Why a handbook

Interpeace is answering the need for a comprehensive handbook on how to create a constitution-making process that ensures the foundations for lasting peace.

Since the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s there has been a dramatic increase in constitution-making. Recent months and the ‘Arab Spring’ confirm the trend. Constitution-making, if participatory, transparent, inclusive and nationally owned and led, has the potential to resolve conflict, overcome deep divisions and create the foundations for lasting peace.

Yet those responsible for designing, advising or influencing a constitution-making process, no matter if they are nationals or internationals, have limited access to guidance about the options for designing such a process.

Post-conflict tensions create a challenging environment. At the point at which a constitution is being rebuilt, a society is likely to be experiencing a variety of post-conflict tensions. Conflicts over resources, rights, powers, identities, and past injustices are endemic and mistrust runs deep. Establishing the constitutional foundation in this situation can be a challenging task but by carefully considering the risks and opportunities posed by the possible options many hurdles can be effectively overcome.

Often there is a need for an urgent transition at the expense of an ‘inclusive’ constitution-making process. In an unstable society, every point of tension is potentially explosive, political and urgent. Because of this urgency, the tendency can be to focus on putting a constitution in place too quickly as a way to reorder society and progress the political transition.

A constitution-making process is an opportunity to build peace.

Although such constitution-making processes have evolved, their recognition as critical tools for peacebuilding has not happened quickly enough. These processes are complex and currently the sharing of experiences between practitioners is limited. The tools and comparative knowledge on constitutional options are lacking and there are limited resources for national actors, their advisers and their international partners.