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Chile marks a notch in international constitutionalism

Published: 28th Jul, 2022


Chile drafted its Constitution which promises a more egalitarian democracy with inclusivity.


  • Chile was engulfed with protests in 2019.
  • Protest theme: Social inequality, the cost of living, and probity in governance.
  • Ultimate demand: to write and adopt a new constitution which will be made by the people of Chile themselves as per most of the world’s constitutions.
  • They wanted to get rid of Pinochet’s Constitution which created inequality in the country.

Pinochet’s constitution:

  • The Chilean constitution was drafted under the military regime of General Augusto Pinochet, in 1980.
  • It is noted for embodying the ‘Chicago School Economics’ e. market deregulation was encoded into the constitution and not just a policy choice.
  • One of the striking elements of this feature is the privatization of wateras a constitutional imperative.
  • Over the decades, Chile has become one of the most unequal countries in the world.

About Chile:

  • Chile is officially known as the Republic of Chile.
  • Its capital is Santiago
  • It is a South American country occupying a narrow strip of land between the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
  • Chile is a multiethnic society, home to people of many different ethnic backgrounds.

Geographical importance:

  • It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the south.
  • The Atacama Desert is one of the driest places in the world and touches Chile in its northern side and is a source of sodium nitrate fertilizer.
  • It owes its aridity due to a constant temperature inversion of the cool north-flowing Humbolt Ocean current.

Economic importance:

  • Copper town: Chuquicamata is the World’s largest copper town in Chile.
  • Lithium triangle: The Lithium Triangle is a region of the Andes rich in lithium reserves around the borders of Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile.

Constituent Assembly:

Chile has constituted a new directly elected Constituent Assembly to frame a new constitution.This representation in the assembly is inclusive in the sense:

  • 51% women representation:The constituent assembly constituted to frame the new constitution for Chile, comprises of 51% women representatives, a step to bridge the gender gap.
  • 17 reserved seats for the Indigenous seat:Chile’s new Constituent Assembly has also reserved 17 seats for the indigenous people, securing their voice and rights.
  • Inclusive Representation:The constituent assembly has also included people from across the socio-economic and geographical spectrum of Chile, sexual minorities, etc.

What are some striking features of the draft constitution?

  • Catalogue of rights:New draft constitution provides a catalogue of basic socio-economic rights, e.g., the Right to education; Workers’ rights; Gender Identity rights; DE commodification of water.
  • Autonomous institutions:Various independent institutions have been introduced by the new draft to maintain the idea of democracy and rule of law.
  • Guarantee of citizen initiatives: Guarantee has been provided to the citizen initiatives including Indigenous initiatives for introducing and changing laws in Parliament.

Is the Chilean constitution a document with a vision?

The Chilean draft Constitution not only draws upon past wisdom, but it is also a future-facing document as well for the following reasons:

  • Recognized the pervasive role of Technology: The new constitution stipulates the existence of a National Data Protection Authority, which indicates that the government recognizes the threats of the intrusive nature of technologies as well as guarantees a right to digital connectivity.
    • The need for an independent data protection body is being felt in countries across the world, and the draft Constitution’s move to enshrine it within the constitutional text is, therefore, important.
  • Acknowledges the gravity of the climate crisis:The draft Constitution acknowledges the issueof the climate crisis and constitutionalizes the important principles of international environmental law, such as inter-generational equity.
  • Guarantees Right to nature:It guarantees a right to nature, which is something that courts in different countries, from India to New Zealand, have recently explored.

ChileanConstitution - Amalgamation of past wisdom, and experience across the globe:

Some of the draft’s striking features include which is notable are:

  • Lists basic socio-economic rights:the right to education, gender identity rights, workers’ rights, and the de-commodification of water.
  • Autonomous institutions and independent of the government
  • Citizen initiatives: It guarantees indigenous initiatives for bringing changes in the laws.

These elements are vital for sustaining theculture of constitutionalism.

What are the criticisms?

  • Critics, such as The Economist, have termed it a ‘woke’ document- that it is ‘going too far’ and is risking economic irresponsibility.
  • The newspaper also criticized the document for its ‘woolly language’, guaranteeing ‘decades of squabbling’ about what the provisions mean.
  • The document is also criticized as being less growth-friendlythan the current constitution.
  • Socio-economic rights could inflate the budget. This is because it requires the establishment of several new bodies, without addressing how they would be funded.

Way Forward

  • Inclusive document:In the draft Chilean Constitution in its historical and present context, a remarkable picture emerges: this is a document, drafted through an intensely inclusive, participatory, and egalitarian process, which in its substantive content both draws upon the wisdom of the past and looks to the future.
  • Model for the modern world:It is, in many ways, a model for how Constitutions in the modern world ought to be drafted, and a lesson to the rest of the world; and if it is approved in the referendum of September 4, it will rightly be hailed as a historic triumph in the annals of global constitutionalism.

India- Chile Relations

  • Chile is India’s window to Latin America and the Pacific Alliance.
  • Chile is the fifth largest trading partner of India in the Latin American region.
  • India- Chile signed the Preferential Trade Agreement in 2017 to enhance trade.
  • The bilateral trade is growing and stood at USD 2.8 billion in 2017-18.
  • India and Chile are partners in the International Solar Alliance.
  • Both countries cooperate extensively in multilateral fora and share similar views on climate change/renewable energy issues and on expansion and reforms of the UNSC (United Nations Security Council).
  • India- Chile has signed three Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) in the fields of -mining, culture, and disability.

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