Civic Republican Constitution Building in Tuvalu

Drawing on the author’s own experience as a constitutional advisor in the South Pacific island of Tuvalu, this paper examines an important but overlooked element of the civic-republican constitutionalism: its concern for civic virtue. The first part of the paper advances a theoretical argument to show that in the civic republican understanding, a constitution does not merely regulate institutions of government, but is also an instrument of ethical community building. The second part relates this to constitution-building practice, showing how Tuvalu’s recent constitutional review tried to declare and protect civic virtues by: (1) the establishment of a national religion; (2) the constitutional recognition of a Charter of Values and Responsibilities with scope to limit rights; and (3) a requirement of ‘active participation in community life’ as a precondition for being eligible to vote. These are all antithetical to liberal constitutional values, but not to civic republican ones.