The Citizen Handbook


Understanding Constitutions

What is a Constitution?

When people live or work together, they need to agree on how they will run their affairs. In a political state, as well as in some organizations, this agreement takes the form of a constitution. A constitution establishes the most important principles, rules, and structures that govern a political state or organisation. It also regulates the power of the state or organization and reinforces its accountability to its members. Furthermore, a constitution is the most important law of a state or organization, also known as the ‘supreme law.’ This means that all other laws subsequently passed by the state or organization must find their basis in the constitution.
 Some of the issues any constitution must address are:
 ·         determine which people belong to that state or organization and are governed by the constitution; 

 ·         provide entitlements to the people belonging to that state or organization;
 ·         decide how leaders representing the people are to be chosen, their roles and duties and how they are to be removed;
 ·         define how the resources of the state or organization are to be managed and distributed; and
 ·         provide ways to resolve conflict within the state or organization when they arise.

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