Constituting transitions: Predicting unpredictability

Christine Bell, Robert Forster

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter examines how transitional governance arrangements are constituted in peace and transition processes. As transitional governance arrangements establish forms of government they need to be “constituted” in some way, often in a context where there is an existing constitution technically in place. A number of options exist, with different consequences for how the transition is institutionalized and how the dilemmas of transition can be managed. In this chapter, we map and analyse the relationship between the legal “constitutionalization” of the transition, and the political tasks and dilemmas of transition management. Based on a review of peace and transition arrangements between 1990 and 2015, we set out the five main options for constituting such transitions, and examine the distinctive transitional tasks and timelines established in these constitutional instruments. We argue that the interaction between five factors, rather than any one factor, drives legal form. In conclusion, we consider the “predictable unpredictability” of transitional governance arrangements. We consider the ways in which these arrangements have needed to be amended and adapted over time, and how the choice of legal form can both enable and limit capacity for adaptive transition management that is responsive to new political events. We suggest that the constitutionalization of transitions should plan for “predictable unpredictability” and the need for “adaptive management” that is likely to require constitutional re-iterations over time.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Law and Transitional Governance
Subtitle of host publicationCritical Perspectives
EditorsEmmanuel H. D. De Groof, Micha Wiebusch
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9780429057786
ISBN (Print)9780367178109
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2020


  • international law
  • transitional governance
  • transitional arrangements
  • interim government
  • peace agreements

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