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Announcing the Launch of Constitute

30 September 2013

Announcing the Launch of Constitute: The World’s Constitutions to Read, Search and Compare

23 September 2013

Constitution Unit

The Constitute Unit is pleased to announce the launch of Constitute, a website for reading, searching, and comparing the world’s constitutions. The site was launched at 2:00 p.m. (GMT) today at the New York Palace Hotel in New York City. Speakers at the launch event included His Excellency President Moncef Marzouki of Tunisia and Her Excellency Roza Otunbayeva (former President of the Kyrgyz Republic).

Approximately 5 constitutions are replaced and 30 are amended each year. This year has already witnessed new constitutions in Fiji and Zimbabwe and constitutional amendments in Brazil, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Mexico, Switzerland and Tonga. Despite the high frequency of constitutional change, constitutional drafters often lack systematic information on the contents of other countries’ constitutions that could help them decide what topics should be addressed in their constitution and how to address those topics. There is no single location that constitutional drafters can use to access and compare constitutional documents and language – which is critical to drafters – because these documents are locked up in libraries or on the hard drives of constitutional experts.

Constitute addresses this problem by putting searchable copies of the world’s constitutions online. However, Constitute is more than just a repository of constitutional texts. The project draws on data collected by the Comparative Constitutions Project over the last 8 years to assign topic tags to provisions within constitutions. This allows powerful, topic-based searches of those texts. There are more than 300 topics for users to choose from on the site, which range from the fairly general – e.g. the structure of the branches of government – to the very specific – e.g. voting rights for indigenous groups. For those interested in regional or temporal trends in constitution-making, the search results can be filtered by country and year.

Our hope is that Constitute will increase transparency in countries throughout the world by ensuring universal access to the world’s constitutions. We expect that access to these important documents will improve constitution-making. Such access will also empower the general public to learn about their countries’ constitution, enabling them to play a more active role in their country’s governance.

Notes for Editors

1. The Constitution Unit is an independent, non-partisan research centre based in the Department of Political Science at University College London.

2. Dr James Melton has written a more detailed statement about Constitute on the Constitution Unit Blog: see [add URL]

3. A video that describes the motivation for Constitute and demonstrates how to use the site is available at [add URL]

4. Constitute is funded by grants from Google Ideas to the University of Texas at Austin and the Indigo Trust to University College London.

5. The site’s content is provided under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. The site itself is not open sourced.

6. Currently, Constitute includes the constitutions that were in force for independent states at the beginning of September, 2013. A small number of countries, such as the United Kingdom, do not have a single constitutional documents and are, thus, not included on the site at this time.

7. Dr James Melton is available for interview: j.melton@ucl.ac.uk.

Contact Information

Google Ideas

· Marketing: annadph@google.com

· PR: press@google.com

· PM: scout@google.com

University College London

· PI: j.melton@ucl.ac.uk

University of Texas

· PI: zelkins@austin.utexas.edu

University of Chicago

· PI: tginsburg@uchicago.edu

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