Panama: A law gives nature “the right to exist, endure and regenerate its cycles”

It seemed futile to specify it and yet, despite repeated attacks on biodiversity, Panama has just explicitly recognized nature’s ‘right to exist’. Through this inspiring law, the South American country guarantees the protection of its fauna and flora and in particular conditions for the extraction of minerals and metals and energy policy with respect for the living. An effective way to put nature back at the center, where until then people ruthlessly wanted to steal the leading role…

Breathtaking biodiversity thrives on this thin strip of land connecting the two Americas. Tropical forests and mangroves are home to more than 10,000 species of plants and animals, including the jaguar or the spectacled bear. In these lands, which as everywhere are threatened by deforestation and global warming, indigenous peoples are trying to survive and flourish their way of life, which is closely linked to nature.

To ensure their survival and that of their habitat, Panama’s President Laurentio Cortizo passed a law in early March, after a year of debate in the Assembly. The latter recognizes in nature “the right to exist, to persist and to regenerate its cycles”“the right to conserve biodiversity” and “the right to recovery after having suffered direct or indirect damage as a result of any human activity. †

In other words, the Panamanian parliament will now have to consider the impact of its laws and policies on the natural world. The text describes nature as: “a unique, indivisible and self-regulated community of interrelated living beings, elements and ecosystems that supports, welcomes and regenerates all living things in nature. †

Adopting an eco-centric vision

In addition to the obligation that will now weigh on Panamanian lawmakers, new rights are granted natural or legal persons the opportunity to represent the interests of nature in court. Finally, the text emphasizes the importance of the knowledge of indigenous communities, which must be taken into account when applying the law.

The text, which will enter into force in 2023, completes a legislative arsenal already present in Latin America. As Constanza Prieto Figelist, legal director of the Earth Law Center for Latin America points out: “The adoption of this law is fundamental because it combines the efforts of Colombia and Ecuador to recognize the rights of nature, creating a conservation corridor in the region that opens the doors to a holistic and collaborative management of forests, rivers and ocean. †

Elsewhere in the world, New Zealand, Chile or Mexico have also followed this path. In France, Corsica has also granted specific rights on the Tavignau River. A practice that we would like to see widespread on a global scale!

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