Press Release

Constitutional Process in Chile: IACHR and OHCHR Welcome Approval of Measures That Promote the Participation of Indigenous Peoples and People with Disabilities, and Ask to Ensure the Participation of Tribal People of African Descent

December 30, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - As Chile embarks on the process of creating a new constitution, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Regional Office for South America of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) welcome the approval by the National Congress and the submission to the Office of the President of the so-called Reserved Seats Bill, which modifies Chile’s Political Constitution to reserve seats for representatives of indigenous peoples in the Constitutional Convention and promotes the participation of persons with disabilities. However, the IACHR and OHCHR noted with extreme concern the failure of the Chamber of Deputies to approve a seat reserved for Chile’s tribal people of African descent.

The IACHR and the OHCHR acknowledged that including seats reserved for indigenous peoples in the Constitutional Convention is an important step toward recognizing the ethnic and racial rights of indigenous peoples in Chile. They also drew attention to the adoption of affirmative measures that seek to promote the involvement of people with disabilities in the lists for the constitutional body that are presented by political parties or fronts.

The IACHR and OHCHR also welcomed the adoption of Law No. 21.151 of 2019, which granted legal recognition to Chilean tribal people of African descent, their cultural identity, historical traditions, institutions, and world view, and stipulated their right to be consulted whenever legislative or administrative measures are planned that may affect them directly.

In this regard, the IACHR and OHCHR reminded the State that full recognition of Chilean tribal people of African descent requires the right to participate in managing public affairs either directly or through freely elected representatives, in accordance with the American Convention on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. In this regard, the Inter-American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination stipulate that States should ensure that their political and legal systems reflect diversity appropriately. They must also include affirmative action or special measures to ensure that groups and individuals who are subject to racial discrimination enjoy equal conditions of opportunity, inclusion, and progress.

Accordingly, the IACHR and OHCHR urged the State of Chile to guarantee the right of Chilean tribal people of African descent to participate in political life during the process of drafting the Constitutional Convention through affirmative action such as establishing a reserved seat. Finally, the OHCHR and the IACHR acknowledged the Chilean State’s commitment to the universal and inter-American human rights systems for protecting people of African descent and eliminating racial discrimination.

The IACHR also called on the Chilean State to ratify the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance, underlining that universal ratification of inter-American instruments is a vital step toward respecting and guaranteeing the human rights of all people in the Americas.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 313/20