Summary No. 4 (November 11-17, 2002)
This will be the fourth and final weekly synthesis for the 1st discussion on values, principles, and purpose and it precedes current week's coffee break. As of now, 215 people joined the forum, 62 sent introductions while 37 contributions were made. We received messages from the U.S., France, the U.K, Mauritania, Canada and Japan. There was no general consensus on the issue of values. Someone suggested that there be three fundamental values: Ethical values; Solidarity; Liberty/Transparency/Democracy. At one end of the spectrum, some thought the debate on values well advanced with some agreement already present in such documents as the Earth Charter and Agenda 21. Others disagreed. On the question of purpose, someone saw the purpose of a world parliament as furthering the cause of the unity of humanity, meaning that the general goal of a WP would be to encourage Planetary Citizenship. Finally, we brifly talked about the ongoing debate about spirituality and started to look at the mechanisms that might be used to implement some of the agreed Values and Principles.
This will be the fourth and final weekly synthesis for the discussion on values, principles, and purpose. Current week is being devoted to the *coffee break* (although later messages from theme 1 are still being posted), a recess that should enable us to gather our thoughts, make announcements, and, for the facilitating team, prepare the next item on the agenda. As of now, 212 people joined the forum while 62 sent introductions. 37 contributions were made during this initial phase of the discussion. This week saw a good amount of messages and a very broad and interesting discussion (hence the lengthy nature of this summary). This summary will unfortunately not do justice to this high calibre debate but I will at least try to outline (some of) the main ideas that were brought to the fore.
We witnessed once more an impressive array of participants presenting themselves to the forum with a particularly high proportion of people who have been actively involved in the field of world democracy and global governance. Again, it is impossible to sum up in a few lines several lives of outstanding individuals. I will just give some geographical background information and list some of the organizations mentioned in the presentations. On top of messages we received from the United States, France and the U.K, we also heard from people in Mauritania, Canada and Japan. Participants have been involved with the following organizations (some of which have been founded by these individuals): America Speaks, ATTAC, Alliance Social Continental, the Committee for World Parliament, Global People's Assembly, The Open University, World Democracy, World Party ( a world parliament through an international party). Many of you probably have heard of Garry Davis, famous all over the world for being the inventor of the World Passport and well known as an advocate of a democratic world government. Well, you will be happy to learn that his son is continuing Garry's work (something you may already know) and that he will be participating in this forum.
Discussion: Values and principles
This week's debate continued along the same lines as last week. On the discussion about fairness, someone reiterated that one's right to exist can only be guaranteed by access to a basic income. The issue of communication again came up with a participant suggesting that linguistic democracy - through for example Esperanto - is a pre-requisite for a World Parliament (WP), an idea echoed by someone else calling for the need for diversity and communicative equality. With regards to values, one participant summarized many of the thoughts that were presented during the last three weeks by presenting three fundamental types of values (that in essence correspond respectively to the moral, the social/economic and the political realms):
- Ethical values
On the question of how one might ensure that global governance, or a world parliament, operates according to the values and principles that are agreed on, there were difficulties in coming to a consensus. Again, the problem around the domination of Western values was not resolved. While some participants seemed to agree that some * universal values * can be defined and agreed upon, many thought that this question does pose difficulties. At one end of the spectrum, some participants thought that some of the values underpinning a WP are already well grounded into such documents as the Earth Charter and Agenda 21 and that the discussion regarding values is well advanced with much agreement already at this point. Yet others thought that we should try to go much further. One participant for example warned that * while extolling the virtues of plurality, we should clarify what it is that we will demand from one another as the essence of our interconnectedness * At the other end of the spectrum, one participant was adamant that already this forum could be falling short of its purpose, saying that: * The underlying documents and the debate so far are couched in the worldview and discourse of the white North Atlantic. The debate so far is about a view of the world that takes for granted the hegemony of the white North Atlantic. The debate is therefore inclusive, mono-cultural, mono-discursive and racist. *
As if to answer this critic, another contributor suggested we look at the proclamation of a new *global ethics * by the Parliament of the World's Religions (1993) that is based on the fact that all of the major religions include some form of statement of the Golden Rule:
- Every human being should be treated humanely
- Commitment to a culture of non-violence and respect for life
- Commitment to a culture of solidarity and a just economic order
- Commitment to a culture of tolerance and a life of truthfulness
- Commitment to a culture of equal rights and partnership between men and women
There were also specific suggestions as to what values and principles a WP should uphold and care about. One participant thought that a WP should be able to deal with the following issues:
Peace, ethics, equality, integration, fairness, education for all, wealth and opportunities distribution, high investment in environmental protection and education, health, fight against children labor abuse, digital and social exclusion, minorities exclusion, spread social responsibility principles, focus on sustainable development in social investments, defend human rights declaration as well as ILO principles, Emancipation to all minorities and unskilled workers, stopping unfair international commerce practices that favor developed nations over third world countries.
Purpose of World Parliament
Lest we get ahead of ourselves, the debate this week was mainly focused on the third issue of this month's discussion: * purpose. * To start the general discussion, someone suggested that what the world needs is *better governance, better culture, better attitudes*. Someone else saw the purpose of a world parliament as furthering the cause of the unity of humanity, meaning that the general goal of a WP would be to encourage Planetary Citizenship, on a basis of co-operation and mutual respect, not competition. More specifically: a World Parliament should focus on self-governance, voluntary coordination of behavior for the benefit of all, decision making by the people who are most affected. But, self-governance requires an educated population. If people are to make decisions based on more than their narrow self-interest, they must be informed of the wider issues and of other people's views. Finally, we need an economy whose direct driving force is social and environmental need.
In parallel, and in direct relation to, the general discussion on values, principles and purpose, a debate has taken place concerning the relevance of spirituality in a world parliament. In other words, should spirituality have a place in a world parliament? The problem was posed last week in the following terms: * Laicism and pancasila are two solutions that states have invented in order to deal with religious diversity, the first one, gives to the materialism a superior worth than those of religions, by playing a supposed neutral role. The second gives to the diverse religions the label of religions of the state. Having in mind what religions and materialism have in common, we look for a world political representation of all human diverse beliefs *
In response, one participant said that * if we allow the religions or philosophies such as atheism and Buddhism to be represented at the world Parliament, we put them more than ever in competition and we will go toward confrontations. On the other hand, a community of ideas with the banner "freedom of cult" or "freedom of opinion" is very constructive because it is a fundamental aspiration of all human beings and also because the believers of different religions will finally be united in the same demand.*
Finally, we also started to talk about mechanisms that might be used to implement some of the agreed Values and Principles, a way to mark the transition between the general debate on values, principles and purpose and the more pragmatic aspects of a world parliament that will form one of the core subjects s of our discussion in the following months.
Among these mechanisms, it was suggested that chat rooms would allow groups of people that are spread around the world to work on a specific paper or proposal in multiple languages all at the same time. One could also look at the Global People's Assembly Network which has developed a model for a Delegates Council which would include representatives from, and the participation of, local and regional assemblies or parliaments from around the world, the basic idea being that any assembly could submit proposals to the delegates council for consideration. The council could discuss the matter and then send it out to all those participating in the world parliament for further consideration or ratification.
This would thus provide a means for all peoples to be represented and for local groups to give input to the global process. It would also provide a means for representative participants to meet between actual sessions of the world parliament; and could provide a mechanism through which a WP could interact with other intergovernmental bodies at the global and other levels.
While we were obviously not able to agree on every topic tackled in the last few weeks, the debate was very intense with a lot of ground covered, allowing us, at least in my opinion, to move on further in the discussion and go on to the next stage. This week's coffee break should allow us to catch our breath and get ready for the next discussion. There will be no weekly synthesis of the coffee break but you should get a document in the next few days that consists of a summary of the main ideas developed during this initial phase of the forum.