Mondial Article (Winter 2023)
International Poll: Public Supports A World Parliament And World Law
Co-founder and Executive Director of Democracy Without Borders and of the international campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly.
An international survey carried out by the market research firm YouGov on behalf of the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation in 2023 indicates that a majority of the public in 13 of 15 countries covered by the study approves of the creation of a world parliament. With the exception of two countries, respondents in the other countries surveyed “strongly” or “somewhat” approved of the notion, significantly outweighing those who oppose it.
It is often claimed that nationalism is on the rise again. But many people, often clear majorities, would support institutional moves towards building a global society. This poll confirms that they would endorse a global democracy that is empowered to deal with global challenges. Governments should no longer ignore this desire and potential.
On average, 60% of respondents leaned towards supporting “the creation of a new global parliament that represents every country in the world, where every country would be represented based on how many citizens it has, rather than its own national government representation to the UN”.
The survey question further elaborated that:
“[T]he Parliament would meet to handle global issues like global peace, climate change, and emergency situations like pandemics. The Parliament would be part of a global legislative system that under certain circumstances would pass legally binding laws to govern the world as a whole. Would you support or oppose the founding of a World Parliament?”
Only 22% on average leaned towards disapproval. The most support was recorded in Kenya, where an overwhelming
majority (81%) approved of a world parliament, with 52% strongly approving and 29% somewhat approving of a global parliament. Only 17% disapproved and 2% said they did not know, the lowest proportion of uncertain respondents recorded in the entire poll.
Next on the list, are India (78% in favor and 10% opposed), South Africa (73% and 21%), Tunisia (71% and 13%), Indonesia (68% and 13%), South Korea (65% and 18%), Japan (63% and 13%), Turkey (59% and 17%), Argentina (58% and 20%), Germany (56% and 26%), France (53% and 27%), Brazil (50% and 24%) and Poland (49% and 25%). At the bottom of the 15 country poll are the United Kingdom (41% and 37%) and the United States (38% and 42%), which were also the only cases where more respondents “strongly disapproved” than “strongly approved” the notion.
A previous extensive study on sentiments on global democracy, by Farsan Ghassim, a fellow at Oxford University, found majority support in the United Kingdom and the United States. The recent YouGov survey, as well as an earlier study conducted in 2020 by the Global Challenges Foundation, show consistently broad public support for binding global decision-making over voluntary international agreements only.
Democracy Without Borders, which has been running a campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly for over 15 years, proposes a world parliament with a two chamber system. One chamber would continue representing the governments of member states, while the other would be composed of elected parliamentarians. The parliamentary body would thus not replace but complement national government representation.
Support for a World Parliament
A previous survey by Farsan Ghassim, Mathias Koenig-Archibugi, and Luis Cabrera indicated that people prefer such a two chamber system over the status quo of exclusive government representation at the UN. This idea was recently endorsed by former officials and representatives of civil society and government, as part of proposals for the revision of the 1945 UN Charter, with a view to the UN’s Summit of the Future, which is scheduled for September 2024.
The public also endorses pragmatic first steps towards establishing a world parliament. A 12-country-poll by the Stimson Center, released in June 2023, found that on average 62% supported the proposal of setting up a UN Parliamentary Network “to inform parliamentarians of the UN’s agenda and obtain their feedback on it”. At the time, the researchers concluded that the barrier to reforming global governance “is not popular opposition”, but rather the reluctance of governments.
Reflecting this consistent global support, the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, recently noted in the introduction to the new Global Solidarity Report, which also draws on international survey data, that “people worldwide share more solidarity than governments have hitherto harnessed.”
According to a UN General Assembly resolution adopted on Sept. 1 2023, the UN Summit of the Future will approve of an “outcome document” that includes a chapter on “transforming global governance”.
As we at Democracy Without Borders noted in 2021, to date the question of enhancing democratic representation and participation at the UN through a UN parliamentary body has been ignored in the official run-up to the summit, despite strong popular support and thoroughly thought through proposals. In particular, the establishment of a UN Parliamentary Assembly, which Maja Brauer and I set out the case for in our book A United Nations Parliamentary Assembly: A Policy Review of Democracy Without Borders, is a proposal that lies between the muted low-threshold UN Parliamentary Network and the high-ambition world parliament ideas. This proposition has attracted broad support from civil society, among experts, and from parliamentarians. In September 2022, it was endorsed by then Foreign Minister of Malaysia, Saifuddin bin Abdullah.
A statement released by the Climate Governance Commission in September 2023 notes, among other things, that diplomatic deliberation on “deeper reforms” of the international architecture “should commence immediately”, including on establishing “a parliamentary body or bodies at the UN and other international organizations to advise and better represent the world’s peoples”. The Commission will present a detailed report in November 2023.
The Governments of countries covered in the recent YouGov poll could leverage relevant diplomatic moves on strong popular support. Kenyan President William Ruto in particular has been promoting ambitious proposals for a global financial transaction tax or a global carbon emission taxation regime, both of which were included in the Nairobi declaration of African heads of government adopted in September 2023. Following the logic of “no taxation without representation”, it would be a rational next step to embrace the notion of a global parliament.
The data collected by YouGov on public support of a world parliament was part of the fourth annual FES Global Census, which examines public opinion on key matters of multilateralism and international cooperation.
Support for a World Parliament US Sample, by Party
Mondial is published by the Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS) and World Federalist Movement — Canada (WFM-Canada), non-profit, non-partisan, and non-governmental Member Organizations of the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Government Policy (WFM-IGP). Mondial seeks to provide a forum for diverse voices and opinions on topics related to democratic world federation. The views expressed by contributing authors herein do not necessarily reflect the organizational positions of CGS or WFM-Canada, or those of the Masthead membership.