Constitutions provide the overarching legal framework which sets out the basis of the social contract between a state and its people affecting all aspects of policy and society. They establish the institutions of government and their powers vis-à-vis each other and with and between the people.
Constitutions provide the foundations on which governance and peace are built. To this end, it is essential that they belong to and have legitimacy and buy-in of all segments of society. Historically, constitutions were often drafted behind closed doors, on the basis of negotiations between powerbrokers. However, in recent decades, there has been an important shift towards supporting participatory, inclusive and transparent constitutional reform processes that build consensus around the shared vision to be enshrined in the national constitution.
Recognising the centrality of national constitutions to UNDP’s work, for the first time, the UNDP Strategic Plan 2014-17 explicitly includes constitution-making assistance as a key component of UNDP’s support for inclusive governance, peacebuilding and sustainable human development.
In support of national constitutional reform efforts, UNDP supports Member States and civil society stakeholders to design and manage inclusive constitutional reform processes, including through support for the establishment, operations of and technical training and advisory services for the members of constitution-making bodies, civic education and public consultation programmes, civil society advocacy and capacity development and engagement of women, young people and marginalized groups. UNDP also facilitates the provision of high quality technical advice to national partners on substantive constitution issues, such as power-sharing, federalism/decentralization, human rights, gender equality and public accountability.
UNDP has provided constitutional support across the world, in both countries with UN Missions, such as Libya, Somalia and Liberia, as well as in non-mission settings, such as Nepal, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Fiji and Bolivia.
UNDP works very closely with the UN Department of Political Affairs to ensure coordinated constitutional assistance, particularly in countries with a UN Mission. UNDP is also a member of the UN Working Group on Constitutional Assistance, which brings together the Department of Political Affairs, Department of Peacekeeping Operations, UNWomen, OHCHR, UNICEF and the UN Rule of Law Group. Further, UNDP works with a range of CSOs working on constitutional assistance, including IDEA, USIP and Interpeace, as well as regional and national CSOs.