Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth
Bolivia Gives Legal Rights to Mother Earth
President Evo Morales of Bolivia.
Latin America's first indigenous president.
Law of Mother Earth sees Bolivia pilot new social and economic model based on protection of and respect for nature.
Bolivia is to become the first country to give nature comprehensive legal rights in an effort to halt climate change and the exploitation of the natural world, and to improve quality of life for the Bolivian people.
Developed by grassroots social groups and agreed by politicians, the Law of Mother Earth recognises the rights of all living things, giving the natural world equal status to human beings. Once fully approved, the legislation will provide the Earth with rights to: life and regeneration; biodiversity and freedom from genetic modification; pure water; clean air; naturally balanced systems; restoration from the effects of human activity; and freedom from contamination. The legislation is based on broader principles of living in harmony with the Earth and prioritising the “collective good.”
At its heart is an understanding that the Earth is sacred, which arises from the indigenous Andean worldview of ‘Pachamama’ (meaning Mother Earth) as a living being. An initial act outlining the rights –- which was passed by Bolivia’s national congress in December 2010 and paves the way for the full legislation -– defines Mother Earth as a dynamic and “indivisible community of all living systems and living organisms, interrelated, interdependent and complementary, which share a common destiny.”
Following a change in Bolivia’s constitution in 2009, the law is part of an overhaul of the legal system. It represents a shift away from the western development model to a more holistic vision, based on the indigenous concept of Vivir Bien (to live well). The proposal for the law states: “Living Well means adopting forms of consumption, behavior and and conduct that are not degrading to nature. It requires an ethical and spiritual relationship with life. Living Well proposes the complete fulfillment of life and collective happiness.”
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Unity Pact, an umbrella group for five Bolivian social movements, prepared the draft law. They represent over 3m people and all of the country’s 36 indigenous groups, the majority of whom are small scale farmers with many still living on their ancestral lands. The bill protects their livelihoods and diverse cultures from the impacts of industry.
Undarico Pinto, a leader of the social movement Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia, said: “It will make industry more transparent. It will allow people to regulate industry at national, regional and local levels.”
Signifying a fundamental shift away from exploitation of nature, the draft law referrers to mineral resources as ‘blessings’ and states that: “Mother Earth is sacred, fertile and the source of life that feeds and cares for all living beings in her womb. She is in permanent balance, harmony and communication with the cosmos.”
A Ministry of Mother Earth is to be established to promote the new rights and ensure they are complied with. President Evo Morales, voiced a commitment to the initiative at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change held in Bolivia in April 2010.
The Law of Mother Earth includes the following:
The right to maintain the integrity of life and natural processes.
The right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.
The right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration.
The right to pure water.
The right to clean air.
The right to balance, to be at equilibrium.
The right to be free of toxic and radioactive pollution.
The right to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects t
hat affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities.
The law also promotes “harmony” and “peace” and “the elimination of all nuclear, chemical, biological” weapons.
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