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message no. 412

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Monthly Summary IV (February, 12 - March, 10 2003)
WP competencies and tasks, the law production and implementation processes

Arnaud BLIN
WP21 team





Abstract

The biggest task of a WP is to come up with a process that is truly democratic. Representation and direct participation seem to be the two options on the horizon. However, both are unsatisfactory. Representation because it leads to undemocratic behaviors and processes, direct participation because it cannot be used on a global scale and with so many decisions to make. Possible solutions to this conundrum include the idea that elected officials of a WP be chosen to do a task rather than to fill a position and that * Communities of ideas * be instituted as a foundation of a WP and that an evolved form of democracy, sociocracy, be instituted. Would increasing participation of women in governance have a positive impact? If it brings greater equilibrium in decision-making and problem-solving, then a WP should institutionalize male-female parity.


For this 4th topic on World Parliament competencies and tasks, the law production and implementation processes, we will just publish a single (monthly) synthesis.

The month of February saw the gradual escalation of the probability of war. While hostilities have not yet started at the time of this writing, war seems all but certain, even before the crucial U.N. vote. Henceforth, it is not surprising that the discussion on the competencies and tasks of a WP was often marked by the issue of the war in Iraq which, overall, made the creation a WP seem all the more necessary and urgent. While there were many messages this month that dealt almost exclusively with the Iraq problem, we will nevertheless focus here on the topic at hand.

Basic issues and questions

The competencies and tasks of a World Parliament, its law production and its implementation constitute the nuts and bolts of a new form of governance on a global scale. In light of this, these are some of the questions that were put to the floor :

Do we need a global constitution? Should the parliament propose and plan for the development of major global programs in order to solve our primary global problems?

What would be the tasks of representatives in developing programs and producing law? How could parliamentarians represent local or sectoral interests and how not?

What type of decision-making processes should be used ? Simple majority, super majority, active consensus, etc? Who would need to authorize decisions before they pass into law? What mechanisms could be used to create laws? How would commissions be established? How could we create implementation mechanisms? Who should control the executive power? How can we develop effective and just means or sanctions to use with nations and peoples that do not respect or carry out common resolutions? What role would there be for mediation, conflict resolution, use of force and armed intervention? Etc.

How can we bring more cooperative and feminine behaviors into the WP and develop conviviality beyond the usual symbolic events?

While not all of these issues were resolved here, a number of them were discussed. The bulk of the debate, however, revolved around the issue of representation.

Representation, democracy and communities of ideas

The fundamental problem of a world parliament, for a majority of participants, relates to the ideal of democratic government. While politicians the world over defend the ideals of democracy, one is hard pressed to find a government that is truly democratic. Thus, if a World Parliament is to have any kind of legitimacy, it must go one step (or several) further. It must, in other words, accomplish what all self proclaimed democratic governments have promised but rarely (some might say never) delivered : real democracy.

While defining real democracy is difficult, if not impossible, it is not hard to see that so-called democratic regimes have fallen far short of minimal expectations. The flawed American elections of 2000 which saw George W. Bush painfully enter the White House or the current gap between Tony Blair and the British population are a couple among many reminders that the practice of democracy is unsatisfactory.

Why? One might look to one of the pillars of modern democracy as a possible culprit : * representation *. For the founders and theoreticians of modern democracy, representation was always considered the number one condition for a democratic government. As we enter the third millennium, not only has representation shown its limits but new elements have arisen that could well render this foundation obsolete. The creation of new political entities such as a WP certainly are breaking new political ground, as are the emergence of a global civil society and technological means that might facilitate other modes of decision-making. Still, finding an alternative to representation is not easy.

The problems of representation are easy to pinpoint: once in office a politician is all too often free to do what he - or she, but we will get back to the gender issue later -wants and he need not consult the public for each decision he makes. The only sanction is the election, a process that is also flawed. The result is an increasing gap between the electors and the elected and a democracy which is * preventive * rather than * projective * . A possible solution to this problem would be to elect officials for a (specific) task rather than for a position. While reform along those lines is hard to foresee within state government structures, they could perfectly form the basis of a World Parliament.

Another problem arises with the fact that decisions are fragmented and taken by individual states with narrow national interests. What's more, while democratic governance today remains essentially national, business and markets have already become truly global. Governments are also often quite reluctant to deal with the root or fundamental causes of the problems and to design comprehensive solutions for resolving them. For instance, one of the most fundamental requirements of life is to be able to sustain itself. And yet very few if any countries or regions of the world are planning for full sustainability. Thus the bills that a world parliament might pass (and educate the public and lobby governments for) would be based on the values and principles agreed to and they could address the root causes of problems and provide the fundamental requirements needed to create the world we want to live in.

It seems evident then that the purpose of a future WP is not world domination or power mongering but the establishment of a tool for economic, social and cultural regulation whose task will be to stay tuned to basic issues (local, regional and global) with a constant evaluation of the consequences of the decisions taken by the assembly of the earth. Nevertheless, a WP still has to function with people. At some level, and considering the number of people on earth and the number of decisions to be taken by a WP, direct participation cannot be the only form of decision making. At some point, there seems to arise the need to have some form of representation. But representation involves pyramidal structures, gaps forming between each levels and, inevitably, big egos ruling the day. One possible solution to this conundrum - impossible direct participation versus unsatisfactory pyramidal structure - might be the whole idea of * community of ideas * that we discussed previously.

The concept of Community of ideas means that we can share ideas and concerns with peoples with whom nothing on the surface ties us together. Someone is Marseille might be closer to an Inuit than to her next door neighbor. The idea of * community of ideas * implies that those who * carry propositions * or projects are not representatives. They execute tasks and deal with specific problems. Their accountability is directly related to whether or not they undertook the task that was required of them (local, regional or global). Perhaps, then, the idea of * community of ideas * might just be that one element that we should focus us in priority and the one that will determine how one might construct a truly democratic, and efficient, tool for global governance.

A model for governance : sociocracy

Another way to address the deficiencies of democracy might be to apply the model of * sociocracy * to a WP. This model also addresses the issues of representation and the elections for a function or task as opposed to a position. The sociocratic model was invented sixty years ago for school children but its application is universal. Sociocracy means government of those who live and/or work together. It aims at right human relations based on the principle of win-win situations. Its ideal is to prevent a tyranny of the majority and thus the abuse of power that affects all governments including democratic one. It declares the principle of consent, or * no argued objection *, (which is not the same as consensus) as its governing principle. While this approach does not seek to obliterate democracy, it marks a significant evolution of the democratic process from * one man, one vote * to *one man, one voice *. While the democratic vote is limited to marking a box on a ballot paper once every so often, the sociocratic voice means taking part in discussions about matters that affect or interest a person directly.

In practice, sociocratic governance functions like this : each circle or functional group within an organization chooses its own representative(s) to the next level upwards. The leader of that same circle is chosen from within the next level up, to guide the processes in a next lower * domain of decision making *. This ensures both bottom-up and top down communication. It also allows for two-way delegation of execution of tasks. The principle of consent is applied to decisions of policy. To ensure an efficient organization, in matters of execution people are free to choose whatever method of decision making they prefer, for as long as they have their mandate.

Male-female equilibrium

Do women in politics act differently than men? A big question indeed. Until recently, the question seemed irrelevant as the world of politics was so outrageously dominated by men. And, while isolated countries such as New Zealand were quietly reshaping the landscape of politics, not much was done elsewhere. In effect, it really took someone like Margaret Thatcher to change our perspective on things. But, if Maggie showed that women were capable of doing what men did, she certainly did not show that they might do it differently. Since those glory days for the British PM, women participation in politics has increased and while parity is far from having being attained globally, we can ask ourselves if, and how, this phenomenon might change governance. A few years ago, the American philosopher Francis Fukuyama made a big case for the idea that yes, women were about to change politics before being rebuked by a group of angry scholars (men and women) who argued that women and men act no differently when it comes to politics. Still, the debate remains open.

For those participants who discussed the issue this month, there is no doubt that the current disequilibrium between male and female values in politics is one of the root causes of many of the internal crises of individuals and more generally of the crises of the modern world. The argument is not (as was Fukuyama's) that women would do things better than men but that an equilibrium between men and women would be highly beneficial to all. If more women participated in decision-making processes, the crises and conflicts would be dealt with differently, and might result in less wars, less humiliation of the vanquished and more concern with hunger and the needs of families and children. For this, one could institute a simple proposition for the WP, that each position in the WP be filled by a woman and a man so that, in essence, absolute parity might become reality and not just wishful thinking.

Conclusion

In short, a WP needs first and foremost to rethink governance. By incorporating new tools and institutionalizing new forms of governance, it can actually create a system that older forms of government may never be able to attain, even through reforms. To begin, one can study in greater depth the following ideas : 1) That members of a WP be elected to do a task rather than fill a position. 2) That the idea of * community of ideas * be used as a foundation of the WP structure. 3) That the model of * sociocracy * applied for a WP. 4) That male-female parity be institutionalized at all levels, from bottom to top.
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