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September 30, 2015

Workshop Raises Community Awareness and Engagement in Constitution Drafting

September 2015

In July, dozens of representatives of communities and civil society organizations (CSOs) from across the Central African Republic and government leaders came together in the capital Bangui for a national workshop on the country’s draft constitution.

Since January, ABA ROLI has been working with civil society organizations in the Central African Republic to build the organizations’ capacity to engage and advocate on behalf of their communities. 

ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) representatives were on hand to provide technical support and advice as the delegates sought to develop a new constitution that responds to citizens’ interests and desires. Since January, ABA ROLI has been working with CSOs in the Central African Republic to build the organizations’ capacity to engage and advocate on behalf of their communities. ABA ROLI also has helped the CSOs in facilitating the exchange of information between communities, community leaders and national decision-makers. As part of these efforts, in March, ABA ROLI conducted a training for representatives of 24 CSOs to foster collaboration among those organizations. Following the training, ABA ROLI and the participating organizations developed strategies for eliciting community views on the political reform process. They also designed a plan to share the strategies with national decision-makers. Starting in April, the CSOs—with ABA ROLI’s support—conducted community consultations, which reached more than 1,000 individuals in traditionally underserved communities. For many, the consultation sessions were the first opportunities to share their interests, concerns and opinions about the government.

Father Blaise Bissialo—a leader in the Bangassou community in the Mbomou prefecture of Central African Republic who took part in the ABA ROLI training—said that CSOs traditionally “experienced enormous difficulties in monitoring constitutional reform processes” and in exchanging information with authorities. He added that ABA ROLI’s efforts have given them the opportunity to contribute to national constitutional reform dialogues and to engage directly with representatives from the Conseil National de Transition—the council in charge of drafting a constitution—to make their communities’ voices heard.

Citizens will vote in a referendum on the draft constitution in October, and elections of legislatures and a president will follow. Father Bissialo said that the ABA ROLI training has also helped him to raise his community members’ awareness and interest in the constitution-drafting process. Following his participation in the training, he led a three-day feedback session for members of the Justice and Peace Commission, the Committee of Peace and Mediation and a decentralized branch of the National Election Authority, each of which are active civil society groups in the Mbomou prefecture. He said, “One-hundred-and-fifteen community leaders [have] requested further training focused on the role of civil society in the constitutional reform process.”

To learn more about our work in the Central African Republic, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected]