Reader on Second Assembly and Parliamentary Proposals: Does the UN Have a "Democracy Gap"?

TitleReader on Second Assembly and Parliamentary Proposals: Does the UN Have a "Democracy Gap"?
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsFalk R, Monbiot G, Schwartzberg JE, Johansen RC, Strauss A, Roche SDouglas, Laurenti J, Heinrich D, Levi L
Number of Pages150
Publisher Edited by Saul H. Mendlovitz; Barbara Walker

This publication includes nine articles by noted authors, with a chronology that begins with the creation of the IPU and ends with its change of status in 2002. While proposals for UN parliamentary assemblies, peoples' assemblies, and second assemblies are as old as the UN itself, this reader, comprising nine valuable articles and appendices, provides current analysis of the ongoing debate that is occurring in the larger context of international democracy and democratic global governance, over whether and to what extent there is a "democracy gap" in the UN System and how to address that "gap."

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Excerpts from Conclusions of Mr . Richard Falk and Mr. Andrew Strauss:
Toward Global Parliament: In global politics, interest-group pluralism is growing, but no unifying parliament represents the public interest. Any serious attempt to challenge the democratic deficit must therefore consider creating some type of popularly elected global body.

Another approach would rely on a treaty, using what is often called the "single negotiating text method." After consultations with sympathetic parties from civil society, business, and nation-states, an organizing committee could generate the text of a proposed treaty establishing an assembly. Civil society could then organize a public relations campaign and persuade states (through compromise if necessary) to sign the treaty.(Excerpts taken from pages 12,16 & 18 in Reader)

Excerpts form Conclusions of Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) Secretary-General Anders B. Johnsson :
A Parliamentary Dimension to International Cooperation: The overall objective is to bring the voice of the people to the multilateral negotiating fora and to engage parliaments more directly in the work of these institutions. This can be done in several practical ways, including promoting parliamentary awareness and action in support of international agreements, promoting activities by parliaments and their members to mobilize public opinion and forge national support for international action, prepare analyses and reports on parliamentary activities relevant to the work of these institutions, and provide support to parliaments with the aim of increasing their capacity to carry out, at the national level, their legislative and oversight functions with regard to matters which are subject to international cooperation.(Excerpts taken from pages 28 & 29 of Reader)

Excerpts from Conclusions of Senator Douglas Roche :
The Case for a UN Parliamentary Assembly:A UNPA would not be a world parliament, although some supporters and detractors of a UNPA think of it as a step towards a form of world government or global federalism. World government is not a necessary criterion in discussing a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the UN: The UN is designed as an assembly of Nation States. It was not designed for democracy at the individual level, but rather a compromise of equal sovereign rights versus the interests of power - notably great powers - in the international arena. Furthermore, the core activities of the UN center on collective security issues: issues which are deemed "high politics" and tend to favour executive over parliamentary privileges. Democracy, then, is the democracy of states, not individuals. Individuals and society are represented by their governments.(Excerpts taken from pages 33, 41, 45, 50 of Reader)

Excerpts from Conclusions of Mr . Lucio Levi: Globalization, International Democracy and a World Parliament: Domestic and International Democracy...without domestic democracy, an essential prerequisite of international democracy is lacking. But the fact that the process of democratization of state regimes all over the world has not been completed does not represent an obstacle to start the process of democratization of the UN.

A World Parliament elected by universal suffrage by the world citizens is the simple and strong watchword that identifies the sharpest contradiction of our time, the contradiction between globalization and the lack of international democracy, and expresses at the same time the deep reasons that inspire the global civil society movements, the need for an assembly representing the will of humankind.(Excerpts taken from pages 59, 63-64, & 66 of Reader)

Excerpts from Conclusions of Mr . Dieter Heinrich:
Extension of Democracy to the Global Level: In practice, the UN is a meeting place not of the peoples but of the governments - and only the executive branch of governments at that. One of the first reforms might best be to establish, finally, the citizen dimension at the UN, and give the UN back to the world's people.

The single most appropriate and important institution for enabling citizens to be represented at the UN, as in any political community, is a parliament. The European Parliament of the European Union provides an important example of how a supranational parliament can develop. The experience there suggests that the first stage of a UN parliament could be a consultative Parliamentary Assembly made up of representatives chosen by the national parliaments. This would enable a UN parliamentary chamber to be created easily and inexpensively in a way which nevertheless creates a valid democratic link between the UN and the world's citizens through their representatives in the national legislatures.(Excerpts taken from pages 70-71 of Reader)

Excerpts from Conclusions of Mr . George Monbiot:
A Parliament for the Planet: Global Democracy is meaningless without Directly Elected Assembly: Global democracy is meaningless unless ultimate oversight resides in a directly elected assembly. We need a world parliament.

The key point here is that power exists at the international level whether we like it or not. The absence of an accountable forum does not prevent global decision-making taking place - merely ensures that it does not take place democratically. It's not a question of removing further powers from nation-states or from their citizens, but of democratizing those powers which are already being wielded supranationally.(Excerpts taken from pages 76-78 of Reader)

Excerpts from Conclusions of Dr . Joseph Schwartzberg: Launching a Global Parliamentary Assembly: Overcoming Practical Difficulties in Creating a WPA: Participation by certain minimum thresholds of willing nations and of their citizenry should be required if the deliberations of any such assembly are to be considered as representative of the will of the politically empowered global community. â?¦The Atlantic democracies have already created institutions, most notably the European Union, to give expression to their collective political agenda. To launch a â??globalâ? assembly, then, certain minima of representativeness must be met. I would suggest the following:

a) At least 20 nations must agree to the conditions established for the WPA and provide credible evidence of their ability to fulfill those conditions.
b) Nations from at least four (or, arguably, five) continents must be included.
c) The participating nations must account for at least 15% of the worldâ??s population.
d) The participating nations must account for at least 15% of the UNâ??s budget.

(Excerpts taken from pages 86-88 of Reader)

Excerpts from Conclusions of Dr . Robert Johansen: An E-Parliament to Democratize Globalization : An e-Parliament â?¦One of its most exciting features is that the Internet has made it possible to set up an e-Parliament immediately if funds are raised to establish and manage the required web site. The other brilliant breakthrough provided by this idea is to base parliamentary deliberations on legislators who are already elected and enjoy democratic legitimacy. Neither idea could succeed without the other, but together they provide an unprecedented opportunity for humanity.

The long-term mission of the proposed e-Parliament is to give every person on Earth an equal vote and equal opportunity to be represented in solving problems that affect their lives. The immediate purpose of the proposed e-Parliament is to enable all those legislators throughout the world who have been democratically elected to their national legislatures to deliberate with one another, primarily over the Internet, and to engage with citizens in a joint search for effective solutions to global problems.

(Excerpts taken from pages 97-98, 101, 114 of Reader)

Excerpts from Conclusions and Recommendations of Mr . Jeffrey Laurenti: An Idea Whose Time Has Not Come: Particularly treacherous are the questions of a proposed parliamentâ??s inclusivity, its authority, and its efficiency. The carefully considered proposals for realizing a global parliament advanced in five of the illuminating articles in this volume, from virtual deliberations in cyberspace among members of existing national legislatures to the ideal independently elected parliamentary assembly, all struggle to square these circles, a worldwide parliamentary assembly will remain but a theoretical possibility.

The central conundrum facing an imagined international parliamentary assembly is the apparent impossibility of reconciling its mandate and its appeal to prospective parliamentarians. What powers would such an institution have? If it has no authority over the activities of even the scarecrow agencies of the United Nations, why should serious politicians invest serious time in it?

Advocates of investing the energies of citizen groups and sympathetic governments in a campaign for an international parliamentary assembly need to convince informed publics that creation of such a body would yield significantly better outcomes in building agreement on international policy than the existing system allows--particularly if the assembly is to be a directly elected body. Just as the mantra of â??democracyâ? does not make elected judges more capable of impartially dispensing justice than appointed judges, so the skill sets needed for effective international negotiation may not be the same as those that win politicians election to legislative bodies.

(Excerpts taken from pages 120, 122, 124-125 of Reader)