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Editor’s blog – Are we headed for global democracy and a World Parliament?

By Dean Carroll

It sounds like a future dystopia, but ‘global democracy’, delivered through a ‘World Parliament’ is now being actively discussed by luminaries such as Noam Chomsky and Daniele Archibugi as a way of ensuring that politics is no longer left lagging behind the markets, technology and social media – a scenario repeatedly demonstrated by the eurozone crisis. A report published by the Federal Union think-tank revealed a Manifesto for Global Democracy – signed by Chomsky, Archibugi and many others.

It called for the “globalisation of political institutions” and “global agencies specialised in sustainable, fair and stable development, disarmament, and the rapid implementation of forms of democratic global governance on all the issues that current intergovernmental summits are evidently incapable of solving”. A more ambitious and grand geopolitical plan, it is hard to think of.

Certainly, it is easy to have sympathy with the view that G20 and European Union summits do little beyond bolstering the bellies of international leaders with the finest wine and dining within the setting of the best hotels and conference centres that money can buy. But are we ready to cede more national powers to cross-border representatives in a global government? And how would this new world order theory work in practice?

Attempting to answer these questions and more, while setting out the justification for such a radical departure from the status quo, the manifesto stated: “Politics lags behind the facts. We live in an era of deep technological and economic change that has not been matched by a similar development of public institutions responsible for its regulation. The economy has been globalised but political institutions and democracy have not kept pace. In spite of their many peculiarities, differences and limitations, the protests that are growing all over the world show an increasing discontent with the decision-making system, the existing forms of political representation and their lack of capacity for defending common goods. They express a demand for more and better democracy.

“Global welfare and security are under threat. The national and international order that emerged from the end of Second World War and the fall of the Berlin Wall has not been able to manage the great advances in technology and productive systems for the benefit of all humanity. On the contrary – we are witnessing the emergence of regressive and destructive processes resulting from the economic and financial crisis, increased social inequalities, climate change and nuclear proliferation. These phenomena have already affected negatively the lives of billions of human beings, and their continuity and mutual reinforcement menace the peace of the world and threaten the survival of human civilisation.”

Scared yet? Well, feast your eyes on the following nuggets. Pointing a way forward, the document continued: “Global crises require global solutions. The democratic capabilities of nation-states and international institutions are increasingly restricted by the development of powerful global processes, organisations and systems whose nature is not democratic. In recent years, the main national and international leaders of the world have been running behind global events. Their repeated failures show that occasional summits, intergovernmental treaties, international cooperation, the multilateral system and all the existing forms of global governance are insufficient.” As I say, hard to argue with that point whatever political and ideological side of the fence you sit on.

But still little in the way of practical examples of how global democracy might work, it is fair to say. However, the report goes on: “The existing national-state organisations have to be part of a wider and much better coordinated structure, which involves democratic regional institutions on all the continents, the reform of the International Court of Justice, a fairer and more balanced International Criminal Court and a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly as the embryo of a future World Parliament. Yet, this institutional change will not be successful if it only accrues from the actions of a self-appointed elite. On the contrary, it must come from a socio-political process open to all human beings, with the goal of a creating a participative global democracy.”

Yes, you did not imagine that one, a ‘World Parliament’ no less – you read it here first. It is certainly a thought-provoking manifesto. And it is also true that Westphalian sovereignty and fudged intergovernmental action led Europe to the brink of collapse and the crisis many economists are optimistically stating is over. As an example of this hypothesis in action, see Spain.

National politics and supranationalism – in the case of the €100bn Spanish bank bail-out last year – did little more than provide a morning markets bounce that, by the afternoon, became the usual damp squib. Hardly value for money. But are politicians, officials and citizens are willing to think the unthinkable as a result of the financial paralysis – despite the alleged green shoots of recovery – and opt for a World Parliament? It is doubtful, although it could be a useful framework of debate for some less radical but just as important reforms like advanced European debt mutualisation and Eurobonds. As things stand though, even they seem like pipe dreams. We are certainly living through the most interesting of times.

Dean Carroll is editor of Policy Review

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