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Constitution-Building and the Rule of Law

Strengthening the Guardrails of Constitutional Democracy

Sumit Bisarya, Head of the Constitution-Building Programme at International  IDEA.
Constitution-building does not end with the promulgation of a text. To build a robust constitutional democracy, requires ongoing work by political leaders, civil society and the citizens to ensure the promises of the constitution are upheld, and to review and revise the constitution when necessary.

The spectre of democratic backsliding adds additional urgency to the need for constitutional maintenance.

Populism is the antithesis of constitutional democracy, often seeking to dismantle crucial checks and balances such as an independent judiciary, independent media and vibrant opposition in favour of mob rule led by the incumbent government. Democracies must, more than ever, consider ''fixing the roof when the sun is shining'', by assessing their constitutional frameworks for potential vulnerabilities before it is too late. 

International IDEA conducts a range of activities to support the ongoing strengthening of constitutional democracy. This includes constitutional assessments:

  • General assessment of constitutional performance. International IDEA, together with Professor Tom Ginsburg of the University of Chicago, developed a methodology to review the performance of constitutions. This exercise has been conducted in contexts as varied as South Africa, Iraq, Sri Lanka and the Philippines
  • Lessons Learned for Democratic Resilience to Backsliding. International IDEA published a report which catalogues the most common strategies and tactics employed by backsliding governments and provides recommendations in the form of lessons learned for institutional design. 
  • Specific Issue Constitutional Assessments. International IDEA has developed tools to assess constitutional texts for gender sensitivity and for Indigenous People's Rights.

Raising Constitutional Awareness

International IDEA conducts in-person and online trainings for a range of participants seeking strong capacity to engage in constitution-making processes. These trainings can be conducted at a range of levels of knowledge, either at national level or with multi-national participation, with a view to establishing an understanding of the key elements of constitutions, why they matter and how constitution making processes take place.

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