Will an effective global governance emerge in the foreseeable future, or will it continue to be seen as utopian science fiction in our increasingly dystopic world? The answer does not depend on nation-states and the UN, but on the growing body of world citizens.
As H.G Wells said, “Sooner or later mankind must come to one universal peace, unless our race is to be destroyed by the increasing power of its own destructive inventions; and that universal peace must needs take the form of a government, that is to say, a law-sustaining organization, in the best sense of the world religious—a government ruling men through the educated co-ordination of their minds in a common conception of human history and human destiny.”
A directly elected people’s assembly is neither feasible nor desirable. Humankind does not need another layer of government, a supranational institution of competing interests, inflated egos and conflicting power struggles. In addition, proponents of a UN Parliamentary Assembly, by embedding it within the United Nations structure, are sanctioning the defunct philosophy and framework of the nation-state system.
Direct representation doesn’t take place in nations; why should we think it would ever happen on a global scale? Direct elections by 7.5 billion (and growing) people—the goal of proponents of a UN Parliamentary Assembly—makes that prospect completely unworkable.
Democracy—representative government through fair elections by the people of a given land or region—is the cornerstone of local and national government. But direct democracy is not a practical foundation of global governance.
Is there a valid and viable answer for global governance other than direct representation? Yes, a representational Global Polity, a body of people from across the globe, each of whom represents humanity as whole first, rather than their own countries or regions first.
Governments require parliaments, presidents and polling places; governance calls for cooperation, collaboration and insightful dialogue and action. The urgent need is for a body that does not wield power, comprised of people who are not interested in holding office and who are not involved in making and enforcing international law.
The question is: Can we prevent the rising dystopia of the global society from becoming entrenched when the collapse on the international order inevitably occurs? Only if its replacement, at a small scale, is in place when the collapse occurs.
A Global Polity of world citizens isn’t a utopian vision, but a practical and achievable necessity. Paradoxically, only a body of people that eschews power can directly affect the power wielded by national governments and international institutions.
A basic feature of human consciousness is tribalism—my country, my ethnic group, my religion and my family. Though the tribalistic mentality is fragmenting to the smallest possible unit—my self—it is still the basic source of division, and the main divisive force in the world.
We can make ourselves heard and heeded as citizens of the global society, but only if we emotionally see ourselves as world citizens, rather than nationals of any country, members of any religion, or kith and kin to a particular ethnic group.
First and foremost, a Global Polity is therefore a manifestation of and catalyst for a psychological revolution. In political terms that means the ancient pattern of identifying with particular groups for survival gives way to an emotional perception of our essential sameness and interconnectedness.
New structural solutions such a UN Parliamentary Assembly miss the true basis and raison d’etre for a new, authentically global body: as an expression of and catalyst for radical change in human consciousness. Only such a shift can turn humankind toward harmony with the earth and justice in the global society.
No revolution ever begins with an election. Global citizens will not acquire an effective voice by fiddling around with parliaments while the world burns, only by stepping into the breach as citizens of the global society.
A Global Polity will be an expression of world citizens and guidance for governments on the common challenges in this global society, while holding nation-states and international institutions accountable to humanity as a whole. People themselves will decide, in elections at the local and national level, how to translate the global concord.
A few hundred people, located, I propose, in the evolutionary birthplace of humankind, East Africa, can and must, without powers and parliaments, inject insight, guidance and accountability into international institutions as the international order collapses.
[first published May 2007]