LatinaLista — National constitutions are supposed to provide a sustainable structure for politics, yet only half live more than 19 years.
It’s a sobering statistic that reinforced in University of Texas’ constitution scholar, Zachary Elkins, the resolve to provide constitution writers, the world over, a reliable resource of information when (re)-crafting their respective constitutions.
That reliable resource is Constitute, a free online resource containing, at the moment, more than 160 ‘active’ constitutions for every independent state in the world. Plans are to expand the database with data and text of every constitution written since 1789.
The site is the brainchild of Elkins and his colleagues Tom Ginsburg of the University of Chicago and James Melton from University College London. Awarded a Google Ideas grant, the trio used data from the team’s Comparative Constitutions Project (CCP), another constitution project that catalogs text from more than 900 current and historical constitutions since 1789.
While the focus of Constitute is to help constitution writers more easily search and compare countries’ constitutional content for inspiration on how to draft similar issues into their own constitutions, Elkins and his team want the site to also be easy for everyday citizens to browse and understand.
According to Veronica Eragu Bichitero, a consultant on the Kenyan, Ugandana and South Sudanese constitutions, and featured in the accompanying video, “It is a statement of belonging, sovereignty, it is what makes a nation. …for citizens having access to the documents is the first step to allowing them to feel ownership of their constitution.”