Following the popular uprisings that swept across the region starting December 2010, ten Arab countries replaced, rewrote or reconsidered their constitutions, with some countries doing so several times in just a few years. It was the largest concentration of constitutional negotiations anywhere in the world since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Despite the revolutionary environment and the clear popular demand for change, almost all of the constitutions that were adopted were only superficially different from the texts that they replaced. In my presentation, I will offer an explanation for this disappointing development, which will center around two main factors: (i) that the region’s constitutions are underpinned by a small number of fundamental principles that are heavily inspired by the region’s modern colonial history; and (ii) democratic forces throughout the region did not make the case for wholesale structural change. I will expand on both these factors and offer a prognosis for future developments in the relationship between the individual and the state in the Arab region.
Zaid Al-Ali is the Senior Adviser on Constitution-Building for the Arab Region at International IDEA and an independent scholar. In his work, Al-Ali focuses on constitutional developments throughout the Arab region, with a particular focus on Iraq and the wave of reforms that took place in Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan and Yemen following the start of popular uprisings in December 2010. Al-Ali has published extensively on constitutional reform in the Arab region, including on process design issues and the impact of external influence. He is the author of The Struggle for Iraq’s Future: How Corruption, Incompetence and Sectarianism Have Undermined Democracy (Yale University Press 2014). Prior to joining International IDEA, Zaid worked as a legal adviser to the United Nations in Iraq, focusing on constitutional, parliamentary and judicial reform. He also practiced international commercial arbitration law for 12 years, representing clients in investment and oil and gas disputes mainly as an attorney with Shearman & Sterling LLC in Paris and also as a sole practitioner. He holds an LL.M. from Harvard Law School, a Maitrise en Droit from the University of Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne) and an LL.B. from King’s College London. He was a Law and Public Affairs Fellow and Visiting Lecturer at Princeton University in 2015-2016. He is a founder member of the Arab Association of Constitutional Law and is a member of its executive committee.
This event is free and open to the public. Lunch will be provided.