Agenda-Setting Research

Constitutional Transitions generates knowledge by identifying issues of critical importance to the success of constitutional transitions, where a lack of adequate, up‑to‑date research impedes the effectiveness of technical assistance for constitution building. Constitutional Transitions assembles and leads international networks of experts to complete thematic research projects that offer evidence-based policy options to practitioners.

Topics

  • We focus on topics that are of practical importance to constitutional transitions currently underway.
  • Our research questions address issues relevant to more than one country, and are preferably regional in scope.
  • Our projects concern issues where existing knowledge is incomplete, outdated, or non-existent, and where research furthers both scholarly and policy agendas.

Structure

  • We work with domestic partners – think tanks, universities, and NGOs.
  • We work with international partners – intergovernmental organizations and governments – who have a track record in supporting constitution building.
  • Together with our partners, Constitutional Transitions convenes international networks of senior policy practitioners and academic experts.
  • We complete thematic projects over an 18- to 36-month timeframe, to generate policy‑relevant knowledge outputs.
  • Our knowledge outputs are available online and on an open-source basis in multiple languages.

Current Research Projects

Negotiating a new constitution is an important element of a political transition to constitutional democracy. Security sector reform is often a critical factor for a successful transition, and a central topic for negotiation during the constitution building process. Given the variety of actors involved, and the wide differences in background and interests between them, negotiations risk failure due to a lack of understanding of mutual and different interests. Few to no resources exist, either to provide guidance on how to structure the process of security sector reform negotiations, or to offer an account of how parties involved in constitutional negotiations should set the agenda for security sector reform

The project’s objective is to provide a set of guiding principles for security sector reform in the context of constitution building processes. These guiding principles will be drawn from a highly structured comparative analysis of selected case studies of security sector reform in the context of constitutional transition. The audience is individuals and groups in security sector agencies, political parties, civil society and international entities seeking to engage in or support security sector reform during times of constitutional transition. By providing detailed studies of each case, it is intended that the analysis of challenges and lessons learned, and the process and design successes in each case, will provide a valuable addition to the resources available to those wishing to further their understanding of how security sector reform works in practice in times of democratic transition.

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This project concerns the issues arising from territorially concentrated, politically salient, collective demands for constitutional accommodation in contexts of constitutional transition. It examines the experiences of a significant number of countries that have had to deal with pressures for territorial autonomy as part of attempted or successful constitutional transitions (and sometimes a broader set of issues simultaneously). “Constitutional transitions” in this project concerns two distinctive but related types of processes: a) constitutional transitions from authoritarian to democratic rule, often post-conflict, but also in environments of ongoing or potential conflict; and b) constitutional transitions (actual or potential) within functioning electoral democracies in response to claims for territorial autonomy (and where political violence possibly is or has been a central issue). The project will devote particular attention to those aspects of constitutional processes that relate to the territorial dimension of constitutional transition and design (including principles, participation, interim arrangements, legality and decision-making forums, ratification, the involvement of international actors, and sequencing). Its case studies will include “successes” as well as blocked or failed processes.

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The success of constitutional transitions turns on judicial oversight and enforcement of the new constitutional order, which may be compromised if the existing judiciary was closely identified with the former regime. How to respond creates a rule of law dilemma. If serving judges are replaced, that may undermine the rule of law by sending the message that the personal history of individual judges is more important than the institutional frameworks and legal rules within which the judiciary operates. But keeping the existing judiciary in place may undermine public confidence in the institution and ultimately the success of the new constitutional order. This project will examine when reform of the judiciary is appropriate, and how such reforms may be carried out in a way that minimizes the risks of abuse by incoming governments or by vested interests in the judiciary.

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The Indian Constitution is one of the world’s longest and most important political texts. Its birth, over six decades ago, signaled the arrival of the first major post-colonial constitution. Recent years have also witnessed enormous comparative and global interest in India’s constitutional experiment, especially in the global south. This interest has burgeoned at a time of considerable constitutional change in developing societies, and an increasing scholarly focus on constitutional transitions and design mechanisms in ethnically divided nations. The Oxford Handbook of Indian Constitutional Law aims to be a wide-ranging reflection on the major themes and debates that surround India’s Constitution. The Handbook is meant to provide a comprehensive account of the developments and doctrinal features of India’s Constitution, as well as to articulate frameworks and methodological approaches through which studies of Indian constitutionalism, and constitutionalism more generally, might proceed.

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Institutionalizing civilian control of the security sector (the military, police, and intelligence services) is an essential component of liberal democratic rule. An equally important component of liberal democratic rule is civilian government, rather than government under military regime or by military coup-makers. These two demands of liberal democracy pose a challenge to post-authoritarian democracies: states must ensure both that security services do not control government and that a civilian government can maintain oversight over the security services and limit their influence over national politics. However, civilian control may have the perverse effect of opening the door to partisan abuse of the security sector by the governing party to target its political opponents. In the democratic transitions currently under way in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region (e.g. Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia, and Turkey), the continued influence of the military and security services over politics, and the risk of politicization and partisan abuse of the security services, may threaten the consolidation of democracy itself and pave the way to democratic authoritarianism.

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