Pachamama Hosts Conference in Quito: “Rights for Nature: a New Model of Development in Ecuador and the Andean Region”

December 15, 2008 | By The Pachamama Alliance

Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognize Rights for Nature. Fundación Pachamama wanted to acknowledge, celebrate and further this remarkable achievement made possible by the hard work and active support of former Assembly-President, Alberto Acosta, and numerous environmental and indigenous organizations. It is clear, however, that while the four powerful and historic Constitutional articles recognizing Nature’s rights to exist and to maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and evolutionary processes, they alone are not enough. Secondary laws and widespread public support are needed to ensure that every law or project that affects the environment will be consistent with the Rights for Nature articles.

In the meantime, the Ecuadorian government – through its diverse Ministries – is unfortunately working intensely with the temporary Legislative Commission to develop secondary laws that are proving to be inconsistent with the Rights for Nature articles and a new model of development based on Sumac Kawsay (well-being). The government is pushing forward a new Mining Law that supports large scale, open-mining in biodiverse protected areas that responds to financial interests and continues the extractivist model that was so criticized during the Constitutional Assembly. Together with the mining law, there is an Environmental Code underway that has not been widely reviewed and debated within Ecuador’s progressive Civil Society which is eager to participate in the country’s transformation to a post-oil society.

Aware of this political context, Fundación Pachamama opened up a space of dialogue between members of civil society and the government in a three day conference called “Rights for Nature: towards a New Model of Development in Ecuador and the Andean Region”.  This event took place in the Hotel Hilton Colon from the 24th to the 26th of November. The first day was dedicated to celebrating and discussing Rights for Nature. The second day focused on Sumak Kawsay and the New Model of Development, and the third day was dedicated to specific examples that can implement this new model of development in Ecuador such as the Yasuní-ITT Initiative, the investment in alternative energies, and the creation of complementary currencies in Ecuador both at a local and national level. The event’s panelists were recognized, key figures in the current government, such as the Minister of Alternative Energies, a representative of the Development Secretariat, and other Assembly Members. Influential leaders from Civil Society also participated, representing both the environmental and the indigenous movement.

In organizing this event, Pachamama brought together environmental organizations from opposite ends of the political spectrum. The organizations involved were: Fundación Pachamama, UICN, Ecolex, Acción Ecológica, Ecociencia and Acuerdo Ecuador. The event was co-financed by Fundación Pachamama and the Project SOCICAN supported by the European Commission and the Andean Community of Nations. In addition, with the support of Project SOCICAN, Fundación Pachamama will be promoting the recognition of Rights for Nature in the four Andean countries: Colombia, Perú, Bolivia and Ecuador, in collaboration with other NGO partners from the region, including, Fundación GAIA in Colombia, CEDIA and Racimos de Ungurahui in Peru, and Fundación Herencia and CEJIS in Bolivia. Members from all of these organizations participated in this three-day seminar.

The keynote speaker of the event was Doctor Cormac Cullinan from South Africa. He is an environmental lawyer who first wrote a book about Rights for Nature called Wild Law and who has worked with Thomas Linzey and Mari Margil at the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. Dr. Cullinan is currently working to get formal recognition for the Rights for Nature in the UN Planetary Rights Declaration.

The well-attended conference was a complete success, largely due to the active participation from the diverse participants representing a unique and important cross-section of government and civil society, as well as the favorable local and national media coverage received. This event raised Fundación Pachamama’s profile as a leader of new development models in the region.