a network of constitutionalists from countries throughout the world
This open workshop aims at building on the achievements of the IACL Research Group on Subnational Constitutions in Federal and Quasi-Federal Orders and, more particularly, of workshops on subnational constitutionalism which took place at IACL World Congresses in Athens, Mexico City and Oslo. Its focus, however, is broadened, embedding the subnational perspective in a larger workshop on federal and quasi-federal arrangements.
The overall theme questions the role of federalism as an instrument of managing internal conflicts. As a state structure, federalism is often construed as a way to reconcile unity and diversity and thus handle conflicts and tensions of different natures. These tensions are in particular salient in multinational states, where organizing diversity is vital for the stability of the state, yet at the same time a factor that reinforces subnational identity and therefore a trigger for instability.
In keeping a balance between unity and diversity, (quasi) federal arrangements are dynamic, with non-violent conflicts as potential motors for its transformation. However, while, on the one hand, federalism has been successful in managing nationalist or ethnic conflicts, at times it has failed to live up to its expectations. In recent times, intensified autonomy claims have been increasingly leading to disruptive attempts by single regional communities to secede from the State they belong to, or to withdraw from the international political organization they are part of, at times leading to outbursts of violence.
The workshop consists of three sessions, approaching the overall theme from different angles.
Session 1 will examine how federalism, as an overall arrangement, deals with tensions and conflicts – not necessarily violent or traumatic – of different nature, such as ethno-linguistic and/or socio-economic ones. This includes ‘best practices’: for example, the first European Communities were created as a hybrid form of (con)federal arrangement to put an end to the devastating wars that had plagued the continent for centuries; in Belgium, a complex federal arrangement resulted in peaceful consociational cohabitation. It also explores the potential of federalism for post-war rebuilding processes in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq or Bosnia. And it deals with cases where its adoption has not been entirely successful (see, for example, the USSR, former Yugoslavia or post-colonial federations that did not last long, such as Indochina and Burma).
Session 2 will take a subnational perspective, considering subnational constitutionalism in a problematic way and questioning its role in accommodating potential or actual conflicts between federal and multi-layered orders. The Catalan and Flemish cases, where the reform of the Estatut and the striving for a Charter for Flanders have been a matter of controversy, are just two examples of the problematic role of subnational constitutionalism in legal orders which are marked by potential or actual conflicts.
Session 3 is focused on the time when federal arrangements are no longer able to temper secession claims. Recent political events, particularly in the ‘old’ Europe (Catalunya, Scotland, the UK vis à vis the EU), but also beyond such area (Donetsk and Lugansk vis à vis Ukraine, as far as Kurdistan vis à vis Iraq), have shown that public law and especially constitutional law seems able to offer only ineffective answers to secession attempts. Such answers may stretch from a completely blunt set of legal and political weaponry, to the opposite case of the legitimization of the use of brute force against peaceful demonstrators. This session engages constitutional law scholars in dealing with the problematic aspects (both procedural and substantial) of secession, and come up with a shared practical solution in terms of how domestic law should be amended or construed in order to smooth out inconsistencies stemming from the guarantee of territorial integrity of any sovereign State.
Given the interdisciplinarity of the subject, we aim at exploring all the above issues by gathering scholars with different backgrounds and adopting different methodological approaches, in compliance with the overall spirit of IACL. We also encourage the submission of paper proposals which do not only focus on federations in Europe and North America but also in the global South. Comparative insights are highly appreciated.