Constitutions Made Simple
The Arab Spring revolutions of 2011 and other uprisings against autocratic, corrupt or under-performing governments have highlighted the role of ordinary citizens, through the internet and social media, in orchestrating the downfall of regimes, while also showing the difficulties faced by ordinary citizens (owing partly to a lack of information and constitutional understanding) in seeking to engage in the subsequent constitution-building processes. These whiteboard animation videos are part of International IDEA’s contribution to civic education in support of such constitution-building processes. They explain the basic concepts of constitutionalism and constitution building to non-specialist audiences, with an emphasis on helping citizens to understand what a constitution is and does, how constitutions are made, and why the constitution is relevant to their lives. The videos are designed to be viewed online and shared through social media, but could also be used in more structured settings, such as a workshop or seminar, to provide a good general introduction to the subject on which to base further discussions or activities.
What is a constitution?
- We need government, but government must be controlled if it is to serve the people.
- Constitution is a supreme law that is binding even on the government.
- A constitution organises and constrains power.
- A constitution defines a state and the rights of its citizen.
- In a democratic order, the Constitution ensures that the people ultimately control the Government.
How are constitutions made?
- Constitution-building is a Process.
- The process starts before and ends after agreeing the text.
- Broad agreement and public support key to success of the process.
- Building agreement takes time and will involve compromises.
- ‘We the people’ means everyone.
Why do constitutions matter?
- Constitutions are of indirect benefit: they can influence the quality of democracy, which improves the ability and willingness of those exercising power to use their power for the benefit of society.
- Constitutional change, although indirect, can be transformative.
- Constitutions are not just for lawyers, politicians and public servants, but for everyone.