As part of its ongoing two-year partnership with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), Constitutional Transitions sent three students from New York University School of Law to work as summer researchers at International IDEA’s regional office in Cairo. The summer fellows each prepared a chapter for a manual that International IDEA is preparing to assist Libya’s soon-to-be-elected constituent assembly. That body is scheduled to begin drafting the country’s new constitution next year. The summer researchers investigated issues including fundamental rights, distribution of powers, and natural resources, all of which promise to undergo significant changes in post-Qaddafi Libya.
A fourth researcher, Shingira Masanzu (LL.M. ‘13), also assisted International IDEA and Constitutional Transitions from New York and Harare, Zimbabwe, contributing research on anti-corruption mechanisms that will inform a forthcoming report being produced for and in partnership with IDEA.
From Cairo, the researchers were able to witness the profound political changes occurring in Egypt and across the Arab world. “Working at IDEA was an incredible opportunity to understand the implications that constitutional design can have on day-to-day life,” said Amir Badat ‘15.
Through their work, the summer researchers were able to contribute directly to the historic reforms being considered by political actors across the region. “It was certainly an exciting time to be in Egypt, and the work was equally interesting,” said Sam Philipsek ‘15, a summer fellow who was tasked with researching how Libya can account for its oil and gas resources in its new constitution. “Natural resources aren’t typically thought of as a constitutional matter, but they involve many important issues, from property rights to revenue distribution, particularly in an oil-rich country like Libya.”
International IDEA established its Cairo office as part of its reaction to the Arab Spring protests. The organization, which is solely supported by its member states, has provided research and other support to states across the West Asia and North Africa region, especially Tunisia and Libya, as these countries transition to more representative societies and modes of democratic governance. Members of the organization’s Cairo office travel frequently to Tunis and Tripoli to meet with civil society and government officials.
In addition to dispatching summer field researchers, Constitutional Transitions supports International IDEA from New York, where the Constitutional Transitions Clinic conducts targeted constitutional research throughout the academic year. This was the first summer that Constitutional Transitions was able to send students to the Cairo office. Later in the summer, the fellows were redeployed to Tunis prior to the removal of President Mohamed Morsi from office.
In 2012, Constitutional Transitions sent two researchers to support International IDEA’s work from its Beirut office.
Douglas Keith ‘15 also contributed to the constitution-drafting manual, and was responsible for the chapter on fundamental rights protections. “Many constitutions promise the eradication of torture, but few achieve it,” Keith noted. “I examined how constitutional provisions can go beyond merely announcing fundamental rights to provide for their protection and enforcement in the broader social and constitutional context.”