Countering jingoist voices
October 24, 2002
We live at critical moment in world history. The world has two distinctly different
options, to regress into a Hobbsian world of war of all against all or to build a
truly new world order of law -- law based on the achievements of the past.
It took World War I to obtain the League of Nations. The League failed in part as
a result of the U.S. refusal to join it. It took World War II to establish the United
Nations with the U.S. this time as the chief architect. Does it have to take another
world war to establish more democratic global governance?
The Bush Administration's unilateralism has inadvertently focused world attention
on this question. At a conference organized by the Montreal International Forum (October
13-16), hundreds of participants from all over the world fervently searched for answers.
Co-sponsored by the Commonwealth, Ford, Rockefeller, and Agha Khan Foundations, the
conference covered a vast array of topics. Among them, the most exciting and controversial
was the proposal to establish a global parliament.
At a workshop organized by the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research,
participants explored many different options for greater democratic representation
in global decision-making. Emerging out of three volumes of studies , the proposals
are as rich and diverse as the global civil society voices.
For the past 30 years, the World Federalist Movement has been proposing a world parliament
elected by universal suffrage to bring coherence to the inchoate voices of over 6
billion people on earth.
More recently, the Toda Institute in collaboration with Focus on Global South and
the University of Melbourne has proposed a People's Assembly to add on to the UN
General Assembly to represent the people's voice directly rather than through their
governments. As presently constituted, the U.N. General Assembly consists of some
190 state delegations, most of whom representing the interests of dictatorships rather
Professors Richard Falk and Andy Straus have come up with an intriguing new idea.
The world need not wait for a fully universal and representative global parliament.
The movement for a global parliament can begin immediately to organize elections
on a partial basis in those countries that allow it in order to provide a counter-veiling
power to jingoist voices. That movement also can pave the way for a truly universal
and representative Global Parliament.
Thanks to U. S. unilateralism, the global democracy movement is thriving on a wave
of enthusiasm. The World Forum of Civil Society Networks, America Speaks, and Computer
Professors for Social Responsibility can be numbered among them.
Former Indonesian President Abdul-Rahman Wahid is organizing a Bandung II to unite
the first and third world civil societies in their efforts to struggle for peace
and justice. In his annual peace proposals, for years Buddhist leader Daisaku Ikeda
also has proposed a plan for global assembly.
Taking advantage of the new Network Civilization, computer professionals have established
an electronic forum for the discussion of proposals for a global parliament. The
idea will not die. Where it will end up, Heaven knows.
Majid Tehranian is professor of international communication at the University
of Hawaii and director of the Toda Institute
for Global Peace and Policy Research.