New Technologies in Constitution Making

Special Report of the US Institute of Peace by Jason Gluck and Brendon Ballou: “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”