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How to Sell Out Your Country With Just One Word

13 October 2008 — Vol. 10/ No. 43

The second chapter of article 417 of the recently approved Constitution of Ecuador reads:

"The international treaties ratified by Ecuador will be subject to the established tenets of the Constitution. In the case of treaties and other international human rights instruments, these principles will be understood to be pro-human, non-restricting of rights, of direct applicability and of open clause in the Constitution."

Notice how "international treaties" and "international human rights instruments" are now considered equivalent, when in reality, the difference is enormous. This change, which would go unnoticed by all but the most perceptive citizen, essentially allows for Ecuadorian laws to be generated by people other than Ecuadorians. In this way, the sovereignty of Ecuador has been sold abroad by its own constitution.

There have been less than a dozen international human rights treaties signed by Ecuador. These treaties have been fruit of a global diplomatic consensus in which Ecuador was represented by its foreign ministry. All of these treaties were carefully worded so as not to transgress Ecuador's legal framework, but rather to elaborate it and, in some cases, to reinforce it. As a result, these treaties are binding to the point of effectively being law in Ecuador.

The act of changing the word "treaties" (which has always been the term used in previous Constitutions) to "international instruments" lowers the standard that resolutions need to meet in order to be legally binding on the people of Ecuador. Now, Ecuador is not only required to recognize documents drafted by diplomatic bodies, but also to recognize resolutions passed by less rigorous processes. Under this new constitution, even interest groups assembled by ministries may produce a document that is considered binding, if one or two activists from a country attend an international conference. This is absolutely unprecedented. Such documents have never been considered binding on any country, including Ecuador, and with good reason. More often than not, such interest groups pursue objectives that are directly at odds with existing national legislation.

To equate "treaties" and "human rights instruments" is to open the door to interest groups from around the world to impose binding laws on Ecuadorians. "Reproductive rights" organizations in New York City, for example, will plan and execute such laws. For example:

  1. Certain international conferences—conferences with far-left ideological agendas with no diplomatic consensus—could be organized by the UN and NGOs and pass resolutions. Under the new rules, conferences like the 1994 Cairo population conference or Beijing conference on women could generate documents that would be legally binding in Ecuador.

  2. Resolutions produced by committees like CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women), whose members are pro-abortion activists, would be legally binding. Although CEDAW has produced a binding human rights treaty, the recommendations of its New York-based committee are not binding. Its recommendations in favor of the legalization of abortion are even less so, since the word "abortion" is not mentioned a single time in the treaty. Yet these CEDAW recommendations in favor of abortion have been accepted in many international "human rights instruments." The inclusion of the word "instruments" into the constitution of Ecuador means that such recommendations will now be considered Ecuadorian law.

Before, Ecuador's laws were approved by her Congress in Quito, the capital. Now, with the new Constitution, these laws can also be written by abortion-and feminist-minded interest groups from other countries.

Carlos Polo is the Director of the Peru office of the Population Research Institute

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