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Constitute as a Verb: The Empirical Benefits of Constitutional Wetland Protections

According to a 2012 United Nations report, humans destroyed 50% of the world’s wetlands since the 1990’s ( The Oxford English Dictionary defines constitute as “giving legal or official form or shape to” and this blog entry empirically examines national constitutions. While 154 out of the world’s 202 constitutions give explicit protection to the environment, only six states give explicit protections for wetlands (Constitute Project). As of September, 2020, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Nepal, Switzerland, Uganda, and Yemen were the only six states with constitutional protections for wetlands. The Environmental Conventions Index (ECI), an empirical tool for assessing the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements (environmental treaties between two or more states) (Escobar-Pemberthy and Ivanova, 2020). The ECI reveals that the six states with constitutional protections for wetlands scored 12.07% better than their regional peers on implementing the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, which protects wetlands of international importance. Similarly, the six states with constitutional protections scored 12.03% better than the global implementation average according to the ECI. If Yemen is removed from the constitutional sample (due to conflict), states with constitutional protections for wetlands scored 22.62% better than regional averages and 22.46% better than the global ECI average for the Ramsar Convention.

Constitutional protections for wetlands matter because they emperically aid Ramsar wetland management amid increased development, resource depletion, and wetland destruction (due to many factors such as agriculture, movement of peoples, shrimp farming, land management policies, etc.). Several scholars, such as Farrier et. al (2000), suggest that increased empirical science on Ramsar sites could lead to better policy outcomes. In conclusion, constitutional protections for wetlands is an uncharted and fruitful new area of research that can enrich social, policy, economic, and ecological analyses of wetlands and water management internationally.

States with Constitutional Protections for Wetlands (Sept. 2020)


Escobar-Pemberthy, Natalia, and Maria Ivanova. "Implementation of Multilateral Environmental Agreements: Rationale and Design of the Environmental Conventions Index." Sustainability 12.17 (2020): 7098. "Constitute, v." OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2020. Web. 26 August 2020.

Fan, Jinxue. "Constitutional Environmental Rights: An Investigation and Analysis Based on Constitutional Texts of All Countries." J. Hum. Rts. 16 (2017): 476.

Farrier, David, and Linda Tucker. "Wise use of wetlands under the Ramsar Convention: a challenge for meaningful implementation of international law." Journal of Environmental Law 12.1 (2000): 21-42.

Maltchik, Leonardo, et al. "Legislation for wetland conservation in Brazil: Are existing terms and definitions sufficient?." Environmental Conservation 45.3 (2018): 301-305 Half of all wetlands destroyed since 1900, report says. Retrieved from:'s,said%20the%20report%20released%20Tuesday.

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