Drafting a constitution

Why is drafting a new constitution difficult?

Besides the obvious fact that drafting a new constitution depends on the cooperativeness of the current regime, there are multiple questions and challenges that have to be discussed in order to decide on a new constitution. Below, you get an overview of the main topics and challenges concerning the future of Syria.

Identity

How to deal with ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity in Syria?
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Geography

According to which criteria should the country be divided into regions? How should natural resources be controlled?
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Political system

What should the relationship between the president and the parliament be like?
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Finance & economics

How does fiscal decentralization work? Which models for distributing taxes exist ?
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Transition

When is the right time for reform? Who should guide the process and how can all groups participate?
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Identity

Identity

Identity is a complex topic, particularly in Syria. The country comprises a huge diversity of ethnic, linguistic and religious groups. How can a Syrian identity be defined? Does it allow for heterogeneity within itself?

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Language

 Arabic, Kurdish, Turkish, Neo-Aramaic

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Ethnicities

Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Western Aramaics, Turkmens

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Religions

74% Sunni Muslims, 13% Shia Muslims, 10% Christians, 3% Druzes

Identity is a complex topic, particularly in Syria. The country comprises a huge diversity of ethnic, linguistic and religious groups. How can a Syrian identity be defined? Does it allow for heterogeneity within itself?

Constitution

languages

Arabic, Kurdish, Turkish, Neo-Aramaic
Constitution

religions

Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, Christians, Druzes, Yezidis
Constitution

ethnicities

Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Western Aramaics, Turkmens

Geography

Creating Subnational Entities

Many academics and practitioners see the introduction of a decentralized system which distributes political power across multiple levels within a state as a promising and sustainable instrument for solving ethnic, cultural, religious and/or linguistic conflicts in heterogeneous societies. However, criteria for the creation of sub-national entities (e.g. regions or provinces) are controversial. The chosen model always depends on country-specific goals and strategies.

Our issue paper discusses this topic more in detail. Unfortunately, it is available only in German and Arabic but not in English.

Constitution

Territorial federations

Territorial federations arise from dividing monolithic intra-ethnic regions.
Constitution

Ethnic or anti-ethnic federations

Anti-ethnic federalism refers to limiting the power of one concentrated ethnic group by dividing it into subnational entities. Ethnic federalism intends to grant more ethnic groups self-determination.

Management of Natural Resources Rents

Syria is a resource-rich country comprising huge oil reserves mainly located in the North. The management of such resource rents is highly debated and each approach comprises benefits and disadvantages for different groups.

Centralist allocation can foster equal economic development across the country and thereby create superregional solidarity.

Constitution
Constitution

The centralist allocation may cause a feeling of injustice in resource-rich regions and comprises a proneness to high bureaucracy and corruption.

Citizens in resource-rich regions directly benefit from subnational allocation and get the opportunity to realize regional priorities.

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Constitution

The subnational allocation might lead to substantial economic differences across regions which can result in high conflict potential.

Shared management is the justest approach as the regions have a say in the allocation process and the central state can take care of a just allocation between the regions. This can prevent corruption and nepotism.

Constitution
Constitution

Shared management is the most complex approach. Which level decides about the allocation of which resource? This model brings about the risk of blockades and conflict between the central state and regions.

 

Political system

political system power

Power

How much power should a president have and how can this power be limited? How should the relationship between the president and the parliament be organized? In systems with multiple levels of government, the question of how to divide powers among institutions is of critical importance.

Constitution

Law

In order for a state to function, it needs people and institutions to bring it to life. As there is no international court which can effectively enforce human rights obligations under international law and to which individuals can address their complaints, it is primarily the responsibility of individual states to meet their obligations under international law and to ensure that human rights are fully realised and that individuals are effectively protected.​

Local Democracy Power Sharing for a United Syria

Local democracy

While democracy is often reduced to holding elections, there is a variety of ways how citizens of a democratic state can become involved in political decision-making processes and take an active part in shaping their immediate living environment. Sustainable local structures play a key role in this. No one can prevent representatives of political parties from establishing democratic structures within their organizations. With the material presented here, we hope to encourage this development.

Finance and economics

Economic development plays a crucial role when discussing the future of Syria. No matter which fiscal model will be chosen, it should be determined and governed by the new constitution.

Fiscal Decentralisation

Goals

Fiscal decentralisation aims at the decentralisation of costly and important tasks to guarantee a better provision of public goods and services.

 

Principles

The principle of coherence implies that the subnational entity which exercises the task has to bear the costs.
The principle of subsidiarity determines that the central state is only responsible for the tasks that cannot be performed by the subnational entities.

Benefits

Fiscal decentralisation is more cost-efficient, more responsive to local needs and allows for more flexible political action in times of emergency.

 

Values

Fiscal decentralisation will only be successful when the following values are respected: fairness, solidarity and equality.

Political Transition

Transitional processes normally aim at changing an authoritarian regime into a democracy. The decisive characteristic of democracy in contrast to an authoritarian regime is its legitimacy. There are three important elements of legitimate political transition.

Our issue paper discusses this topic more in detail. Unfortunately, it is available only in German and Arabic but not in English.

Elections

Elections

Elections must be free, secret and equal. This should be assured by an independent and transparent electoral commission.

Census

Census

Post-conflict states have often undergone significant changes. Migration and expulsion are prominent phenomenons which affect the population. A census is needed to look into the diverse needs of different regions, but also to determine who is entitled to vote and thus participate in decision-making processes.

Constitutional process

Legitimate Constitutional Proces

All societal groups must be included in the constitutional process and all citizens must be given the possibility to participate with their ideas and opinions. Furthermore, information about the constitutional process must be shared with the public. Decisions should be based on a broad consensus and not just on simple majorities. In this way, future conflicts can be prevented. Finally, national actors must be in charge of the constitutional process. International forces should only take supportive or advisory tasks.