Book Discussion - Eternity Clauses in Democratic Constitutionalism
From Iain Mcgee
A Book Talk on ‘Eternity Clauses in Democratic Constitutionalism’
Speaker: Dr Silvia Suteu, Associate Professor at University College of London, Faculty of Laws
Professor Christine Bell, Professor of Constitutional Law and Assistant Principal (Global Justice) at Edinburgh Law School
Dr Berihun Gebeye, Humboldt Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg
Chair: Dr Elisenda Casanas Adam, Lecturer in Public Law and Human Rights, Edinburgh Law School
This book analyses unamendability in democratic constitutionalism and engages critically and systematically with its perils, offering a much-needed corrective to existing understandings of this phenomenon. Whether formalized in the constitutional text or developed as part of judicial doctrines of implicit unamendability, eternity clauses raise fundamental questions about the core democratic commitments underpinning any given constitution.
The book takes seriously the democratic challenge eternity clauses pose and argues that this goes beyond the old tension between constitutionalism and democracy. Instead, eternity clauses reveal themselves to be a far more ambivalent constitutional mechanism, one with greater and more insidious potential for abuse than has been recognized. The 'dark side' of unamendability includes its propensity to insulate majoritarian, exclusionary, and internally incoherent values, as well as its sometimes purely pragmatic role in elite bargaining. The book adopts a contextual approach and brings to the fore a variety of case studies from non-traditional jurisdictions. These insights from the periphery illuminate the prospects of unamendability fulfilling its intended aims - protecting constitutional democracy foremost among them. With its promise most appealing in transitional, post-conflict, and fragile democracies, unamendability reveals itself, counterintuitively, to be both less potent and potentially more dangerous in precisely these contexts.
The book also places the rise of eternity clauses in the context of other significant trends in recent constitutional practice: the transnational embeddedness of constitution-making and of constitutional adjudication; the rise of popular participation in constitutional reform processes; and the ongoing crisis of democratic backsliding in liberal democracies.
Silvia Suteu is Associate Professor at University College London, Faculty of Laws. She specialises in comparative constitutional law and constitutional theory, with a focus on comparative constitutional change, gender equality, and participatory constitutionalism. She is particularly interested in gender-sensitive constitution-making and reform in post-conflict and transitional settings. She has published widely on these themes and her monograph, Eternity Clauses in Democratic Constitutionalism, was published by Oxford University Press in May 2021. At UCL, she convenes the Public Law Group, is an editor of the Current Legal Problems journal, and is the gender editor for Lex-Atlas: COVID-19, a global academic project mapping legal responses to the pandemic. Silvia sits on the executive committee of the UK Constitutional Law Association and was formerly an Associate Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Constitutional Law. She has provided legal expertise to a variety of international organisations including: UN Women, the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, the Euromed Feminist Initiative, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), International IDEA, Democracy Reporting International, and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.