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message no. 275

in reply to :

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Monthly Summary II
(November, 25 - December, 22, 2002)
The Architecture of Global governance

Arnaud BLIN
WP21 team





Abstract

Two parts to the discussion : critique of the current system of governance and visions for a future architecture of global governance. Critiques included the inadequacies of the state system and of the capitalist economy and globalization, on the problematic nature of the North/South gap, on the shortcomings of the United Nations, on the failure or inexistence of environmental policies. Responses included reforming the U.N., creating a world government, extending the European Union model on a global scale. One elaborate plan included a tri-partite system with three poles : executive (U.N.), judicial (international courts), and legislative (World Parliament).


Most of you have probably seen the classic movie by Frank Capra, * Mr. Smith goes to Washington * in which James Stewart plays the role of a young senator who goes to Washington to defend a cause. As he is about to leave, his father offers him the following advice : * Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for. * There is much to say about this short word of advice which goes to the root core of what it is that makes humanity change and progress. For * lost causes * or what are perceived as such are generally the only ones worth fighting for. If they did not appear to be lost in advance, no one would muster the strength to transform them into winnable causes.

At this point, changing the structure of global governance may appear to any rational person to be a * lost cause.* Indeed, in this very forum, there are many skeptical voices that say what most of us think, namely that such an enterprise is so daunting that one must be either a bit naïve or even a bit irrational - in short idealistic - to even think that it could be done. Yet, one senses a shared feeling of exhilaration in trying to determine how one could change global governance and envision what this new structure might actually look like, even to those with the highest degree of skepticism.

Indeed, this month's debate on the * Architecture of global governance * was particularly rich, lively and interesting. This short summary will not do justice to the quality of the discussion. It will just serve to give a rough overview of some of the topics that were debated during the exchange.

Critics and alternatives to the current global governance: what are the advantages of a WP?
If one were to put this discussion in a nutshell, I would say that there were really two parts to it. The first one was a critique of the current system of governance. The second dealt with new visions of what might be. Of course, both parts are interrelated. Briefly, the critique focused on the inadequacies of the state system and of the capitalist economy and globalization, on the problematic nature of the North/South gap, on the shortcomings of the United Nations, on the failure or inexistence of environmental policies.

The responses focused on ways to respond to these problems and shortcoming. The guiding thread to the discussion was seeing if and how a World parliament might serve as an instrument to achieve this. Logically, there were many points of view, with some disagreements and some points of convergence. For example, the idea of Simultaneous Policies that we discussed last month seemed to find favor among many participants as a way to shake the current system and move on to something more adequate to our times. Overall, the discussion tended to focus on a central question: Could a world parliament actually achieve what other institutions claimed they would do but never did. In short, what would a World parliament have that all previous institutions with similar promises did not?

UN: reform, refoundation, elimination, complementation by WP and other institutions?...
The issue of the current and future role of the United Nations was the most debated topic of the month. While just about everyone agreed that the United Nations is a corner stone of the current architecture of global governance, a majority of participants also thought that reform is needed. At one end of the spectrum were some people who thought that the greater bulk of efforts should be made to actually reform this institution. At the other end were those who thought that it should be eliminated outright. In the middle ground were those who thought the U.N. should remain in place (reformed or not) but with the addition of other institutions such as a World Parliament, to complement it, counter-balance it or help it reform.

Another source of inadequacy with the current system touched the all-encompassing domination of nation-states. Some thought the task of eliminating or reducing the power of the state too daunting. Others saw possibilities of reforming this system, for instance by promoting the idea of the city (as opposed to the state).

A WP promoting civil society and participative processes
In terms of how a World parliament would fit into all of this, everyone seemed to agree that the current architecture of world governance suffers from a serious lack of legitimacy. By promoting the role of civil society, by raising the collective consciousness through a participatory process involving all types of citizens from every place in the world and every way of life, a World Parliament would propose to address some of these problems.

One contributor argued against the idea of a traditional parliamentary system on a global scale advancing instead the idea of a decentralized regional self-governance that would send delegates to a WP. These delegates would not legislate or attempt to elect some sort of world government but would act as a debating body in charge of evaluating how far we already agree on common human values.

Several plans were put forward as to what the future state of global governance might look like. These included a plan for a world government, which would have the advantage of eliminating two birds with one stone (the U.N. and the state system) or a system of global government that would be an extension of the European Union. The most elaborate plan envisioned a tri-partite system with an executive branch (The U.N.), a judicial branch (several world courts: criminal, economic, ecological, court of arbitration) and the equivalent of a legislative branch (the World Parliament) that would allow * all * human beings to manifest their own choices for their future and about which problems they want to be dealt with in priority. Such an entity would function through a Chamber of the Communities of ideas (or Chamber of Proposals) and a Council of Sages with thinkers, scientific, activists elected democratically, in charge of giving its opinion and its light.

These were some of the topics that were debated this past month. They will serve as a springboard to the current month's topic: * the Internal and external organization of the World Parliament. * A lot of ground has already been covered as we head into a more intricate discussion of the actual form that a World Parliament might take.
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