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Bolivian foreign affairs minister speaks on the rights of mother earth

Minister Choquehuanca speaks at the University of Calgary on the Rights of Mother Earth June 9, 2016.

Originally published in UToday June 17, 2016. Latin American Research Centre (LARC) and University of Calgary International recently hosted Bolivian Foreign Affairs Minister David Choquehuanca Céspedes for a public talk on The Rights of Mother Earth to discuss our connections and obligations to the environment.

Minister Choquehuanca has served in the Bolivian cabinet since 2006. He has extensive experience in political and social activism in support of indigenous groups in Bolivia.

The event started with a prayer and welcoming ceremony from Anita Eagle Bear. Opening remarks were made by Pablo Policzer, director of LARC, and Claudia Rocabado, chargé d’ affaires, Embassy of Plurinational State of Bolivia in Canada.

“The United Nations has declared that earth shall not be called a planet, but rather mother earth,” Choquehuanca said during his lecture. “There isn’t a question of whether mother earth has rights — as our mother, we are no longer talking about an object, it’s a subject, and that means it has rights. Indigenous people want to protect mother earth because she feeds us all — therefore we are all brothers and sisters.”

'A fever called climate change'

During the lecture, Choquehaunca emphasized the importance of coming together to save mother earth and discussed how we are all a part of nature.

“Mother earth is sick. She has a fever, a fever called climate change,” Choquehaunca said. “This is why it is important to talk about rights. We have to live in harmony with our environment.”

“It was a fascinating insight into the philosophy — even the cosmology — behind Bolivia’s government policies,” Policzer says of the lecture. “It certainly was an eye-opener.”

University's connections to Bolivia

“We are happy to have our colleagues here from Bolivia providing insight into the importance of protecting mother earth,” says Janaka Ruwanpura, vice-provost (international). “We always look for opportunities to strengthen our international collaborations, and we are so pleased we were able to host Minister Choquehuanca while he was here for the Global Petroleum Show.” Ruwanpura, along with Pierre-Gerlier Forest and several other executives, had an earlier meeting with Minister Choquehuanca at the School of Public Policy to explore potential partnerships in Bolivia.

The University of Calgary’s ties with Bolivia include a past project in water management research with Universidad Mayor Real y Pontificia and San Francisco Xavier de Chuquisaca that created the first master’s program in water management in the country. Due to the success of the program and Minister Choquehuanca’s visit, further opportunities in the area are being explored.