Ecuador’s New Constitution

Ecuador’s new constitution, approved by their Constituent Assembly July 24 and headed for voter approval in September, includes a number of articles that add environmental protections and make resource extraction in national parks like Yasuni more difficult to pursue. The most groundbreaking new protections are the articles on the “Rights of Nature.” The legal concept and its inclusion into the constitution is considered a first among nations. In essence, the articles provide explicit legal protection for the existence of nature and for all of its life cycle functions, including reproduction and evolution. Damage to any of these inherent qualities and functions of nature is prohibited and legal claims can be brought by any individual to stop the damaging activity and restore ecosystem to its original state.

Article 409 of the constitution now bans resource extraction in national parks and areas declared as “areas intangibles,” or no go zones. The exception being areas determined to be of national priority (which Yasuni National Park would no doubt be considered), in which case approval by Congress and/or potentially a national referendum would be required for resource extraction to occur. Additionally, guiding environmental principles such as sustainability, precaution, prevention, responsibility, and participation are included, as wells as specific language regarding climate change and prioritizing emission reductions.

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