Publications

International IDEA
Constitution Building Publications

A limitation clause enables constitutional rights to be partially limited, to a specified extent and for certain limited and democratically justifiable purposes, while prohibiting restrictions that are harmful to democracy by reason on their purpose, nature or extent.

International IDEA’s Constitution-Building Primers are designed to assist in-country constitution-building or constitutional-reform processes by helping citizens, political parties, civil society organizations, public officials and members of constituent assemblies make wise constitutional choices. They also provide guidance for staff of intergovernmental organizations and other external actors working to provide well informed, context-relevant support to local decision-makers.

Each Primer is written as an introduction for non-specialist readers, and as a convenient aide-memoire for those with prior knowledge of, or experience with, constitution-building. Arranged thematically around the practical choices faced by constitution-builders, the Primers aim to explain complex constitutional issues in a quick and easy way.

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Electoral system design plays a crucial role in political settlement processes.

However, it is a world with which political actors in transitions—and even to some extent the constitutional community itself—often have limited familiarity.

This Discussion Paper is based on a presentation by the author at the fourth Edinburgh Dialogue on post-conflict constitution-building, held in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, on 4–5 December 2017.

It argues that, while the timing, stages and sequencing of a constitutional transition might be thought to be relevant to electoral system choice, there does not currently appear to be any strong link between them.

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This Primer discusses constitutional rules for the selection and removal of parliamentary governments. Governments in parliamentary democracies are not elected directly by the people; rather, they are selected indirectly by or through parliament, are responsible to parliament and may be removed from office by a parliamentary vote of no confidence.

International IDEA’s Constitution-Building Primers are designed to assist in-country constitution-building or constitutional-reform processes by helping citizens, political parties, civil society organizations, public officials and members of constituent assemblies make wise constitutional choices. They also provide guidance for staff of intergovernmental organizations and other external actors working to provide well informed, context-relevant support to local decision-makers.

Each Primer is written as an introduction for non-specialist readers, and as a convenient aide-memoire for those with prior knowledge of, or experience with, constitution-building. Arranged thematically around the practical choices faced by constitution-builders, the Primers aim to explain complex constitutional issues in a quick and easy way.

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This Primer discusses independent regulatory and oversight institutions. These are public bodies, politically neutral and independent from the three main branches of government, whose purpose is to ensure the integrity—and improve the quality and resilience—of democratic governance.

International IDEA’s Constitution-Building Primers are designed to assist in-country constitution-building or constitutional-reform processes by helping citizens, political parties, civil society organizations, public officials and members of constituent assemblies make informed constitutional choices. They also provide guidance for staff of intergovernmental organizations and other external actors working to provide well informed, context-relevant support to local decision-makers.

Each Primer is written as an introduction for non-specialist readers, and as a convenient aide-memoire for those with prior knowledge of, or experience with, constitution-building. Arranged thematically around the practical choices faced by constitution-builders, the Primers aim to explain complex constitutional issues in a quick and easy way.

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Socio-economic rights provide protection for the dignity, freedom and well-being of individuals by guaranteeing state-supported entitlements to education, public health care, housing, a living wage, decent working conditions and other social goods.

International IDEA’s Constitution-Building Primers are designed to assist in-country constitution-building or constitutional-reform processes by helping citizens, political parties, civil society organizations, public officials and members of constituent assemblies make wise constitutional choices. They also provide guidance for staff of intergovernmental organizations and other external actors working to provide well informed, context-relevant support to local decision-makers.

Each Primer is written as an introduction for non-specialist readers, and as a convenient aide-memoire for those with prior knowledge of, or experience with, constitution-building. Arranged thematically around the practical choices faced by constitution-builders, the Primers aim to explain complex constitutional issues in a quick and easy way.

This revised and reformatted edition was published in October 2017.

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International law is an increasingly relevant consideration in constitution-building.

It is therefore helpful for a constitution to prescribe the effect of international law in domestic law. If all or some international law has automatic effect, it is helpful for the constitution to describe its position in the hierarchy of domestic law.

This Constitution Brief was written initially for use in Myanmar, and it explains the nature of international law and explores how it relates to constitution-making. It then addresses four questions about international law that are raised when a constitution is being drafted or substantially changed:

  • Should a constitution mention the relationship between international law and domestic law in the domestic legal system? If so, what are the options?
  • Should a constitution specify how the state enters into binding commitments under international law?
  • What are the implications, if any, of international law for the substance of a constitution?
  • What are the implications, if any, of international law for the process of constitution-making?
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A limitation clause enables constitutional rights to be partially limited, to a specified extent and for certain limited and democratically justifiable purposes, while prohibiting restrictions that are harmful to democracy by reason on their purpose, nature or extent.

International IDEA’s Constitution-Building Primers are designed to assist in-country constitution-building or constitutional-reform processes by helping citizens, political parties, civil society organizations, public officials and members of constituent assemblies make wise constitutional choices. They also provide guidance for staff of intergovernmental organizations and other external actors working to provide well informed, context-relevant support to local decision-makers.

Each Primer is written as an introduction for non-specialist readers, and as a convenient aide-memoire for those with prior knowledge of, or experience with, constitution-building. Arranged thematically around the practical choices faced by constitution-builders, the Primers aim to explain complex constitutional issues in a quick and easy way.

View summary

Electoral system design plays a crucial role in political settlement processes.

However, it is a world with which political actors in transitions—and even to some extent the constitutional community itself—often have limited familiarity.

This Discussion Paper is based on a presentation by the author at the fourth Edinburgh Dialogue on post-conflict constitution-building, held in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, on 4–5 December 2017.

It argues that, while the timing, stages and sequencing of a constitutional transition might be thought to be relevant to electoral system choice, there does not currently appear to be any strong link between them.

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This Constitution Brief provides basic information about the nature and functions of constitutions and is intended for use by constitution-makers and other democratic actors and stakeholders in Myanmar.

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Resource wealth brings a unique set of challenges often known as the ‘resource curse’—challenges which political parties with informed and comprehensive policy positions are well positioned to help address.

Political parties have an important role to play in ensuring that natural resources are managed transparently, accountably and in the long-term best interests of their countries.

According to research by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) and the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), where there is free and equal access to political power, there are stronger laws, institutions and practices in place to help realize the full value of resource extraction and to manage the resulting revenues.

The purpose of this Guide is to examine the role that parties have and can play in resource governance, and to assist political parties looking to develop strong policy positions across a wide range of political and technical topics. The Guide builds on the lessons from a 2015–16 project in Ghana on the development of resource policy positions for political parties, and is informed by six country case studies as well as a broad body of good practice in party engagement and resource governance.

The Guide is the product of a collaboration between International IDEA and NRGI. Both organizations are committed to supporting political parties to develop and follow through on evidence-based resource policy positions.

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This Primer discusses independent regulatory and oversight institutions. These are public bodies, politically neutral and independent from the three main branches of government, whose purpose is to ensure the integrity—and improve the quality and resilience—of democratic governance.

International IDEA’s Constitution-Building Primers are designed to assist in-country constitution-building or constitutional-reform processes by helping citizens, political parties, civil society organizations, public officials and members of constituent assemblies make informed constitutional choices. They also provide guidance for staff of intergovernmental organizations and other external actors working to provide well informed, context-relevant support to local decision-makers.

Each Primer is written as an introduction for non-specialist readers, and as a convenient aide-memoire for those with prior knowledge of, or experience with, constitution-building. Arranged thematically around the practical choices faced by constitution-builders, the Primers aim to explain complex constitutional issues in a quick and easy way.

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International law is an increasingly relevant consideration in constitution-building.

It is therefore helpful for a constitution to prescribe the effect of international law in domestic law. If all or some international law has automatic effect, it is helpful for the constitution to describe its position in the hierarchy of domestic law.

This Constitution Brief was written initially for use in Myanmar, and it explains the nature of international law and explores how it relates to constitution-making. It then addresses four questions about international law that are raised when a constitution is being drafted or substantially changed:

  • Should a constitution mention the relationship between international law and domestic law in the domestic legal system? If so, what are the options?
  • Should a constitution specify how the state enters into binding commitments under international law?
  • What are the implications, if any, of international law for the substance of a constitution?
  • What are the implications, if any, of international law for the process of constitution-making?
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Socio-economic rights provide protection for the dignity, freedom and well-being of individuals by guaranteeing state-supported entitlements to education, public health care, housing, a living wage, decent working conditions and other social goods.

International IDEA’s Constitution-Building Primers are designed to assist in-country constitution-building or constitutional-reform processes by helping citizens, political parties, civil society organizations, public officials and members of constituent assemblies make wise constitutional choices. They also provide guidance for staff of intergovernmental organizations and other external actors working to provide well informed, context-relevant support to local decision-makers.

Each Primer is written as an introduction for non-specialist readers, and as a convenient aide-memoire for those with prior knowledge of, or experience with, constitution-building. Arranged thematically around the practical choices faced by constitution-builders, the Primers aim to explain complex constitutional issues in a quick and easy way.

This revised and reformatted edition was published in October 2017.

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The vast majority of contemporary constitutions describe the basic principles of the state, the structures and processes of government and the fundamental rights of citizens in a higher law that cannot be unilaterally changed by an ordinary legislative act. This higher law is usually referred to as a constitution.

International IDEA’s Constitution-Building Primers are designed to assist in-country constitution-building or constitutional-reform processes by helping citizens, political parties, civil society organizations, public officials and members of constituent assemblies make wise constitutional choices. They also provide guidance for staff of intergovernmental organizations and other external actors working to provide well informed, context-relevant support to local decision-makers.

Each Primer is written as an introduction for non-specialist readers, and as a convenient aide-memoire for those with prior knowledge of, or experience with, constitution-building. Arranged thematically around the practical choices faced by constitution-builders, the Primers aim to explain complex constitutional issues in a quick and easy way.

This revised and reformatted edition was published in October 2017.

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Direct democracy describes those rules, institutions and processes that enable the public to vote directly on a proposed constitutional amendment, law, treaty or policy decision. The most important forms of direct democracy covered in this Primer are referendums and initiatives.

International IDEA’s Constitution-Building Primers are designed to assist in-country constitution-building or constitutional-reform processes by helping citizens, political parties, civil society organizations, public officials and members of constituent assemblies make wise constitutional choices.

They also provide guidance for staff of intergovernmental organizations and other external actors working to provide well informed, context-relevant support to local decision-makers.

Each Primer is written as an introduction for non-specialist readers, and as a convenient aide-memoire for those with prior knowledge of, or experience with, constitution-building. Arranged thematically around the practical choices faced by constitution-builders, the Primers aim to explain complex constitutional issues in a quick and easy way.

This revised and reformatted edition was published in October 2017.

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The end-game of violent conflict is perhaps the most difficult phase of transformation in a hugely difficult process.

In that phase, parties need two overall aids. They need to be able to avail themselves of the most effective and appropriate dialogue process to facilitate their negotiations; and they then need to successfully negotiate a sustainable settlement by putting in place effective and appropriate democratic structures and political institutions.

This Handbook provides practical advice on how to broker peace in countries emerging from deep-rooted conflict and outlines options negotiators can draw upon when trying to build or rebuild democracy. It includes a thorough overview of democratic levers, including power-sharing formulas, questions of federalism and autonomy, options for minority rights, constitutional safeguards and many others.

The Handbook also analyses actual negotiated settlements in countries including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Fiji, Northern Ireland, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea and South Africa. Written by international experts and experienced negotiators, the Handbook is designed as a quick reference tool containing numerous case studies, fact sheets and practical examples.

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Local democracy is the self-government of cities, towns, villages and districts by democratic means—typically, but not exclusively, through elected mayors, councils and other local officials.

International IDEA’s Constitution-Building Primers are designed to assist in-country constitution-building or constitutional-reform processes by helping citizens, political parties, civil society organizations, public officials and members of constituent assemblies make wise constitutional choices. They also provide guidance for staff of intergovernmental organizations and other external actors working to provide well informed, context-relevant support to local decision-makers.

Each Primer is written as an introduction for non-specialist readers, and as a convenient aide-memoire for those with prior knowledge of, or experience with, constitution-building. Arranged thematically around the practical choices faced by constitution-builders, the Primers aim to explain complex constitutional issues in a quick and easy way.

This revised and reformatted edition was published in October 2017.

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The content of a constitution provides a blueprint for the operation of a state, guarantees rights and outlines mechanisms for their enforcement, as well as shapes the future of a nation.

Constitutions that emerge after conflict are often a result of negotiated settlements and competition between many forces including identity-based groups, former parties to conflict, political and military actors and international actors.

This Handbook provides an essential foundation for understanding constitutions and constitution building. Full of world examples of groundbreaking agreements and innovative provisions adopted during processes of constitutional change, the Guide offers a wide range of examples of how constitutions develop and how their development can establish and entrench democratic values. 

Beyond comparative examples, the Handbook contains in-depth analysis of key components of constitutions and the forces of change that shape them. It analyses the adoption of the substantive elements of a new constitution by looking at forces for the aggregation or dissemination of governmental power, and forces for greater legalization or politicization of governmental power, and examining how these forces influence the content of the constitution. 

This handbook is designed as a box which includes seven separate chapters. Separate chapters are also available in print.  

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A constitutional amendment alters the content of a constitutional text in a formal way. Constitutions need to be amended over time to adjust provisions that are inadequate, to respond to new needs, including supplementing rights. Otherwise, the text of a constitution cannot reflect social realities and political needs over time. Yet the constitution also needs to be protected from short-sighted or partisan amendments.

International IDEA’s Constitution-Building Primers are designed to assist in-country constitution-building or constitutional-reform processes by helping citizens, political parties, civil society organizations, public officials and members of constituent assemblies make wise constitutional choices. They also provide guidance for staff of intergovernmental organizations and other external actors working to provide well informed, context-relevant support to local decision-makers.

Each Primer is written as an introduction for non-specialist readers, and as a convenient aide-memoire for those with prior knowledge of, or experience with, constitution-building. Arranged thematically around the practical choices faced by constitution-builders, the Primers aim to explain complex constitutional issues in a quick and easy way.

View summary

International IDEA’s Constitution-Building Primers are designed to assist in-country constitution-building or constitutional-reform processes by helping citizens, political parties, civil society organizations, public officials and members of constituent assemblies make wise constitutional choices.

They also provide guidance for staff of intergovernmental organizations and other external actors working to provide well-informed, context- relevant support to local decision makers. Each Primer is written as an introduction for non-specialist readers, and as a convenient aide-memoire for those with prior knowledge of, or experience with, constitution-building.

Arranged thematically around the practical choices faced by constitution-builders, the Primers aim to explain complex constitutional issues in a quick and easy way.

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The choice of electoral system is one of the most important institutional decisions for any democracy.

In almost all cases the choice of a particular electoral system has a profound effect on the future political life of the country concerned, and electoral systems, once chosen, often remain fairly constant as political interests solidify around and respond to the incentives presented by them. The choices made may have consequences that were unforeseen, as well as predicted effects.

Electoral systems can also have a significant impact on the wider political and institutional framework. Their design and effects are heavily contingent upon other structures within and outside the constitution. Successful electoral system design comes from looking at the framework of political institutions as a whole: changing one part of this framework is likely to cause adjustments in the way other institutions within it work.

This Handbook provides a comprehensive overview of the electoral systems in use in more than 200 countries and includes 18 case studies as well as a map showing where the various electoral systems are used. It discusses the advantages and disadvantages of different electoral systems, and the factors to consider when modifying or designing an electoral system.

The Overview is also available in print.

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This Guide presents International IDEA’s State of Democracy (SoD) Assessment Framework.

Developed for public use around the world, the SoD Framework has been applied in some 20 countries since its first launch in 2000.

The Framework is different from other methodologies because its comprehensive assessments are led and owned by local actors, and move away from the practice of ranking democratic performance and making external judgements. It combines a commitment to the principles of democracy with dialogue, and looks beyond the formal existence of democratic institutions and focuses, more importantly, on their performance.

The Guide also links assessment to reform and in doing so, highlights achievements and challenges as well as lessons learnt from previous assessment teams’ experiences.

Others seeking to apply the Framework in their countries stand to benefit greatly from the experiences, lessons and insights shared from the SoD Network—a community of practice that has applied the SoD assessment Framework in their countries and regions. The Guide also offers guidance on sources and standards of good practice.

The Overview is also available in print.

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This Constitution Brief introduces the concept of self-determination and its evolution over time, and provides a survey of different approaches to self-determination from comparative constitutional practice.

The MyConstitution project works towards a home-grown and well-informed constitutional culture as an integral part of democratic transition and sustainable peace in Myanmar.

Based on demand by Myanmar stakeholders, expert advisory services are provided to those involved in constitution-building efforts. This Constitution Brief is produced as part of this effort.

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How does a newly democratized nation constructively address the past to move from a divided history to a shared future?

How do people rebuild coexistence after violence?

This Handbook presents a range of tools that can be, and have been, employed in the design and implementation of reconciliation processes. Most of them draw on the experience of people grappling with the problems of past violence and injustice.

There is no ‘right answer’ to the challenge of reconciliation, and so the Handbook prescribes no single approach. Instead, it presents the options and methods, with their strengths and weaknesses evaluated, so that practitioners and policymakers can adopt or adapt them, as best suits each specific context.

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A federation consists of at least two levels of government, each of which has a degree of autonomy that is protected by a constitution.

Countries with a federal system of government share powers between these levels in different ways, which affects their decision-making processes. The primary focus of this Constitution Brief is the division of legislative power, which typically raises the most difficult questions.

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From Spain to Tanzania to Ukraine, the idea of secession is a critical issue for constitutional design, and has been since the first modern constitution was adopted in the United States in 1789.

Secession involves a subunit of a state breaking off, usually to form a new state, but sometimes to join an existing neighbour. In many countries, demands for secession from one or more regions are a major issue in constitutional design, and can trigger further demands for constitutional drafting.

Once a constitution is in place, secessionist demands can put great pressure on the constitutional bargain thereafter. If constitutions are devices to keep countries together, they can also provide for orderly processes of separation.

This Constitution Brief provides an overview of trends and approaches in the treatment of secession in the world’s constitutions. The major design choices of allowing, prohibiting, or staying silent on the issue of secession are each discussed.

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Federalism is a constitutional mechanism for dividing power between different levels of government, such that federated units can enjoy substantial, constitutionally guaranteed autonomy over certain policy areas while sharing power in accordance with agreed rules over other policy areas. Thus, federalism combines partial self-government with partial shared government.

International IDEA’s Constitution-Building Primers are designed to assist in-country constitution-building or constitutional-reform processes by helping citizens, political parties, civil society organizations, public officials and members of constituent assemblies make wise constitutional choices. They also provide guidance for staff of intergovernmental organizations and other external actors working to provide well informed, context-relevant support to local decision-makers.

Each Primer is written as an introduction for non-specialist readers, and as a convenient aide-memoire for those with prior knowledge of, or experience with, constitution-building. Arranged thematically around the practical choices faced by constitution-builders, the Primers aim to explain complex constitutional issues in a quick and easy way.

This revised and reformatted edition was published in October 2017.

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Territorial divisions come in many forms. They occur in both federal and unitary states, and may involve divisions based on religion, language, history and identity, as well as natural resources.

They can involve one region within a country or several. Because of the close association of territory and sovereignty, territorial divisions raise very high stakes issues, going to the heart of the definition the political community, national identity and statehood. They are often emotive and can seem intractable.

This Constitution Brief covers the spatial arrangement of public power through constitutional design. By changing the way in which public resources and power are allocated, and autonomy and identity are recognized, constitutional arrangements related to managing territorial divisions can be critical in transforming societal division and conflict to unity and peace.

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This Primer covers the systems used for appointing judges in constitutional democracies. Various commonly used systems of appointment are discussed, including career judiciaries, appointment by an independent commission and appointment by the representative or cooperative interaction of legislative and executive branches.

International IDEA’s Constitution-Building Primers are designed to assist in-country constitution-building or constitutional-reform processes by helping citizens, political parties, civil society organizations, public officials and members of constituent assemblies make wise constitutional choices. They also provide guidance for staff of intergovernmental organizations and other external actors working to provide well informed, context-relevant support to local decision-makers.

Each Primer is written as an introduction for non-specialist readers, and as a convenient aide-memoire for those with prior knowledge of, or experience with, constitution-building. Arranged thematically around the practical choices faced by constitution-builders, the Primers aim to explain complex constitutional issues in a quick and easy way.

This revised and reformatted edition was published in October 2017.

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This Primer covers the rules governing the tenure, immunity, discipline and removal of judges in constitutional democracies. In particular, it discusses various attempts to balance the need for judicial independence and neutrality to be balanced against judicial responsiveness and accountability.

International IDEA’s Constitution-Building Primers are designed to assist in-country constitution-building or constitutional-reform processes by helping citizens, political parties, civil society organizations, public officials and members of constituent assemblies make wise constitutional choices. They also provide guidance for staff of intergovernmental organizations and other external actors working to provide well informed, context-relevant support to local decision-makers.

Each Primer is written as an introduction for non-specialist readers, and as a convenient aide-memoire for those with prior knowledge of, or experience with, constitution-building. Arranged thematically around the practical choices faced by constitution-builders, the Primers aim to explain complex constitutional issues in a quick and easy way.

This revised and reformatted edition was published in October 2017.

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While there are general principles that apply to the judiciary in all federations, there are different ways of structuring a federal judiciary and allocating authority, or competence, to it.

Each approach raises different issues for consideration and decision. The choices made can be informed by comparative experience but will depend on the context and preferences of each federation.

The brief begins by outlining the typical characteristics and key features of a federal system of government, before examining how the judicial branch of government might be organized. It identifies two sets of related questions that are relevant to consider when designing a federal judiciary: the structure of the courts and whether (and if so, how) the authority allocated to them should be divided along federal lines.

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This Constitution Brief provides a basic guide to constitutional courts and the issues that they raise in constitution-building processes, and is intended for use by constitution-makers and other democratic actors and stakeholders in Myanmar.

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This Primer discusses constitutional rules for the selection and removal of parliamentary governments. Governments in parliamentary democracies are not elected directly by the people; rather, they are selected indirectly by or through parliament, are responsible to parliament and may be removed from office by a parliamentary vote of no confidence.

International IDEA’s Constitution-Building Primers are designed to assist in-country constitution-building or constitutional-reform processes by helping citizens, political parties, civil society organizations, public officials and members of constituent assemblies make wise constitutional choices. They also provide guidance for staff of intergovernmental organizations and other external actors working to provide well informed, context-relevant support to local decision-makers.

Each Primer is written as an introduction for non-specialist readers, and as a convenient aide-memoire for those with prior knowledge of, or experience with, constitution-building. Arranged thematically around the practical choices faced by constitution-builders, the Primers aim to explain complex constitutional issues in a quick and easy way.

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A non-executive president is a symbolic leader of a state who performs a representative and civic role but does not exercise executive or policymaking power. A non-executive president may, nevertheless, possess and exercise some discretionary powers of extraordinary political intervention as a constitutional arbiter or guarantor.

International IDEA’s Constitution-Building Primers are designed to assist in-country constitution-building or constitutional-reform processes by helping citizens, political parties, civil society organizations, public officials and members of constituent assemblies make wise constitutional choices. They also provide guidance for staff of intergovernmental organizations and other external actors working to provide well informed, context-relevant support to local decision-makers.

Each Primer is written as an introduction for non-specialist readers, and as a convenient aide-memoire for those with prior knowledge of, or experience with, constitution-building. Arranged thematically around the practical choices faced by constitution-builders, the Primers aim to explain complex constitutional issues in a quick and easy way.

This revised and reformatted edition was published in October 2017.

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This Constitution Brief discusses the appointment of ministers in different systems of government.

It focuses on the question of whether ministers should have seats in the legislature. It is tailored to the specific needs of the Myanmar context.

The Constitution Brief explores: (a) the appointment of ministers at the union level and (b) the appointment of chief ministers and ministers at the region and state levels.

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A bicameral parliament or legislature is one in which two assemblies share legislative power. Legislatures with two chambers can represent sub-national governments, act as a body of expert scrutiny and review, provide a further democratic check on the power of the lower house, and provide representation for various socio-economic interests or ethno-cultural minorities.

International IDEA’s Constitution-Building Primers are designed to assist in-country constitution-building or constitutional-reform processes by helping citizens, political parties, civil society organizations, public officials and members of constituent assemblies make wise constitutional choices.

They also provide guidance for staff of intergovernmental organizations and other external actors working to provide well informed, context-relevant support to local decision-makers.

Each Primer is written as an introduction for non-specialist readers, and as a convenient aide-memoire for those with prior knowledge of, or experience with, constitution-building. Arranged thematically around the practical choices faced by constitution-builders, the Primers aim to explain complex constitutional issues in a quick and easy way.

This revised and reformatted edition was published in October 2017.

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This Policy Paper aims to fill a significant gap in the policy and academic literature on the process and design of interim constitutions in conflict-affected settings.

It argues that, unlike both peace agreements and interim arrangements, the strength of interim constitutions lies in their legal enforceability. It examines the diversity of post-1990 interim constitutions in terms of their structure and their role in broader peacebuilding processes.

One of its main conclusions is that, despite key differences that also relate to the relationship between the country context and the choice of procedure and design, interim constitutions potentially offer time or the opportunity to facilitate consensus over time. They also have the potential to contribute to a culture of participatory constitutionalism, and address sequencing issues around elections and the strengthening of key institutions responsible for implementing constitutional frameworks.

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Constitution-building processes are increasingly seen as critical elements within both peacebuilding and state-building processes.

A constitution-building process in a conflict-affected setting is often necessary to renegotiate access to public power and resources. The resulting constitution will ideally make the state more inclusive and, therefore, responsive to a higher number of social, political and/or economic groups, thereby contributing to sustaining peace and preventing the resumption of conflict. 

Who makes the constitution? How are they selected? These are crucial questions in the constitution-building process, which serve to determine the overall legitimacy of the process, and the content and success of the new political framework itself. 

This Policy Paper examines the types of constitution-making bodies (CMBs) present in 37 constitution-building processes that took place from 1991 to 2018 in the aftermath of conflict, and ways in which they were selected. Additionally, the paper focuses on the frequency of specific types of CMB in conflict-affected settings, and on whether the broader constitution-building process and its specific design has an impact on the type of CMB chosen.

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In situations of violent conflict, negotiated agreements—including ceasefire or peace agreements and documents detailing constitutional arrangements—attempt to reach a new political settlement between the warring protagonists, which is ideally supported by the broader society.

Such political settlements aim to move the country or region from conflict to a situation characterized by constitutional commitments to good governance and the rule of law.

The sequencing—and the success or failure—of these negotiated agreements depends on a number of factors, including the diverse processes through which a political settlement is reached; when (and how) peace agreements and constitutions reach a political settlement; when (and why) constitution-making separates from the political settlement process; and the consequences of such a separation.

This Policy Paper aims to address the gap in the constitution-making and peacebuilding literatures regarding descriptive and normative accounts of the relationship between peace agreements and constitutional arrangements in political settlement processes. It explores the sequencing of peace deals and constitutional arrangements in order to better understand when (and why) sequencing does not follow the logical model, and the implications for any coherent and workable constitutional framework.

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Substate constitutions are broadly understood as written legal instruments that limit and structure political power at the substate level, with legal supremacy regarding other substate laws.

Their primary goals are to define the specific governance system of the substate entity, and often to codify citizen rights within its territory. They may also serve to delineate the political community and identity at the substate level. Substate entities, in turn, can be defined as territorially delineated constitutive parts of a country or state.

This Policy Paper examines substate constitutions in fragile and conflict-affected settings—in both federal and unitary (or hybrid) states—adopted after the end of the Cold War starting in 1991. It aims to fill a significant gap in the policy and academic literatures regarding the process and design of substate constitutions in fragile and conflict-affected settings, and their role in the broader political-settlement and peacebuilding process.

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The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Constitutions Assessment Tool helps users to analyse a constitution from the perspective of indigenous peoples’ rights. Using a series of questions, short explanations and example provisions from constitutions around the world, the Assessment Tool guides its users through the text of a constitution and allows for systematic analysis of the language and provisions of a constitutional text to assess how robustly indigenous peoples’ rights are reflected in it.

A constitution articulates a vision that reflects a state’s values and history, as well as its aspirational objectives for the future. As the supreme law of a state, the constitution defines its structure and institutions, distributes political power, and recognizes and protects fundamental rights, critically determining the relationship between citizens and governments.

Embedding in a constitution recognition of and rights-based protections for specific groups, such as indigenous peoples, can give these groups and their rights enhanced protection. This can be furthered by providing for specialized institutions and processes to deepen the realization of those rights in practice.

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In ethnically diverse countries emerging from conflict, it is becoming increasingly common to see federalism as a means of conflict transformation.

However, wherever constituent unit boundaries are drawn to give a particular group a majority, this creates a situation where minorities within those constituent units fear marginalization, deprivation of equal opportunity or even oppression.

This Constitution Brief surveys comparative constitutional practice for different mechanisms and approaches relating to the minorities within minorities challenge. In other words, this brief refers to the protection of minorities within constituent units/states/regions and doesn’t cover the protection of minorities in general.

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What roles can women from marginalized communities play in conflict, peacemaking and democratization?

Which factors lie behind their involvement in armed conflict? What are the consequences of women’s inclusion and exclusion from peace-building activities? These are some of the questions explored in Women in Conflict and Peace.

Drawing on case studies from Afghanistan, Myanmar, the Philippines and Rwanda, this publication analyses the impact of women on intrastate conflict and peacebuilding, concluding with recommendations that international and local actors can implement to enhance the participation of marginalized women in future peace- and democracy-building initiatives.

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Gender equality is a cornerstone of a democratic and just society, and International IDEA is committed to supporting democratic processes that empower women.

The constitution-building process provides an extraordinary opportunity for women and gender-equality advocates to participate in the framing of democratic institutions.

The Constitution Assessment for Women’s Equality helps users analyse a constitution or draft constitution from the perspective of the substantive equality of women. Using a series of questions, short explanations and example provisions from constitutions around the world, the Assessment guides you through an examination of the most critical constitutional issues that affect women’s rights and gender equality.

This Assessment is designed for gender-equality advocates as well as those who are engaging in the topic of women’s constitutional rights for the first time, whether as members of a constituent assembly, constitutional drafters, civil society members or concerned individuals. Since gender equality affects the quality of democracy and society as a whole, the Assessment is a resource for both men and women.

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