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. Quite prominent are the current dynamics in the Maghreb as a result of the Arab spring. Less visible, but also very vivid are the processes in Sub-Saharan Africa, recently in the Central African Republic, Kenya, Zimbabwe, presently in The Gambia, Somalia, Mali and South Sudan, and prospectively in Botswana, Nigeria, and other countries.
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 genuine local problems, the proper role of international and local actors in the constitution-building process as well as the value of having a dedicated implementation process for a newly adopted constitution. Therefore, we continue offering a summer course on constitution building with a focus on Africa building on the experience of nine successful courses organized in the SUN framework between 2013 and 2021.
At its heart, the course intends to tackle complex societal, political and legal problems in constitution-building from an interdisciplinary perspective, informed by field experience. In order to understand and contextualize practitioners’ experiences, we seek to combine different disciplines (mostly comparative law, political science, and socio-legal studies) 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 of constitution-building 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, the role of external/international influence, and the point of public participation in constitution building. Over two weeks we are able to build comparative insights (covering Anglophone and Francophone Africa and also the Maghreb). A mapping exercise and intense exchange with participants allow us to explore cross-country learning and to place regional developments in a broader political and economic context.
The second angle accounts for the fact that new constitutions often follow conflict, and as such, are loaded with the expectation to herald a new era of peace and democracy. Believed to be leaving behind authoritarianism, despotism, or political upheaval, contemporary constitutional processes aspire to become inclusive. Whether the inclusiveness indeed meets the expectations of the people concerned and creates ownership instead of disappointment is worth analyzing. Furthermore, a two-step approach with an interim document at the beginning followed by a permanent solution afterward is gaining momentum in post-conflict peace negotiations. The risks and possibilities of this approach need to be discussed and evaluated. Experiences with several protracted constitutional review processes also require careful critical reflection.
The third angle of the course addresses how constitutional designs respond to competing claims, be they political, religious, ethnic, linguistic. The course will pay special attention to how new African constitutions attempt to accommodate different stakeholders, tame the executive, strengthen checks and balances, aspire to prevent stalemates, and prevent the self-perpetuation of constitutional actors through constitutional review processes. Based on the experiences of previous years, our participants are most interested in constitutional solutions promoting gender equality, social justice, and managing religious diversity. In previous courses these angles were covered most successfully by interactive group projects, seeking to draw out the experiences of practitioners taking part in conflict management. We will continue with this approach this year.
Finally, taking into account the fact that the management of constitutional change and maintenance of constitutional stability are ongoing challenges, the course will explore the issue of constitutional implementation and review as part of the constitutional building process. As before, we expect a nuanced comparative approach that, drawing on the experience of course participants, allows us to develop a better understanding of the ongoing process of constitution building.
"This course was well-tailored to some of the underlying causes of disagreements and division in Africa especially on matters of law. It also allowed me to understand some of the constraints facing democratic reforms processes as well as difficulties in implementing some of the constitutional changes."
"The course was useful in providing a building block for me in terms of the constitutional amendment that is happening in the country and as a scholar on how to provide the country with direction in this area. The course opened my mind to always look at other jurisdictions and compare constitutional building processes."
"The course content is very diversified and was presented by different experts from all over the world. This, in turn, has helped us in gaining new perspectives and exposure to the constitution-making process in different countries in Africa."
Applications are invited from scholars (professors, post-docs, Ph.D. students, and exceptionally graduate students with proven experience in the field), Practitioners (judges, civil servants, civil society activists, consultants, officers of international/regional organizations working on constitutional building in Africa and with prior knowledge of the field [AU, UN, etc.]).
Prior knowledge of the field is required, field experience is an advantage.
The language of instruction is English, thus all applicants have to demonstrate a strong command of spoken and written English to be able to participate actively in discussions at seminars and workshops. Some of the shortlisted applicants may be contacted for a telephone interview.
Please read the following directions carefully.
Below is the list of the documents you need to fill out or arrange for submission:
- Completed online SUN Application Form (see notes below)
- Full curriculum vitae or resume, including a list of publications, if any
Please upload your Curriculum Vitae or resume, including a list of publications, if any.
- Statement of Purpose (max. 1 page)
In the Statement of Purpose, please describe how the course is relevant to your teaching, research, or professional work, and in what way you expect to benefit from it. Please list relevant courses in the field you have taken previously during your studies and/or relevant practical experience you have made. In addition, you are requested to provide titles of two books, articles, or readings of interest which you would like to see discussed in the course. In addition to the titles, please provide a brief explanation of your recommendation.
Please provide a name, contact email, and phone number of a person (a faculty member, job supervisor, etc.) who can be contacted by the course directors to attest to your abilities, qualifications, and academic/professional performance.
- Recent English language publication/project description on constitution-building or constitutionalism in Africa
Please submit a recent, forthcoming, or draft publication, OR a description of an ongoing professional project on constitution-building or constitutionalism in Africa. If the project is an institutional or a group effort, please explain your role in designing and implementing the project.
- Personal Statement on Financial Aid
Those who are eligible and wish to apply for financial aid should specify their reasons in the “Personal statement on financial aid” section (Funding page of the application form).
You can upload further optional documents on the Qualifications page such as academic documents that you think may be relevant to support your application in the ‘Other Supporting Documents’ section. All documents should be merged into a single PDF file not exceeding the size of 2 MB. No passwords and encryption are allowed.
Completed CEU Summer University Application Form
We strongly advise the use of Google Chrome to enable the full functionality of the form.
- You may apply to a maximum of two summer courses. In case of being admitted, you can only attend both if the two courses do not overlap in time. Financial aid, if available, is only granted to attend one course.
- If you applied to CEU before, please use your existing login and password to start a new application. If you do not remember your password from last year click on Forgotten Password. With technical problems, bugs, or errors related to the online application forms please contact the CEU IT Help Desk.
- Right after login, please select ”Summer University” radiobutton from the "Type of course" list, and leave all other fields empty.
- All application materials must be submitted with the online application form(s). Materials sent by postal mail, electronic mail, or fax are not considered.
- The maximum allowable file size for upload is 2MB per file and the acceptable file formats are PDF, JPG, and JPEG. Ensure all security features (e.g. passwords and encryption) are removed from the documents before uploading them.
- Applications cannot be edited after submission. Please submit your application only when it is 100% final and complete.
- Further user instructions for the online application are included in the form itself. Should you have questions regarding the application form, check the relevant Frequently Asked Questions.
- Applications submitted after the deadline will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
If you need help or more information during the application process, please feel free to contact the SUN staff via email.
The SUN Office will notify applicants about the selection results in April. Please check the 'Dates and deadlines' section on the relevant course websites for notification deadlines planned earlier or later. The final decision is not open to appeal.