Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC): UC Forum addresses the Interculturality Program and issues of the constituent proposal

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Fundamental Right, Decentralization and Regionalization were aspects that were analyzed during the third meeting this year of the UC University Forum. The initiative includes four annual sessions, where its members reflect on issues of importance to the university community. “It is one more example of the will of the university to debate ideas, confront positions and present arguments for and against a constitutional text that is going to be offered for a plebiscitation on September 4 in our country,” said the rector Ignacio Sanchez.

The third session of this year’s UC University Forum , held in person at the “San Alberto Hurtado” Hall of Honor of the UC headquarters, on Wednesday, August 24, had a high turnout and enthusiastic participation from its members.

The University Forum was born in 2017, as a space for reflection and exchange to analyze topics of interest to the institution. After five years of march, it has become a meeting point of great importance for the coexistence of the community. Its members meet in four annual sessions, two per semester, to analyze and express concerns on issues of relevance to the institution.

On this occasion, the lectures were opened by the professor of the School of Psychology Roberto González, who leads the UC Interculturality Program, and showed the progress made in this area, the work being done and the new developments focused on proposals for improvements.

This program is aimed at developing a university policy that promotes greater interculturality in the institution. UC has set out to carry out a set of initiatives that will make it possible to globally address the incorporation into the university community of people from some original people or who belong to migrant groups. As of 2021, about 90 people from all levels of the university began to work on a program aligned with the approaches established by Pope Francis in his apostolic and encyclical letters , and with the 2020-2025 Development Plan.

“What this program seeks is to give a boost to the presence of the population of native peoples and the migrant population within our institution, and I believe that very concrete steps are being taken so that this is a program that is established in the university and that grow in the coming years”, said the rector Ignacio Sánchez.

“What this program (UC Interculturality) seeks is to give a boost to the presence of the population of native peoples and the migrant population within our institution, and I believe that very concrete steps are being taken so that this is a program that is established in the university and that it will grow in the coming years”- rector Ignacio Sánchez.

For his part, Roberto González stressed that, by launching this program, the university has taken a fundamental step to contribute from its work in the field of training people, the creation and transfer of knowledge, to recognize and value interculturality as a central aspect of university life. “We trust that through dialogue and positive experiences of intercultural contact we will be able to learn and enrich each other within the framework of a plural society”, he underlined.

Later, professors Alejandra Ovalle, from the Faculty of Law , and Valeria Palanza, dean of the Faculty of History, Geography and Political Science, and former constituents Ricardo Montero, former student of the Faculty of Law, and Rodrigo Alvarez, professor of that same Faculty , addressed issues of the constituent proposal that have to do with Fundamental Law, with changes to the Executive and Legislative Power and the judicial system, and with Decentralization and Regionalization.

The panelists presented their views on these issues and later there was a dialogue between them and answers to the questions of the members of the Forum, which allowed clarifying positions and positions.

“I think that the members of the Forum were very impressed with the capacity for dialogue, respect and exposure of ideas. This is one more example of the will of the university to debate ideas, confront positions and expose arguments for and against a constitutional text that is going to be offered for a plebiscitation on September 4 in our country”, added the rector.

“We trust that through dialogue and positive experiences of intercultural contact we will be able to learn and enrich each other within the framework of a plural society.” Roberto González, UC Interculturality Program

Fundamental right
In the second stage of the Forum, Professor Alejandra Ovalle referred to the proposal for the new Constitution.

“The first challenge of an extensive catalog of rights is to incorporate in more or less equivalent terms the desires and interests of all sectors of society. If this does not happen, the broad recognition and adherence that a Constitution should attract is affected, since before an extensive catalog of rights, the perception of exclusion from the political pact becomes more acute. On the other hand, if certain preferences are incorporated, reinforced and extensively developed, and others are not, the balance between the positions in the politics of the future is broken,” he indicated the teacher.

He argued that this is a deficiency of the proposed new Constitution and referred to the issue of abortion to illustrate the imbalance between the different positions: “On the one hand, the proposal does not recognize the right to life of the person who is about to be born nor imposes on the State a duty to protect. On the other hand, it enshrines in broad terms sexual and reproductive rights that include the interruption of pregnancy, guaranteeing their exercise free of interference by third parties. In this way, in a highly controversial issue at the Within society, the proposal provides solid constitutional grounds to oppose restrictions on abortion, and very few to support such limitations,” said the Law School academic.

Decentralization, Regionalization
For her part, the professor and dean Valeria Palanza referred to issues of Regionalization and Decentralization. She pointed out that the proposed constitutional text lays the groundwork for deep decentralization, but only the groundwork. It arises in response to the demands for political decentralization that citizens have been raising for a long time.

“The foundations that the proposal lays advance on what exists today, but the process will be defined by the legislation that is established on the subject. This, however, with several important safeguards that also put limits on the level of autonomy. It must be specified that a federal state is not established. This is evident because although the regions may give themselves statutes, they will require the approval of the national legislature. The central body will continue to rule decisively over the regions. Regionalization occurs in the two dimensions of relevance, both at the level of self-government and at the level of shared government”, he explained.

In reference to the dimension of shared government, he said that this is achieved with the establishment of the Chamber of the Regions, which replaces the Senate. This chamber provides representation to all regions on an equal footing, so that the less populated regions participate on an equal footing in decisions of regional relevance.

Regarding self-government, which is where decentralization becomes tangible, Professor Palanza indicated that the text proposes an important decentralization in three dimensions: political, administrative and fiscal. A significant political decentralization is proposed by eliminating the figure of the presidential delegate (who today competes in the regions with the regional governors) and establishing the Regional Assemblies, which will have expanded functions with respect to the current CoRes even when they will not be able to legislate.

Meanwhile, regarding administrative decentralization, he pointed out that it is not the dimension that most affects regional self-government, as can be evidenced by the significant levels of administrative decentralization that exist in the current constitution. In this sense, the proposed text establishes that the decentralization of administrative powers must be accompanied by timely and sufficient personnel and financial resources for its proper execution. At the same time, it establishes limits to the design of public policies at the local level that are given by the objective of territorial equality and sustainable development, as well as by the principles of budget sufficiency, inclusion and interculturality, among others. In short, “the text proposes a floor given by the powers currently in the hands of the presidential delegate,

Finally, Ricardo Montero valued that the UC opens spaces for discussion and the debate is the protagonist of the national reality. “It is fundamental that the Catholic University coordinates a debate that is diverse, that is open to the national reality, that can involve its directors as well as its academics, administrators, students, and the entire university community. It is a fundamental role that one of the country’s free universities has, and the political role, the role of society, the role of a more egalitarian, more cohesive society, must be in the guidelines and objectives of training and of the university debate”, highlighted the former UC student.

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