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Global Cooperation

On the Need of a Democratic Global Government

On the need of a democratic global government

Human civilization may not be able to survive if we do not create a global government. This proposition may seem out of place at a time of rising international tensions, nuclear instability, and nationalist populism. But whether they like it or not, all people are now linked together in a shared civilization which reaches around the entire earth. The dangers posed by nuclear war, global
pandemics, environmental devastation, biodiversity loss or climate change affect everybody.

Transcending the Nation-State

There is no body that represents the interest of the world community at large. Even if a treaty is concluded and ratified, a state can withdraw again. The international order recognizes no higher authority for decision or enforcement. The international order lacks many of the hallmarks that characterize a functioning legal system, which we take for granted domestically.

Cash Flows Have No Loyalty to Nation-States

We are witnessing the emergence of global social strata that are giving rise to vertical social tensions. The dividing line will no longer be between rich and poor countries, but between the super-rich and the rest everywhere. The transnational elite exercises a powerful influence and can play national governments against each other, if need be. National governments face serious limitations to resist the race to the bottom. In former times the creation of powerful nation-states was often driven top-down by the elites. Today, the elite uses the inter-state system to their benefit and actually resists the emergence of a global government that could constrain them.

Current Challenges and Pitfalls of the System

Citizenship is connected to individual states, and thus citizen rights are exclusive. The promise of the “global village” is only valid for the rich. The carbon footprint of those well off is disproportionally higher than that of the poor. At the same time, the planet has never before seen more border fences and walls separating states. In fact, the system of nation-states helps contain populations within state borders, allows playing out workers against each other, and the exploitation of undocumented immigrants.

Democratic Institutions of the Nation-State are Hollowed Out

Just as fossil fuel industries and their owners resist decarbonization of the economy, the military-industrial complex resists global pacification. It does not necessarily need war, but merely the possibility of war and a permanent feeling of insecurity. The opportunity costs are massive.

Moving towards Political Equality

The fundamental values that underpin the arguments for a global government remain as valid as ever. It is the realization of the equal value of every human being and that all humans need to respect and treat each other accordingly, which is at the core of cosmopolitanism and global citizenship. Morality that is exclusionary because it is only accepted as valid for a certain group is no morality at all.

A World Parliament Needs to Stand at the Centre of the World Republic

Setting up a world republic with a global government does not mean that separate units would disappear. On the contrary, it would be a federal system of multilevel government. States represent an indispensable level of government and decision-making. Following the principle of subsidiarity, functions and powers would be dispersed vertically between the different levels of government from the local to the global and always at the lowest level possible.

Converting Ideas into Action

The creation of a world republic means a transition from today’s system of international law to world law. The global government envisaged here may be the result of a consolidation of today’s system of global governance into a coherent framework based on a world constitution as proposed in this paper. The legislative branch could be composed of a World Parliamentary Assembly elected by the world’s citizens (similar to a House of Representatives) and a General Assembly as representation of member states (similar to a Senate). On matters of global concern and based on the principle of subsidiarity, this world legislature would be empowered to adopt framework legislation that needs to be transposed into national law and global regulations with direct and immediate applicability.

We Must Be Ready When a Window of Opportunity Opens

We do not know when the right moment will come. However, there have been many surprises in history that even the best experts did not foresee. That’s why we need to rally behind a bold vision for our common future on this planet and must be ready when a window of opportunity opens.

Jo Leinen is a Member of the European Parliament. Andreas Bummel is founder and Executive Director of Democracy Without Borders. This article is based on their book A World Parliament: Government and Democracy in the 21st Century.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the official policy of Citizens for Global Solutions.

Jo Leinen & Andreas Bummel

Author Jo Leinen & Andreas Bummel

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