Braid featured in International IDEA website
AIJC senior adviser and president emeritus Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid shared her views as a “constitution builder” in an interview with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) that was posted on its website last February 29, 2012.
International IDEA is an intergovernmental organization that is based in Sweden and supports sustainable democracy worldwide by providing comparative knowledge, assisting in democratic reform and influencing policies and politics.
A member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission of the Philippines which prepared the Philippine Constitution of 1987, Dr Braid had also presented a paper, “Philippines: Issues in Constitution Building,” during the Forum on Constitution Building organized by International IDEA In Jakarta, Indonesia last June 16-17, 2011.
The interview with Dr. Braid was part of IDEA’s consultations with practitioners involved in constitutional change processes in countries around the globe. International IDEA has recently published the handbook, A Practical Guide to Constitution Building.
Below are highlights of the interview with Dr. Braid.
Q: How have you been involved in constitution building?
A: I was a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission of the Philippines which drafted the present Constitution. In that capacity, I authored provisions on communication and information, education, human rights and social issues. I also participated in discussions on the design, amongst others, of the executive, legislative, local government and judicial systems.
Q: What have you learned from your constitution building experience?
A: There is a need to balance the focus between local and national politics, with global realities as well as that of various interest groups. My involvement deepened my understanding of many issues relevant to state building and democracy consolidation, such as diversity and pluralism, inclusiveness, the need to link the historical past with present experiences in preparing for the future, and to rectify imbalances in wealth and power distribution in society.
Q: What were your biggest successes as a constitution builder?
A: Promoting and ensuring the existence of a role in political processes for a broad range of stakeholders, such as cooperatives, media and non-government organizations, through some of the provisions, which I authored. Also important are clarifications I brought to definitions on concepts like participatory democracy, ownership of media, decentralization in educational planning and science and technology, and education for human rights, which were subsequently integrated in implementing legislation.
Q: What was most critical to your success as a constitution builder?
A: Connections to a broad network of NGOs: being in academia and with a background in journalism and development consultancy, I was able to exert some influence on the direction of the process through advocacy skills developed from my association with these networks.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you faced as a constitution building practitioner?
A: Being able to build a viable force of vigilance that could fulfill the much needed “watchdog” function was, continues to be a huge challenge.
Q: Constitution building is a continuous multi-phase project including not only the drafting and adoption of the constitution but also its implementation. What is the biggest challenge your country is currently facing in this area?
A: Implementation: a key challenge has been adopting legislation on freedom of information, and similar acts that would redistribute power and privilege; and to strengthen political and social institutions - specifically the judiciary - to ensure equitable access and participation of marginalized sectors; women, cultural communities, the disabled, and similar vulnerable groups in political processes.
A second challenge involves using the Constitution to protect economic and political sovereignty and ensuring the sustainability of a liberal, participatory democracy.
Q: What can be done to overcome this challenge and how can the international community contribute in the process?
A: Solutions: one major example is clearly the need to ensure the institutionalization of a democratic and just electoral process; continuing advocacy and more commitment from the UN and the International Community in pressuring the government to comply with international protocols on fundamental freedoms by recognizing the rights of marginalized groups. International development agencies can also provide relevant assistance in improving governance and the delivery of social services.
Q: What do think is most needed by contemporary constitution building practitioners to help them in their work today?
A: What is needed are initiatives enabling and promoting comparative lesson - learning and knowledge sharing between practitioners through dialogue fora, peer networks, training workshops, online databases and publications. Some organizations like IDEA are already doing this, but it needs to be expanded and encouraged.