Thursday, July 24th, Ecuador formally presented its proposal for the New Constitution of the Republic. After eight months of intense work, the 130 assembly members have approved 444 articles that will guide Ecuador’s future, hopefully for a long time. The National Constitutional Assembly has completed its mandate of the people of Ecuador who voted to rewrite the country’s Constitution according to the new perspectives of change and transformation for the country. They set the July 24th deadline because of its symbolic reference to Simon Bolívar’s birthday, which falls on the same date.
This new Constitution will prepare Ecuador for the new challenges it is experiencing as a unique country in terms of biological and cultural diversity, immersed in a globalized world facing severe problems such as climate change. This Carta Magna offers many more rights, constitutional guarantees, opportunities for participation and organization than the existing Constitution approved in 1998. And, its objective is to establish a new model of development based on the population’s welfare in harmony with nature. It is especially advanced in terms of environmental issues.
This participatory process received thousands of petitions, proposals and visits from citizens from all over the country, including innovative and progressive proposals, such as the recognition of rights for nature. Fundación Pachamama’s team, with the help of knowledgeable lawyers such as Thomas Linzey and Mari Margil, and the devoted collaboration of many assembly members such as the former president of the National Assembly, Alberto Acosta, supported the revolutionary idea of making nature a subject of rights. This bold move makes Ecuador the first country in the world to take such an important step toward guaranteeing the wellbeing of its natural ecosystems. This revives the debate that nature is not something to exploit, destroy and possess; rather, it is someone to respect and protect since we, human beings are part of it. This proposal has already raised the awareness of other countries. We hope that it will be “contagious,” infecting those who understand that there is no time to waste in order to save nature and save us from approaching devastation.
In spite of all the work and political advocacy of social movements such as the indigenous movement, the Assembly did not meet everybody’s expectations. While some important steps forward have been taken, for example, in declaring Ecuador as a “plurinational” State and recognizing Kichwa and Shuar as official languages; other critical measures fell behind. For example, the new Constitution does not guarantee as many collective and territorial rights of Indigenous Peoples as the 1998 Constitution does. Those fights will have to be taken to different venues such as the “Congresillo” (small Congress that will work in the interim before the new Constitution is voted for).
Now, the government and other interest groups will focus on a public campaign to ensure support for the new Constitution, which will be voted on in a referendum the end of September. Although the opposition will put all its efforts to turn down the Constitution during the next months, surveys still show that the majority of Ecuador’s population will vote in favor of this new Carta Magna.