The Federal Contract: A New Theoretical Framework for Federalism

For this seminar and to mark the launch of the book, Professor Tierney will be joined by five leading scholars of federalism from across the world to explore the important ideas developed in this new work. All are welcome to join this discussion, with Professor Eva Maria Belser, Professor Peter Niesen, Professor Nicholas Aroney, Dr Asanga Welikala and Professor Cheryl Saunders to reflect on federalism, constitutionalism and the state in the 21st century.

Federal systems have always struggled to work within the straitjacket of constitutional theory developed for unitary states. At a time when countries across the world are turning to forms of multi-level government to solve pressing problems, theories adapted to the distinctive needs of federal government are more important than ever. Stephen Tierney’s exploration of The Federal Contract seeks to fill this gap. It could not be more timely and welcome.

The Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies is honoured to host a seminar to launch Stephen Tierney’s new book The Federal Contract: A Constitutional Theory of Federalism, as part of the CCCS Global Public Law Seminar Series.

In rethinking the idea and practice of federalism, Stephen Tierney’s book adopts a root and branch recalibration of the federal contract. It analyses federalism through the conceptual categories which characterise the nature of modern constitutionalism: Foundations, Authority, Subjecthood, Purpose, Design and Dynamics. It seeks to explain and in so doing revitalise federalism as a discrete, capacious and adaptable concept of rule that can be deployed imaginatively to facilitate the deep territorial variety that characterises so many states in the 21st century.

About the panel

Stephen Tierney is Professor of Constitutional Theory in the School of Law, University of Edinburgh and Visiting Professor and Distinguished Research Fellow at Notre Dame Law School London Program. He served as Vice Dean of Edinburgh Law School from 2017-20 and is currently Director of Education. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a member of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland and Legal Adviser to the House of Lords Constitution Committee. Professor Tierney is also member of the Executive Committee of the UK Constitutional Law Association and served as editor and then co-editor of the UK Constitutional Law blog from 2015-20. His research interests are in constitutional theory and United Kingdom and comparative constitutional law. He has published ten books including two monographs with Oxford University Press: Constitutional Law and National Pluralism (2004) and Constitutional Referendums: The Theory and Practice of Republican Deliberation (2012). The Federal Contract will be published by OUP in 2022.

Professor Eva Maria Belser holds a Chair for Constitutional and Administrative Law at the University of Fribourg and a UNESCO Chair in Human Rights and Democracy. She is Co-Director of the Institute of Federalism of the University of Fribourg and a Board Member of the Swiss Centre of Expertise in Human Rights. She teaches and publishes in the fields of Swiss and comparative constitutional law, federalism, decentralisation and globalisation, human and minority rights and democracy as well as constitution-making and conflict resolution. She has served on many international cooperation and consultancy projects, including in the Horn of Africa, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Syria. She is a member of the Group of Independent Experts of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, Swiss expert for the Moscow Mechanism of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, a Member of the Board of Advisers to International IDEA, and on the United Nations Development Programme list of constitutional experts. She was awarded the Swiss federalism prize in 2019.

Professor Dr Peter Niesen is Professor of Political Science with a focus on Political Theory at the University of Hamburg. He has worked on Kant, Bentham, and Habermas and currently directs a project on constituent power beyond the state. He is the speaker of the Association for Political Theory in Germany, a convenor of the International Political Theory Standing Group with the European Consortium for Political Research, and a former founding member of the Cluster of Excellence “Formation of Normative Orders”.

Nicholas Aroney is Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Queensland. He is an External Fellow of the Centre for Law and Religion at Emory University and an External Member of the Islam, Law and Modernity research program at Durham University. In 2010 he received a four-year Future Fellowship from the Australian Research Council to study comparative federalism. He has published a wide range of work in the fields of constitutional law, comparative constitutional law and legal theory and led several international research projects in comparative federalism, bicameralism, legal pluralism, and law and religion.

Dr Asanga Welikala is Lecturer in Public Law at the School of Law, University of Edinburgh, and the Acting Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Constitutional Law. He is also a Research Associate of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, and Research Fellow of the Centre for Policy Alternatives in Sri Lanka. He researches in the fields of comparative constitutional law, applied constitutional theory, and Commonwealth constitutional history and has provided advice on constitution making in a range of country contexts.

Cheryl Saunders has specialist interests in Australian and comparative public law, including comparative constitutional law and method, intergovernmental relations and constitutional design and change. She is a President Emeritus of the International Association of Constitutional Law, a former President of the International Association of Centres for Federal Studies, a former President of the Administrative Review Council of Australia, a senior technical advisor to the Constitution Building program of International IDEA and a convenor of the Constitution Transformation Network. Cheryl is a Laureate Professor Emeritus at Melbourne Law School and is the founding Director of the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies.

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