This Discussion Paper is directed at the non-specialist member of the public who has the opportunity to comment on a draft constitution proposed for adoption in their country.
It assumes that it is probably worthwhile to take the trouble to respond and it suggests why and how you as a citizen might respond. It will be especially useful to previously marginalized sections of society and their members, with special emphasis on women.
The Women and Constitution-Building Initiative in Nepal was initiated in June 2008 in the spirit of a newly formed Constitution Assembly which saw the election of a high percentage of women. International IDEA, together with its partners, identified a need for a greater understanding of how a constitution affects women’s lives and how women can contribute to the process of making a new constitution. Strategies were needed to support the creation of an inclusive political environment in a crucial period of Nepal’s history.
The paper discusses various aspects of the constitution-building process, including why constitution makers engage in public consultation, understanding what is expected of the public when they respond to consultations, how to tackle the task of understanding a constitution and its structure, and understanding the difference between rights and other things.
What is a constitution?
Why do constitution-makers engage in public consultation: what do they hope to get out of it?
What should you respond?
Understanding what is expected of you - the timetable, how to make submissions, the scope for changing the document
Improving the process
How to tackle the task of understanding the constitution
On not being afraid of a constitution
The structure of a constitution
Things that constitutions do: different types of provision
Focus on what concerns you
How to find what concerns you
On not focusing only on human rights
On understanding the difference between rights and other things
On being realistic
Suppose you are going to have a very short time to comment
Annex 1. A checklist of issues that a constitution is likely to deal with
Annex 2. Questions for a gender audit of the draft constitution