Crowdsourcing new constitutions: How 2 Latin American countries increased participation and empowered groups excluded from politics – podcast


Over the past few decades, countries across Latin America have witnessed a surge in demands by its people for increased political participation and representation. Colombia and Chile stand out as notable examples of countries responding to these calls with constitutional reform.

Colombia’s 1991 constitution emerged from a backdrop of armed conflict and social unrest. It represented a turning point in the country’s history by acknowledging the multicultural fabric of Colombian society, including Indigenous communities and Afro-Colombian populations.

Likewise in Chile, the government has embarked on a journey of constitutional reform in response to the widespread discontent and social unrest that erupted in 2019. The protests reflected grievances related to inequality, education, health care and pension systems, and a desire to replace the constitution imposed during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

People holding up the Chilean flag.
Chilean people elect members of the Constitutional Council in Santiago in May.
(Ailen Diaz/EPA-EFE)

Under the new government of progressive president Gabriel Boric, a draft constitution was presented to the people. The draft included progressive elements such as gender parity, Indigenous rights and a restructuring of the parliamentary system to distribute power more evenly.

The draft was ultimately rejected in a referendum in September 2022, although some commentators argue that the process remains a victory for democracy.




Read more:
Chile’s progressive new constitution rejected by voters after campaign marred by misinformation


In this week’s episode of The Conversation Weekly, we speak with two researchers about Latin America’s ongoing democratic transition, with a particular focus on the involvement of populations in democratic processes in Colombia and Chile.

We examine how countries are looking to empower their populations through crowdsourcing participation, what the implications of these reforms for marginalized communities are and how Chile’s rejection of a progressive constitution remains a significant step for empowering citizens.

Crowdsourcing the constitution

Carlos Bernal is a professor of law at the University of Dayton in the United States and commissioner of the America Human Rights Commission. As part of his research, he focuses on what he calls “constitutional crowdsourcing,” a process by which governments gather the opinions, views and demands of their populations in the making of a constitution.

The basic idea is that in a democracy, everyone should have the chance to participate and define the institutions that preside over them. Bernal says, as societies change, so do the social and political values of that society — and this change can be a challenge to a constitution. “If a constitution becomes a stagnant in the past, that constitution is not able, is not relevant anymore.”

To reflect those shifts, countries can either enact legislation to supplement the constitution, or they can specify the meaning of the constitution without changing the wording. But in certain instances, simple amendments of a constitution might not be enough to reflect those social shifts.

“And when there is a big gap between the constitution text and the constitutional reality,” Bernal adds, “the constitution must be replaced to create a new institutional framework that is able to regulate your society.”

Political inclusion

Jennifer Piscopo is an associate professor of politics at Occidental College in Los Angeles, in the United States. Her work focuses on representation, gender quotas and legislative institutions in Latin America, and how countries involve underrepresented groups in political processes.

She says that during Latin America’s democratic transition in the 1980s, “women were very active in the human rights movements that criticized the abuses under authoritarian governments. They were very active in the peace movements that really urged for an end to the conflict in Central America.”

But she says when democratic systems began replacing authoritarian governments, there was a gap between women’s roles as activists and in the democratic transition, versus the kinds of opportunities they had in politics. So when, in September 2022, the new draft constitution was rejected, many observers were perplexed. Some analysis argued the government’s radically democratic process had been too ambitious.

As a result, the government initiated a second, more institutional process for drafting a new constitution, which removed certain representational quotas for Indigenous people and women that had characterized the first constitutional process.

But according to Piscopo, although the first draft was rejected, “there is still an appetite for processes that are more open and more democratic. The challenge is, electorates are fickle and how do you hold someone’s attention and someone’s preferences in a stable way as everyday politics is pushing them around?”

Listen to the full episode of The Conversation Weekly to learn more about Latin America’s democratic transition, crowdsourcing constitutional processes, and what their impact means for marginalized groups.


This episode was written and produced by Mend Mariwany, who is also the executive producer of The Conversation Weekly. Eloise Stevens does our sound design, and our theme music is by Neeta Sarl.

You can find us on Twitter @TC_Audio, on Instagram at theconversationdotcom or via email. You can also subscribe to The Conversation’s free daily email here.

Listen to The Conversation Weekly via any of the apps listed above, download it directly via our RSS feed or find out how else to listen here.





Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Categories