Greetings Relatives/Frens/Humans, I’m back here at the Navajo Nation Government Development Commission where the Commission is continuing their seminar on Indigenous Nation-Building: Leadership, Governance, Constitutions, and Development Success” which was started at their January 2015 meeting.
The agenda of the NGD Commission is a continuation of the Commission’s seminar in January 2015.
SESSION TWELVE – CONSTITUTION IV: THE PROCESS OF CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
DR. MANLEY BEGAYE JR
Constitutional reform is happening around the world. Constitutional reform is to strengthen the nation but the process itself can be difficult and there are a variety of outcomes.
Here are some common outcomes of the reform process: We succeeded. We succeeded only with minor reforms. We completed a reform process but our citizens aren’t aware of it and don’t care. We completed a reform process but have succeeded only in dividing the community. Our process started and then stalled. We can’t even get the reform process started.
Other reasons why reform can be difficult – Not enough citizen participation and ownership; not enough citizen education; politics: in many nations, there’s distruct of government and suspiciion about what politicians are really up to.
You need to go to the people. You can’t expect people to come to you. if you start public hearing at University of NM-Albuquerque, Tohajiilee, Alamo, then south to Arizona State University, etc. Talk to the people living by you.
The people need to know: Why are we doing this? What will the benefits be: How will reforming the Constitution affect my life?
COMMON CONSTITUTIONAL REVISIONS – Preamble. Removal of federal approval provisions/BIA. Elections: primaries, independent election boards, longer terms for elected officials, staggered terms for elected officials; separation of powers; court reform: expand jurisdiction-change route of appeal-appointing judges instead of electing them-new types of court; bureaucratic strengthening (some division directors are never confirmed and so they remain temporary. someone is not following law that mandates permanency.); citizenship (just because go to some place and live doesn’t make you a citizen)
If a single issue stops the reform process in its tracks, you may need to consider leaving them to subsequent efforts by the new government. For example, if there are major disputes over citizenship, you may decide to convene a separate process to resolve that isue so that the reform process can keep moving.
An important but seldom talked about consideration: Older cultural solutions – Native traditions may hold solutions to some constitutional issues. But if those traditions have been lost, or if they were designed for a very different time or are no longer supported by the people, you will need other solutions. Remember that the key to be sure the people will view the resulting government as theirs.
Finally, don’t ignore the Referendum Process/the Process of ADoption: focus on pre-referendum education; schedule wisely; think about breaking out controversial changes.
Emerging Best Practices in Indigenous Country: Invest in long term programs of civic education. Think about composition of constitutional reform commission and its relation to the council and other groups within your nation. Focus on strategies for strengthening citizen participation. Develop culturally-appropriate areas for developing proposed amendments or new constitution. Be patient with each other and the process.