A UN Parliamentary Assembly can democratize Global Governance

What our world needs today is an elected UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) along with UN General Assembly, forming together the UN Parliament which could be the bedrock of democratic global governance.

The financial crisis that began in the United States in late 2008 affected the whole world, though some countries absorbed the shocks better than others. According to Teresa La Porte, the inability of the state to confront threats and problems that affect the entire planet, such as transnational terrorism, climate change, global pandemics and financial crises is starker than ever. Internet has blurred traditional borders between the local, national, and global; and between cultures, races, and citizenships. It has even diluted the border between the real world and the virtual world.

A fundamental transformation in the nature of public space and active participation of world citizens necessitates a UN Parliamentary Assembly. This is further corroborated by global public opinion. According to Steve Kull of the World Public Opinion Organization, a survey covering 46 countries in 2009 found that an average of 72 percent also saw themselves as global citizens. In fact, a poll conducted in 19 countries in 2005 established that an average of 63 percent of respondents endorsed ‘a new UN Parliament, made up of representatives directly elected by citizens.

In his book Fundamentals of Global Governance, Jim Whitman writes that global governance needs to connect spheres that were previously separate — such as the global and the local, the individual and the national, and the national and the international — and base its power in the acceptance of global norms rather than in their enforcement.

The majority of the world agrees today that United Nations needs urgent reforms to address the immense challenges that humanity and the planet now faces. Such meaningful reform is found in letting people across the world themselves decide through an elected UN Parliamentary Assembly, what kind of institutions and laws they want for global governance.

With the invention of the Internet, the ace among all 20th century inventions, humanity has finally found its voice. Understanding the vital significance of Internet, countries such as France, Finland, Estonia and Norway have declared Internet access as a fundamental right.

There are over 5 billion mobile phones on the planet and these numbers are growing by millions per week. India alone adds over 15 million mobile phones per month. Smart mobile phones turn people, irrespective of where they are located, into a communication community.

Communication community along with membership, interest aggregation and democratic culture are social prerequisites of democracy. Global citizenship and interest in key global issues that affect each and every person on the planet such as climate change, international terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, fulfil other key prerequisites of global democracy. As far as democratic culture is concerned, democracies, according to Freedom House, Washington DC formed 60 percent of the governments across the world in 2010. The share of democracies is expected to rise this decade with more countries around the world likely to take the democratic path.

The International Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) held global elections in 2000 for electing its board of directors. The elections were the first ever example of direct global democracy in the governance of any global organisation. With such great advances being made in information and communication technologies and with the precedent of direct global elections by ICANN, it is time to establish an elected constituent Global Parliamentary Assembly, which could further decide on the new framework of global governance.

United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) campaign is a growing movement across the world to form a UNPA, a proposal which already has the support of about 737 serving Members of Parliaments from 98 countries . Vote World Parliament, World Alliance to Transform UN (WATUN) and Global Democracy Campaign are some other notable global campaigns trying to achieve the same end.

UN Parliamentary Assembly can be indirectly elected by the national parliaments initially and can be directly elected later. UNPA can consist of 700-800 members based on the pragmatic principle of degressive proportionality so that a balance is achieved in representation of very large countries and very small countries in such a body. European Parliament already follows such a system of degressive proportionality for allocating 750 seats among its member states.

In information society of the 21st century,  a democratically elected global organization can lead the planet on the path of peace and prosperity. We should not wait for  another world war to transform institutions of global governance. Time for an elected UNPA Parliamentary Assembly working in harmony with the current UN system is now.

Abhay K

Views expressed are personal.

Abhay K, a writer-poet-artist & diplomat, is author of six books. His most recent publications include Candling the Light and Colours of Soul. His writings have appeared in Times of India, Rediff, Governance Now, Diplomatic Square, India Abroad, Literary St. Petersburg etc. He has exhibited his art works in several countries including France, Russia and India.