CHILE: A NEW CONSTITUTION ADDRESSING SUSTAINABILITY

After the 2019 turmoil in the country, now Chile will have a new constitution that will guide the country and will provide it with a new outlook on sustainability.

This started with the mass street demonstration that took place already 3 years ago, as a consequence of the fare hike on the Santiago metro. This sudden increase in prices of public transportation led to a ‘social explosion’ where many people started to manifest their discontent about the significant inequalities in the country and to consequently demand a reform of the old constitution dating back to the Pinochet military dictatorship of 1973-1990.

The need to provide the country with a new charter addressing the issue of social inequalities, brought Chile’s political parties to agree on a constitutional referendum to overcome the crisis. Therefore, in May 2021 Chileans casted ballots to elect 155 delegates(50% women and 50% men) that will have the task of writing the new constitution.

In these elections the major political parties in the country lost votes to independents, with the right wing coalition only securing one fifth of the seats. These independent constituents, among which writers, lawyers, academic and actors, are closely tied with environmental actions, many of them coming from a background in social movements.

Together with representatives of the country’s indigenous communities and a progressive left-wing coalition, a significant number in the constituent assembly pledged to promote a renewed focus on environmental protection in the Chilean constitution. This new approach aims at providing a legal protection in the charter so that people will be able to enforce their environmental rights in the courts.

This will be achieved with environmental clauses that will have the objective of helping communities to take action against private enterprises that might be found to be infringing on their human rights including the right to access to clean water and air and the right to mental wellbeing provided by green spaces. 

In addition, this new constitution might overturn the privatization of water, a pressing issue in a country that is facing increased water scarcity. Moreover, water is at the basis of almost every socio-environmental conflict in the country. The new charter should therefore aim to protect the human right to water and promote its recognition as a common good.

Moreover, if other common goods are recognized by the constitution, then also the fisheries law, the water code, the forest law will have to be reformed to adapt to the charter and provide the country with a new and more inclusive outlook to social and environmental sustainability. 

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