To date, a number of countries around the world are undergoing constitutional reform efforts. Egypt and Tunisia are preparing for constitutional referendums in the wake of the Arab Spring revolutions, and Morocco has a fresh new constitution that is heavily debated. Kenya and Japan are considering far-reaching changes, while Iceland is planning to throw out its old constitution and draft an entirely new document to govern the nation. There is little else that is as daunting, complex and significant as the shaping of a constitution, and an interactive online tool and resource will facilitate this process to make it both well-informed and participatory.
The Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law is building a ‘Constitution Explorer’ website that will host a structured database of constitutions to enable people to compare and contrast other countries' constitutions as they undergo their own national projects for constitutional change. For example, this interactive platform will allow users to learn how other emerging democracies have incorporated complex legal, political, and human rights clauses in their constitutions. Currently, most constitutions can be found online, but in order to understand how different constitutions have tackled a challenging issue (e.g. appointment of judges, role of religion, ect), one has to go through each constitution manually. Constitution Explorer will have a database where each article of each constitution is tagged by subject, allowing quick and meaningful searches.
When possible, Constitution Explorer will strive to provide translations of all text to lift the barrier of language and provide a discussion platform for our users to debate these important issues. The website will also host articles by legal and political experts on specific themes like empowerment of women or tackling corruption, helping to contextualize and unpack complex constitutional clauses and terminology for all to benefit from. All constitutional data from Constitution Explorer will be available in an open format for the wider community to contribute to this process.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
The Program on Liberation Technology is calling all legal enthusiasts, political scientists, and constitutional experts interested in contributing to a project that will aid activists, legal scholars, and the general public with the constitution writing process! Your participation in Constitution Day will help impact post-revolutionary states in the Arab world and beyond to have powerful information available to them as they undergo this historic process and begin to build the foundations of a democratic state.
Constitution Explorer is already a reality with a running prototype. However, it is still missing many constitutions, translations, and most of all categorization. In order for the search experience to be meaningful for our global users, we will "categorize" each article of a constitution by subject, allowing the user to browse not only by country but also by concept. We also want to provide notes that will clarify each article and the issues that it relates to. Many constitutions also require translations to be understandable by the largest number of people possible. And for all this, we need you!
The Program on Liberation Technology is organizing an international Constitution Day on Saturday November 12, 2011 when volunteers will gather in local groups - with computer in hand - to help categorize, translate and annotate. The team has already developed a tagging taxonomy and guidelines to facilitate the categorization process, but needs a little bit of your time to begin tagging articles of select constitutions.
Constitution Day will feature online sessions during the day, so you will be able to connect and talk to other participants internationally. There are no specific requirements, except a basic knowledge and interest in law (especially constitutional law), and an enthusiasm towards this endeavor. There are no specific computer skills required, the team just asks that you participate in a mock training session, follow the taxonomy, and most of all have fun!
The Program on Liberation Technology will be convening a group at Stanford University and there will be similar gatherings with international partners worldwide. This is also something that you can participate in virtually but the team encourages you to have a partner to work with as this is a deliberative process and it helps to work with a small team.