Universal voice

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 than democracies.

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

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