Zaid Al-Ali, Law and Public Affairs Fellow at Princeton University
12:30 – 2:00 p.m.
Friday, October 30, 2015
Solarium, Falconer Hall
The Absence of Social Solidarity Amongst Arab Elites: Causes and Consequences of the Failure of post-2011 Constitutional Reform
Post-colonial constitutions in the Arab region were all based on the promise that they would correct the inequities of colonial rule with a new form of social justice. Virtually all included references to political accountability, independence of the judiciary, as well as long lists of political, social and economic rights for all. The 2011 uprisings demonstrated the extent to which these constitutions failed to achieve that promise, and the reform efforts that followed were an important opportunity to correct the institutional flaws that had become so apparent. This paper will first demonstrate that the post-uprising reform efforts make close to no progress in comparison to the texts that they were designed to replace, particularly in so far as social justice is concerned. Secondly, it will demonstrate that those few elements of progress that were made were the result of generally undemocratic processes (in the traditional sense). Thirdly, the paper will explore the processes through which Arab countries reformed their constitutions, with a view to explaining why reliance on direct elections and other traditional democratic mechanisms did not generally lead to improved social justice for those individuals and communities who commenced the uprisings in the first place.
Zaid Al-Ali is Senior Adviser on Constitution Building for International IDEA and is also a fellow and visiting lecturer at Princeton University’s Law and Public Affairs Program. He has been practicing law since 1999, specializing in international commercial arbitration and comparative constitutional law. He has law degrees from Harvard Law School, the Université de Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne) and King’s College London. From 2005 to 2010, he was a legal adviser to the United Nations focusing on constitutional, parliamentary and judicial reform in Iraq. Since the beginning of 2011, he has been working on constitutional reform throughout the Arab region, in particular in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen. He has published widely on Iraq and on constitutional law. His book on the post-2003 transition in Iraq (The Struggle for Iraq’s Future) was published by Yale University Press in February 2014