This summer, I am interning with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA). I will be with the constitution-building team to help support and strengthen democratic institutions around the world.

International IDEA, headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, is an intergovernmental organization that provides technical assistance to countries around the world to build democratic institutions. The Constitution-Building division, based in the Hague, the Netherlands, provides technical assistance to young democracies in the area of constitutional transitions, specifically the design of the constitution and how constitutions are made.

 Why I wanted to come to International IDEA

Being part of the Constitution-Building team at International IDEA has been a dream opportunity. Before coming to law school, I had worked six years at a global NGO helping women gain access to financial services. Through my fieldwork in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, I recognized the crucial role that regulations and rule of law play in creating financial access for women. Thus, I came to International IDEA hoping to answer one question: is it possible to address social and economic inequalities through the constitution-building process?   

 My projects for the summer

I have been given two projects for the summer.

My first assignment is tied closely to the COVID crisis. In light of COVID, International IDEA invited constitutional scholars around the world to submit a video discussing their respective government’s legal response to COVID-19. The objective of this project is two-fold, one is to share information about how governments around the world responded to COVID-19 to learn about frameworks for emergency responses in a global pandemic, and the other is to provide a network for scholars to engage in comparative discussions.

I reviewed the forty-nine videos that have been submitted and wrote up a short summary for each country answering the following questions:

  • A general overview of COVID-19 cases
  • Did the government declare a state of emergency under the Constitution?
  • What was the legal framework and laws that allowed emergency measures to be issued?
  • What fundamental rights were limited during the pandemic?
  • Were there any checks and balances in place?
  • Did any elections, national or local, get postponed?
  • Were there any subnational governance issues?

My second project is to build a database examining a series of Constitutions around the world to examine the extent that customary law is recognized and incorporated into the Constitution and legal system. This is quite an exciting project for me because I have encountered customary law many times in my previous job. I shall share more about this project as well as my learning from COVID-19 response in the next blog.