The Government of the Republic of Nauru

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Constitutional review project

Constitutional Review Process

Latest step: Introduction of 11 Bills February 2013


On 7 February 2013 the Chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee introduced 11 separate Bills amending the Constitution:


Constitution of Nauru (Nauruan Culture Amendments) Bill 2013

Constitution of Nauru (Speaker Amendments) Bill 2013

Constitution of Nauru (Executive Amendments) Bill 2013

Constitution of Nauru (Stability Amendments) Bill 2013

Constitution of Nauru (Finance Amendments) Bill 2013

Constitution of Nauru (Citizenship Amendments) Bill 2013

Constitution of Nauru (Judicature Amendments) Bill 2013

Constitution of Nauru (Accountability Amendments) Bill 2013

Constitution of Nauru (Resolution of Stalemate Amendments) Bill 2013

Constitution of Nauru (Special Powers Amendments) Bill 2013

Constitution of Nauru (Leadership Code Amendments) Bill 2013


Each of the Bills was taken to the first reading.

The amendments contained in these measures do not require a referendum. Because the
amendments do not relate to Articles listed in Schedule 5, they can be made by
Parliament in accordance with Article 84.


Together the Bills amend the Constitution in the way proposed by the Constitution of Nauru (Parliamentary Amendments) Act 2009 as proposed to be amended by the Constitution of Nauru (Parliamentary Amendments) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2010, with a few minor refinements.


The Committee has resolved to introduce the amendments in a way that allows the issues to be debated subject matter by subject matter, with a view to pinpointing which of the proposed amendments have the support of members and which, if any, may not.





The process of constitutional reform began in 2004 when the Scotty government took action to establish a parliamentary standing committee on constitutional review (the 'CRC'), because the government had identified a number of flaws in the Constitution that needed to be addressed. In 2006 the CRC designed a six-step process of review.


The six-step process started with a public awareness campaign followed by a series of forty public consultation meetings around Nauru. This was also an opportunity for the public to make written submissions.


The third step was the establishment of an independent Constitutional Review Commission that analysed and considered all material gathered from the public.


A Constitutional Convention was then held to debate the recommendations of the Commission and the draft bills were prepared to reflect the motions passed by the Convention.


Step five involved the consideration and passage of the bills by Parliament. The bills were introduced in November 2008, considered in detail over a five week period by a Select Committee in early 2009, and again considered in detail by the Committee of the Whole over three weeks in June and August 2009. Parliament voted unanimously on 21 August 2009 to pass the two constitutional amendment bills.


The referendum was the sixth step in Nauru's constitutional review process.

This process is summarised below.
Step 1 -  Public awareness
Step 2 -  Public consultation
Step 3 -  Constitutional Review Commission
Step 4 -  Constitutional Convention
Step 5 -  Passage of Bills by Parliament (see Article 84 of the Constitution)
Step 6 -  Referendum (see Article 84 of the Constitution)


The constitutional review is a UNDP-sponsored project, which is locally managed and executed by the Parliament of Nauru.


Key changes to the Constitution

The proposed changes to the Constitution included changing the method of electing the President: from election by Parliament to direct popular election, and added new rights protections to the existing bill of rights, such as the right to information, access to education and children's rights. These were among the matters that required approval by referendum before they could take effect.


Some of the amendments passed in 2009 that did not require approval by referendum included the insertion of a leadership code in the Constitution, and the establishment of an Ombudsman. A change to make the Speaker of Parliament a non-MP could also have proceeded without approval by referendum.


A number of the constitutional amendments passed by Parliament were designed to enhance accountability and transparency in relation to public finance. Others aimed to make the Constitution easier to understand by clearly stating the function of each of the arms of government and main public institutions created under the Constitution.


The Referendum

Not every change to the Constitution of Nauru requires approval by referendum, only changes to any of the important Articles listed in the fifth Schedule to the Constitution. Accordingly, the referendum concerned only one of the two constitutional amendment bills: the Constitution of Nauru (Referendum Amendments) Bill. The Bill required the support of at least two thirds of the votes validly cast at referendum in order to become law and to take effect.


The referendum that was held on 27 February 2010 was the first time a referendum had been conducted in Nauru. Everyone who is entitled to vote at a general election was entitled to vote at the referendum. Voters were asked to vote "yes" or "no" to the question whether they approve of the Constitution of Nauru (Referendum Amendments) Bill. The referendum was preceded by an extensive information campaign, so that voters had the opportunity to gather all information they needed about what is in the bill and the opportunity to form an informed opinion about whether or not they supported it. A mobile information centre toured Nauru throughout January and February 2010, distributing written information and explaining the proposed amendments to voters. Some awareness materials were also available online. Information was broadcast on television and radio. Public meetings were conducted throughout the districts by the Referendum Team.

The referendum did not receive the two thirds' support required for the proposed changes to take effect. 67% voted "no", and 33% voted "yes".


The CRC met in the week after the referendum and resolved to conduct a survey in order to gain an understanding of the main reasons for the "no" vote, in order that the CRC can decide whether it is worthwhile pursuing the proposed referendum amendments at a later date.


Constitution of Nauru (Parliamentary Amendments) Bill

If at least two thirds of the votes validly cast in the referendum had been in support of the proposed constitutional amendments, all of the amendments to the Constitution would have come into effect on the day of the next general election.


Although the referendum did not receive the support of two thirds of the votes cast, some of the constitutional amendments that did not require approval by referendum would have gone ahead had Parliament passed the Constitution of Nauru (Parliamentary Amendments) Bill 2010 to take account of the failure at referendum of certain interrelated amendments. However, that Bill was finally defeated in June 2012.


More information

If you would like more detail about the constitutional review process or the proposed constitutional amendments, refer to the linked documents, or contact the local project manager, Parliamentary Counsel.