The development of the Constitutional Justice Platform for Arab and European countries falls within the scope of the Arab Center for the Development of the Rule of Law and Integrity (ACRLI) initiative to build constitutional knowledge and promote constitutional justice in the MENA region through the development of an internet-based knowledge exchange platform for a consortium of partners operating in the constitution law sector.
The initiative aims to shed light on the important role of constitutional courts and councils in consolidating the sovereignty of the constitution and ensuring a certain level of political and social stability for the state. This project will also contribute to identifying the challenges and needs for constitutional judiciary reform in the MENA region through the creation of a network of specialized experts from Arab and European countries.
The Initiative’s main goal is to support democratic reform by deepening knowledge of the constitutional culture as a main lever to safeguards basic rights and liberties of the people. Simultaneously, we aim to develop a strategy for a coherent and robust constitutional judicial system by consolidating the performance of the constitutional courts’ members in the MENA region and strengthening their roles in ensuring the constitution supremacy and controlling the law constitutionality.
The Initiative’s Objectives:
The importance of developing the project of Constitutional Justice Platform is reflected in the goals that include but are not limited to:
- Creating a consolidated legal- constitutional source where constitutional key actors in the Arab and European countries participate in producing its contents and nourishing its dialogue sessions and conferences. Actors include constitutional councils and courts and the constitutional judges. More so, this source offers access to a collection of legal information e.g. the constitutions, the regulatory texts of the constitutional courts, samples of the constitutional courts judgments and decisions, in addition to a number of other references such as publications, experts, professors of law and constitution, universities of laws, think tanks and related institutions and press.
- Developing an electronic compendium that provides constitutional information, creating an interactive space for dialogue between the constitutional community to share experiences, activities and events related to the subject matter. The compendium includes all information referred to above and is published electronically in accordance with the right of access to information. At the same time it will also promote constitutional culture and practice through the exchange of experiences and best practices.
- Deepening the constitutional concepts and principles and consolidating constitutional culture in the MENA region. The compendium is key to raising the level of politicians’ awareness regarding democratic performance and the culture of the rule of law.
- Providing a framework to enhance the institutional performance of the constitutional courts by benefiting from counterparts through the peer-learning approach;
- Laying the foundation for scientific and professional cooperation and communication framework between stakeholders from Arab and European countries;
- Raising awareness among the public on the importance of the constitutional judiciary’s role.
The Initiative’s Stakeholders:
The constitutional justice platform targets a wide range of stakeholders namely: 1) members of constitutional councils and courts and administrators; 2) the ordinary judiciary (judges and lawyers); 3) governmental institutions such as the House of Representatives, the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, ministries and other public administrations; 4) experts and professors of constitutional law; 5) think tanks and specialized civil society organizations; 6) the concerned press and 6) the public.
The platform contributes to developing the performance of the Arab constitutional courts’ members by creating a communication network with European constitutional courts and ensuring a continuous dialogue between constitutional judges, ordinary judges, experts and professors of constitutional law from Arab and European countries to exchange experiences and expertise. The project contributes to establishing and educating the future generation of constitutional judges by developing structured curriculum to law faculties for the benefit of student, ensuring integration of professional skills. It also contributes to raising awareness about the concepts of constitutional justice by strengthening the capacities of specialized civil society organizations, enhancing the role of the press in defending the rights and freedoms enshrined in constitutions, monitoring practices that violate constitutions and laws, and disclosing them to the media, which leads to increasing public awareness and thus increasing its ability to hold the authorities accountable.
Partners in Developing the Constitutional Justice Platform:
The development of the constitutional Justice is based on participatory approach, i.e. the Arab constitutional courts and councils collaborate together to provide the platform with useful information relating to the constitutional topic, mainly rulings and decisions of the constitutional courts, annual reports and periodicals, in an automated manner.
ACRLI is implementing the preparatory phase of the Constitutional Justice Platform with the support of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) based on common goals in strengthening legal and constitutional reform in Arab countries and in an effort to complement their previous project on “Strengthening the Role of the Constitutional Judiciary in Building the Rule of Law in Lebanon” .
This initiative is also a continuation of the efforts by KAS and the Lebanese Constitutional Court to incorporate improvements to the system; thus to consolidate the rule of law structures and its relevant institutes. These are in particular the constitutional courts and councils and to protect the basic rights and liberties as well to promote the importance of constitutional authority in the rule of law.
ACRLI’s vision is to work with regional partners from the European Union specialized in the field of constitutional justice, such as the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), to exchange experiences and best practices related to strategies for the development of constitutional justice, share the practices of the European Union countries and provide support in strengthening and building capacities. ACRLI will also cooperate with the Union of Arab Constitutional Councils, coordinate with law faculties, and with renowned and specialized think tanks due to their strong and extensive experience in constitutional justice.
Initiative’s Structure and Roles:
The initiative’s structure is composed of a Management Unit, Steering Committee and General Assembly, which will be formed of the following entities:
1- The Management Unit is composed of members from ACRLI and the donor. ACRLI will be responsible to manage and carry out all the administrative and executive work of the initiative. The donor will be responsible for the financing and the budget management.
2- The Steering Committee is composed of producers of constitutional information, mainly representative/s of the Union of the Arab Constitutional Councils, Union of the Arab Parliaments, Venice Commission; dedicated think tanks and donor/s. The role of the Steering Committee is to define the mission of the initiative, provide support, guidance and oversight of the progress of the initiative outputs and the achievement of the initiative outcomes.
3- The General Assembly is composed of the members of the constitutional courts and councils from Arab and European countries, constitutional judges, and representatives of law faculties, concerned media/press and relevant civil society organizations.
The role of the general assembly is to contribute to implementing the initiative and developing the platform.
4- The Public. This initiative addresses the general public as the end-users and provides the public with access to free legal information on constitutional justice and reform in the region.
Implementation Phases of the Constitutional Justice Platform
The development of the Constitutional Justice Platform encompasses several successive and interrelated stages:
First Stage: The Preparatory Phase:
The preparatory phase consists of implementing the following tasks:
1) Elaborating the background paper of the Constitutional Network Building project addressing the reasons on which the project was built, its purposes and ultimate goals, the participating members and beneficiaries as well as the different phases of implementation. The paper includes a comprehensive set of information (constitutions and laws of the Arab and European constitutional courts, sample of judgments and decisions issued by constitutional courts, sample of related literature from the Arab and European countries). This is in addition to resources related to the constitutional community from the Arab and European countries, such as the constitutional councils, constitutional judges, experts and specialists, think tanks and relevant institutions, law universities, constitutional law professors, etc.). The background paper is written in Arabic and English.
2) Developing a Pilot Compendium to provide a compilation of Arab and regional resources and references, key players and constitutional institutions across the world. The Compendium serves as a communication tool and is intended to provide reliable information in a single resource published on both the websites of ACRLI and KAS in Arabic and English. This will establish the development of a comprehensive interactive and knowledge platform and the establishment of a network of experts and key actors in the Arab and European countries in order to exchange experiences and best practices at a later stage. All information, such as decisions and judgements issued by the constitutional courts, doctrinal references, parliamentary debates and other useful information related to the constitutional subject will be added during the implementation phase of the project.
Second Stage – Implementation Phase:
The implementation phase of the Constitutional Justice Platform consists of the following actions:
1- Developing an online, interactive knowledge sharing Platform on Constitutional knowledge building
The Constitutional Justice Platform will be developed through the collaborative efforts of members of constitutional courts and councils of this platform. It allows each court or council to share with other courts’ and council’s members of the platform relevant constitutional information, best practices, and recommendations of constitutional reform.
The Platform will be divided into two main sections: informative and interactive sections. The informative section will include reliable and comprehensive set of information that is accessible, informative and easy to navigate, including decisions of the constitutional councils, doctrinal references (books, studies, etc.), policies, statistics and analysis as well as regional and international resources and references, training materials and courses, who’s who (key players, constitutional institutions across the world, think tanks, academics, universities, activists, etc.) and relevant events. It will also include periodicals where related articles, news and announcements will be published and freely accessible to the public.
The interactive section will include i) chatting room where concerned experts can share knowledge, exchange best practices and increase their capacities; ii) online meetings where webinars and conferences will be organized periodically, bringing together concerned participants and institutes to discuss different topics of constitutional reform. Topics of the online conferences will be planned and organized by the Steering Committee of this project; and iii) a training program combining theory with practical application and skills developed in professional settings. To this end, ACRLI will conclude an agreement with specialized institutions such as the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) and relevant law faculties. This platform will constitute a learning tool to build the knowledge and capacities of relevant stakeholders such as officials, lawyers, academics in addition to law students’ universities, who are interested in the constitution and constitutional adjudication
The interactive part contains also the Q&A feature designed to provide adequate advice from specialized expert/s who will be engaged for this purpose. It will also act as a watchdog for constitutional practices in the Mediterranean countries and monitor the functioning of the constitutional courts; the wrongdoings and the best practices which may extends to monitor the accountability of the concerned officials.
The platform is designed to be developed in two languages (Arabic, English) and will be searchable by different methods (search by country, type of content, topic e.g., keyword or abstract, and free search).
2- Establishing a network of constitutional experts and professionals: Building a strong communication system among the different constitutional’s actors such as the constitutional courts and councils, governmental institutions, universities and think tanks from different regions of the Mediterranean countries. The objective of this strategy is to monitor and analyze the progress on permanent improvement of the constitutional justice in the related countries, in order to strengthen the public trust in the constitutional courts and councils, and to significantly empower the constitutional courts’ and council’s operation and its role in achieving and safeguarding the rule of law. This will be through organizing a series of focus groups and workshops combining relevant key stakeholders from different regions to share best practices and monitor the work of the constitutional judiciary in compliance with the international principles.
3- Building the capacities of the law students’ universities, who are interested in the constitutional adjudication, by i) developing a constitutional curriculum to be adopted in law and political sciences faculties, and ii) creating an internship program between those faculties and constitutional research institutes. This will contribute in integrating classroom knowledge and theory with practical application and skills developed in professional settings. It will also contribute in increasing benefits to students, on two levels, while completing a degree and when seeking a career path post-graduation. The program activities will include participation in research projects, examining various lectures, observing and analyzing court trials, etc. This internship program will be an excellent opportunity for the participants to broaden their understanding of the constitutional adjudication of their countries.
4- Holding a permanent annual conference to discuss and analyze constitutional justice status in Arab countries. This conference aims at supporting MENA countries in establishing good governance that guarantees the rights and freedom of its citizen, countering extremism and terrorism by addressing its causes. Causes often rooted in the absence of democracy, stability and development as well the spread of poverty due to the poor performance of the political systems. The conference will be divided into several sessions; each will be dedicated to different categories of participants (judges, lawyers, public administrations officials, academic and professors, etc.).