About the Project
This website places basic information about constitution writing within the reach of policy makers, civic leaders, and scholars around the globe. On the site, users will find overviews, short country studies, an ever-expanding number of background papers, datasets, bibliographies, and helpful links.
Since 1975, nearly 200 new constitutions have appeared in countries at risk of internal violence. For example, internationally brokered peace accords have entailed the development of new constitutions in the Balkans, Cambodia, East Timor, Rwanda, Chad, Mozambique, and the Comoros. New fundamental laws have featured in the adoption of multiparty systems from Albania to Zambia.
In the short run, the process used to develop a new constitution may influence levels of conflict more strongly than the substantive terms the document embodies or the institutions it helps to build. Procedural choices influence who has a chance to speak, the range of community interests taken into account, feelings of trust and inclusion, the balance between quiet persuasion and grandstanding, and the willingness to compromise.
This project facilitates the development of cumulative wisdom about the effects of the constitution writing process on some of the outcomes that matter most. Organized by a team of independent researchers (see Credits), version one of our study reviews 194 cases of constitution drafting between 1975 and July 2003. The cases include new constitutions and regime-changing amendments where there was at least a minimal chance that those who disagreed with the incumbents would take up arms to press their positions. Regime-changing amendments include provisions that affect participation and contestation (e.g., shifts from authoritarian rule to multiparty systems or vice versa), civil and political liberties, property rights, regional or ethnic autonomy, and significant efforts to re-allocate power among the branches of government.
The study is associated with a larger initiative undertaken by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to explore the linkages between constitution writing and conflict resolution. The research team has generated a variety of resources to help advance the conversation USIP and UNDP have started.
We intend the site to be a “living document.” As experts provide additional information and new publications become available, the site and its materials will change. Users should consider these pages a working draft and understand that some items may contain unintentional errors. We encourage feedback, especially corrections and additions to the information about specific countries. Please use the “contact us” menu to see how to send us your comments.