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A World Parliament: How?

Introduction:

At present, certain worldwide issues which strongly affect peoples’ lives now require a global, collective and democratic approach. Globalisation is seriously affecting the functioning of democracy operating at the national level in an international system deprived of necessary control; its interdependence in the economic and financial domain illustrates, in particular, the limits of autonomy of national democratic systems.

In a world of communications and interdependence resulting from new technologies, we should guarantee peoples’ right to participate in debates and to not feel excluded from the decisions susceptible of impact on their lives. Such issues include, amongst others: human rights, protection of the environment, security, employment, economic and social development, trade, financial flows, communication, technologies, migration, tourism, terrorism – all of which assume a global dimension.

In a word, questions of a global dimension must be resolved with greater efficiency at a national and international level with more transparency and the participation of populations. Speaking in September 2000 at a meeting of the presidents of national parliaments in New York, the Secretary General of the United Nations underlined the urgent need for a “parliamentary vision of international relations”.

Indeed, there are already the beginnings of parliamentary democracy in the international sphere, of which the most advanced and active expression is the European Parliament, elected by direct and co-decisionary universal suffrage via community jurisdictions. Other Parliamentary Assemblies exist from international agreements signed by national parliaments or from inter-parliamentary agreements; examples of the former are: those of the European Council, the North Atlantic Treaty and of the Western European Union. Examples of the latter include: those of the French speaking world, the Commonwealth, ASEAN and Arab and independent states.

Moreover, some parliamentary meetings do exist on a global level such as ‘Parliamentarians for Global Action’ and GLOBE for environmental issues; a particular example is the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) who have been arranging periodic meetings of members of parliament from 139 countries for more than a century. They benefit from a consultative status within the United Nations and look into the major issues of our time. The United Nations, for their part, cooperate with national parliaments through the IPU and allow collaboration between members of parliament and their own councils or agencies.

If these organisations are going in the right direction, they nevertheless suffer from a double weakness: their work is few and far between and populations do not feel represented by them. In order to guarantee these populations’ influence over the treatment of subjects which concern them, they need a representation that overtakes the pure national scope and exists on a global scale.

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Objectives:

The set-up of a World Parliament complementing democratic representation at the national level must allow the avoidance of a serious crisis of confidence among populations whose frustrations are indicated above; some demonstrations and riots already witnessed and which threaten to multiply are testament to this problem.

This ‘complementarity’, key to its creation, should lead the World Parliament to increase the efficiency of works in other sectors of contemporary life: national and international civil servants, contractors, trade unionists and associated industries.

So, the World Parliament has as its main objective to exceed the approach of national and regional parliaments with a global institutional approach whilst uniting populations. Its weight and influence will be born of its composition, the latter of which should lead to a global representation of the planet’s inhabitants. The transparency of its work, that which is terribly lacking today, will be a determining element of its efficiency.

The World Parliament’s mission will be threefold: proposal, consultation and control; it will also be exclusive of all legislative power

Concerning its specifications, we have to consider: a representation of the different regions of the world home to the members of parliament devoting their time to this function, the non-interference in the area of national sovereignty, a strong expression of populations’ wishes and priorities by way of organised and permanent contact with them, the control of global public organisations, the emission of qualified opinion on global regulation without interference in the legislative domain, help with the preparation and following through of global conferences and the promotion of democracy and human rights throughout the world.

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Areas of intervention:

The principal areas of a global dimension have already been pointed out in the introduction. It would be advisable to add areas which have effects on all levels (local, national, regional and global) such as food, health, water, energy, education and culture. The World Parliament will need to address all problems on this scale.

Committees, the number of which will be the subject of negotiation, should be created according to existing institutions; they concern notably, human rights, security, the environment, commercial trade and financial flows, audio-visual information and the press, accelerated development techniques, employment and social and economic development problems.

They should concern themselves with following through recommendations from the United Nations’ world summits during the 90s on children, sustainable development and environments, human rights, population and development, social development, women, housing and finally, food.

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Links with the public sector:

Concerning the regional and global institutions, the World Parliament will have to be a privileged speaker of the United Nations, with which it will have to obtain a privileged consultative status; its Committees will have to establish permanent relationships with the specialist agencies of the institution, as well as with the WTO, and create good relations with the parliaments and parliamentary unions with global and regional scope. They will then be in a position to inform the population, stressing the global requirements.

Concerning national parliaments and governments, the World Parliament will not deprive national parliaments of their legislative prerogative and will be able to communicate their reports and opinions on their foreign partners points of view, which at the moment they lack. The World Parliament should, from the beginning affirm itself as a collaborator with national powers and should, as a priority, make national governments aware of its recommendations with all the available publicity.

Regular conferences between the World Parliament’s Commissions and specific instruments of parliament is envisaged to facilitate the regular exchange of information and the institution of a trans-national work culture.

Links with NGO’s, private companies and the media:

NGO’s are, at present, at the forefront of representation of a civil society but are lacking a voice. They are most often specific and have a good knowledge of the ground in their domain; they have worked out recommendations that require answers and action because, for now, they feel a great sense of frustration. The World Parliament will have to bear their recommendations in mind concerning governments and international actions and establish a system of accreditation by way of its Committees.

Whatever their field of industry, private companies are concerned with globalisation even though they depend largely on often fiercely patriotic national politics, and agree that they must open up to the world. Representative organisations such as the International Chamber of Commerce and the International Employers Organisation can express their point of view by participation in the International Employment Organisation but the establishment of the WTO proves that this is not sufficient. There too, only a political, parliamentary and democratic way forward can allow it to transcend purely national interests and consider the collective interests on a global level.

The media strongly influences governments and plays a role in the formation of public opinion that we cannot change. They could bring a determining influence to the actions of the World Parliament via the promotion of inclusive democracy and the development of the feeling of belonging to a global community; a real strategy of relations with the media will have to be nurtured along with contacts with professionals of the developed sector. Concerning the internet, it will become an essential medium as much for the World Parliament’s internal work as for its external communication.

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The organisation:

On the face of it, it can think of itself as ex-nihilo, but it is necessary to recognise that this will surely mean overcoming a number of difficulties, although we cannot totally reject this solution; it would be preferable to envisage moving away from existing structures.

In the first instance the United Nations General Assembly, which is representative and has the power to fulfil the global missions mentioned above, could attach itself to a World Parliamentary Assembly in order to support committees and formulate recommendations. In the second instance, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, similar in certain ways to a world parliament, could either transform itself into a World Parliamentary Assembly or collaborate on the organisation of one, which would then form a close co-operation with the IPU. Finally, the different assemblies and parliamentary unions described could be called upon to designate representatives.

The Statute:

Without doubt, the denomination of members of the World Parliamentary Assembly will be the most easily accepted aspect; at the same time its members would be called members of parliament. They should number between 100 and 600 with a maximum number per country depending on how many countries are involved and the characteristics of them (population, GNP, etc). The duration of their mandate should be 4 years with a run for re-election every 2 years. Their designation will have to be done in a democratic way, therefore with an election at national level of one or two degrees, with a large choice of freely presented candidates (individuals or lists of) and taking note of national specifications.

The main objective is that the World Parliament be the object of an international treaty and assembles democratic countries’ representatives, whilst waiting to be joined by the other countries of the world. In the first stage it is desired that an agreement between several countries is reached in the form of a treaty, which will give it the character of a public institution. It should begin with at least 30 member countries and a representation of every continent.

In the event that there is not a sufficient number of signatory countries, the World Parliament should form itself as a private law association with a seat in a country that legally allows its establishment. At the same time, affiliated national associations should be created in different countries with compatible statutes to those of the international association.

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Internal functioning:

At the moment we cannot enter into details of the organisation of the parliamentary work. We acknowledge that it would be better to foresee: 2 annual sessions of one month duration with possible supplementary sessions as well as some video conferences and work via electronic mail; the possible intervention, under invitation, of the United Nations’ Secretary General and some heads of state and government; a personal vote under conditions of majority established by internal regulations; the use of UN recognised languages of which English, Spanish and French constitute the base and into which all documents will be translated; some committees gathering 6 times per year for 10 days and some sub-committees and specialised workgroups, permanent or temporary.

A President will be designated and he will be assisted by Vice Presidents. Along with the committee presidents they will make up the Presidents’ College which will ensure the ruling of the World Parliament; a Secretary General will assume the necessary administrative functions. A Founder Secretary General will be designated and attached either to COPAM or to an ad-hoc independent organisation (inter-parliamentary for example). He will have to lobby governments and parliaments of countries in a position to become founder members, to prepare the conditions of establishment of the World Parliament, and should become its first Secretary General.

The choice of location for the Secretary General’s Seat must be subject to international consultation. This choice will not be neutral; it can only be a democratic country who is not seeking political gain – some locations could be symbolic in themselves.

The functioning budget, costs and modes of finance:

At this stage we can only touch upon the issue; complementary information is to be researched.

Costs can only be roughly estimated with expenditure depending on the number of participating countries and the choices that will be made. For 100 members of parliament and 30 countries, 140,000 Euros; for 300 members and 100 countries, 420,00 Euros; for 600 members and 140 countries, 840,000 Euros.

Financing could be public if the World Parliament results from an international treaty and therefore compulsory state contributions, following the envisaged rules of distribution. It could also be from voluntary state contributions or from public or private organisations or, preferably, from the establishment of an international tax system of which the European Parliament is an example. It will have to be privately funded to begin with if the World Parliament results from non-governmental decisions but it should be quickly replaced by public funds.

On the face of it, a project establishing a World Parliament should be attractive enough to mobilise volunteers and encourage politicians; it concerns replacing an international system essentially based on diplomacy by a more democratic global system.

However, this project will have to be presented by trusted persons and other persons capable of realising it. COPAM will present the conditions for the proposal, strengthened by its honorary committee of 23 former global leaders or recognised authorities. For the realisation, it would be dangerous to individually submit the governments and parliaments of 140 democratic countries. It would first be advisable to ensure a nucleus of governments and parliaments who are convinced of the necessity and who are in a position to subscribe to it, after it has been added to the agenda of an international conference.

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