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Debbie O'Leary
IU School of Law-Bloomington

Ryan Piurek
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Thursday, July 28, 2005

Conference brings together reform leaders from emerging democracies

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Democracy reform leaders from Burma, Liberia and Azerbaijan will gather Aug. 2-12 at a working conference, "Constitutional Reform: Burma, Liberia and Azerbaijan," at the Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington.

The justice minister of Liberia, democratic co-chairs of the Federal Constitution Drafting Committee of the Union of Burma and a leading constitutional scholar from Azerbaijan will be among those in attendance at the inaugural event of the newly created IU Center for Constitutional Democracy in Plural Societies, which seeks to study and promote constitutional democracy in countries marked by ethnic, religious, linguistic and other divisions.

"It will be the first time these people have gotten together," said David Williams, the John S. Hastings Professor of Law and the founder and director of CCDPS. "We hope it will give them a better sense of what they can do to help each other as their individual democracies emerge."

To enable plural societies to peaceably provide meaningful self-governance to all of their citizens, the CCDPS focuses its efforts on the constitutional aspects of democratic reform by training reform leaders in constitutionalism, parliamentary process and legal ordering. Williams, a constitutional law scholar and author of The Mythic Meanings of the Second Amendment: Taming Political Violence in a Constitutional Republic (Yale University Press, 2002), believes it's vital that the reformers play a primary role in fashioning their democracies.

"A constitution must grow up from within a country. That's the only way it can work and the only way it can survive. We are working with people who we believe are going to make a difference, and we want to help them make that difference," Williams said. "In fact, the center first began work in these countries on the invitation of brave, idealistic and intelligent people from these countries. Many of those people are associated with IU and are now fellows of the center."

While the CCDPS has roots in the IU School of Law, it has gathered an interdisciplinary team of scholars from law, other IU departments, the IU Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, and universities abroad. In addition, the center offers a unique opportunity for law students to directly support global constitutional reform by working in close contact with activists abroad through research, writing, organizing and teaching. Working sessions at the conference, which the center is hosting in collaboration with IU's Institute for Advanced Study, will allow participants to share resources, scholarship and experiences germane to democratic constitutional reform.

For more information on the conference, including a schedule and list of participants, go to