Regional Conference on Engendering Constitution-Making in the Arab Region

 Participants in a civic education training session in Libya learned how to develop media campaigns for elections. (UNDP)

One of UNDP’s comparative advantages is in facilitating knowledge sharing and this conference will contribute to the sharing of experiences regionally but also provide a forum for learning from global experiences and good practices of negotiating women’s rights in political transitions. Such knowledge sharing will also help identify where UNDP could better support the work of women and policy-makers in the region and build an agenda for future work. In addition, this initiative will seek to complement existing programming, whilst at the same time renewing attention in a way that generates action on the ground to empower women and advance gender equality in constitution related issues.

The specific objectives and expected outputs of this workshop

  • To exchange experiences on the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment in constitution making processes in similar contexts;
  • Create a platform that can support participants to develop networks and modes of exchange;
  • Identifying the opportunities and entry points for UNDP follow up, e.g. technical assistance, capacity building, programme design, lessons learned from similar contexts. 

Anticipated outputs

  •  Recommendations for guiding principles for promoting gender responsive constitution making;
  • Consolidation of expert papers on different aspects related to the protection of rights and the promotion of gender equality in constitutional processes in similar contexts highlighting promising practices, key entry points and conclusions;
  • Establishment of a network(s) amongst the participants that will support ongoing communication and exchange (structure and specific aims to be determined by the participants themselves); 
  • A plan of action for each UNDP country office in order to identify possible entry points, partnerships and strategies to promote gender equality in constitution making processes.
  • Knowledge product represented in a background paper providing contextual analysis for each of the focus countries and a regional overview of trends.

This conference is only one aspect of a larger package of current and planned UNDP support in the region. It represents a starting point from where UNDP and its partners identify strategies, and develop action plans/programmes. Preparations for follow up of the aforementioned outputs will be undertaken. The conference will seek to support projects on constitution-making, parliamentary development and elections managements which are/will be implemented by Cos.[1] Seed funding could be provided for Cos to capitalize on these projects as part of the follow up after the conference. Furthermore, the conference can assist in creation of new initiatives, such as identifying key elements of a regional gender programme.

A rationale for the selection of recommended focus countries

The conference will focus on six transitioning countries: Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Yemen, Jordan in addition to Somalia and Sudan. Tunisia, Egypt and Somalia are currently engaged in constitution drafting processes. Constitutional reform will also shortly take place in Libya, Yemen and Sudan[2]. As for Morocco and Jordan, constitutions have recently been amended and hence they provide substantive input and inside to the process. Expertise will be drawn from other countries of the South which passed through similar experience notably Iraq, Kenya and South Africa.

The conference would open opportunities for the sharing of good practices and experiences from other regions and will facilitate South-South exchange. While the presence of women in the constitutional drafting committees and decision-making structures does not necessarily imply that gender issues will be addressed, it is one of the important entry points and current data shows that women are not as well represented as men in the constitutional drafting structures. Resource persons would therefore include experts from Muslim-majority countries in other regions where constitutional or legal reforms have advanced women’s rights , for example: Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan and Bangladesh; and from countries where women’s movements have influenced constitutional processes – two should be selected from the many in Sub-Saharan Africa, for example.

The methodological approach

Identification of relevant institutions and individuals to take part in the conference will be undertaken in close consultation with relevant COs. RCC has already engaged COs in the preparations for the conference and they have provided useful inputs on the objectives and expected outcomes, based on the country-specific needs they have identified. The Country Offices from the focus countries will be expected to continue to take an important role in conference preparations including in the identification of participants. Resource persons will provide presentations which may result in papers on topics addressed. Consultant will be commissioned to write one regional paper that provides a brief contextual analysis for each of the focus countries and a regional overview of trends.

Partners

Potential partners that the UNDP could invite to co-sponsor the conference include: The Ford Foundation, USAID, UN Women, International IDEA, the League of Arab States and Major women’s movements in the region including African women’s movements, which include an Arab membership.

Participants

50-70 participants will be invited to take part in this conference. Participants will represent a wide-range of stakeholders involved in constitutional processes in the region notably constitutional drafters, academics, politicians, government officials, policy-makers, civil society, religious leaders, women’s groups.

Also, participants will include experts from both other Muslim majority countries and also from non-Muslim majority countries with relevant experiences of advancing gender equality and women empowerment in constitution making, including in other transitional context.  Staff from UNDP and partners including SRSGs of peacekeeping/political missions in the targeted countries notably Somalia, North Sudan and Libya will be invited; as their leadership in constitutional reform and negotiating roles and responsibilities is instrumental.

Location
Cairo

Date
12 -14 November 2012

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