Constitution-making and Reform: Options for the Process

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August 25, 2014

Constitution-making and Reform: Options for the Process

To consolidate peace after war is a long-term process; to consolidate democracy is an even
longer one. There are no quick fixes. Ultimately, consolidating peace in any country depends
on the people of that country. They alone must determine the path to peace—the international
community can only assist.
Early gains have often proved short-lived. If peace is to be sustained, it must rely on effective
and accountable national institutions; international assistance must be converted, as quickly
as possible, into nationally owned and sustainable systems.
Such international assistance is often needed. Efforts are under way at the United Nations, in
multilateral organizations, and in many countries to develop and improve on the assistance that
can be made available to communities emerging from conflict, including in the areas of security
and stabilization, elections and political reconciliation, human rights and judicial reform,
institution-building, governance, and the reenergizing of social and economic development.
Yet, as is evident from numerous postconflict experiences, the collective efforts of the
international community have often been insufficient to support sustainable peace.
One key reason is the low importance that has historically been placed on rebuilding state
institutions and functioning political systems. This is slowly being remedied. As countries
attempt to address the factors that have fed conflict in the past, it is often necessary to rebuild
the rule of law and trust in good governance, and a fundamental underpinning of this effort, in
many cases, has been constitutional reform.
This handbook offers one such important remedy. It provides both international and national
actors with comprehensive, practical guidance on designing, implementing, and supporting
constitution-making processes. Although it focuses specifically on the needs of divided societies,
this handbook will be a tool useful to any country undertaking to reform its constitution.
Until a few years ago, the focus of international constitutional assistance was on providing
guidance about the content of a constitution rather than on the process by which it is made. But
the way a constitution is made in a war-torn country can play a key role in rebuilding or
strengthening state and political systems as well as in securing a durable peace—particularly if
it entails an inclusive process that leads to the creation of a consensus-based road map for a
more just economic, political, and social order. Despite the important role such a process can
play, little attention has been paid to how to design and implement a participatory and inclusive
constitution-making process that supports a lasting peace.
This book, Constitution-making and Reform: Options for the Process, is a welcome addition to
ithe toolbox at the disposal of national and international organizations, as well as governments
involved in postconflict constitution-making. It is especially commendable because it does not
provide one-size-fits-all solutions to what are highly political and sensitive processes, each with
its own unique challenges and opportunities.

Resource type: 
Author: 
Michele Brandt, Jill Cottrell, Yash Ghai, Anthony Regan
Publisher: 
Interpeace 2011
Publication year: 
2011