The great architects of
democracy from Pericles to James Madison assumed that democracy
applied only within countries. Now in the globalizing world of the
21st century, are we ready for democracy to be applied internationally?
In April 2006, Widener
University School of Law sponsored a Symposium dedicated to this
question. The Symposium was supported in part by a generous grant
from the Rockefeller
Brothers Fund and was co-sponsored by The
American Society of International Law. This video documentary
is the Symposium story.
Here is my summary which also includes
some of my thoughts-
It seems that the NGOs and representative of civil
society are creating a transnational network and forming a new global
The precedent was seen in the Río conference
in 2002 and then in 2005, the General assembly of the United Nations
were at that time willing to listen to NGOs.
This is when the UN was beginning to open up to
greater citizen participation.
Further examples of citizen's involvement in democratisation
globally, is seen in the world social Forum, and also to a lesser
extent, at the world economic Forum in 1980.
Indeed, civil society organisations are at the
beginning of a new global democracy, where there is a new internationalism
of people, independent of government
We need a regulatory system in the world to address
corporate excess and exploitation. Up to now, it has been as little
regulation as possible.
There are problems with the NGOs in being the
vanguard of a global citizen democracy in the sense that they do
represent specific interest groups, and mainly come from the developed
world. They can be seen to be a transition phase, or a work in progress
or evolution towards fuller citizen participation in global affairs.
In the development of the International criminal
Court,the NGOs were very helpful, in that they gave more transparency
and openness to the process.
A global parliamentary assembly could use the
Internet as a vehicle for connectedness and working together. The
25,000 parliamentarians over the world could represent all people
on earth,and using the Internet, all these legislators would deliberate
with each other. The Internet can link citizens directly. Electronic
decision-making has power. You can have even daily referenda and
make weekly or monthly decisions made by thousands and thousands
of global citizens.
We need to look at the definition of subsidiarity,
as promoted by Professor Strauss.
In the Wikipaedia, the definition is Subsidiarity
is the principle which states that matters ought to be handled by
the smallest (or, the lowest) competent authority. The
Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as the idea that
a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing
only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more
immediate or local level. The concept is applicable in the fields
Subsidiarity is, ideally or in principle, one of the features of
Development of global assembly
The power of the global parliamentary assembly
is limited and defined by the universal declaration of human rights.
Therefore, all citizens on the planet are franchised to vote
However, in order to get the ball rolling, you
may need to start out with an advisory body from progressive democratic
countries who already have free and fair elections.
Even if the new body is not part of the United
Nations, there is the principle of strategic leverage, where by
a group of countries doing this on their own., put other countries
in the position of needing to be part of this group. In other words
we create a critical mass. This is a similar idea to that of SIMPOL
except that the leverage is more open and decisive as it is based
on the presentation to the world of a new body, which comes into
existence for the purpose of creating global representation of the
people for the people.
The suggestion is to start with 20 to 30 countries,
with one foreign minister, one Prime Minister and one, permanent
representative of the United Nations and out of this, gradually
build up , to a new international organisation. From an advisory
board, there comes a globally elected body.
The reason that this could happen is because there
is a lot of pent-up idealism in the world waiting to be released.
As the centre of a new global system for representation
of the people, it could hold hearings, for example, with the director-general
of the world trade organisation, asking him to testify. It would
deal with international opinion, by passing national laws. Citizens
can petition their countries to join the global parliamentary assembly
and also state that they themselves have a right to be part of this
What is the feasibility for establishing such
What is the feasibility for establishing such
an assembly? An assembly of ambassadors was suggested in 1623. The
UN General assembly was established 322 years later.
The amount of power such an assembly initially
has is irrelevant. Once created such an institute will evolve on
its own significance and power, and as it expands will of necessity
confront non representative organisations.
What are seeds of change for such an assembly?
What are seeds of change for such an assembly?
Is political change made by the rupturing of old forms or is the
momentum driven by the rise of middle classes in the world. Or does
the energy of reform, stem from left-wing governments in South America
or the increase growth of tribal nationalism.
The International criminal Court, caught the world
attention, because of its morally compelling . Indeed, we need to
watch for windows of opportunity.
There are some questions that we need to ask.
Why is it that attaining democracy is so difficult, when democracy
was invented by the Athenians 510 BC? How can we protect the interests
of the many against the power of a few? How do we equalise the configuration
In certain instances, the international community
has attempted to impose democracy, for example, in East Timor, Hait
and Cambodia. Look what happened when the attempt to to impose democracy
was made on Iraq.
Is the time right for
a global parliamentary assembly?
Is the time right for a global parliamentary assembly.?
Even though one billion people voted in democratic elections throughout
the world, in 1995, there is tremendous fragility in our present
day democracy as democratic governance is eroded by corruption,
crime, violence and lack of accountability.
However, there is now a United Nations democracy
fund of more than $50 million. This is a good sign. Can the global
parliamentary assembly or the institution of global democracy transcend
the mirror of existing thoughts so that we can create a critical
mass of enlightened leaders? In this context, how important is the
United States, whose leadership is becoming increasingly irrelevant
in the contemporary world. The image of United States, when President
Roosevelt helped create United Nations is very different from today.
With the changes in communication on the Internet, the growth of
the cultural creative movements of 50 million in the United States,
the enormous antagonism against the neo conservative government
of George Bush, the United States may still lead the world in the
transformation to a more globalised democratic society.
Representation of the
In a global parliamentary assembly, we give citizens
direct involvement in the electoral process, . Marginalised people
can be included, including indigenous people and national and regional
minorities. This is because the global parliamentary assembly is
When we consider that 50% of the world population
exist on less than two dollars a day and that this disparity has
increased in the past few years, there is an opportunity for the
global parliamentary assembly to address these disparities and also
enhance income distribution, increasing the purchasing power of
large numbers of people. In this respect, there is less capital
concentration, for example, in terms of expensive items such as
expensive motorcars and yachts.
Dealing with global problems
As it stands, the international system is not
able to sort out global problems.
It is incapable of dealing with poverty, environment
and weapons of mass destruction, With a global parliamentary assembly,
global citizens can create democratic laws binding on states and
citizens and civil society organisations can participate within
the legislative process. We can define international law.
The aim of the global parliamentary assembly is
through transnational involvement to deal with transnational disputes.
By creating a global order, we have an opportunity to reduce war
and terrorism and creat a world, which is willing to accept non-violent
resolution of conflict.
The assembly would have a socialising effect ,
bringing under its umbrella, all those people who were previously
excluded through marginalisation. For example, despite the wide
number of cultures in United States, there is very little domestic
terrorism. Could a global parliamentary assembly be the seed and
cause for the exclusion of terrorism from the world and therefore
the exclusion of a global climate of fear?
The assembly can provide democratic opportunities
for all people, including marginalised, excluded ,indigenous , unemployed
and refugee groups and communities of people at an international
By creating an assembly of initially, a few countries,
this would create tension or a point of critical mass, whereby other
countries would join in.
Initiation of the assembly
Although initially the assembly may be initiated
with representatives , eventual direct elections, with citizens
voting, give the parliament, the power and significance, it deserves
and which is its raison d'etre.
It is felt that moderate governments would support
the global parliamentary assembly. A precedent is seen in the way,
the US gave away some of its sovereignty in terms of world economy
which was transferred to the World Trade Organisation.
It is suggested that the Parliamentary assembly
could be initiated with 20 to 30 states, and certain representatives
of civil society. It would be important to include from the start,
disenfranchised and marginalised people, including and especially
women. The thing here is to create a sense of ownership. People
need to feel part of this process.
Promotion of the global parliamentary assembly
In order to promote global parliamentary assembly
to the public, we need simple messages to get public opinion on
our side. It is important to emphasise that people need a legislative
voice and need to understand the importance of democratising globalisation.
In this respect , a lesson can be learnt from
the way international criminal court, was created due to moral clarity
compound by public opinion.
In the same way we we can see that instead of
religion being used to promote terrorism, war and violence, the
moral imperative here is to use the forces of spirituality and religion
to promote interfaith dialogue for peace, in order to bring out
the spiritual and moral values of compassion.
At this time in history of humankind, a
window of opportunity is open for us to refocus our consciousness,
so that we might ask ourselves, what role can we play in this transformation
to a globalised democracy. Tremendous changes have occurred in the
world in the past thirty five years, including the collapse of the
Soviet sytem and a change to a multiracial community without apartheid
in South Africa. The horizon of feasibility is open. We have to
find the open window for change.