Updated: Mar 5
How to check off "Save the World" on your bucket list?
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It is quite unlikely that humanity will survive much longer if the present system of sovereign states continues.
In a democratic system, citizens already elect their representatives at several levels. There are city councils, regional parliaments and national parliaments. Europe has the first continental parliament.
However, when it comes to global issues that affect everyone on the planet, there are no democratic bodies to address these issues. A world parliament would be a legitimate instrument to propose, debate and implement responsible solutions in the best interest of humanity and the biosphere.
The history of activism for real global governance attests to the recurrence of interest in the idea over the centuries. At the beginning of the 20th century, however, a permanent sense of urgency emerged with the advent of the first world conflicts and the possible invention of atomic weapons.
Contemporary thinkers of this governance seem to agree on an ideal towards which to strive: as each human being has the same value, each human being must be equivalent to a vote. However, the proposed frameworks always end up deviating from this ideal for political or nationalistic reasons, or for simple pragmatism, not to say defeatism.
The recurrent fault of these thinkers is that they constantly assume that a future world parliament will be erected by nation states. Yet nations remain, even within the UN and international institutions, the source of hopeless immobility in the face of global challenges. Any hope worthy of the name, of refounding democracies can only emerge from a regenerated citizenship.
Moreover, the ideators of world governance frequently propose in their framework (in order to soften the great powers) to take into account the economic and military power of nations in order to determine their weight in a future world republic. As if this state of affairs should be permanent.
In reality, this only perpetuates an injustice.
The power of Western nations was mainly constituted, during the colonial period, by the exploitation of the populations and natural resources of the colonized territories. It continues in one form or another, still today, with the tacit agreement of "free" governments complacent towards the interests of the multinationals of the big economies. The foundation of the universal republic of mankind to be built must not be injustice.
The only way out is to put the world law above governments, therefore to make this law, therefore to have a parliament, therefore to constitute this parliament by means of world elections in which all the peoples will participate.
For the English philosopher John Locke, "the division of the world into separate and independent states is but an effect of the evil nature of mankind which must be overcome.
Without going as far as John Locke, we can nevertheless assume that, in the distant future, the disappearance of nation-states would be a coherent outcome of the prodigiously slow human evolution. The achievement of a humanity finally emerging from its adolescence into adulthood. After all, the Westphalian state as we know it has existed for less than 400 years. It is likely to be only one episode in the great human adventure.
Nevertheless, the goal of Planet Republyk is not to abolish nations, but to create a structure that would address global issues (and only global issues) without the blinkers and interference of states: a new level of democratic governance to deal with the universal problems and threats that nations are unable to address alone. And this should be accomplished through a world parliament with direct universal suffrage, because as Gandhi liked to say
Gandhi liked to repeat: "Whatever you do for me, without me, you do against me.
National egos are stronger than the necessities of human survival.
Even though, as we have seen, the UN was built on an illegitimate foundation, a significant proportion of the activism for the establishment of a world parliament favors a pragmatic
step-by-step transformation of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) into a world parliament: the theory of small steps. This movement promotes the idea of electing the representatives of the nations that sit in it instead of the current appointment by the heads of state. At first, the suffrage would only be granted to members of the various national parliaments. However, even for this small democratic step forward, nations stand in the way.
Joseph Schwartzberg, a leading figure in this movement, published Transforming the United Nations System: Designs for a Workable World[iii] in 2013, a proposed three-step approach to establishing a world parliament.
According to this strategy, the UNGA would first be transformed into or added to a world parliament with only consultative status. Nations would get a number of seats proportional to their demography and their contribution to the UN. They would appoint the deputies. Small nations with small populations and large donors would be compensated with additional seats for this phase.
In the second stage, the MPs would be elected by the peoples of the nations and a form of degressive proportionality of seats, based on demography, would be introduced. The world parliament would then obtain certain legislative rights.
In the final stage, the principle of one human/one vote would be practically achieved and each elected deputy would serve approximately the same number of voters. Electoral areas would thus consist of a small group of neighboring states, sometimes a single state or part of a state for very populous nations. The world parliament would then have full legislative powers over the areas within its jurisdiction.
But there are three major problems with the proposal for democratic reform of the UN:
First, taking for granted the immutability of the UN organizations for the past 75 years, it will take forever to get a functional planetary parliament when there is, as we have seen, an emergency in the house.
Secondly, it is an option that leaves it up to the governments of the nations to reach the world parliament, while history has shown again and again that they are acting in bad faith in this matter. Even if, by some miracle, the UN General Assembly were to obtain a qualified two-thirds majority in a vote of the nations on a reform of the UN, one of the five veto nations would be able to impose it in such a way that the motion would not even be referred to the Security Council, which, as we have seen, always has the last word on all UN actions. Thus, it would not even have to bear the odiousness of the rejection of the proposal in a vote. Why take the chance of losing such precious and exclusive power? If there is one thing we can count on for this project, it is the obstruction of states to maintain the status quo.
Third, it will be impossible to get the hearts and minds of the world's population behind such a beige project. Without the ignition of heads and hearts, the Republic of mankind will remain "the unattainable star". To set heads and hearts ablaze, a noble, just and humanistic proposal is needed. A proposal that carries a part of dream in it.
To ensure the fate of freedom, democracy, peace and prosperity today is a problem that belongs to the organization of the world government.
Power has always been reluctant, still is reluctant, and always will be reluctant to delegate the smallest bit of acquired sovereignty. As long as it is not forced to do so. We have said it: we should expect nothing from our national governments for the establishment of a world parliament. At least at the beginning. I will come back to this.
Moreover, structures are always very reluctant to change. Even more so when this evolution threatens their very existence. This is why the origins of any real evolution are always exogenous to them.
Profound reforms can be accomplished very quickly on the scale of human history (revolutions, coups d'état), but once the new structures are put in place, a very great inertia sets in, a great resistance to change.
As proof of this, the functioning of the United Nations, which was revolutionary when it was set up in 1945, has hardly changed since then, despite constant calls for its modernization. It was indeed expected, in the two years following its creation, that the UN would be modified, improved, democratized. This did not happen.
Its founders were well aware of its shortcomings, but they chose, in the early days, when the San Francisco Charter was signed in June 1945, to ignore them. They had to start somewhere. The theory of small steps...
The medium and small nations, however, had demanded that Article 109 be included in the original charter, specifying that the UN of 1945 was only a draft; that its charter required a thorough revision and that this should be done before the tenth annual session of the UN. After several unsuccessful attempts to improve it, and despite pressure from globalist organizations, the status quo was finally confirmed in 1965. The organization has not changed since then.
Of course, there have been many calls for reform of the UN and its Security Council since then, until recently. These calls have been made by UN Secretaries-General, numerous states and civil society organizations, including the World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the World Federalist Movement, the Institute for Global Policy, the Baha'i Movement, the Workable World Trust, the Stimson Center, and others, the Center for UN Reform Education, or by Richard Hudson of the Center for War/Peace Studies who suggested the "Binding Triad"[iv] where UN resolutions would gain the force of international law when they received a triple majority in a UN General Assembly vote, i.e., a majority of states, a majority of the world's population, and a majority of financial contributions to the UN.
Or the Alice Hammerstein Mathias Initiative[v] where the General Assembly would be reshaped into a global federation of 193 member countries and become a global legislature where the voting weight of states would vary according to different criteria. All members would have representation on the Security Council where the veto would be abolished in the first five years of the legislature's existence.
All proposals have remained unheeded.
The UN has neither the means nor the will for its own revolution. This is human nature. Humans are animals of habit. One only has to look at the obsolete House of Lords in England or the hint of monarchism in many other constitutions around the world, including Canada's.
Do you find it reasonable that one must still swear allegiance to the sovereign of another nation to be sworn in as a Member of Parliament in a democratic country such as Canada?
I, ______________ , do solemnly, sincerely and truly swear and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second.
These inconsistencies in twenty-first century democracies do not seem to shock many of our fellow citizens. They are used to it. These traditions of another era persist in the habits and customs of all the governments of the world.
Sometimes, conscious citizens, animated by an ideal, make a big sweep.
In other words, as far as the UN and our international institutions are concerned, it is perhaps time to take a big step.
That's it for chapter 4.
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[i] John Locke quoted in Thomas J. Schlereth, The cosmopolitan ideal in enlightenment thought, Notre Dame, London, 1967, p.105
[ii] Jacques Attali, Gândhî ou L'éveil des humiliés, Paris, Fayard, 2007, p. 235.
[iii] Joseph E. Schwartzberg, Transforming the United Nations System: Designs for a Workable World, Tokyo, United Nations University Press, 2013, 404 p.
[iv] World Beyond Borders website, proposal by Richard Hudson: http://www.worldbeyondborders.org/unpower.htm
[v] Center for War/Peace studies website, Alice Hammerstein Mathias Initiative: http://www.cwps.org/Home/About