The Constitution Transformation Network brings together researchers and practitioners to explore the phenomenon of constitutional transformation.Find out more
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ConTransNet produces a quarterly newsletter providing updates on the activities of our members, as well as reflections on constitutional transformation issues generally.Newsletter
July to September 2021Publication
Browse through our publications, reports, and projectsFind out more
17 September 2021Publication
What is Constitutional Transformation?
Constitutional transformation is the phenomenon of constitutional change and conceptual changes in our understanding of the idea of a Constitution itself.Read more
What do we do?
We have expertise in constitutional law, comparative constitutional law, international law...Read more
We are researchers, practitioners and organisations interested in the phenomenon of constitutional transformation…Read more
Our Melbourne and Global Network members have experience across all regions of the world, with a particular focus on Asia and the Pacific.Read more
What is Constitutional Transformation?
Constitutional transformation is the practice of constitution making and change. It encompasses:
- Making new constitutions or major changes to existing constitutions
- Processes prior to constitution-making, such as conflict resolution, peace building or catalysts for change
- Processes after formal constitutional change, including transition, implementation and interpretation
Constitutional transformation is a time of great promise, but also difficulty and risk. By combining an understanding of the particular context of the polity undertaking constitutional change with comparative insights from the diversity of world experience, the promise of constitutional change can be realised, and the risks mitigated.
Constitutional transformation also refers to a major conceptual shift in how we understand the idea of a constitution itself. Most people share a general understanding of a Constitution as the framework of government for a state and its people. Beyond this, different understandings of the idea of a Constitution emerge from different constitutional traditions, different contexts in which Constitutions take effect, and different purposes that they serve. In addition, the interface between international and domestic influences increasingly affects how we understand constitutions, as regional and international bodies begin to take constitutional forms and domestic constitutions are ‘internationalised’.
ConTransNet’s teaching and research projects explore all aspects of constitutional transformation.
What do we do?
The Constitution Transformation Network is a network of scholars and practitioners with expertise and experience in making, changing and understanding constitutions. Based at Melbourne Law School, Australia, its work has a global reach, with a particular focus on Asia and the Pacific
The Constitution Transformation Network offers:
- Research into the practice and theory of constitutional transformation
- Advice on constitutional change and design in specific polities, on a public or confidential basis
- Brokered connections between country experts, comparative scholars and practitioners
- Workshops and events exploring the practice and theory of constitutional transformation
- Teaching and capacity-building programs
We have expertise in:
- Constitutional law
- Comparative constitutional law
- International law
- Military and international humanitarian law
- Regional law
We work across all regions of the world, with a particular focus on Asia and the Pacific.
We believe that a strong understanding of local context is critically important to the theory and practice of constitutional transformation.
We are committed to a practice of comparative constitutional law that is sensitive to the local context and local ownership of constitutions.
We value the range of insights to be gained by working closely with our networks of practitioners, scholars and local and international organisations.
We are committed to sharing our expertise to make a genuine difference to constitutional transformation in theory and practice.
The Constitution Transformation Network brings together researchers, practitioners and organisations interested in the phenomenon of constitutional transformation.
ConTransNet Convenors are a group of scholars with significant expertise and experience in constitutional law, comparative constitutional law, federalism, democracy-building and government.
Sectoral Expert Affiliates are scholars from Melbourne Law School with expertise in areas relating to constitutional transformation, including international law, military and humanitarian law, mining and resources and constitutional rights.
Regional Expert Affiliates are experts on the constitutional systems of states and regions.
ConTransNet draws on these affiliates, and an extensive network of scholars and practitioners in our projects, to inform country-specific, comparative and theoretical research and share a diversity of insights.
- Pip Nicholson
Asian law and legal institutions
- Michael Crommelin
Federalism & Natural Resources
- Adrienne Stone
Comparative Constitutional Law
- Tarun Khaitan
Equality and Discrimination
- Tim Lindsey
- Carlos Arturo Villagrán Sandoval
Central American Constitutions & Comparative Regionalism
- Bal Kama
Pacific public law and environmental law
- Charmaine Rodrigues
Governance, democratic institutions and accountability
CTN Policy Paper Series
Policy Paper No.1 - "A Constitutional Court for Sri Lanka?"
Constitutional Courts are a global phenomenon. In this Policy Paper, Tom Daly examines the purpose of Constitutional Courts, options for their design and their potential pitfalls. While the Paper addresses the specific context of Sri Lanka, where a new Constitutional Court has been proposed as part of wider constitutional reforms, the comparative insights have wider application to all states considering creating a Constitutional Court or implementing a newly established Constitutional Court.
Policy Paper No.2 - "Constitutional Design: Options for Decentralizing Power"
The functions of government that a state performs can be decentralized in various ways and to varying degrees. This Paper is divided into 3 parts, which together are intended to guide the reader in understanding the key building blocks involved in building a decentralized state and identifying the key design issues involved. The paper identifies 3 common models of decentralisation, using country case studies to explain the key design features of eeach model.
CTN Policy Briefs Series
CTN Policy Brief: "Direct Public Participation in Constitution-Making"
This Policy Brief examines the practice of public consultation in constitution‐making from a critical point of view. The growing momentum for public participation in constitution‐making is supported by normative arguments, which can broadly be categorised under the headings of democracy and ‘the rights‐based approach’. However, clarity is required in understanding the purpose, modalities and outcomes of public participation in constitution‐making.
CTN Policy Brief: "Women and Constitutions in Action"
What is the significance of ‘the woman question’ to our understanding of constitutions in action? Recent work on women and constitution-building has focused on textual provisions for women’s equality and the participation of women in the process of constitution making. In contrast, this Policy Brief, informed by the insights gathered from the Australia-ASEAN Women in Constitution-Building Capacity Development Program, focuses on how constitutional governance in practice affects women. By shifting the focus in this way, we hope to respond to a broader range of challenges and opportunities that women encounter in ensuring that constitutional practices and institutions are inclusive of women, represent the interests of women, and respect women’s right to substantive equality.
CTN Reports & Submissions
CTN Submission to Australian Government Foreign Policy White Paper Taskforce
In December 2016, the Australian Government announced its intention to develop a new Foreign Policy White Paper. In developing the White Paper, the Government committed to undertaking public consultations. As part of that process, the Government released a call for public submissions.
Between December 2016 and May 2017, the Foreign Policy White Paper Taskforce convened 24 roundtable discussions across Australia; met more than 60 prominent Australians and subject-matter experts; and received over 9,200 written submissions. The Constitution Transformation Network made a written submission to the Taskforce in February 2017.
CTN/FBA Report: "Constitutional Implementation for Sustainable Peace"
This Report examines the topical issue of the connections between Peace Agreements and Constitutions. Peace Agreements made in conflict-affected settings often call for constitutional change. However, while it is important for some kinds of commitments made in peace agreements to be reflected in the text of the Constitution, these constitutional provisions must themselves be given practical effect, if constitutional change is to contribute to sustainable peace. This Report develops a new analytical framework for understanding the connections between Peace Agreements and Constitutions in the interests of sustainable peace. This framework sets out what is involved in constitutional implementation (covering both textual and substantive implementation) and identifies the contribution that the processes and the outcomes of constitutional implementation can make to sustainable peace. The analytical framework was tested through an initial case study of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, a region within the state of Papua New Guinea.
CTN/VTAC Paper: "Potential powers and matters that are within the jurisdiction of the State of Victoria and that are potentially negotiable within the Victorian indigenous treaty process"
On 10 December 2019, the First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria was inaugurated in the Victorian Parliament House. The Assembly was elected by first peoples from across the State of Victoria and will work with the Victorian Government to prepare for treaty negotiations. In advance of the establishment of the Assembly, preparations were managed by the Victorian Treaty Advancement Commission (VTAC). To support the work of the Assembly, VTAC commissioned a number of papers, which will now be shared with the Assembly to inform their own work. ConTransNet was requested by VTAC to develop a paper identifying the potential powers and matters that are within the jurisdiction of the State of Victoria and that are potentially negotiable within the treaty process.
CTN/NRI: "Greater Autonomy and Independence for Bougainville: Institutional Options and Issues for Transition"
The National Research Institute of Papua New Guinea commissioned ConTransNet to prepare two studies to help inform the work of leaders in Bougainville and Papua New Guinea on future governance arrangements for Bougainville. The first study compared five aspects of governance for Bougainville under the existing arrangements, ‘greater autonomy’ and independence. This report was written before the 2019 referendum to inform understanding of the two choices before the people of Bougainville at the referendum. It remains relevant as a wide ranging and independent account of the issues that the consultations between government need to take into account. The second study is still underway and will be completed in mid-2020.
Melbourne Forum Reports
2016 Melbourne Forum on Constitution Building in Asia and the Pacific: "Constitution Building in States with Territorially Based Societal Conflict"
The Melbourne Forum on Constitution Building is an annual event co-hosted by the Constitution Transformation Network and International IDEA. The inaugural Melbourne Forum brought together leading academics and practitioners from across Asia and the Pacific to discuss constitution-building in contexts where there is territorially defined societal conflict. Some states in the region have well-established constitutions that were designed with an eye to managing societal conflict, in other states, constitution building is either underway or pending. This report captures insights from eleven polities in the Asia Pacific region, on the themes of federalism and devolution, special autonomy, constitution making processes and constitutional implementation.
2017 Melbourne Forum on Constitution Building in Asia and the Pacific: "From Big-Bang to Incrementalism"
The Second Melbourne Forum, jointly organised by International IDEA and ConTransNet, focused on the magnitude of constitutional change. In terms of process, the Forum explored the choices between making a new constitution, with or without legal rupture; amending an existing Constitution; or avoiding, limiting or postponing formal constitutional change altogether. In relation to substance, the Forum considered how countries have approached major institutional change to the form of government (shifting between parliamentary, semi-presidential and presidential systems) and to the form of the state (shifting between a unitary and a federal or devolved system). This interim report collects together the contributions from scholars and practitioners from across the Asia-Pacific region on each of these themes.
2018 Melbourne Forum on Constitution Building in Asia and the Pacific: "Implications of Culture for Constitution-Building"
The Third Melbourne Forum, jointly organised by International IDEA and ConTransNet, focused on the magnitude of constitutional change. Culture affects constitutional arrangements in all parts of the world. The Asia‐Pacific region offers a particularly useful context for this purpose, as the region is home to an extraordinary variety of cultures.The Forum aimed to deepen our understanding of how culture interacts with constitution building across Asia and the Pacific, in ways that throw light on the issues presented by culture in this important region and that inform global practice more generally. It also sought to reflect upon the additional challenges presented by cultural considerations for the implementation of new constitutional arrangements, which almost invariably requires cultural change of some kind. This interim report collects together the contributions from scholars and practitioners across five key themes and includes links to presenter's papers.
2019 Melbourne Forum on Constitution Building in Asia and the Pacific: "Inclusion and Participation in Constitution-Building Processes"
Inclusion and participation are familiar topics in constitution building. They can be interdependent - even the most broad-based participation, for example, may raise questions about who to include - but they also raise distinct issues as well. There remains some ambivalence, both in the literature and in practice, about both the inherent value of inclusion and participation and the ways in which they can be made effective. Concerns fall into at least five categories asking: why, who, when, how and to what effect? Experience offers insight into each of these questions, without finally resolving them. The many questions raised by inclusion and participation in constitution-building were explored during the 2019 Melbourne Forum, drawing primarily on the experience of constitution-building in Asia and the Pacific.
Peace Agreements, Constitutional Commitments and Sustainable Peace
UNDP Pacific Research Project - "Strengthening parliamentary governance and citizen engagement"
Decentralised Governance Arrangements In Papua New Guinea
Managing Deadlines: Constitution making in Chile 2021-22
Support to Palestinian constitutional processes
The Bougainville referendum and beyond: Reports for NRI Papua New Guinea
Australia-ASEAN Women in Constitution-Building Capacity Development Program
Research for Victorian Treaty Advancement Commission
Research on Constitutional Implementation for Sustainable Peace
Somalia Constitution-Making Project: Working with the Melbourne Somali diaspora
The Melbourne Forum on Constitution Building in Asia and the Pacific is an annual event jointly organized by the Constitution Transformation Network and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA). The Forum brings together practitioners and scholars from across Asia and the Pacific to share experiences on a topic related to constitutional transformation.
About the Melbourne Forum
The Melbourne Forum aims to build connections between practitioners, scholars and organisations engaged in constitution building, within the Asia-Pacific region and globally.
2021 Melbourne Forum
Theme: "Democracy, Constitutions & Dealing With The World"
2020 Melbourne Forum
Theme: "Representation in Democracies During Emergencies"
2019 Melbourne Forum
Theme: "Inclusion and Participation in Constitution-Building Processes"
2018 Melbourne Forum
Theme: "Implications of Culture for Constitution-Building"
2017 Melbourne Forum
Theme: "From Big Bang to Incrementalism: Choices and Challenges in Constitution Building"
2016 Melbourne Forum
Theme: "Constitution Building in States with Territorially Based Society Conflict"
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