Finding My Footing

Why the Constitution-Building Programme at International IDEA

During my senior year at my undergraduate college, I wrote a senior thesis analyzing and comparing the French and Danish governments’ counterterrorism policies for foreign fighters returning from wars in the Middle East, evaluating the infringement of the foreign fighters’ human rights. My research for the thesis included analyzing the constitutions of France and Denmark, diving into the provisions of each constitution and the human rights protected in order to understand if the countries were placing national security above the protection of their own citizens’ rights. This research sparked my interest in law and the constitution-building process. When I learned about International IDEA and its Constitution-Building Programme, I knew I wanted to be a summer intern at the organization to be able to dive deeper into the analysis of constitutions and their history, with experts in the field.

Working During Covid

I have begun to settle into my internship, busily working on several projects I have been asked to complete. I will be working remotely this summer, as are all my colleagues. However, I am currently working from Toronto, Canada while my colleagues are in The Hague, Netherlands, causing a six-hour time difference to which I am still adjusting. One step I have taken to make the time difference easier to manage is that I begin work around 7 AM or 8 AM to be able to work longer during the work hours in The Hague. Despite the time difference, my colleagues have been very welcoming. I attend the weekly staff meetings and learn about the various projects that everyone has on their agenda, such as the constitution process in Chile. It is fascinating to have a window into the constitution-building process for countries such as Chile that are currently undergoing a constitutional revision.

Current Projects

I have been tasked with three ongoing projects of which the first two involve applying my French-language skills, a skill I was very excited to learn would be of use during my internship.

  1. The Constitution-Building Programme has ConstitutionNet which, in part, posts about current constitution-building news from countries throughout the world. For mainly French-speaking countries, the constitution processes and events are usually reported on in French by local news sources before they are reported by English-speaking news sources, if picked up and reported on at all. I have been asked to research, in French, constitution events occurring in French-speaking countries. One of the constitution events I found this way was a bill that Quebec wanted to introduce; they requested an amendment to the Canadian Constitution, asking for French to be the only official language in Quebec. This news story was posted on To have news I found be included on the organization’s website was very exciting and I look forward to finding other information that the Constitution-Building Programme will find useful.
  2. One of the highly frequented parts of International IDEA’s Constitution-Building website is the Country Profiles that provide a detailed description of the history of constitution building in each country. I have been tasked with creating a country profile for Mali, particularly because the official language is French and two coups have occurred in the past year. I have begun to research information in both French and English, doing a deep dive into the history of Mali. It has been fascinating to learn about the evolution of its constitution after each of the four coups that have so far transpired. As part of my research, I am reading the Constitution Primers that International IDEA has published; they describe various aspects of a constitution that could be included in the constitution’s construction. I look forward to continuing to learn about Mali’s constitutional history.
  3. International IDEA has begun a webinar series that addresses various constitutional design innovations that countries have implemented or innovations that should be considered. Speakers who are experts on the innovation are invited to speak and discuss the success and difficulties of the innovation. The first webinar happened this past week, which I was fortunate enough to attend. I will be helping to organize the second webinar for which a topic is yet to be decided.

I cannot wait to continue these projects and to improve my knowledge of constitution building.