On 11th December, UCL’s Constitution Unit will be hosting a lunchtime seminar to explore Constitute – the world’s most comprehensive, up-to-date repository of constitutions in the world. There are arguably few pieces of legislation in the world that are more central to a country’s functioning than a constitution. For centuries, however, access to these crucial documents has all to often been restricted to a tiny elite. Using 21st century tools, UCL and their partners are opening up constitutions and democratising access for the very first time.
Approximately 5 constitutions are replaced and 30 are amended each year. This year has already witnessed new constitutions in Fiji and Zimbabwe and constitutional amendments in Brazil, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Mexico, Switzerland and Tonga. Despite the high frequency of constitutional change, constitutional drafters often lack systematic information on the contents of other countries’ constitutions that could help them decide what topics should be addressed in their constitution and how to address those topics. Constitute addresses this problem by putting searchable copies of the world’s constitutions online. However, Constitute is more than just a repository of constitutional texts. The project draws on data collected by the Comparative Constitutions Project over the last 8 years to assign topic tags to provisions within constitutions. This allows powerful, topic-based searches of those texts. There are more than 300 topics for users to choose from on the site, and for those interested in regional or temporal trends in constitution-making, the search results can be filtered by country and year.
At this seminar, James Melton will talk about the creation of the Constitute site and demonstrate its use. If you want to attend, please register free of charge here.