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Newsletter Issue 6  |  April 2019
This newsletter is published by the Constitution Transformation Network (ConTransNet) based at Melbourne Law School. We are a network of expert scholars sharing our latest research and experiences regarding the development of constitution-making processes, content and implementation.
"Addressing the challenges and opportunities of the Belt & Road Initiative"

China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is in the news again. Governments and ordinary citizens are reacting, both positively and negatively, to the tangible impacts of what arguably is the most ambitious investment programme of the 21st century. Most recently, China hosted the second Belt and Road Forum, from 25-27 April, which brought together leaders from around the world to discuss a new round of developments in China's trillion-dollar global trade initiative.

The Forum was billed as an opportunity to reflect and build on on early successes of the BRI, but was also an opportunity to discuss criticisms increasingly being raised in some quarters that the BRI is placing partner countries in a "debt trap" and is encouraging local corruption. For example, in Sri Lanka and Zambia, national ports have been forfeited for unpaid debts in relation to BRI loans, and in Malaysia BRI contracts are being reviewed by the new Government over concerns about possible corruption. These cases have drawn attention to the critical importance of
whether and how domestic legal and policy frameworks might need to be adapted and harnessed to ensure the benefits of the BRI are fully realized for the benefit of the citizens of the countries in which BRI projects are to be implemented. 

A
recent seminar at ConTransNet discussed an interesting domestic response to these challenges from Central Asia, one of the key regions on the Belt and Road area. In Kyrgyzstan, corruption helped trigger significant violence and a state collapse in 2010.  Since then, Kyrgyzstan has sought to bring in legislation requiring a transparent process of popular consultation for major deals. Domestic courts are playing a role in ensuring that correct consultation and consent processes are being followed.  Most notably, in 2014, a new tariff policy of Kyrgyzstan was annulled based on the failure of the government to properly consult the population. 

As the BRI moves ahead, the ConTransNet team will continue to examine domestic and international responses to some of the challenges posed by the BRI, as well as efforts to ensure that its benefits are harnessed for citizens.

ConTransNet is very pleased to welcome two new experts into our team, Ms Dinesha Samararatne and Ms Jayani Nadarajalingam. We are very pleased that they bring with them many years of academic scholarship and work experience and we look forward to sharing their expertise with our network.
Dinesha Samararatne is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the ARC Laureate Program on Balancing Diversity and Social Cohesion in Democratic Constitutions, at the MLS Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies. Her research focuses on constitution‐making and enforcement in a post‐war context. During this time, she is on leave from the Department of Public & International Law, Faculty of Law, University of Colombo.

Jayani Nadarajalingam is a lecturer with the Melbourne School of Government and is in the final stages of her PhD (at Monash University's Law and Arts (philosophy) faculties). She has a BA(Hons)/LLB(Hons) from Monash University and an LLM (Legal Theory) from New York University. Last year she was a Kathleen Fitzpatrick visiting fellow with the Laureate Program in Comparative Constitutional Law at Melbourne Law School.

This CTN Policy Brief examines the practice of public consultation in constitution‐making The Policy Brief discusses the growing momentum for public participation and the  normative arguments which support the practice. The Policy Brief points out however that clarity is required in understanding the purpose, modalities and outcomes of public participation in constitution‐making.
 
In May 2018, the Australian Government established an independent review of the Australian Public Service (APS), to ensure it would be fit-for-purpose for coming decades. In support Prof Cheryl Saunders and Prof Michael Crommelin from ConTransNet collaborated with Dr Ben Rimmer on a report, "Australian Feder-alism: Working better with other jurisdictions", which examines how the APS partners with other jurisdictions, and Australia’s First Nations. While the paper focuses on Australia, the question of how the public sector works in systems of multi-level government is critical in systems of devolved government elsewhere.
 
Tom Daly published 'Democratic Decay: Conceptualising an Emerging Research Field’ (2019) 11(1) Hague Journal on the Rule of Law 9, the lead article in a Special Issue on 'Rule of Law Decay'. He argues that conceiving of the existing literature as a research field can help map the landscape, maximise the analytical utility of key concepts, identify resonances and duplication and help to ensure this emerging quasi-field develops in a more coherent manner.
 
Will Partlett published an ICON blog post on "Russia's contested constitutional review". The blog is part of a series of posts Will will publish in 2019 which aim to explored the significance of constitutionalism in post-Soviet Eurasia. His blogs preview aspects of a book he is currently writing on this subject. This blog examined a recent Russian Constitutional Court decision examining the legitimate limits on the ownership rights of foreign citizens.
 
Tom Daly published 'Unfinished Revolutions: Constitutional Pasts and Futures in Ireland and Mexico’ (2018) 4(2) Revista Estudos Internacionais 905. He also produced a book review of Keith Lowe's history of the immediate post-World War II period (1945-49), Savage Continent, in the International Journal of Constitutional Law.
Knowledge Exchange: Myanmar

Cheryl Saunders undertook a knowledge exchange visit to Myanmar from 22-27 March, where she made a series of presentations on constitutions and federalism, under the auspices of International IDEA and its MyConstitution program in Myanmar.

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Workshop: "Global Constitutuonalism Asian and Pacific perspectives"

In March 2019, ConTransNet members Cheryl Saunders and Anna Dziedzic participated in a workshop organised by the Chinese University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law, exploring the movement of constitutional ideas across borders and how polities in Asia and the Pacific have responded.

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