Constitutional Monuments

I like to each my lunch outside.  Although uncharacteristic of this area, I have been lucky to have fairly frequent sunny Hague days. The IDEA offices have massive windows that offer a wealth of natural light, cool air, and a view of the Hague's rooftops, but it is still nice to feel the sun on my face and stretch my legs a bit in the middle of the day. Outside the IDEA offices there is a small square by Dutch parliament, and behind the stately Binnenhof buildings that house the Dutch government. Some days the little square hosts an organic market, but mostly just seagulls and pigeons that inch ever closer to the buffet of lunches offered by me and others sitting around me. There is a long, two-tiered polished marble ledge that forms a perfect resting place for lunch-goers and passers-by. I had enjoyed a few lunches on this ledge before a colleague at IDEA informed me, when casually passing the square, that the ledge is actually a monument to the Dutch constitution. If you look closely, on the face of the second tier is inscribed Article I of the Dutch constitution, which ensures all people in the Netherlands will be treated equally. When I think of monuments, typically the image that comes to mind is something stately, large, or at the very least vertical. But this low slab of marble is perect. Countless people sit and rely on it daily, and without fanfare or even a double take. It isn't picturesque, but simple, strong, and useful. Just as a constitution should be. 

Much like the Dutch constitutional monument across the street, the International IDEA constitution building team works tirelessly and magnanimously to spread strong constitutional foundations around the globe. IDEA's constitution building team stands at the heart of this work, but this week I have also been struck by the commonalities between the IDEA team and the scholars and practitioners that attend IDEA workshops and assist with IDEA's projects. This week I attended a conference addressing cybersecurity and elections, and a meeting discussing and finessing a dataset which aims to facilitate constitution building in post-conflict regions. I've had the opportunity to meet government agency officials, UN mediators, international scholars, IT experts, parliamentarians, and non-governmental members of the international commmunity. 

Regardless of title or nation of origin, every person I've had the chance to meet or observe in a conference or meeting has shared the same earnest passion for effective constitutionalism. Each person addresses the topic from his or her unique expertise, but all respect each other and use each other's knowledge and experiences to build a network together, striving for a common goal. 

Ghent, Belgium