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UC Chile's Contributions to the Chilean Constituent Process

UC Chile has made a wide range of contributions to this historic milestone. With gender parity and representation of indigenous peoples, a democratically elected Convention will draft our future Political State Constitution.

voting ballot box

photo_camera UC has sought to contribute to this historical process from its different faculties, units, and centers. The University is a space for "analyzing with respect, pluralism, and open-mindedness, thinking about Chile's development," said President Sánchez. (Credit: Elections/Servel)

As a country, Chile is facing a historical process. For the first time in our existence as a republic, we chose a Constitutional Convention, made up of democratically elected citizens, with the task of drafting a new Constitution. It is an experience that has turned the eyes of much of the world on us.

Given this, the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC Chile) decided to contribute from its different faculties, units, and centers in various areas.

"The role of universities, as key institutions in the integral education of young people and the creation of new knowledge, is fundamental," said President Ignacio Sánchez.

"From the university sphere, we can analyze the constituent process with respect, pluralism, and open-mindedness. We want to think about the development of Chile, and issues so diverse and relevant as the right to life and the dignity of the individual, religious freedom, education and freedom of teaching, the right of indigenous peoples, and sustainability."

The University's contributions have been varied and focused on different topics: seminars and talks, working commissions, proposals, meetings with stakeholders, courses open to the community, capsules on social networks, books and publications, and a citizen dialogue platform, among others.

For this reason, UC Chile created a website (in Spanish) to group these contributions in an organized and straightforward way, which is helpful for those who want to go deeper into the subject.

Alejandra Ovalle, professor of the Faculty of Law, who has led the initiative of the Constituent Process at UC and is also director of the Constitutional Forum UC, explained:

"The constituent process has motivated many faculties, units, centers, and groups of faculty members to contribute. The most diverse areas want to reflect on the fundamental bases that will regulate our community life. That is why we wanted to gather and organize the different contributions developed on a web platform. It is a tool to facilitate access to all the University's work around the constituent process."

UC Constitutional Process Commission

Among the initiatives is the "UC Constitutional Process Commission."

It was created by the University President and made up of twenty UC Chile faculties from different disciplines.

They prepared a document that seeks to lay the foundations on which the work of the Constitutional Convention should be based.

UC Constitutional Forum: Citizen education and contributions to the constitutional discussion

Various commissions of the UC Constitutional Forum are developing proposals on human dignity, social and economic order, institutional organization, beliefs, life and health, water, digital identity, and justice.  (Credit: País Circular)
Various commissions of the UC Constitutional Forum are developing proposals on human dignity, social and economic order, institutional organization, beliefs, life and health, water, digital identity, and justice. (Credit: País Circular)

Contributing to the constitutional debate and the informed participation of citizens is the objective of the UC Constitutional Forum, an initiative led by the Faculty of Law, with the involvement of other faculties and professors of the University.

Through commissions made up of professors from different disciplines, proposals are being prepared on constitutional content and other input for the Convention on:

  • human dignity,
  • social and economic order,
  • institutional organization,
  • beliefs,
  • life and health,
  • water,
  • and digital identity and justice.

They also prepared a series of audiovisual capsules with basic concepts as:

  • What is a constitution?
  • Constitutional foundations.
  • Constitutional history.
  • Principles of social order.
  • Fundamental rights and duties.
  • The constituent process.

The Faculty of Law also made an online course available to provide more information on the constitutional discussion to the community.

Similarly, the Public Law Department of the Faculty of Law and Ediciones UC Publishing House published "Conceptos fundamentales para el debate constitucional" (in English: Fundamental Concepts for the Constitutional Debate), a book about the constituent process.

"Our objective was to reach the general public for civic education," said law professor Sebastián Soto, coordinator of the publication, together with professor Constanza Hube. According to Professor Soto, it is "sort of a dictionary with basic and crucial constitutional aspects." More than 50 professors from the Faculty of Law participated.

 The free publication is written in plain language and seeks to reach a mass audience. 

One of the forum's works, related to the drafting of the new Constitution, was recently published. It helps to contribute to reaching agreements the Convention will face through theoretical and methodological tools.

Cristián Saieh, director of the UC Negotiation Program and in charge of the commission, explained:

"The document is an interdisciplinary work, subscribed by UC faculty members, which shows the importance of approaching the constituent process as an instance of deliberation and effective communication, with a focus on cooperative relations.

The work addresses issues as relevant to the process as:

  • the exhaustive preparation for dialogue,
  • the need for active and genuine listening,
  • the importance of basing proposals on legitimate criteria 
  • and the necessary focus on a long-term collaborative relationship."

Download "Herramientas para la construcción de acuerdos constitucionales" (Tools for the construction of constitutional agreements) document (in Spanish)

Another more technical work has been carried out since May 2020 by the Constitutional Process Working Group. They are a team of professors from the Faculty of Law convened by the UC Chile Justice Reforms Program.

Its objective is to critically analyze the current constitutional procedural rules in the Political Constitution and make proposals for improvement to be considered in a new charter.

According to the coordinator of this work, law professor Nicolas Frías, the experience has been "interesting, with a debate on different topics, with faculty experienced in different areas, such as the public sector, civil litigation, prosecution, etc."

The work has been very collaborative and will be presented in a document with concrete proposals on this topic.

UC Public Policy Center: Citizen conversations and reflection on critical issues

More than eight thousand people participated in a unique civic dialogue initiative: "Tenemos Que Hablar de Chile" (We need to talk about Chile).

Led by UC Chile -through the UC Public Policy Center- and Universidad de Chile- ordinary people, could express their reflections. 

Over eight months, conversations were held by video call, in which people who had never met before talked to each other. 

"Chile a Escala" (Chile at Scale) was another initiative, where more than 8 thousand people from Chile's 346 municipalities participated in the event, in addition to citizen consultations on 18 national issues. 

The main conclusions are about:

  • diversity and coexistence issues
  • feelings of uncertainty, insecurity, and hope that arise from this moment
  • the need for a change in politics, for a "responsive" State
  • and a new political praxis or "political system."

Education is also an essential topic.

Not only in its roles in personal development, social mobility, fundamental right, and generator of opportunities but especially in its civic function, as a mechanism of collective cohesion.

Emphasis was also placed on empathy, solidarity, and resilience as a matter of identity, participation as a bond, and citizen oversight; and the importance of "the small-scale": daily life, work, and money worries. 

The Public Policy Center has also led the preparation of documents that gather the conclusions of working groups on three topics:

  • Sustainability and Environment
  • Decentralization
  • Native Peoples

Director Ignacio Irarrázaval explained the aim is to update concepts and provide information that will allow decision-making on these issues within the framework of the constitutional debate.

Read the publications of the Public Policy Center (in Spanish)

They are also initiating work on two other topics:

  • Education, linked to the freedom of and right to education.
  • Social rights, addressing how and to what extent they are protected and made explicit in the Constitution.

"We want to contribute as the discussion progresses," said Irarrázaval, and added that the great challenge is "to reach the convention delegates with these contributions, which will be useful for decision-making."

It is why UC Chile and Universidad de Chile convened the first virtual meeting with more than one hundred elected constituents a month before the first session of the Convention.

The objective was to generate a dialogue based on the presentation of the results of the discussions and consultations of Tenemos Que Hablar de Chile.

First meeting of elected constituents, called by UC Chile and University of Chile (in Spanish)

President Ignacio Sánchez told to El Mercurio newspaper: "An essential aspect is that chosen people get to know each other. They need to talk in confidence and approach each other from a human and personal side. Only there, they can work and analyze the issues and proposals that are so important for the country."

Center for Intercultural and Indigenous Studies: The participation of indigenous peoples

The Constitutional Convention has 17 seats reserved for native peoples. It is a historic milestone that ensures their participation in the process. (Credit: CIIR)
The Constitutional Convention has 17 seats reserved for native peoples. It is a historic milestone that ensures their participation in the process.

Of the 155 elected Constitutional Convention members, 17 seats are reserved for native peoples. A historic milestone that ensures their participation in the Constitutional Convention and the Center for Intercultural and Indigenous Studies (CIIR Spanish acronym) has closely followed various activities.

The first was the public opinion study "Pueblos originarios y Nueva Constitución" (Native peoples and the new Constitution), carried out in three versions. 

At the same time, two more measurements are expected this year.

"We have found that there is a dissociation between the people and the political elite concerning native peoples," said Miguel Fernández, coordinator of the CIIR's Public Policy unit. 

"For example, more than 80% of those consulted agree that native peoples should be constitutionally recognized. But the political discussion appears much more politicized. The same with other aspects such as the willingness to recognize their language or rights linked to cultural/symbolic issues," he added.

(Read the third measurement report, March 2021).

They also closely followed seat allocation, generating a reflection through policy papers or documents with political proposals and discussions with the participation of academic and indigenous organizations.

As well as a Constituent School for Indigenous Candidatures

Now that the representatives have been elected, the support work begins.

"We want to make proposals to be considered in the conversation," explained Miguel Fernández. He clarified that it is not only a question of their opinion on issues related to indigenous peoples but that native people should be "an active part of the debate."

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