Melbourne Forum Reports

  • 2016 Melbourne Forum: "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.

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  • 2017 Melbourne Forum: "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 report collects together the contributions from scholars and practitioners from across the Asia-Pacific region on each of these themes.

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  • 2018 Melbourne Forum: "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‚ÄźPacific 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.

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  • 2019 Melbourne Forum: "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 considered at the 2019 Melbourne Forum and captured in the country papers and online report.

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Melbourne Forum Constitutional INSIGHTS

  • Constitutional INSIGHT #1 - "Constitutional Beginnings"

    This Constitutional INSIGHT examines the choice between making a new constitution and amending an existing constitution to achieve substantial constitutional change. This choice arises in the early stages of constitution building. It is likely to affect the constitution-building process and it may have significance for the perceived legitimacy of the changes. The choice between a new or amended constitution may, in context, also affect the success of the constitution-building exercise.

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  • Constitutional INSIGHT #2 - "Implementing Federalism"

    Federalism or devolution involves the organization of public power so that government, on at least two levels, is responsive and accountable to the people that it serves. More than 25 countries around the world operate as a federation of some kind. Many more devolve power in other ways, either across the country or in particular regions with special autonomy. This Constitutional INSIGHT explains why any change from a centralized to a federal or devolved system is a significant one. It also outlines some of the challenges that arise in the context of such change, and suggests options that might be available to meet them.

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  • Constitutional INSIGHT #3 - "Asymmetric territorial arrangements in decentralized systems"

    This Constitutional INSIGHT deals with the questions presented by constitutional or legal arrangements that treat one region of a state differently from others. Differential treatment of this kind is sometimes described as ‘asymmetry’. Asymmetry is a feature of constitutional arrangements in all parts of the world. Examples of asymmetry on which this
    INSIGHT draws include Jammu and Kashmir in India; Aceh in Indonesia; the Bangsamoro region in the Philippines; the Autonomous Region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea; Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysia; and the Oecusse in Timor-Leste.

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  • Constitutional INSIGHT #4 - "Direct Public Participation in Constitution-Building"

    Direct public participation is a feature of almost every exercise in constitution-building in the 21st century. This issue of Constitutional INSIGHTS examines three different forms of direct public participation in constitution-building — consultation, deliberation and decision-making — and identifies ways to promote inclusive and meaningful direct public participation.

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  • Constitutional INSIGHT #5 - "Inclusion of Combatants in Constitution-Building"

    The inclusion and participation of combatants in constitution-building processes raises a number of distinctive issues. Constitutional INSIGHTS No. 5 examines the rationales for including combatants in constitution-building, the challenges this presents and some of the mechanisms that might be used to support their participation in constitution-building processes.

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  • Constitutional INSIGHT #6 - "Legal Approaches to Responding to Emergencies: Covid-19 as a Case Study"

    The Covid-19  pandemic saw the invocation of a diverse range of constitutional and legislative provisions to enable government responses to the unexpected health crisis. Constitutional INSIGHTS No. 6 examines the use and non-use of constitutional and legislative state of emergency powers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on examples from across Asia and the Pacific, the INSIGHTS investigates the implications of both constitutional and legislative responses for other democratic rights and processes and identifies lessons for the future exercise of emergency powers, including the continued importance of parliamentary oversight of executive action during states of emergency.

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  • Constitutional INSIGHT #7 - "How Federations Responded to Covid-19"

    The existence of two levels of government, each with their own constitutional powers and democratic accountability, shaped the responses of federal countries to the pandemic. Constitutional INSIGHTS No. 7 examines lessons learned from about the purposes, design and operation of federations over the course of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Key features and challenges of federal systems are considered, including the division and allocation of powers and fiscal resources; collaboration and cooperation between levels of government; and the challenges of democratic accountability.  Drawing on lessons from across Asia and the Pacific, the INSIGHTS highlights that observing how federations responded to the pandemic can usefully guide future design choices for federal systems worldwide.

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  • Constitutional INSIGHT #8 - "Beyond Representation in Pandemic Responses: Independent and International Institutions

    The Covid-19 pandemic shone a light on the key roles played by unelected, independent institutions and international bodies, from public health actors to courts, the World Health Organization and beyond. Constitutional INSIGHTS No. 8 explores the types of independent institutions that have shaped efforts to counteract the spread of Covid-19 across Asia and the Pacific. Four principal functions of these institutions are considered: sources of expertise; implementation mechanisms; constraints on government action; and linkage actors mediating between the domestic, transnational and international spheres.  Drawing on the experiences from Fiji, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and others, this edition of Constitutional INSIGHTS identifies globally relevant lessons learned, including the need for an expansive view of democratic legitimacy and the importance of institutional coordination.

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