Crowd-sourcing a New Constitution for Sri Lanka: Mind the Gaps!

Cartoon by Gihan de Chickera, Daily Mirror

Cartoon by Gihan de Chickera, Daily Mirror

“Sri Lanka wants to make a new Constitution in a radically different way. It is poised to become the first developing country in the world to ‘crowd-source’ ideas for making the highest law of the land.

“That is all well and good – as long as the due process is followed, and that process has intellectual rigour, transparency and integrity. Therein lies the big challenge.”

So opens my latest op-ed essay, just published by Groundviews.org

Crowd-sourcing a New Constitution for Sri Lanka: Mind the Gaps!

In it, I describe the experience of Iceland which was the world’s first country to ‘crowd-source’ a new Constitution. From 2011 to 2013, the European nation of 330,000 people engaged in an exercise of direct democracy to come up with a modern Constitution to replace the existing one adopted in 1944. That involved many public hearings as well as using social media and other communications platforms to gather public inputs and to ensure public scrutiny.

Facebook was used as part of a public consultation strategy to draft Iceland's new Constitution in 2011-13

Facebook was used as part of a public consultation strategy to draft Iceland’s new Constitution in 2011-13

This is the path that Sri Lanka has now chosen: open and participatory Constitution making. To be sure, tropical Sri Lanka is vastly different. Its population of 21 million is 60 times larger than Iceland’s. But the Arctic nation’s generic lessons are well worth studying – both for inspiration and precaution.

I point out: “In doing so, it is important to ensure that public consultative process is not limited to the web and social media. Instead of dominating, technologies should only enable maximum participation.”

“The bottom-line: gathering public proposals is commendable, but not an end by itself. The government needs to adopt a systematic method to study, categorize and distil the essence of what is suggested. And that must happen across English, Sinhala and Tamil languages.”

Read full essay:

Crowd-sourcing a New Constitution for Sri Lanka: Mind the Gaps!

yourconstitution.lk website calls for public inputs for making Sri Lanka's new Constitution.

yourconstitution.lk website calls for public inputs for making Sri Lanka’s new Constitution.

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