‘Nature Has Rights’: Aruba Could Become 2nd Country to Recognize Rights of Nature in Constitution


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Aruba has drafted a constitutional amendment that would make it the second country in the world to recognize that nature has inherent rights. The amendment also affirms that people are entitled to a “clean, healthy and sustainable environment,” reported Inside Climate News.

The draft bill was announced by the country’s nature minister Ursell Arends earlier this month. It would require the government to “take preventive measures to protect against the negative consequences of climate change.”

If the amendment is approved, Aruba will be the second nation in the world after Ecuador to recognize the rights of nature in its constitution. About 30 countries — including Uganda, Bolivia and Spain — have recognized the inherent rights of particular species or ecosystems.

The public will be able to submit written comments through April 4, after which time the draft of the bill will be sent to the country’s advisory council. The government will have the opportunity to revise it before a final version is sent to the legislature, where it must be approved by a two-thirds majority.

If the amendment passes, it will be the first time Aruba has altered its constitution since 1986.

“By incorporating the Rights of Nature, possibly within Aruba’s Constitution, it provides every citizen with the legal [basis] to be a voice for nature. Rights of Nature can become an environmental justice tool for communities unduly impacted by unsustainable practices and its cumulative impact on nature as well as the general wellbeing of local inhabitants,” the United Nations said. “If successful, the constitution will reflect changing social mores in the increased protection of the local environment.”

Arends expressed hope that a final bill will be drafted by this summer, Inside Climate News reported.

“Everyone in Aruba is aware of the magnitude of environmental destruction that has taken place and the importance of nature to our economy and island,” Arends said.

Two million tourists visiting Aruba’s white sand beaches and coastal ecosystems annually make up a large part of the country’s $4 billion economy.

Plastic pollution, overfishing and waste generated in great part by visitors are some of the environmental impacts facing the small island nation. Aruba is also experiencing increasing sea level rise, coastal erosion and ocean acidification due to climate change.

“The ecosystems in Aruba that we rely on are degraded to such an extent that they can’t function like they used to,” Arends said, as reported by Inside Climate News.

An “Explanatory Memorandum” to the draft amendment said the legislation strives for a higher and more broad level of protection than laws like the country’s Nature Conservation Regulation, which protects individual species.

“In an ecosystem everything is connected,” the memorandum states, as Inside Climate News reported. “Protection at the system level is necessary because it takes into account the interrelationships between species and their abiotic environment.”

Humans have the right to an environment that is “clean, healthy and sustainable,” according to the memorandum, which depends upon healthy ecosystems as well. The memorandum referred to the recognition of the right by the United Nations General Assembly in July of 2022.

The right of humans to a healthy environment is now reflected in laws passed by more than 150 countries, and is being used more and more in litigation to force governments to address climate change.

Aruba’s constitutional amendment would also require that the government periodically look at the state of the environment and issue reports every five years.

“I want to thank all those who have worked tirelessly to protect our environment,” Arends said previously, as reported by Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. “Together, we can restore the balance between people and Nature, and [take] care of what belongs to us. We are not giving any rights to Nature. Nature has rights. This is a first step toward acknowledging that.”

This article originally appeared on EcoWatch and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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This article originally appeared on EcoWatch and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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