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In October 2019, a series of protests against public transport fare increases in Santiago unveiled serious cracks in Chile’s economic and social model. “It’s not 30 pesos (£0.28), it’s 30 years”, screamed some of the demonstrators, three decades since the end of Pinochet’s dictatorship.
The agreement between government, opposition and civil society to initiate a process to reform the 1980 constitution contributed to calm things down and find a political way forward. In the last three decades, the Chilean democracy has experienced improvements on a number of socio-economic variables. However, despite some amendments, the 1980 constitution remains in force.
Pinochet’s regime adopted the 1980 constitution as an attempt to provide a veneer of legitimacy to the dictatorship. The 1980 constitution prioritises private property and a market-driven economy, it does not guarantee education, healthcare and social security for those in need, and the right to adequate housing is nowhere to be found.
In the words of the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston, after a UN mission to the country, “the formulations used (in the 1980 constitution) do not generally conform to international standards and are not firmly anchored in the language of rights and obligations. The methods of implementation envisaged are relatively open-ended and non-empowering and do not explicitly include judicial action” in relation to social rights.
Since July 2021, a new constitutional convention is working towards a new constitution, which the Chilean people will have the chance to vote on in 2022. In this constitutional moment, the Human Rights Centre of the University of Essex (UK), Universidad de Concepción (Chile) and the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR) joined forces to provide evidence and analysis to inform the process of constitutional reform. They brought together fifty academics and practitioners, half of them Chilean and the other half international.
After the national launch of the 30-chapter book in Chile in September, this event launches the book for an international audience. The book has been published in Spanish, but an extended version of a selection of chapters will be published in English in 2022.
Dr Magdalena Sepúlveda is the Executive Director of the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. From 2008 to 2014 she was the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.
Professor Sandra Liebenberg is H F Oppenheimer Chair in Human Rights Law at the Law Faculty, Stellenbosch University, South Africa. She was formerly Chair of the Technical Committee advising the Constitutional Assembly on the Bill of Rights in South Africa’s post-apartheid Constitution. She is also a former Member and Vice-Chair of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (2016-20).
Pedro Cisterna Gaete Lawyer. PhD in Law Candidate at the University of Edinburgh. Research Assistant on Climate Change and the Environment at University of Concepción, Chile.
Dr Koldo Casla is a Lecturer at the School of Law and the Director of the Human Rights Centre Clinic of the University of Essex. He is one of the co-editors of the book.