4.2 Guidance for the international community

In part 2.3.12, we defined the various categories of entities that are often included in the term “international community” in reference to constitution-making processes and also discussed how constitution-making bodies or other key national actors can manage relationships with the international community in effective ways. Because one of the goals of the discussion in parts 2 and 3 is to provide guidance to national actors undertaking a process, it deals with the need to manage situations involving various kinds of input from the international community. They include funding the process, providing foreign advisers, including experts on constitutional matters, and assisting with negotiations or mediation efforts. Often these are necessary forms of input, and their impacts are positive. In other cases there can be a range of problems involved (for example, international actors dominate, or there are too many international actors seeking to play roles, resulting in contradicting pressures on national actors).

There are, in addition, situations in which some part of the international community may be in even more direct control of processes. Usually a multilateral organization or a particular country is officially or unofficially either leading or substantially influencing and shaping the process. (See the case studies of Afghanistan, appendix A.1, Bosnia-Herzegovina, appendix A.4, and Timor-Leste, appendix A.11.) The international community takes on such roles primarily in postconflict or conflict situations in which the absence of an effective state results in international or regional organizations serving as transitional administrations, or those in which a far more powerful country with strategic interests in the area plays a leading role in the political transition or becomes an occupying power (for example, the processes in Namibia [1990], Peru [1992], Cambodia [1993], Bosnia-Herzegovina [1995], Timor-Leste [2002], Democratic Republic of the Congo [2004], Afghanistan [2004], Iraq [2005], and Somalia [ongoing process]).

But even though a particular part (or parts) of the international community may have responsibility for running the process, there will almost always be many other international actors supplying particular input into the process. In that case, many of the issues will be much the same as in a process run by local actors.

In many of the processes where international actors exercise a high degree of control, some common difficulties and pitfalls have been experienced. Some of these are related to the extent to which international community influence tends to undermine national ownership of the process. As discussed elsewhere in this handbook, lack of leadership from national actors can undermine the legitimacy of a process and of the constitution resulting from it.

In this section we provide an overview of the problems and pitfalls experienced in processes where part of the international community plays a leading role. We also assess the current guidance available to the international community in such contexts and consider the extent to which it addresses those problems and pitfalls. We conclude with some practical tips for international actors operating in such situations.