Constitution building in culturally diverse states

The second theme examined questions about the intersection of culture and constitution building that arise in states that are culturally diverse.

R-L: Ms Amanda Blaine (IDEA), Ms Harini
Amarasuriya (Sri Lanka), Mr Suhrith Parthasarathy (India)

If culture has implications for the process and substance of constitution building, any significant cultural diversity may need to be factored into both. Where cultural diversity has been implicated in divisions of the kind that lead to violent conflict, constitution building may offer a partial solution. In these circumstances, constitution building must take account of the realities of cultural difference in the way in which settlement is reached and the constitutional arrangements that are put in place.

There were three case studies for the purpose of this theme, from India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. The case studies explored the following questions :

Mr Suhrith Parthasarathy (India)
  • What aspects of culture affected the constitutionā€making process at the time?  Who made cultural claims and why?
  • How was cultural diversity accommodated as part of the constitutionā€making process, if at all?
  • How was cultural diversity accommodated as part of the substance of the constitutional settlement? With what outcomes?
  • Where and how was the balance struck between accommodating cultural diversity and social cohesion?
  • What lessons might be learned from this experience, for other multicultural societies?

Case studies: