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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. We seek 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.
The course syllabus and the schedule are available with the course directors upon request.