Constitutional Law

The constitution is the foundation of the rule of law and democracy and establishes the institutional and material core elements in the legal system of each state. On the one hand, it gives states and their governments their legitimacy and should not only contain "empty words on paper" but rather constitute binding supreme law. On the other hand, the constitution usually guarantees fundamental rights, whose main function is the right of defense against the state and its institutions. It is a major challenge for international cooperation in the area of democracy and rule of law to handle citizens’ increasing disappointment with the political model of constitutional democracy.

Almost all Asian countries have constitutions and in many of them, constitution-making or constitutional reform has been an important issue in the last few decades. In addition to this, tendencies towards constitutionalisation can also be seen on a regional level, a good example being the Charter of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which demands the adherence to “the rule of law, good governance, the democratic principles and constitutional government.”

Furthermore, several countries have strengthened the role of the constitution in their legal systems through the establishment of constitutional courts and constitutional councils. Supporting the development of constitutional jurisdiction is a key objective of the Rule of Law Programme in Asia. Particular support goes to the cooperation and mutual exchange of different national institutions that secure and defend the constitution.

The Rule of Law Programme supports the Association of Asian Constitutional Courts and Equivalent Institutions (AACC), founded in 2010.

Especially important to the Rule of Law Programme is the annual summer lecture on global constitutional law in Beijing which has been organised on an annual basis since 2009, as well as regular lectures and conferences about this topic.

On the occasion of its 10 year anniversary in 2016, the KAS Rule of Law Programme Asia convened a research group on “Constitutionalism in Asia” to bring together a diverse group of jurists, legal professionals and constitutionalists from the region and beyond, to reflect on the development, successes and challenges of constitutionalism in Asia. This was in recognition of the need to engage with Asia’s experiences in constitution-making and constitutionalism and provide opportunities for Asian countries and jurisdictions to collaborate and learn from each other. Current and former Constitutional Judges, their research personnel and legal academics from Asia and the Pacific, as well as German guests of the group, meet annually in different countries of the region to discuss matters regarding constitutionalism, the protection of rights, challenges in democratic transition as well as questions related to Rule of Law culture in Asia. In these discussions, it is made a point to consider the specific legal, political and cultural context of the region. Building up and multiplying expertise, linking up legal practice and academia as well as a mix of generations are important characteristics of the Research Group “Constitutionalism in Asia”.