Since the late 1980s, many Latin American countries have adopted constitutions that introduced significant changes. In general, the results have been very positive in terms of increasing representation and minorities’ access to government. But those advances also have had their costs in terms of increasing fragmentation and affecting public policy-making. Now, it’s Chile turn as it seeks to approve a new constitution by 2018. The IDB’s Research Department and its office in Chile offered assistance to this process by sponsoring a seminar on constitutional changes. During the seminar, experts shared experiences from around the region as well as the rest of the world and analyzed cross-cutting issues, like the role of the courts, economic rights in constitutions, and the relevance of fiscal rules as mechanisms to keep finances under control. The conclusions were unanimous regarding the great opportunities as well as the enormous challenges that characterize these type of processes.


Reforming Constitutions: A Pandora’s Box

By Carlos Scartascini – January 17, 2017

pandoras-boxThe new constitution Colombia approved in 1991 created a more inclusive and representative government. It opened up political competition to new parties and movements, endowed citizens with more rights, and vastly increased coverage in health and education. But not all the changes contributed to the nation’s welfare. The dramatic increase in guaranteed rights and the fragmentation of power impeded decision-making. As Chile moves towards its own constitutional reform, it is worth keeping in mind that while increasing inclusion and granting more rights represent a noble impulse, they should be pursued only with the right safeguards and an understanding of the policy impact.

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Fiscal Discipline: Can Constitutions Help?

By Guest Author – December 28, 2016

shutterstock_429624346Recently, there has been renewed interest in incorporating fiscal rules directly into constitutions. In Europe, the signatories of the so-called “Fiscal Compact” in 2012, which included 25 of the current 28 member states of the European Union, now have fiscal rules of some sort in place at the domestic level. Such developments are not restricted to Europe, however. In Brazil, there is debate over a constitutional amendment that would restrain the growth of expenditures for up to 20 years. As Chile considers a new constitution, what lessons should it draw from other countries?

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Latin American Constitutions: The Struggle for Pluralism and Stability

By Steven Ambrus – December 7, 2016

shutterstock_82783156Over the last four decades, Latin America has drafted an astounding number of new constitutions relative to most other regions of the world. Between 1978 and 2008, it generated 15 new constitutions and numerous constitutional reforms. Many of these transformations helped governments move beyond an authoritarian past or deepened already existing democratic systems. Some of them forged stronger individual and collective rights and new avenues for citizen participation. But the constant modification of national charters can also create instability. As discussed in a study of Latin American constitutions and an IDB-sponsored seminar in Chile, it may leave citizens feeling that constitutions are changed simply to bolster the power of a party or president, undermining faith in government.

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Chile’s Constitutional Reform: IDB Seminar Aims to Get It Right

By Carlos Scartascini – November 29, 2016

shutterstock_352526669Since the late 1980s, numerous Latin American countries have ushered in sweeping new constitutions to forge more inclusive, representative and just societies. Now it is Chile’s turn. The IDB’s Research Department and its Country Office in Chile are assisting the process by sponsoring a seminar on constitutional reforms in Santiago on Dec. 6. The goal is to show perspectives of what has worked and what hasn’t. Chile, a regional leader, needs to approve a good constitution that is designed taking into account the weaknesses and strengths of reforms in other countries.

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