Session 5: Managing the risks of inclusion and participation


This theme examined potential risks of inclusion and participation during complex constitution building process, identified others and examined ways in which they might be avoided or minimised.

(L-R) Javier Couso (Chile), Ameya Kilara (India)
Kumaravadivel Guruparan (Sri Lanka)

Experiences with inclusion suggest that there are risks that can usefully be anticipated and managed. Inclusion and/or broad-based public participation might. For example, opportunities for either inclusion or participation may be used by spoilers to destabilise the process. In an example of another kind, the time taken to ensure participation may slow momentum for change. A risk of another kind, which also needs to be understood and managed, is that inclusive participation can raise expectations about social and economic outcomes once the Constitution is in effect. If these prove to be unrealistic, public commitment to the Constitution could be undermined, jeopardising stability in the longer term.

Often, greater participation by the public in terms of numbers is viewed as a measure of success. Conversely, very broad-based and/or large scale participation could also complicate and even undermine negotiations between leaders; produce impractical solutions; or make a process unmanageable. Questions also remain as to how such participation is to be evaluated in terms of substantive impact on constitution-building. The inclusion of marginalised groups might require targeted measures to make their inclusion meaningful. If not, such inclusion may remain as symbolic.

(L-R): Will Partlett (CTN), Khemthong
Tonsakulrungruang (Thailand), Javier Couso (Chile)

These considerations suggest that inclusion and participation should be understood as only elements of a larger process designed to reach a constitutional settlement that offers an agreed basis on which communities can co-exist in a single state, building a sustainable future. To this end, broad-based participation mechanisms need to be balanced with inclusion mechanisms that enable negotiation and agreement between key stakeholders and allow for compromise. Both may need to be to be tempered by a realistic appraisal of political, social, economic and geo-political realities.

(L-R): Ameya Kilara (India), Kumaravadivel
Guruparan (Sri Lanka)

Four case studies were discussed, from Thailand, Chile, Sri Lanka and India (Kashmir). The questions at which this theme is generally directed are:

  • What approach was taken to inclusion? At what points were inclusion strategies used?
  • Was there broad-based inclusion of stakeholders? If so, was this effective? What, if any, were the downsides?
  • Was there widespread public participation? What, if any, were the downsides?
  • With hindsight, would you have designed the approach to inclusion or participation differently? How and why?

Case studies: