Constitution Building in Africa - Essay Competition

essay competition



Constitution Building in Africa

Essay Competition of International IDEA


The Constitution Building Processes Programme of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) is pleased to announce its 2015 essay competition on constitution building in Africa.  


The award

  • Publication of your article on the ConstitutionNet site of International IDEA that supports constitution builders globally and reaches over 20,000 readers per month (
  • Admission to the Constitution Building in Africa summer university and conference held at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary (20-31 July 2015) - see course description here
  • Funding for the course - including tuition waiver, travel grant and accommodation grant


Article – criteria

Title: to be determined by the applicant


  • identify and explain a current issue of constitutional relevance
  • the issue must pertain to the applicant’s country of nationality or residence
  • relevant issues include but are not limited to

        - ongoing negotiations on prospective constitutional reforms

        - ongoing constitution drafting or review/amendment processes

        - current challenges or good practices related to the implementation of the substantive provisions of the constitution


  • place the issue within the domestic legal environment and societal context
  • analyze it under the relevant provisions of the Constitution and/or the country’s constitutional principles and traditions
  • discuss its relevance and potential implications
  • draw conclusions and formulate recommendations

* The expected approach is practical and analytical, for a recent example see:                                                            

   Shibil Siddiqi: Pakistan: On Massacres of Children and Constitutions                           


  • 1500 – 1800 words in English (Times New Roman 12, single-spaced)
  • in the heading please indicate: name, country of nationality and residence, word count


Applicant – criteria

  • Master’s degree (in law, public policy, development studies or other related field)
  • Excellent writing and analytical skills
  • Demonstrated knowledge and interest in the constitutional development of his/her country of nationality or residence


Submission: please send the article along with a recent CV to Katalin Dobias: [email protected]

Deadline: 13 March 2015, 5:00pm CET


Description of the summer course by the CEU

History has seen several waves of constitution-building in the 20th century with an unparalleled boom starting in the 1990s after the fall of the Berlin wall. And while experts recently announced the end of this boom in new constitutions after the Cold War, the world is witnessing another wave of constitution-building, this time predominately in Africa. This burst of activity has given rise to a range of new ideas about the nature and purpose of constitutions and constitution-making, constitutional solutions to contemporary problems, and the proper role of international actors.

The two-week research course intends to tackle complex societal, political and legal problems in constitution-building from an interdisciplinary perspective, informed by field experience. The course seeks to combine different disciplines (mostly comparative law and political science) and perspectives (comparative governmental systems; electoral systems; decentralization; human rights; comparative constitutional law; good governance; etc.) to offer new insights on a classic subject of the highest academic and practical relevance.

The course will address the subject from four different angles, all of them related to specific challenges in Africa. The first one highlights constitutionalism in Africa in general, the different roles and meanings of a constitution, the merits and risks of constitutional borrowing, and the role of external / international influence in constitution building. The second angle accounts for the fact that new constitutions often follow conflict, loaded with the expectation to herald a new era of peace and democracy, leaving behind authoritarianism, despotism or political upheaval. The third angle of, the course addresses how constitutional designs respond to competing claims, be they religious, ethnic, linguistic, and how they accommodate different stakeholders, how they tame the executive, introducing instruments of checks and balances and how constitutions aspire to prevent stalemates and promote gender equality. Finally taking in to account the fact that the management of constitutional change and maintenance of constitutional stability are ongoing problems, the course will explore the issue of constitutional implementation, review and redemption as part of the constitutional building process.

The course is designed to be a forum for exchange and mutual learning for young scholars and practitioners from the civil sector, from public administration, from regional and international institutions.

For more information on the Programme, see: