Environmental guarantees: A new ecological and political model for Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a country of an important ecological and human diversity due to its location and biophysical characteristics. The country has 5% of the world’s species in a geographical territory of 51,100 square kilometers (km), 0.1% of the earth’s surface, and a marine territory of 500,000 square km.

In the last thirty years significant changes have occurred in the judicial, administrative and social systems to protect the environment. The first ecological group was born, the Comité de Defensa del Patrimonio Nacional (CDPN) and many protected areas have been created throughout the nation. One of the most important changes in the judicial system has been the introduction of an environmental amendment in the Constitution of Costa Rica (Art. 50) The addition of this article to the Constitution, the ratification of diverse agreements and international treaties concerning the environment, the establishment of the Environmental Law, the Wildlife Law, the Biodiversity Law, the creation of the Ministry of the Environment and the Environmental Attorney’s Office are part of the legal and administrative transformation experienced by the country at the end of the Twentieth Century.

However, it is fundamental to introduce a Title of Environmental Guarantees in the Constitution of Costa Rica in which the State, the public and private sector ought to defend and preserve the right to a safe environment, to maintain public domain over environmental issues, and finally, the use of the environment should be regulated by scientific and technical knowledge, so that people should have the right to environmental sustainability.

Costa Rica would be the first country in the world to include Environmental Guarantees in its Constitution. This shall be an example to other nations in the world, to ensure environmental protection and finally to ensure the human race and all species their existence on Planet Earth.

The following constitutional amendment has been proposed by the Movimiento Ecologista Costarricense to the President of the Republic of Costa Rica and submitted to the Congress for final approval.

The Legislative Assembly of the Republic of Costa Rica Decrees:

To Introduce a Title of Duties, Rights and Environmental Guarantees in the Constitution of Costa Rica

Article 1.- Create a new Title Six in the Political Constitution, to be numerated and read as follows:

Title Six

Duties, Rights and Environmental Guarantees

Chapter One

Article 75. The State guarantees, defends, and preserves the right to a physical, biological, and human environment ecologically sustainable in order to ensure a better life quality for all inhabitants of the nation.

Article 76. The State guarantees, defends preserves and maintains public domain, of the air, water, sub-soil, soil, biological diversity and its components, like its minerals, hydrocarbons, energy sources, national coasts, oceans, and protected areas., The law shall regulate its use and application, public and private, following public interest and scientific and technical knowledge.

Article 77. People have the right to a physical, biological and human environment ecologically sustainable. The respect of the environment and the appropriate use of natural resources are duties of all inhabitants.

Article 78. All public or private activity that affects the biochemical and the genetic component of the country must fulfill the principles of environmental sustainability.

Article 79. The State must promote environmental education.

Article 80. A public scientific institution must establish criteria for an effective environmental protection.

Article 81. People are entitled to denounce those acts that put in danger rights and guarantees established in this Title. Actions to avoid and correct environmental deterioration are public. The law shall determine the responsibilities and the sanctions of those people that may violate environmental protection principles; this includes the criteria that the doubt benefits the environment.

Article 2.- For effects of the addition to the Constitution of a new Title Six of Duties, Rights and Environmental Guarantees, the following Constitutional Title must be replaced:

Article 3.- Abolish the second and third paragraph of the fiftieth article of the Constitution.

Contributed by Gabriel Quesada A., President, Instituto Interamericano de Ecología Aplicada