Envisioning a More Democratic Global System
commentary by Michael Ellis


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-

Michael Ellis Editor

It seems that the NGOs and representative of civil society are creating a transnational network and forming a new global policy.

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 of government, political science, cybernetics and management. Subsidiarity is, ideally or in principle, one of the features of federalism.

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 global Parliament.

What is the feasibility for establishing such an assembly

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 of power?

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 global citizens

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 citizen centric.

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 level.

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.


Dr Michael Ellis
Dr Michael Ellis Chief Editor and Creative vision behind The New Paradigm Magazine is an English trained Doctor with over 20 years of General Practice experience both in the UK and in Australia. He has higher qualifications in general medicine and paediatrics. He has a special interest in mind/ body medicine and in optimising the physical, mental and emotional health of the individual. As well as his medical qualifications, Dr Ellis also has qualifications in Literature, Arts, Philosophy and Social Psychology. He also has Naturopathic qualifications. He is Co Founder of The Centre for Change and The Medical renaissance Group Dr Ellis is a writer and author. Dr Ellis founded and convened an international conference - Conference Earth: Humanity and Planet Earth - 2001 and Beyond. This conference was held at and supported by Melbourne University on 17-19 November 1995 with 400 delegates, 50 workshop leaders and 10 international speakers attracting national media coverage. This series of Mindquest Conferences is now supported by the Research Institute "The Centre for Change" co founded by Dr Ellis in 2000 and he has since conducted regular seminars at Swinburne University, Melbourne on a wide range of topics related to the achievement of World Peace. His invited speakers have all been Leaders in their chosen fields. With Dr Pavel Kasyanov in 2002 he presented the paper entitled Transition to a Sustainable Civilisation at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002.