In this important book distinguished international scholar and author Dr. Joseph Schwartzberg has provided us with a detailed proposal focused on what needs to be done to move toward the creation of a democratic world parliament. In addition to Schwartzberg’s cogent observations and arguments, this book also provides a huge amount of relevant information about all the nations of the world, information which he uses in order to clarify and justify his proposals and which will be very useful to diplomats and scholars concerned about global political affairs. This book of concrete proposals of how to do it takes us beyond the abstract dream of a global democracy.
As the subtitle indicates, we should not expect that the creation of a world parliament is something that can be completed all at once. Schwartzberg proposes a three-stage process somewhat similar to the way in which the European Parliament was developed. The first step would occur when the UN General Assembly, following Article 22 of the UN Charter which allows for the creation of subsidiary organs, establishes a World Parliamentary Assembly (WPA) whose members are chosen by the UN’s member states. Ideally, these delegates to the WPA would be members of national parliaments and would even be of different political parties proportional to their representation in each national legislature, but each national government could decide how to select its delegates in the WPA as well as whether to participate in it at all. Resolutions adopted by the WPA would be advisory rather than binding, but that is also the case for resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly itself.
Chapter 2 titled “Relevant Constitutional Experience” briefly summarizes the history of democracy in nations and the development of the European Union internationally to find clues about how to move toward more democracy at the global level. Schwartzberg notes that his plan for working through the UN General Assembly to create a WPA is not the only way to move toward more democratic governance in the global community, and he discusses some of the alternative ways of doing this in chapter 3 and mentions them again on page 95. In chapters 4,5, and 6 he returns to discussing the WPA approach which he favors and the various issues which need to be addressed to get the WPA started.
Obviously, an important and controversial matter to be decided would be the number of delegates/ votes each nation-state would have in the WPA. Schwartzberg already addressed this issue in his 2004 monograph REVITALIZING THE UNITED NATIONS: REFORM THROUGH WEIGHTED VOTING where he recommends an apportionment of national votes based on the three factors of population, wealth, and the sovereign equality of nations; and he addresses it again in chapter 7 of this book. In chapters 7 and 8 he also discusses many other matters that would need to be addressed even at this first stage of the WPA.
It is worth mentioning that in this first stage (Model A) the numbers of delegates for some of the 190+ countries in the WPA would be approximately USA-57, China-55, India-39, Japan-20, and Germany-15 while 35 countries would have 2 delegates each and 114 out of the 190+ countries would have only one delegate each (pp. 42-44 & 103-110) . Nevertheless “collectively, those 114 nations contain only 6.8% of the total world population, yet would account for a total of 20.2 % of all the seats” (p. 44). This situation shows what a challenge it is to develop a democratic world parliament when there is such a discrepancy in the size of the populations of the 190+ countries of the world, a point which Schwartzberg makes on pages 34 and 64 and often elsewhere. (In chapter 11 where he discusses Stage 3 Schwartzberg moves on to explore what is possible in a WPA which represents peoplerather than countries.)
The second step toward a more democratic global governance system would be the popular election of the members of the WPA along with increasing the authority of the WPA to enact real laws with regard to global issues. Schwartzberg says this transition should take place within 25 years or so (p. 49), but he recognizes that it will be resisted by the larger and richer countries (pp. 41 & 68). It seems to me that this transition from Stage 1 to Stage 2 will be even more difficult than the move to Stage 1. This second step where the people begin to elect the representatives in the WPA presents an opportunity to revise the allocation of votes each nation gets in the WPA, partly because the economic weighting used in Stage 1 could be dropped. Schwartzberg provides 2 detailed alternative systems of how the quantity of representatives from each country could be determined while noting that many other systems are possible.
In the first alternative (which he calls Model B.1) each elected representative to the WPA would have one vote, and each would represent roughly the same number of constituents. In this system, the number of representatives a country gets would depend on its population, and each nation would get at least one. Schwartzberg thinks that in order to be practical there should not be more than a total of 1000 members in the WPA (pp. 63-64). Schwartzberg’s second alternative (which he calls Model B.2) allows for a variation from country to country in the number of persons one representative in the WPA represents. He goes into great detail indicating the way in which the influence of particular countries would be affected depending on whether one relies on the “degressive proportionality” system used by the European Parliament or the “Penrose method” based on the square-root of the population in determining how many persons a single member of the WPA will represent.
Schwartzberg then presents his own middle way (pp. 71-75 & 115-20) between these two approaches. If his proposal were adopted, to give some examples the approximate number of representatives in the WPA would be China-37, India-34, USA-18, Indonezia-15, Brazil & Pakistan-14 each, Russia-12, Japan-11, Vietnam, Egypt, Germany, Ethiopia, Iran, and Turkey-9 each, Congo DR, Thailand, France, U.K., and Italy-8 each, 29 countries with 3 each, 34 countries with 2 each, and less than 20 countries with 1 each. Schwartzberg proposes that countries with 9 votes or less (pp. 75-77) should have proportional representation so groups with less than a majority would also be represented. He also discusses the issue of requiring more than a simple majority in the WPA for various kinds of issues as the WPA acquires authority over more kinds of global issues (pp. 78-81). In chapter 10 he addresses the issue of what nations and groups of nations might try to do as the WPA is developed. He says, “Even the most optimistic observer would probably concede that the world is at least a decade away from establishing a WPA”(p. 80).
In Chapter 11 Schwartzberg considers Stage 3 of the development of a WPA where national boundaries are no longer so crucial and the focus turns to creating voting districts with about the same number of constitutents each. He limits his discussion to how the districts might be drawn in the Americas.
In his concluding Chapter 12 he says, “This essay has sought to demonstate that creating a World Parliamentary Assembly . . . would be a feasible, even if difficult, undertaking . . . ” (p. 95). He is sure that creating a WPA would be worth the economic cost, but admits that he has not demonstrated that conclusion in this book (p. 96). He agrees with those concerned about the “glaring democratic deficit” in the UN, but he thinks that that should and can be changed. “With a WPA and other needed reforms in place, we can expect a world in which people from one country will be much more inclined to listen to and learn from others with a different nationality, in which states will be much less prone to armed conflict, and in which a revitalized UN will be better able to focus on meeting the economic and social needs of all the world’s inhabitants”(p. 96).