Constitutional arrangements - resources and comment

Quakers commit to constitutional change

22 May 2011

(Whanganui) - A new Bolivian Constitution inspired Quakers, The Religious Society of Friends in Aotearoa/New Zealand, at their Yearly Meeting in Whanganui as to what is possible in constitutional change.

The new Bolivian Constitution recognises the rights of 36 distinct indigenous nations and creates a distinct indigenous legal system that will run parallel to the state system of courts. The Bolivian constitution also recognises indigenous beliefs in Pachamama (the nurturing principle of mother earth) as one of the sources of inspiration for the Bolivian nation. It is provides a model of indigenous self-determination within the framework of legacy institutions from a history of colonialism stretching back some 516 years.

Quakers decided to develop views to contribute to the Constitutional Review which is part of the support agreement between the National Party and the Maori Party. Quakers have long recognised that change to "share power" more justly in our society is necessary. This goes right back to the advice given to Quaker settlers in 1840 to "be careful neither directly nor indirectly to inflict injury upon the natives."

Quakers have a commitment to honouring the Te Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi. In 1988-89 their Yearly Meeting adopted a statement titled Bicultural Issues, a core element of which stated:

"We recognise the Treaty of Waitangi/Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a living document fundamental to the life of this nation, and we commit ourselves to the principle of partnership which it embodies."

In 1995 Friends confirmed their commitment by acknowledging that the guarantees to Maori given in the Treaty of Waitangi had not been honoured over 150 years. They undertook to start working towards new constitutional arrangements to give effect to the Treaty.

In 2008 Quakers adopted a Statement on Constitutional Change. They reaffirmed their Statement on Bicultural Issues of 1989 and in particular acknowledged that honouring the Treaty of Waitangi would involve " giving up by Pakeha of exclusive decision-making in the institutions of society."

Bolivia demonstrates that constitutions can provide the basis for right relationships not only amongst members of the community but also between the community and the environment.

For further information contact: Murray Short,
Convenor Quaker Treaty Relationships Group,
Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa New Zealand,
The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) / Te Hahi Tuhauwiri

Indigenous peoples' rights   |   Peace Movement Aotearoa