Dealing with Territorial Cleavages in Constitutional Transitions












From Myanmar to Libya, and Ukraine to the Philippines, the world is currently rife with situations of demands for increased autonomy and recognition from territorially-concentrated populations coupled with overarching constitutional reform processes.  Spain, Nepal, Tanzania, Yemen, Italy, South Sudan, the United Kingdom, Sri Lanka and Trinidad and Tobago and many others could also be added to this list.

How these demands are met, or not, has significant consequences not only for the national actors involved, but also for the international community at large.   Unsuccessful resolution risks considerable detrimental consequences in terms of international conflict, economic trade and development, increased refugee flow and the protection of human rights.

These complex political transitions involve three separate but linked dynamics:

  •  Political mobilization of interests and identities: who or what causes such mobilization and how they shape the constitutional reform agenda
  • Constitutional transition processes: who is involved in negotiations, under what terms and through which institutions
  • Constitutional design to accommodate territorially-based politically salient populations: how to balance devolution of powers and resources, recognition of diversity and guarantees for local autonomy with forces encouraging national unity and cooperative politics.   

There is a substantial body of research and policy guidance in each of these fields, however there is little to no study of how these three interact with each other.  To address this issue, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), the Forum of Federations, the Center for Constitutional Transitions at University of California, Berkeley and the Manuel Giménez Abad Foundation of Aragon, Spain[1] launched the project “Dealing with Territorial Cleavages in Constitutional Transitions”.

The Project:

The project aims to provide a series of knowledge resources based on comparative constitutional design and comparative political science research conducted by leading scholars in the field.  Research includes a broad selection of case studies, past and present (Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Spain, India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal, Bolivia, Iraq, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa) as well as comparative analysis of the three issues listed above. 

Research is due to conclude in summer 2015 and International IDEA, along with the project partners, plans to present the findings of the research at an international conference in September/October 2015.

Oxford University Press has already recognized the importance of this research through a commitment to publish a complete edited volume, while International IDEA will produce policy-oriented knowledge resources for policy-makers and advisors.  A report capturing preliminary findings from the research has been published in May 2015.


The Conference

To benefit from the results of this research, whilst also providing a forum for focused discussion on ongoing crises caused by issues relating to territorial cleavages, International IDEA and its project partners plan to hold a conference for policy makers, advisors and scholars to take place in Brussels, Belgium on 29-30 September. 

This international forum will include national and sub-national government representatives, representatives of intergovernmental organizations, senior scholars and prominent civil society actors engaged in relevant advocacy efforts.


Please register your attendance by emailing Ms. Izabela Rybarczyk at [email protected] N.B. the number of participants is limited and applications will be accepted on a first come, first served basis.

[1] The United Nations Department for Political Affairs has also provided input through reviewing the research proposal and participation in the authors’ meeting