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Newsletter Issue 9  |  April 2020
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.
"Constitution transformation in the wake of COVID-19"

The COVID-19 pandemic that swept the world from the start of 2020 has affected many aspects of life in most places. Constitutional government is no exception. Already, it is possible to see some of the implications of COVID-19 for the operation of constitutional systems and for the relations between states and other orders of government. Other implications can be expected to emerge over time. In this CTN blog, five such implications have been analysed.

For example, some governments have used the crisis to further consolidate executive power and silence accountability mechanisms, while others have put in place regulations that severely restrict civil liberties and other practices in order to enforce social distancing. On the other hand, some governments have been creative in how they have managed imminent elections or how they have harnessed federal structures to implement more responsive, locally-nuanced decision-making. This CTN blog highlights a range of case studies to highlight these issues and makes further reflections on some of the issues that may benefit from further analysis as the crisis subsides.


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Policy Brief on "Women and Constitutions in Action"
In November 2019, ConTransNet was pleased to host the 2019 Australia-ASEAN Women in Constitution-Building Capacity Development Program, which was supported by the Australian Government through the Australia-ASEAN Council of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Course brought together 8 women from four ASEAN countries, namely Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines and Thailand.
Our Course Programme was a mix of workshops held at MLS  run by our academics as well as practitioners from key institutions in our state, and included field visits to some of these institutions as well. We produced a short video which we launched in December 2020, which captures the reflections of our participants on what they learned and its relevance for their own home contexts.

In February 2020, CTN published a
Policy Brief on Women and Constitutions in Action. The Policy Brief reflects the experiences and insights shared by participants during their time with our team. It discusses key issues related to gender and constitutional issues, with specific reference to Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and the Philippines.
 
New Dem-Dec Infohub on COVID-19 & Democracy
In April 2020, the DEM-DEC online database, which tracks and shares information about the regression and renewal of democracy around the world, was reconfigured as "COVID-DEC" track, compile, and share information on how State responses to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) are impacting on democratic governance.
The DEM-DEC team is led by CTN Convenor Dr Tom Daly. The team are working closely with partners such as International IDEA and Freedom House to collect data across a number of themes including: Alternative governance (e.g. online parliaments); Democratic rights and freedoms; Democracy v authoritarianism in the fight against COVID-19; Elections; Emergency powers and Power grabs. The COVID-DEC Infohub is divided into five main categories: Databases and resources; Policy Analysis; Blog Posts & Symposia; Media Analysis; and COVID-19 Events.

Please contact the DEM-DEC team to share or suggest information to include on the Infohub, including databases, analysis, and events: You can use the online form or e-mail coviddem@gmail.com. Feel free to also share more general feedback on the Infohub. Together, the DEM-DEC team is keen to help stakeholders work together to ensure that the integrity of democracy worldwide remains a priority during this crisis.

Cheryl Saunders, CTN Convenor, was published on the IACL Blog, writing on "Irish Re-Unification: Perspectives from Elsewhere". Her blog post was part of an IACL-AIDC Blog Symposium on unification of the island of Ireland. Cheryl's blog reflects on experiences with unification and secession from across the world, including reunification of the two Germany's at the end of the Cold War, the division of Sudan and the break up of Czechoslovakia, and the possible options for the two Koreas, to draw out lessons learned and good practice of relevance to the two Irelands.

 
Will Partlett, CTN Convenor, published an IACL Blog Post on "Russia's Unconstitutional Zeroing Amendment" in response to the last-minute amendment of Article 81 of the Russian Constitution on 10 March 2020. The amendment “zeroes out” the number of terms any prior or current president has served and allows the current President (Vladimir Putin) to run for two additional terms.  Will argues that the amendment contradicts three key constitutional principles enshrined in the Russian Constitution , namely, popular sovereignty, separation of powers and a republican form of government. 
 
Cheryl Saunders published an article on ConstitutionNet, reflecting on "The Impact of Climate Change on the Australian Federation". Her article explores the dynamics of federalism in the particular context of climate change, showing the role that effective intergovern-mental relations can play and how bottom up initiatives can assist in building nationwide consensus on solutions to climate change. This article comes after a 2019 CTN blog which reflected on innovative climate change strategies which are being implemented at sub-national levels across the world. 
 

In February 2020, Dr Anna Dziedzic, CTN Convenor, published an article on "Popular Protest: Constitutional Democracy In Crisis Or Constitutional Democracy In Action". Anna's article is part of a collection reflecting on "Constitutional Democracy In Retreat: Comparative Asian Perspectives And Experiences", in the most recent issue of Public Jurist.  Anna's article reflects on popular protest movements in support of constitutional change in Asia, and the opportunities and risks that come with civic constitutionalism.

 
Will Partlett published an article reflecting on early proposals by Russian president Vladimir Putin mooted in January 2020, which suggested the President was developing an "Exit Plan", for his life as an ex-president - with some caveats. These proposals have now been superceded (see Will's articles below), but this analysis provides interesting insights into Putin's early thinking. 
 
Cheryl Saunders wrote a Policy Brief on "Constitutions and International Law", which was published by International IDEA. The Policy Brief explores four key questions about how constitu-tional and international law intersect, including whether and how international law should be specifically referenced in constitutional texts and the implications of international law for constitution-building process and substance.