On 18 November 2013, Constitutional Transitions fellow George Anderson gave the annual Ruth D. Ewing Social Science Lecture at Bennington College in Vermont. The topic of his presentation was “The Challenge of Making Democratic Constitutions in Deeply Divided Societies.”
The lecture included a discussion of Anderson’s personal involvement in constitutional transitions, especially in Yemen, a survey of certain substantive requirements of democratic constitutions, and a discussion of the role of outsiders in transitional processes. After introducing the diversity of transitions which can take place, Anderson turned his attention to the ongoing transition in Yemen and his work with United Nations Special Adviser Jamal Benomar in advising that country’s National Dialogue Conference. He explained some of the historic divisions in that country, and laid out the active discussions and mechanisms being used to resolve them today.
Anderson then discussed how three central features of constitution-making—protecting rights, ensuring probity, and limiting abuses of power—have been evolving, with increasingly explicit provisions designed to control abuses by politicians. The mistrust that minorities can have for majority rule in deeply divided societies brings an additional dimension to constitution making, especially around issues of empowering minorities whether territorially or through power sharing.
As for the role of experts, Anderson urged modesty, noting the limitations faced by outside experts, and the need for respect and deference to the local actors who are drafting their constitutional futures.
More information on George Anderson can be found here.
Introducing 2013-14 CT Fellow George Anderson
(12 October 2013)