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This report explores the role of new technologies in increasing participation of constitution making. Gluck and Ballou look at how using technology during the constitution-making process can strengthen the trust between citizen and government, build national unity, and promote reconciliation. New technologies—such as the web, including email, Facebook, and Twitter, and mobile phones—are opportunities to engage and educate citizens and build public awareness. Citing examples in Iceland, Ghana, and Somalia (among others), the authors illustrate the scope of these new technologies, the risks, and what may come from them in the future.

Summary

  • Public participation has become an integral part of constitution making, particularly since the end of the Cold War. It has strengthened national unity, built trust between governments and citizens, promoted reconciliation, and helped produce national consensus.
  • Constitution drafters in the past were mostly limited to using official statements and press releases, workshops, meetings, radio and television programs, and printed materials to engage with citizens. These methods were often costly and time-consuming, and failed to reach significant segments of the public.
  • New technologies can increase participation in and the perceived legitimacy of constitutional processes.
  • Constitution drafters have recently begun using the web and mobile phones to educate citizens on the constitution-writing process and engage them on issues of concern. Increasingly constitution writers are also using the web to consult international experts on specific technical issues.
  • Given the rapid growth of the Internet and mobile phone penetration in the developing world, the increased use of new technologies in constitution writing is nearly inevitable.
  • People and organizations considering using these tools should bear four things in mind. New technologies will affect different groups differently. The people who use these tools should respect social and cultural norms. They should keep control of the process in the hands of national actors. Last, they should fit their work within the larger context of the conflict or postconflict environment in which they work.
  • Constitution making is a difficult field, however, and new technologies are tools, not panaceas.

About the Report

Constitution making has become increasingly open and participatory. Yet the core tools of participation are just beginning to evolve. New technologies can help drafters increase participation and provide conduits for civil society, vulnerable groups, and the population at large to mobilize and express their views. These tools can improve public education on the constitution and the drafting process, inject meaningful expert guidance into the national dialogue, and may help societies craft more inclusive, useful, and durable compacts. This report explains how.

About the Authors

Jason Gluck is a senior program officer with USIP’s Rule of Law Center. He focuses on the design and implementation of constitution-making processes in postconflict and transitional states. Gluck is currently on leave to the United Nations Department of Political Affairs, where he serves as Constitutional Focal Point. Brendan Ballou is a former associate at Google Ideas and is currently studying law at Stanford University.

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