Bolivia - Mother Earth Law

March 15, 2024

The Mother Earth Law is a piece of legislation that epitomizes Bolivia's dedication to sustainable development, respecting the balance between human life and the natural environment, and prioritizing the rights and knowledge of the country's majority indigenous population.

In 2010, the Bolivian government passed the legislation, The Law of the Rights of Mother Earth, which contains 10 articles and was drawn from a much longer draft law.

The expressed objective of the law is to 'establish the vision and fundamentals of integral development in harmony and balance with Mother Earth to Live Well, guaranteeing the continued capacity of Mother Earth to regenerate natural systems, recuperating and strengthening local and ancestral practices, within the framework of rights, obligations and responsibilities'.

Mother Earth has the following rights: To life, To the diversity of life, To water, To clean air, To equilibrium, To restoration, and To pollution-free living. And it further outlines the obligations of the State and the people to these principles and rights as a binding societal duty.

The act was supported by Bolivian President Evo Morales, and was implemented by over 2900 specific conservation programs and anti-pollution projects, in all 327 municipalities.

The binding principles are:

• Harmony:

Human activities, within the framework of plurality and diversity, should achieve a dynamic balance with the cycles and processes inherent in Mother Earth.

• Collective Good:

The interests of society, within the framework of the rights of Mother Earth, prevail in all human activities and any acquired right.

Guarantee of Regeneration:

The state, at its various levels, and society, in harmony with the common interest, must ensure the necessary conditions in order that the diverse living systems of Mother Earth may absorb damage, adapt to shocks, and regenerate without significantly altering their structural and functional characteristics, recognizing that living systems are limited in their ability to regenerate, and that humans are limited in their ability to undo their actions.

Respect and defend the rights of Mother Earth:

The state and any individual or collective person must respect, protect and guarantee the rights of Mother Earth for the well-being of current and future generations.

• No Commercialism:

Neither living systems nor processes that sustain them may be commercialized, nor serve anyone’s private property.

• Multi-culturalism:

The exercise of the rights of Mother Earth require the recognition, recovery, respect, protection, and dialogue of the diversity of feelings, values, knowledge, skills, practices, transcendence, science, technology and standards of all the culture of the world who seek to live in harmony with Nature.

In relation to climate change the law has many provisions that outline the state's vision, citizens' rights, and responsibilities. It embraces the concept of 'climate justice', defined by the ability of all Bolivian citizens to 'Live Well', especially those who are most vulnerable to climate change. It reinforces the point that some states have more of a global responsibility to respond to climate change.

To encourage sustainable development of natural resources, it states that climate change trajectories should be accounted for when planning and zoning responsible land use.

The law focuses on reducing the risks posed by climate change through six lines of actions:

• The permanent incorporation of prevention of and managed response to natural disasters into the System of Integral Planning.

• Risk management for the agricultural sector to prevent diminished crop yields and food insecurity.

• The adoption of risk management of disasters as well as adaption to climate change across state development projects; development of informational networks to issue early warnings in times of natural crisis as well as to assist the agricultural industry and indigenous communities plan according to climate conditions.

• Strengthening territorial management processes of sub-national governments through the incorporation of risk management     and adaption to climate change perspectives.

• Articulation between public and private scientific research sectors to share knowledge and co-ordinate research regarding vulnerabilities related to climate change.

The state will also encourage the recuperation of traditional indigenous practices that were historically sustainable and allowed for the natural regeneration of resources.

The law also establishes the Plurinational Authority of Mother Earth, within the Ministry of Environment and Water, as the state entity responsible for much of the development, overseeing and co-ordination of projects, programmes and research as it relates to climate change and the objectives of the Plurinational Plan for Climate Change. It also co-ordinates scientific monitoring of GHG emissions. The entity will operate within the framework of 'climate justice,' following the principles of Bolivia's climate change politics.

The Authority will operate through three mechanisms:

• Joint Mechanism of Mitigation and Adaptation for the Integral and Sustainable Management of Mother Earth's Forests.

• Mitigation Mechanism to 'Living Well'.

• Adaptation Mechanism to 'Living Well'.

Institutions created to support the laws

The 2012 law authorized the creation of new institutions:

• A Mother Earth Ombudsman's Office (Defensoria de la Madre Tierra) parallel to the human rights-oriented Defensoría del Pueblo. Unfortunately, as of February 2016, this office has not been created.

• The Plurinational Mother Earth Authority (Autoridad Plurinacional de la Madre Tierra; APMT), which oversees climate change policies, was created by Supreme Decree 1696 in 2013.

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