Public participation key to new constitution making

24 May 2011

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Khartoum, With the opening of the Constitution Making Forum, the Government of Sudan initiated a broad-based consultative process for drafting a permanent constitution, here today. The Forum, an initiative of the Advisory Council for Human Rights (ACHR) and is supported by the United Nations, notably the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Delivering his keynote address in the Opening Session, Prof al-Tayib Zain al-Abdin, Constitutional expert from the University of Khartoum lauded the Government’s approach in initiating dialogue with civil society organizations, research centres and international bodies on the making of the constitution for Northern Sudan. “This Forum should be utilized to broaden the public debate and participation in the making of the constitution”, Prof Zain al-Abdin observed. He noted that since the Constitution was a fundamental political contract between the different communities of the state, it should reflect their values and cultures and address their interests and ambitions.

Delivering his opening remarks, Mr. Ahmed Idriss Ali, who represented ACHR, said the permanent constitution of Sudan must express the hopes, aspirations and will of the people of Sudan. Thanking the United Nations for its support in enabling the participation of international experts from different parts of the globe to share their insights into the Constitution-making process at the Forum, Mr. Ali said the new Constitution should include all freedoms stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UHDR). “The sovereignty of the state is equal to the freedom of its citizens. People’s will is sovereign as well, Mr. Ali pointed out.“Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Claudio Caldarone, Country Director, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) emphasized the need for the Constitution making process to be nationally owned and led. He expressed the hope that the new constitution would uphold Sudan’s commitment to basic human and socio-economic rights principles, taking forward the successful approach adopted by the Interim National Constitution. “For the United Nations, whether it is the process of drafting or deciding on the substance of a new constitution, both the substance and process are critical for the success of making the new Constitution”, Mr. Caldarone noted.

The Constitution Making Forum is a platform for sharing of national and international experiences in constitution-making processes and for drawing lessons for constitutional reform in Sudan. Apart from inputs from wide-ranging national experts, special papers on specific country experiences and outcomes will be presented by constitutional experts from Kenya, South Africa and Malaysia at the two-day Forum.

Highlighting the need for a comprehensive public consultation process leading up to the drafting of the Constitution, Professor Zainal-Abdin said, “The constitution-making has to be a wide societal process in the full sense of the word”. He cautioned that reaching a common ground on vital constitutional issues is not going to be an easy or short process, given the diversity and differences among and between the various political, cultural and ethnic groups in the country. “The Muslim tradition has the concept of Ijma’ (consensus), if Ijma’ is ever possible in modern society it should be over the constitution of the country.,” Prof Zain al-Abdin said.

Contact Information

Kumar Tiku: Head, Communications Unit, UNDP Sudan: kumar.tiku@undp.org