Tunisia, Egypt, Fiji, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Libya, South Sudan and Hungary have all produced new constitutions in the past few years. Each of these constitutions arose in different political circumstances, but how, in general, does a nation produce a new constitution? UVa law professor Mila Versteeg and co-author Benedikt Goderis argue that building a new constitution does not occur in national isolation. Constitutions, they say, are “shaped by transnational influence, or diffusion.” New constitutions are based on other countries’ constitutions and their constitutional experiences.
To make the job of drawing from or comparing the constitutions of countries around the world easier, the Comparative Constitutions Project developed the Constitute Project. Constitute contains English versions of the constitutions of “nearly every independent state in the world” along with a more limited number in Arabic. With subject tags, Constitute makes comparing the provisions of different constitutions easy. For example, you can easily pull up all of the constitutional provisions from around the world tagged as protecting equality regardless of gender. From there, you could select certain countries’ provisions to compare directly in a side-by-side screen. You can easily switch which countries to view in your comparison and pin those comparisons so that you can download them all as a document or CSV file. For users needing more targeted queries of the Constitute data, they have provided a SPARQL endpoint.
Constitute has a smooth, intuitive interface that makes comparative constitutional work easier. Since it focuses on constitutions currently in force and does not include historical constitutions, it may be of limited use for scholars seeking to trace constitutional trends over time. For many users, though, who are examining how current constitutions across the world treat particular topics, it’s a valuable (and free) resource.
– Ben Doherty