Chile , Costa Rica and Ecuador

Chile's 'ecological constitution' faces uphill battle – UN official

Bnamericas Published: Wednesday, July 06, 2022
Chile's 'ecological constitution' faces uphill battle – UN official

Chile’s proposed new constitution is highly ambitious from an ecological perspective, but implementation will be difficult, according to UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment David Boyd.

The full proposal, which was unveiled on Monday after one year of debate, has nearly 80 articles related to environmental protections, making it the most detailed set of environmental regulations in a constitution after Ecuador’s, approved in 2008, Boyd said during a webinar hosted by Columbia Global Centers on the ecological aspects of the proposed constitution.

“While the constitution sets the framework, there’s a lot of heavy lifting yet to be done in terms of laws, regulations and then the actual implementation on the ground,” he said. 

When consulted by BNamericas on whether some protections could clash with state obligations, such as guaranteeing access to water, Boyd replied that the proposed text also defines which rights take priority, and that “the human right to water must always prevail.”

While approving overall of the proposed constitution, calling it “incredibly progressive,” Boyd said it could get trapped in its own ambition. His comparison with Ecuador should also come as a warning sign.

“[Ecuador] has struggled to implement the rights of nature, has struggled to implement transformative changes in terms of management of common goods,” he said. 

Arbitration cases filed by investors could become major challenges, although Costa Rica shows that states can prevail. Boyd added Costa Rica has successfully defended its ecological transition, which makes its constitution the most successful in the region. 

“You’re going to need a series of governments over a period of time in Chile that are willing to stand their ground and fight back against interests opposed to the implementation of the ecological constitution,” he said.

The strength of Costa Rica’s constitution is that it only contains one article related to environmental protections, which establishes a right to live in a “healthy and ecologically balanced environment.” The country has “harnessed that small provision to work towards its transformation,” Boyd said.

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