Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Kosovo to Libya: Write Your Own Constitution

As NATO looks increasingly at Libya to further peacekeeping efforts there, perhaps they should reflect on some of their less-successful measures in the Balkans (this video, while exposing Russia's self interests more than anything else, gives one pause), including the Dayton Accords and other exogenously-authored constitutional documents.

In fact, the Dayton accords, the "Comprehensive Proposal for Kosovo Settlement," and the Kosovo Constitution, are a case study in the need for autochthonous constitutional procedures.

Danielle Tomson, who spent much of her Yale undergrad experience in Kosovo observing peacekeeping progress, maintains that many provisions of the Kosovo Constitution are copied from the Comprehensive Proposal, and evidence the heavy hand of the international community in Kosovo's constitution-writing.

If the Dayton Accords prefigured in any way the Comprehensive Proposal (which in turn provided much language and structure for the eventual constitution), the turmoil in the region may underscore a central point of Tomson's senior thesis: the process of constitution-building often provides a forum for ethnic and other groups to negotiate agreements and come together in a unique way to make peace amongst themselves.

The externally-imposed Dayton Accords (formulated in Dayton, Ohio) for Bosnia and then the Comprehensive Proposal for Kosovars, concludes Tomson, robbed parties in the region to discuss and deliberate differences.

She is certainly on to something.  Anti-factual scenarios always make for poor analysis, but one does wonder whether at least some violence could have been averted had locals been able to freely negotiate at the same table.  Such a non-violent forum for working out differences surely could have only facilitated peace rather than postpone or avert it.

With my background in U.S. constitutional legal history, I can't but help think of the parallel multi-party negotiation studies done of the U.S. Constitutional Convention, wherein parties with varied interests - North and South, East and West, Large State and Small State-came together to resolve differences.  The Constitution (or the process of creating it) didn't resolve all differences (enter the Civil War, stage left), but it certainly created a basis for unity and prosperity in the new country, and proved a platform that could be molded to new circumstances during Reconstruction.

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