International Constitutions

Click on the markers to learn more about other constitutions from around the world.

Australian Constitution The Australian Constitution contains an interesting provision in regards to New Zealand.

It defines ‘States’ to include the colony of New Zealand. This leaves the door open to New Zealand becoming a state of Australia in the future.

Canadian Constitution Like New Zealand, Canada has an indigenous population that inhabited the land before it was colonised. Canada is a federal state that is governed as a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state.

The Constitution of Canada is the supreme law in Canada; the country’s constitution is an amalgamation of codified acts and uncodified traditions and conventions. It outlines Canada’s system of government, as well as the civil rights of all Canadian citizens and those in Canada.

French Constitution The French Constitution has a charter that guarantees every citizen the right to a balanced and healthy environment. In ten articles, the charter outlines a series of environmental rights and responsibilities incumbent on the French people, ranging from the right to access information about the environment to an obligation upon political leaders to promote sustainable development. The French hailed the charter as a first of its kind; former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin stated that the amendment ‘raises sustainable development to the highest level in our legal structure, alongside the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen’.

Indian Constitution The Indian Constitution is the longest written constitution in the world. It contains 448 articles in 24 parts, 12 schedules, and 97 amendments. The Constitution came into force in January 1950, and repealed the Indian Independence Act of 1947. It declares India to be a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic, assuring its citizens of justice, equality, and liberty, and endeavours to promote fraternity among them.The words “socialist” and “secular” were added to the definition in 1976 by constitutional amendment.

In Part III which outlines the Fundamental Rights of Indian Citizens, Article 29 and 30 specify rights for cultural minorities in India.“29. (1) Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.” Minorities also have the constitutional right to establish and administer their own educational institutions.

Korean Constitution The Constitution of the Republic of Korea (commonly known as South Korea) was promulgated on July 17, 1948, and last revised in 1987. Following years of constitutional history under the military dictatorship, this latest constitutional amendment was promoted by a strong desire for democracy. Among other changes, it pushed for the establishment of a constitutional court designed to guarantee individual rights and act as a check on government abuses of power.

Consisting of a preamble, 130 articles, and supplementary provisions, the Korean Constitution provides for an executive branch headed by a president and an appointed prime minister, a unicameral legislature called the National Assembly, and a judiciary consisting of the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court and lower courts. [/DDET]

Norwegian Constitution [DDET Read more…]The Norwegian Constitution is the oldest single-document national constitution in Europe and the second oldest in the world, still in continuous force. It was officially signed and dated on the 17 May 1814. The 17th of May is a national holiday in Norway.The Constitution includes articles on: Form of Government and Religion, the Executive Power, the King and the Royal Family, Rights of Citizens and the Legislative Power, the Judicial Power, and General Provisions.

There have been many revisions to the Constitution since 1814, with some parts removed and others added. In 1988, a new article was added establishing constitutional guarantees for the indigenous Sami people of northern Scandinavia. Article 110a reads: “It is the responsibility of the authorities of the State to create conditions enabling the Sami people to preserve and develop its language, culture and way of life.” The wording of this article emphasises the right of the Sami people to self-determination.

Singaporian Constitution Singapore is a country of similar size and makeup to that of New Zealand. Like New Zealand the legal system of Singapore has its foundations in the English common law system. The Constitution of Singapore is the supreme law of Singapore and it is a codified constitution. The constitution cannot be amended without the support of more than two-thirds of the members of parliament on the second and third readings. The president may seek opinion on constitutional issues from a tribunal consisting of no fewer than three judges of the Supreme Court.

Singapore has an interesting arrangement where, in addition to elected MPs that represent a constituency of citizens, they also have ‘Non-constituency MPs’ who are members of the opposition parties appointed to Parliament. The scheme was introduced in 1984 to provide a voice for the opposition in Parliament at a time when the Singaporean Parliament was dominated by one party – the People’s Action Party.

Singapore also has ‘Nominated MPs’ who are not affiliated with any political party and are there to provide a more independent voice in Parliament. Singapore has both Single Member Constituencies (SMCs) and Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs). GRCs see Members of Parliament elected as a group. The GRC system was introduced in 1988 to enshrine the representation of minorities in Parliament. At least one member of a GRC must be Malay, Indian, or from another minority community in Singapore. Part IV of the Constitution of Singapore provides for fundamental rights and liberties of the citizenry, however, Part XII allows the Parliament to enact legislation that is inconsistent with these rights if it is designed to stop or prevent subversion.

South African Constitution The South African Constitution was drawn up by the Parliament elected in 1994 in the first non-racial elections and was promulgated by President Nelson Mandela on 10 December 1996.

It is widely considered to be one of the most progressive constitutions in the world. It came out of detailed and inclusive negotiations - the drafting process was the largest public participation programme ever carried out in South Africa - that were carried out with an acute awareness of the injustices of the country’s non-democratic past. This is clearly reflected in the constitution’s preamble and in the prominence of the human rights clauses.

Swiss Constitution The Federal Constitution of 18 April 1999 is the third and current constitution of Switzerland. The foundations of it date back to 1848, during the time of the political and philosophical ideas that influenced the French Revolution and inspired the American Constitution. Following a 27-day civil war in Switzerland, the first written constitution was created. A particularly unique feature of Switzerland’s constitution is the application of direct democracy.

Since 1891, the Swiss citizens have had the “right of initiative”, whereby referenda may be held over constitutional changes. If the parliament proposes a constitutional modification, or if 100,000 citizens sign a ‘popular’ initiative to modify the constitution, all citizens are required to vote on Constitutional Referenda, and require a 50% majority of both the votes and of each of the 26 cantons (states). The Constitution in its current, overhauled state has been in force since 1 January 2000. However with these constitutional initiatives and counterproposals the Constitution is assuredly flexible, being subject to continual changes.

United States of America Constitution “Arguably the most well-known written constitution in the world is that of the United States of America. It was adopted on September 17, 1787 and this makes it the oldest written constitution (when defined as a single document) still in use by any nation in the world. It has been amended twenty-seven times, with the first ten amendments are known as the Bill of Rights. It is the framework for the organisation of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.”



French Constitution Australian Constitution United States of America Constitution Canadian Constitution Korean Constitution Singaporian Constitution Norwegian Constitution Swiss Constitution Indian Constitution South African Constitution