta, Chile has the possibility to build the foundations of a new future where the environment can occupy a relevant place.
“There are opportunities for the new Constitution to really consider ecological criteria because there are already many groups working, both from the academy and from environmental movements and NGOs to profile the requirements of an Ecological Constitution,” Ingrid Wehr, director of the Heinrich Béll Foundation for the Southern Cone, said.
WWF Chile carried out an analysis of thirty constitutions in the world that make up the environmental component. “One of the main conclusions we would like to extrapolate to Chile’s constitutional process is the need for the Constitution to contain the following structural axes: biodiversity care, water, climate change and land-level governance, keeping the environment free of pollution,” Ricardo Bosshard, Director of WWF Chile, told DW Ricardo Bosshard.
“A new Ecological Constitution is an emergency for Chile today,” Matías Asun, Director of Greenpeace in Chile, added, who said that “the recovery of water and guaranteeing it as a human right for people and territories is the main environmental demand today.”
A historical vindication
“The Constitution must guarantee the human right to water, in accordance with the provisions of the United Nations in Resolution 64/292 of 28 July 2010, where the essentials of this resource are established, as well as access to sanitation for the realization of all human rights,” explained the Director of WWF Chile, who advocated the development of a “Water Code to resolve the many conflicts that have arisen in recent years since its scarcity and hoarding”.
For Greenpeace’s manager, the new Constitution may stop allowing “companies to own entire rivers, while citizens see water disappear from the surface of the land they cultivate by over-granting underground rights.”
In this context, another factor exacerbating this situation. “That water is increasingly scarce from the effect of climate change, so it’s more attractive for water owners to do business with it,” he lamented. Likewise, “in a country in the process of desertification, we need to protect watersheds from overexploitation,” Wehr stressed.
The results of the vote showed a stark reality. “In polluted areas it is where constitutional changes are most in need and where voting was highest,” Asun said. “They can no longer expect reforms than ever before, they need that structural change,” Wehr argued.
These are ten communes where the nearly 30 thermoelectric plants that exist in the country are concentrated. “They know very well the dire impact of the existing extractivist model,” the German analyst opined.
Although the 1980 Constitution establishes the right to live in a pollution-free environment, “our standards are the least demanding that can be found in countries with environmental problems such as those in Chile resulting from coal and mining operations,” Asun lamented.
“Air, water, food and climate depend on healthy, diverse and comprehensive ecosystems,” recalled Bosshard, who advocated that this Constitution be aligned with other instruments such as international laws, regulations and treaties that “effectively ensure the sustainable development of territories.”
In addition to the role of the territories in the construction of the new Constitution, the experts consulted by DW agreed on the need to include the voices of the original peoples. “The demands of indigenous peoples and environmental movements coincide with the need for the care of common goods,” Wehr recalled, stressing that “the struggle for territorial autonomy includes the demand to be able to care for natural goods found in Mapuche territories.”
For Asun, in addition to the Mapuche people, the new social treaty must include communities that “are living in territories that are involved by certain projects”. “They must be integrated on an equal footing, in a reparative manner, into the constitutional process we initiated; without it we would be lacking the comprehensive vision of building new social agreementsHe added.
Thus, some representatives of these communities could occupy one of the 155 posts of the Constitutional Convention that will be responsible for drafting the new Constitution. But while the election will be popular, it will take place “with the same electoral system that they apply for the election of parliamentarians, which requires making lists, registering and having a minimum of votes and putting in a lot of jams,” Wehr lamented, stating that this decreases the possibility of such representatives being elected.