FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How to Democratize the UN

by

As we approach the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, we’re moving further into a new century with many of the old, deficient institutions of the last century left untouched.

After two devastating world wars and the horrors of the Holocaust, the United Nations was founded as a means to promote peace and security, human rights, and development. Since then, global challenges have multiplied and intensified. Climate change, social disparity, financial instability, food security, terrorism, and genocide are issues that affect all of the world’s citizens. There is no way back from growing global interdependence.

At the same time, most of the world’s nations have adopted governance structures that are at least nominally democratic. The spread of democracy since 1945 is a revolutionary achievement.

In addition, states have established important regional organizations to facilitate political and economic cooperation, to promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, and to deal with other transnational issues.

But the astounding progress of democracy at the national and regional levels has mostly been ignored at the level of international organizations. The emergence of a global society and the diversity of political opinions present in democratic states are not reflected in the machinery of the United Nations.

It is no longer acceptable that UN decision-making primarily, if not exclusively, represents only the executive branch of national governments. The challenges confronting the world community today are challenges that nation-states acting alone cannot solve in an effective, democratic, and legitimate way.

All democracies have parliamentary bodies, and indeed almost all regional international organizations have parliamentary bodies. Now the United Nations must embark on this goal, giving legitimacy and meaning to the Charter’s opening invocation: “We, the Peoples of the United Nations.”

The United Nations and its General Assembly, the most universal body in the international legal order, must now seriously begin to add a more democratic, parliamentary dimension to its formal structure.

It is now widely accepted that representative parliaments are an indispensable element of good and democratic governance. This should apply at the international level as well. The UN needs to practice
what it preaches. If the UN is to continue effectively supporting peace, human rights, and democratic development, it needs to become more inclusive, accountable, transparent and democratic.

Efforts to add a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, UNPA, in the first years of the UN were not successful. The Cold War threatened human survival, while most of the world’s peoples were governed by autocratic regimes and struggled for liberty, independence, and an end
to colonialism. The world lacked experience with international parliamentary bodies.

Today, the conditions are very different. It may take years to devise a plan and procedures for a fair, democratic, effective, and independent UN Parliamentary Assembly. But it’s now long past time to begin. At first, a UNPA could be composed of representatives of national or regional parliaments. At a later stage, there should be a transition to direct elections.

Global support for the idea is growing. To date, an international appeal for the establishment of a UN Parliamentary Assembly has been signed by 1,400 sitting and former members of parliament from over 100 countries, as well as hundreds of other distinguished personalities from all walks of life, including former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

Last month, the report of the Commission on Global Security, Justice, and Governance, which is co-chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Nigerian Foreign Minister Ibrahim Gambari, recommended the establishment of a UN Parliamentary Network as a step towards “the creation of a standing, formally constituted UN second chamber.”

Through a UN Parliamentary Assembly, elected representatives who are accountable to their constituents would be able to play a role in the world organization. They could provide oversight of international decision-making and serve as a link between the world’s citizens, civil society, and the UN.

The assembly would allow for participation of parliamentarians who do not belong to governing parties. It could serve as a platform to give greater voice to minorities, indigenous peoples and nations, and youth and other international stakeholders. It could provide additional international accountability and oversight for government action on the new Sustainable Development Goals.

A UNPA is no panacea. But it would make the UN much more inclusive and strengthen its ability to cope with global challenges.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 23, 2017
John Wight
Manchester Attacks: What Price Hypocrisy?
Patrick Cockburn
A Gathering of Autocrats: Trump Puts US on Sunni Muslim Side of Bitter Sectarian War with Shias
Shamus Cooke
Can Trump Salvage His Presidency in Syria’s War?
Thomas S. Harrington
“Risk”: a Sad Comedown for Laura Poitras
Josh White
Towards the Corbyn Doctrine
Mike Whitney
Rosenstein and Mueller: the Regime Change Tag-Team
Jan Oberg
Trump in Riyadh: an Arab NATO Against Syria and Iran
Susan Babbitt
The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes
Rannie Amiri
Al-Awamiya: City of Resistance
Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
The European Left and the Greek Tragedy
Laura Leigh
This Land is Your Land, Except If You’re a Wild Horse Advocate
Hervé Kempf
Macron, Old World President
Michael J. Sainato
Devos Takes Out Her Hatchet
L. Ali Khan
I’m a Human and I’m a Cartoon
May 22, 2017
Diana Johnstone
All Power to the Banks! The Winners-Take-All Regime of Emmanuel Macron
Robert Fisk
Hypocrisy and Condescension: Trump’s Speech to the Middle East
John Grant
Jeff Sessions, Jesus Christ and the Return of Reefer Madness
Nozomi Hayase
Trump and the Resurgence of Colonial Racism
Rev. William Alberts
The Normalizing of Authoritarianism in America
Frank Stricker
Getting Full Employment: the Fake Way and the Right Way 
Jamie Davidson
Red Terror: Anti-Corbynism and Double Standards
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, Sweden, and Continuing Battles
Robert Jensen
Beyond Liberal Pieties: the Radical Challenge for Journalism
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Extravagant Saudi Trip Distracts from His Crisis at Home
Angie Beeman
Gig Economy or Odd Jobs: What May Seem Trendy to Privileged City Dwellers and Suburbanites is as Old as Poverty
Colin Todhunter
The Public Or The Agrochemical Industry: Who Does The European Chemicals Agency Serve?
Jerrod A. Laber
Somalia’s Worsening Drought: Blowback From US Policy
Michael J. Sainato
Police Claimed Black Man Who Died in Custody Was Faking It
Clancy Sigal
I’m a Trump Guy, So What?
Gerry Condon
In Defense of Tulsi Gabbard
Weekend Edition
May 19, 2017
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Getting Assange: the Untold Story
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Secret Sharer
Charles Pierson
Trump’s First Hundred Days of War Crimes
Paul Street
How Russia Became “Our Adversary” Again
Andrew Levine
Legitimation Crises
Mike Whitney
Seth Rich, Craig Murray and the Sinister Stewards of the National Security State 
Robert Hunziker
Early-Stage Antarctica Death Rattle Sparks NY Times Journalists Trip
Ken Levy
Why – How – Do They Still Love Trump?
Bruce E. Levine
“Hegemony How-To”: Rethinking Activism and Embracing Power
Robert Fisk
The Real Aim of Trump’s Trip to Saudi Arabia
Christiane Saliba
Slavery Now: Migrant Labor in the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia
Chris Gilbert
The Chávez Hypothesis: Vicissitudes of a Strategic Project
Howard Lisnoff
Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain
Brian Cloughley
Propaganda Feeds Fear and Loathing
Stephen Cooper
Is Alabama Hiding Evidence It Tortured Two of Its Citizens?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail