Upholding Nature’s Rights in Ecuador: Identifying Problems and Providing Solutions

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Doug Kysar
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In 2008, Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognize nature’s legal rights at a nationwide, constitutional level. According to the nation’s Constitution, all of nature in Ecuador has the right to exist, maintain, and regenerate its vital functions, and anyone in Ecuador can demand the enforcement of these rights before a court. Ecuador, opting for an indigenous worldview towards the natural world and revolutionizing the way in which modern law treats nature, has faced a variety of challenges in upholding and enforcing nature’s rights since 2008. This thesis, based on a summer of research in Ecuador, provides an analysis of the 31 rights of nature court cases in Ecuador since 2008, identifies and explores the three largest challenges that the country has faced in upholding nature’s rights – (1) a lack of definition and direction within the Constitution, (2) a lack of education of civil society, lawyers, and judges, and (3) vague legal guardianship and funding – and provides potential solutions to these challenges. While providing guidance to a feasible future for the rights of nature in Ecuador, this paper additionally aims to identify and solve problems that other communities and nations may face when recognizing nature’s rights.