Bolivia Calls for “Earth Rights”
President Evo Morales Ayma of Bolivia is calling for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.
A draft declaration will be discussed at the Peoples’World Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights, taking place April 20th-22nd, which President Morales is convening in Cochabamba, Bolivia’s third largest city.
Other objectives for the event include: working towards a people’s referendum on climate change; looking at strategies for action in defence of Earth’s rights; planning the establishment of a Climate Justice Tribunal and agreeing proposals for new targets and commitments in the United Nations negotiating process with regards to climate change.
Following the inadequate outcome of the UN conference in Copenhagen last December, the Peoples’ World Conference will aim to reach a consensus for a new approach, ahead of the next UN climate summit in Mexico at the end of the year.
Only a few days after Copenhagen, a resolution was passed, placing the issue of Mother Earth Rights as an item on the UN agenda. Put forward by Bolivia, the resolution invites countries to share their experiences and views on promoting ‘life in harmony with nature’.
In line with this, the Peoples’ World Conference will explore the ‘structural and systemic causes’ of climate change. Participants will look at the fundamental, underlying issues and propose measures to ‘ensure the well-being of all humankind in harmony with nature’.
“The United Nations climate change framework does not deal with the root causes of climate change and the wider problem of environmental exploitation,” says Pablo Solón, Bolivian ambassador to the United Nations. “Climate change is like a fever that is symptomatic of an underlying disease, which must be cured before the fever dissipates. The underlying cause,” he continues, “is the belief that humans are separate from, and superior to nature and that more is better. These beliefs have fuelled the misconceived and doomed attempts of industrialised, consumer orientated societies to achieve lasting human well-being by exploiting and damaging Earth.”
Bolivia is proposing a legal framework be created, to maintain vital ecological balances in the interest of all life. With a rights-based approach, protection could be given to other ‘members of the Earth Community’, preventing further unsustainable exploitation of the natural world.
“Stabilising the climate at levels that allow human life to flourish will require societies to meet our needs in a way that contributes to, rather than degrades, the health of the ecological communities that sustain us,” explains Pablo Solón. “This requires balancing human rights against the rights of all other life on our planet.”
Recognising the relationship between ourselves and nature, courts would deal with environmental destruction, and any consequent human harm, at a fundamental level, ensuring perpetrators are brought to account. President Morales affirmed that: “In order to ensure the fulfilment of human rights in the 21st century, it is necessary to recognise and respect Mother Earth’s rights.”
Pablo Solón points out that for centuries, indigenous communities have warned that humans must behave respectfully towards the planet if we are to survive: “We call our planet Pachamama, Mother Earth, because we know we cannot live without her. This understanding is supported, not only by ancient spiritual traditions but also by contemporary science, which continues to reveal the complex interdependence of life on earth.”
“In 1948, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed, it was a declaration of hope into a post-war world,” says Pablo Solón. “Facing a crisis far worse than any world war, might it not be time for humanity to launch a new declaration, one that defends our planet and its biodiversity from ever-continuing extinction?” the ambassador asks.
Evo Morales has extended an invitation to all, “the peoples of the world, social movements, Mother Earth’s defenders, scientists, academics, lawyers and governments that want to work with their citizens,” to attend the Peoples’ Conference, which closes with celebrating Mother Earth Day, on April 22nd.
“This conference will be a transparent and inclusive event, in which no one will be marginalised,” says Bolivian foreign minister, David Choquehuanca. Meanwhile, UK environmental lawyer Polly Higgins, an advocate of planetary rights, has just launched the Planet Earth Trust. “The planet is our capital asset and we, the people, have a responsibility to ensure that this asset is protected, not exploited.” she explains. “We can do that by being trustees for the planet.” All the trustees sign a declaration of intent to protect Planet Earth in Trust, for the benefit of the wider Planet Earth community. The declaration recognises that all life is sacred.