On October 26, 2020, after months of social unrest, Chileans cast the historic vote to rewrite their constitution, and hence, amid political, ecological, health and economic crises, lay out a new vision for the future. A vote which could mean the beginning of the end of the extractivist neoliberal agenda, galvanized in the current constitution, in the very country who first implemented the model under dictator Augusto Pinochet in the 1980s.
In a national referendum Chile voted for their constitutional representatives, mainly voting for candidates outside traditional party lines, and marking the world’s first constitutional process to include equal representation of men, and women, and proportional representation of all indigenous nations. While this was already enough to place this constitutional process in the history books, the convention members also voted for indigenous Mapuche activist and university professor Elisa Loncón as the first term president of the Convention, a world first. On July 4, 2021, in her opening speech, Loncón declared how, “This convention…will transform Chile into a plurinational, intercultural Chile that does not attack the rights of women, of caregivers, a Chile that cares for Mother Earth, that also cleans our waters against all forms of domination.” Placing at the center the current ecological emergencies, women and the Rights of Mother Earth for the new constitution, after decades of exploitation and extractive economics.
This was especially significant as over the last decade, the ideals of Buen Vivir and the Rights of Nature consecrated in the Bolivian and Ecuadorian constitutions have been difficult to implement concretely, leaving the countries still vulnerable to the very industrial exploitations the ideals wished to prevent. Chileans are hoping that third time’s the charm in the region, as the topics of food sovereignty, protections of indigenous and ancestral seed, public right and protection of water, and a civil defense of Nature, all marked priority topics of discussion in the general constitutional framework. Topics revolving around how to recognize the Rights of Nature in the new constitution.
In November of 2021, while on the ground in Chile, Navdanya International joined a coalition of civil society organizations, citizens, academics, lawyers and activists through the organization Distrito 156 – itself made up of activists, advisors of constitutional members, 25 conventionalists and constitutional lawyers – to participate in the creation of a joint proposal of collaboratively defined constitutional articles. Distrito 156 sought to expand citizens and civil society input into the constitutional process through the writing of clearly outlined articles to be presented to the different constitutional committees. The organization counted with the support of over 30 conventionalists who pledged to include the final proposal into the constitutional debates for a chance of them being passed into the final document.
Over the period of three weeks, 75 civil society organizations, including Navdanya International, along with academics, citizens, lawyers and constitutional advisors met in person, and broke up into working groups representing the seven constitutional commissions. Navdanya International worked alongside other agroecological, farmer and seed freedom organizations to draft a proposition to guarantee the right to save, exchange and protect traditional and local seed, the right to healthy toxic-free food, protection of local food economies and food sovereignty, the further implementation of agroecological transition and small farmers’ rights to water and land.
On December 9th 2021, the unified document was presented to President Elisa Loncón, and the Chilean constitutional convention, marking the articles redacted by the coalition as accepted into the articles considered by the commissions in the debates starting in February 2022.
The proposed articles of the new constitution are set to be debated and voted on internally starting February 7, 2022 to April 2022, with the convention coming to a close in July 2022. The final approval vote is to be scheduled in late 2022.