A UNITED NATIONS PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY: AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME
The great problems of our times – such as the World Economic Crisis, war and peace, Global Warming and climate change, international terrorism, epidemic diseases such as AIDS -– cannot be solved by individual nations acting alone. It is more and more obvious in our Era of Globalization that the most fundamental problems affecting the lives of individuals can only be addressed by global action on a worldwide basis, and that the mechanisms of the past for doing so, such as informal intergovernmental cooperation as in the G-20 and such treaty conventions as the glacially-paced failed Climate Change conferences of Copenhagen, South Africa and Warsaw are ineffective, slow, unwieldly and so divorced from the people as to suffer fatal democratic deficits.
At the same time our international institutions have been slowly evolving more effective models for international and global governance, most successfully in the case of the European Parliament of the European Uniion (EU), which brings together the elected representatives of 27 European Union member states in a permanent parliamentary assembly representing not simply the member states and their governments, but the independent elected representatives of all segments of European public opinion, whether in government or in opposition. The pioneering model of the European Parliament has now been copied across the world with analogous parliamentary assemblies now in sucessful operation, such as the Pan-African Parliament of the African Union (AU), the Arab Parliament of the Arab League and the Latin-American Parliament (Parlatino). Now that the concept of an international parliamentary assembly has been proven on the ground passing the test of time and reality, the time is now ripe for the creation of such an institution on a global scale as a new organ of the United Nations beside the existing General Assembly and Security Council to enable the United Nations and our system of global governance to be strengthened to an extent necessary to solve our globalized problems in a globalized world, and to bring the United Nations and its related international institutions into closer communication, responsiveness and accountability to the peoples of the world, not just governments in power, and by so doing address the democratic deficit in our system of global governance.
An ergetic coalition under the leadership of former United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali is now working hard and effectively to bring about the creation of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, spearheaded by the Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly whose website is accessible at:
Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly: http://en.unpacampaign.org/about/unpa/index.php
The European Parliament has endorsed the creation of such a UN Parliamentary Assembly and it is supported by hundreds of Members of European Parliament and similar support groups across the world. The fact that it is supported by the former UN Secretary-General and the European Parliament and Pan-African Parliament proves both that it is a highly practical, tested and workable idea whose time has come.
A United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) for the first time would give citizen representatives, not only states, a direct and influential role in global policy. The assembly would not replace existing UN bodies but would be an additional means to integrate parliamentarians more effectively into the shaping of globalization. In tabling this initiative it is also important to clarify what a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly would not be. It would not be a world government. It would not in any way attempt to make law on a global scale or in any way limit the sovereignty of existing national governments. The existing United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council would continue to exist side-by-side with the new UNPA and would continue their existing work, just as the national governments of the EU along with the European Council continue to function alongside the European Parliament. The creation of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, at least initially would not increase or decrease the sovereignty of UN member states nor alter the powers of the existing UN organs, the Generally Assembly and Security Council. Instead, it would add the voice of the peoples of the world to the existing institutions and increase their accountability to those peoples, from whom they derive all their existing powers.
Direct citizen representation could help the world develop a greater understanding of itself as a global community. At the highest levels of the United Nations, a UNPA could function as a world conscience and watchdog, and a catalyst for further reforms. Over time, the UNPA could evolve from a consultative body to a world parliament with genuine rights of information, participation and control.
As a transitional step until global direct elections become practical, the UN Parliamentary Assembly could consist of delegates from national and possibly regional parliaments, reflecting their political diversity. The UNPA would therefore include members of minority parties whose opinions are often not represented in the United Nations. Unlike current UN ambassadors, UNPA representatives would not be subject to the authority, direction or control of national governments. These parliamentarians would be free to ask probing questions, raise sensitive issues, and table innovative proposals for consideration by the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Bretton Woods financial institutions and other UN bodies, just as the European Parliament successfully functions within the European Union.
Contrary to popular belief, creation of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly would be procedurally quite easy as all that is required is a majority vote of the UN General Assembly, and its creation is not subject to any veto power under the United Nations Charter. A consultative Parliamentary Assembly at the UN could be established as a subsidiary body by a simple vote in the General Assembly under Article 22, without changing the UN Charter. The historical record demonstrates, as with the Land Mines Treaty and the International Criminal Court, that if a few countries urged on by civil society take the lead, significant transformation at the international level is indeed possible. “We the People” of the World can bring about this fundamental democratic change through an energetic “People Power” campaign pressuring our national governments to vote “Yes” on the proposal in the UN General Assembly.
If the creation of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly is so drastically needed to address the core problems of our age and it is so procedurally easy to accomplish it, you may ask, why hasn’t it been done already? One reason is that the proposal has often been misunderstood when raised, both from those who have hoped or feared too much from the proposal and those who have expected too little. Many people dismiss the idea as an unworkable utopian dream by mistakenly thinking that the UNPA would hope to bring about a “One World Government” replacing or subordinating existing nation-states in one swoop. But this is a “red herring” and “straw-man” argument irrelevant to reality. The United Nations Parliamentary Assembly would not reduce the sovereignty or freedom of action of any national governemnt and is neither utopian nor a threat. Its work would be essentially similar and of restricted scope to that of the European Parliament within the EU, which no one sees as a threat.
A second reason for resistance to the idea is the natural disinclination of existing governments, regimes and powerholders to any limitation of their personal powers. But the idea of democracy on the national or international level is precisely that power holders MUST be made accountable to their peoples and that applies to the international arena as well as the national arena. Clemenceau famously said that “war is too important to be left to the generals.” and a fortiori government and global governance in an age of globalization is far too important to the lives of the people to be left to the nation-states, the diplomats, heads-of-state, regimes, generals and power holders of the world, and you and I and the peoples of the world must insist that they finally be made accountable to the people and their interests above and beyond the “power game” interests of those functionaries and politicians who purport to act in the people’s name but place priority on the exercise of their own power. That is what democracy, national and international, is all about.
We urge all the “People of the World” to support Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and the Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, and encourage you to access their website to learn more and contribute your support. We also urge all Americans to write to President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry to introduce and support the proposal for its creation in the UN General Assembly. Leadership in its creation would be the crowning acheivement of this outgoing administration and and merit the awarding of a further edition of the Nobel Peace Prize for all concerned.
The novel Spiritus Mundi by Robert Sheppard is the first novel in World Literature to expressly illustrate and urge the creation of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly for global democracy. Below is the an FAQ, or “Frequently Asked Questions” concerning the concept of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly which appears as an embedded part of the novel. The novel may also be accessed at:
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APPENDIX 1: FROM SPIRITUS MUNDI NOVEL BY ROBERT SHEPPARD
A UNITED NATIONS PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)
General questions………………………………………………………………………………………………….. ….1
1.1. What is a parliamentary assembly?…………………………………………………………………. 1
1.2. What is so important about a UNPA?………………………………………………………………..1
1.3. Since publication of the strategy paper, what new aspects did come up?……………….1
1.4. What is the Global Marshall Plan and what has it to do with the UNPA project?……..1
1.5. Don’t we have enough bodies and bureaucracy already at the international level?….2
1.6. What are the preconditions of a world parliament? Isn’t the idea simply an utopia?…2
1.7. Following the principle of subsidiarity, government should be brought as near to the people as possible and people should enjoy maximum freedom within the law to run their
own lives. Would a global assembly really help to advance such freedom in any significant
1.8. Before we can elect an assembly for the world, the world should be willing to become
a governable entity. Instead of moving in that direction, it is becoming more fragmented
and polarized. Isn’t this obstructing the idea to set up a UNPA?…………………………………. 3
1.9. Doesn’t the Inter Parliamentary Union already fulfill the function of a UNPA?…………3
1.10. . What makes you think this would really work?—–Are there any successful real world experiences to draw upon?………………………………………………………. …………….…4
1.11. What’s the history of the idea of a world parliament going back to WWI and earlier, and why hasn’t it been realized since that time? ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 4
1.12. Wouldn’t international cooperation become even more complicated and ineffective if
a UNPA would have a say?………………………………………………………………………………….. 4
1.13. Not all UN politics are to the good of the people why then concentrate on the UN
at all?……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 5
Creation of a UNPA………………………………………………………………………………………………… 9
2.1. . Wouldn’t a UNPA be too hard to establish? Is a reform of the UN Charter needed to establish a UNPA? Wouldn’t some big country just veto it?………………………………………. 9
2.2. Where will the UNPA be located?……………………………………………………………………. 9
2.3. Which are the steps to be taken for the creation of this new body?……………………….. 10
2.4. How much does a UNPA cost and where would the money come from?……………….. 10
2.5. Couldn’t civil society organize its own world parliament? Why draw upon national parliaments?…………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 11
Design of a UNPA………………………………………………………………………………………………………….12
3.1. How many members will each country have?……………………………………………………. 7
3.2. If such a planetary assembly would be popularly elected, a third of the seats would go
to China and India. What voice would people from smaller countries have?…………………. 7
3.3. How can one have free elections for the UNPA in countries that do not allow free
elections for their citizens at all?……………………………………………………………………………. 7
3.4. Are there other models than that recommended by CUNPPA? ………………………………..8
3.5. How can the ordinary citizen participate in the work of a UNPA?………………………….. 8
3.6. Why should the maximum number of delegates range between 700 and 900?……….. 8
Rights and functions………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 8
4.1. What would a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly do?—–What would the main functions of a UNPA be?………………………………………………………………………………………. 8
4.2. Would delegations of the UNPA have the right to participate in international governmental conferences? …………………………………………………………………………………. 9
4.3. Can you give some examples where parliamentary control of international action
would have been crucial?…………………………………………………………………………………….. 9
4.4. What is the ultimate aim of establishing a UNPA?……………………………………………. 10
Campaign for a UNPA…………………………………………………………………………………………………… 10
5.1.What can I do to support the campaign?…………………………………………………………. 10
5.2. Which governments support the UNPA proposal?……………………………………………. 10
5.3. Which parliaments support the UNPA proposal?……………………………………………… 11
5.4. Who else is supporting the idea?…………………………………………………………………… 11
5.5 What Testimonials and Statements of Support has the Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly received from Parliaments, NGO’s and notable individuals?
5.6. What are the views inside the IPU about the CUNPPA campaign? ……………………….11
5.7. What if the United States or another veto power does not support the proposal?….. 12
United Nations Parliamentary Assembly FAQ
1.1 What is a parliamentary assembly?
An international parliamentary assembly is a consultative body attached to an international
organization. It is usually composed of parliamentarians appointed by the parliaments of the organization’s member states. Examples of existing parliamentary assemblies include: The
Pan African Parliament, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Francophonie. A Parliamentary Assembly may also be constituted by direct international elections, as in the case of the European Parliament of the European Union, to date the most highly evolved example and model of a Parliamentary Assembly. Existing models may evolve into the future to assume the greater powers of a true constitutional Parliament. However, as yet no parliamentary assembly exists on the global level. For a fuller discussion of the concept of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly see:
1.2 What is so important about a UNPA?
Currently, the governance of the international system is a process exclusively betweengovernments. An international representation of citizens or parliamentary control of international governmental action and international organizations as such, does not exist. A United Nations Parliamentary Assembly would address this democracy deficit or “democratic deficit” by introducing the voice of the citizens into the United Nations and international politics. The membership of the assembly would reflect the composition of national parliaments and thus would also include members of opposition parties who are not participating in government. Furthermore, in contrast to government diplomats, members of the UNPA would be free from instructions, free to take a global perspective and to represent the world community as such. In addition, a UNPA would be an important link between the citizens and the United Nations who step by step could be vested with information, participation and control rights and therefore would act as body for international parliamentary oversight. It could serve as a parliamentary umbrella for international cooperation. By addressing issues concerning global governance and United Nations reform, it could become a political catalyst for the further development of the international system and eventually could be transformed into a principal organ of a reformed United Nations.
Furthermore a Parliamentary Assembly is increasingly necessary as a matter of efficiency to provide a permanent and continuous forum in international treaty negotiations such as the Climate Change conferences in Bali, Copenhagen and Durban, and to make them more democratic. The experience of the Climate Change, WTO and other specialized international conferences is that it is simply not workable to merely convene a treaty Conference every two, five or eight years for two weeks to deal with these subjects. There needs to be a permanent assembly with specialized committees working continuously on debate, consensus building and treaty drafting on these matters with continuous dialogue and feedback between governments and civil society to avoid the too sporadic, short and demonstration disrupted plenary conferences which are now far too slow and obsolete.
1.3 Since publication of the strategy paper, what new aspects have come up?
The strategy paper of the Committee for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (CUNPPA) on the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) was released in September 2004 and published as paperback book in May 2005. The discussion on the recommendations included in the paper is an open ended process. At some point, the Committee will publish a follow up paper reviewing its strategy and considering enhancements and changes.
Important aspects which came up with regard to the basic concept are the inclusion of a delegation of the European Parliament into a UNPA (being a directly elected parliament), the possible inclusion of representatives of indigenous peoples, means to guarantee gender equality in the UNPA and the question whether and how local decision makers may be included as well.
1.4. What is the Global Marshall Plan and what has it to do with the UNPA
The Global Marshall Plan (GMP) has developed out of a nongovernmental initiative. It aims at a better design of globalization and global economic processes: a so called worldwide“ eco-social market economy.“ The focus lies on an improved global structural framework, sustainable development, the eradication of poverty, environmental protection and equity, altogether thought to be resulting in a new global economic miracle. The Global Marshall
Plan includes the following five core goals:
1) implementation of the globally agreed upon UN Millennium Goals by 2015;
2) raising of an additional 100 billion US$ a year required to achieve the Millennium Goals, to enhance worldwide development;
3) fair and competitively, neutral raising of these necessary resources, also by burdening global financial and other transactions;
4) gradual establishment of a worldwide eco-social market economy with an improved global policy framework through the interlinking of established rules and agreed upon
standards for economic, environmental and social issues (WTO, ILO and UNEP standards);
5) new forms of appropriation of funds directed to the grassroots level, while at the same time fighting corruption.
In the view of the Committee for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly the connection of the Global Marshall Plan and the United Nations Parliamentary Assembly proposal is twofold.
Firstly, the dual aims of enhancing economic and political opportunities for the people are deeply interwoven. Democracy embraces both fair economic and fair political participation in a given society. They are two sides of the same coin which cannot do without each other in the long run. On a global scale, the effort to establish a UNPA therefore covers the political side whilethe GMP covers the economic one.
On an operational level a UNPA as independent and democratically legitimate body could have a the function of guaranteeing accountability of the GMP’s use of money. Administering sums as large as 100 billion US$ a year makes effective control and oversight necessary. This could be provided by an international parliamentary body such as the UNPA.
1.5. Don’t we have enough bodies and bureaucracy already at the international level?
It’s true that the UN system embraces a multitude of programmes, funds, specialized agencies, institutes and other entities (see chart: http://www.un.org/aboutun/chart.html). While there certainly are opportunities for more efficiency and streamlining, one has to keep in mind that the UN system is designed to take care of the wellbeing of 7 billion people on the international level. Given the growing tasks transferred to the UN by its member states, the UN Secretariat as the core of the system, for example, is very modest in size and budget.
In fact, it cannot fulfill its functions properly because it is not financed and staffed well enough. It has a total staff of about 7,500 and a budget of about 1. 4 billion US Dollars.The New York City Fire Department’s staff alone, for example, is more than two times larger. The combined expenditures of the complete UN system, including, for example, peacekeeping operations, was at 12.3 billion US Dollars in 2001 – less than 2 US Dollars per world inhabitant and year (figures: http://www.globalpolicy.org/finance/tables/tabsyst.htm). The City of New York, in comparison, currently has an annual budget of 52.9 billion US Dollars and thus spends about 6,500 US Dollar per inhabitant and year.
1.6. What are the preconditions of a world parliament? Isn’t the idea simply a utopia?
The idea of a world parliament directly elected by the world’s population with legislative powers embedded into an effective system of global governance—–a true and comprehensive World Parliament in a legally constituted and fully functioning constitutional World Government certainly still is an unrealistic utopia today and the Committee does not advocate or go so far at the present time, which would most likely be unworkable. Instead it advocates a first, but limited step in that direction, creation of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly of an advisory nature based on already proven models such as the European Parliament of the European Union. In practice the idea of a unified government of the world, or a “United States of Earth” would face insurmountable difficulties because of the extreme social and economic disparities and political differences in development and interests in the world which exist today.
Starting from a broad notion of democracy, encompassing both political and social participation, the concept of international democracy cannot be reduced to merely establishing a new body. This approach could even corrupt the actual intention. The concept rather includes comprehensive questions of human development as well, such as how to create fair economic opportunities for everyone, thus taking on the challenge to reduce extreme poverty and to bridge the wealth divide, or GINI Coeffecient, within as well as between countries. The basic precondition for a world parliament therefore is a minimum of common economic and social welfare in the world which does not yet exist.
On the side of political participation, there are similar problems. The direct, democraticelection of delegates to a world parliament in undemocratic states, for example, is simply not possible. Thus, the creation of a fully democratic world parliament, in addition, depends on the development of stable democratic systems at the level of nation states as well.
These issues in mind, however, the Committee for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly believes that first steps are possible and urgently needed. This is why it advocates the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly.
1.7. Following the principle of subsidiarity, government should be brought as near to the people as possible and people should enjoy maximum freedom within the law to run their own lives. Would a global assembly really help to advance such freedom in any significant way?
Yes. A United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) would help to solve global problems which by their nature cannot be dealt with effectively on a local level but affect people’s daily lives. By bringing the voice of the people into the UN system and international relations, a UNPA would contribute to a better understanding and awareness of such global problems. Creating fair economic and social opportunities for the people, for example, is not only a matter of national, regional or local concern. It is also a matter of economic and financial relations in the world. A UNPA therefore is very much in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity since its aim is to enhance the possibility for the citizens to influence the international environment which has an impact on their day to day lives. Subsidiarity means that problems should be dealt with on the level as near to the citizens as possible capable of managing such problems. In case of global problems no such lower level is available. Thus, citizens need an international body to represent them more directly.
1.8. Before we can elect an assembly for the world, the world should be willing to become a governable entity. Instead of moving in that direction, it is becoming more fragmented and polarized. Isn’t this obstructing the idea of setting up a UNPA?
No. On the contrary, we believe that a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly would contribute to bridging national differences. Since a UNPA would be composed of amembership which roughly reflects the political composition of the respective national parliaments and of delegates who in principle are not answerable to or controlled by their home governments but rather more directly to their peoples, these would tend to group according to political orientation rather than divide according to national origin. In this way, delegates would recognize political agreement with fellow parliamentarians from other countries and the need for international solutions would become more apparent. A similar development on the regional level has taken place, for example, in the European Parliament.
1.9. Doesn’t the Inter Parliamentary Union already fulfill the function of a UNPA?
No. The Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) is a fraternity of members of existing parliaments meeting only on a sporadic and intermittent basis. It does not directly represent the people at the United Nations. It is an umbrella organization and fraternity of a few members of existing parliaments with no connection or input into the United Nations principal organs. The IPU’s goal is to share insights and experiences as members of existing national parliaments and perhaps indirectly channel the views of national parliaments into the UN decision making process, but not to be a continuous deliberative body addressing global problems and needed solutions as its principal activity. Its members are fully absorbed in their work at the national parliament level and have only a small amount of time and effort left over for international efforts. Moreover, its interest is not to democratically control the UN and its decision making by serving as a direct channel for communicating the desires and interests of the underlying peoples, which is the natural role of a genuine parliament. Nor is the IPU at the moment prepared to take on the role of an international legislative organ, which participates in making international laws and regulations through the treaty-making process and otherwise. In a recent paper of 2006, for example, the IPU largely reiterates the Declaration of the First Conference of Presiding Officers of Parliaments of 2000 that the “parliamentary dimension [to international cooperation] must be provided by parliaments first of all at the national level”.
1.10. What makes you think this would really work?—–Are there any successful real world experiences to draw upon?
When imagining the possible development of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly one can draw first upon the very strong leading example of the European Parliament (EP) as the principal international parliamentary organ of the European Union. Developing out of the Parliamentary Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community, founded in 1952, the consultative function of the early European Parliament, set up in 1962, was widened to include the right to be heard in legislative processes. Since 1975, the EP has been allowed to co-decide with regard to the budget. At the beginning, the EP consisted of representatives of national parliaments. In 1979, direct election of EP parliamentarians in the EC Member States was introduced. Politically strengthened in that way, the EP rejected the draft budget of the Commission for the first time. Today, the European Parliament has the same rights as the European Council with regard to three quarters of all legislative projects in the European Union. Additionally, successful international parliamentary assemblies have been implemented including the Pan-African Parliament of the African Union, the Arab Parliament of the Arab League, and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino). Parliamentary Assemblies also exist in other international organizations such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the WEU Parliamentary Assembly, and the MERCOSUR Parliament.
1.11. What’s the history of the idea of a world parliament going back to WWI and earlier, and why hasn’t it been realized since that time?
The idea of a world parliament was introduced initially before the First World War. However, at that time, no international or regional organization existed. The paramount thrust of many proponents of an international organization was to introduce some institution which would control national state behaviour at the international level. Thus, they saw as an international organization first the League of Nations, after the Second World War the UN by itself as a kind of parliament which would control states behaviour. That this would not work as long as there was no democratic control within the organization was for a long time not recognized, especially during the time of the Cold War where the UN also took on the role of a mediator. Therefore, the legitimacy deficit of the UN was only widely criticized after the end of the Iron Curtain era, i. e. the 1990s.
Moreover, there was another, even more important reason why a UN Parliament was never realized. For governments, it was already a huge concession to set up an international organization after the First World War. They were not prepared to give up their sovereignty to an organization which the idea of a parliament would entail when it is implemented, i. e. when it is entrusted with genuine democratic rights of control and lawmaking.
Nevertheless, one government, namely, Germany, tried to introduce a World Parliament as part of the new League of Nations after the First World War. However, Germany could not impose itself since it had lost the war and bargained from a position of weakness. Major decision makers at that time, especially the US President Wilson, the instigator of the League of Nations, were against the idea. This was also the case after the Second World War and continues until today. However, meanwhile, the UN comes under more and more pressure because it demands national democratization, but is not democratically organized itself.
1.12. Wouldn’t international cooperation become even more complicated and ineffective if a UNPA would have a say?
Yes and no. On the one hand, it is true that a Parliamentary Assembly at the United Nations would be another player in the diplomatic scenery which governments and their executives in international organizations would have to take into account to a certain degree, just as the EU Parliament has become. On the other hand, being composed of elected parliamentarians, the assembly would be closer to the citizens and as such it would lend more credibility and legitimacy to international decisions in which it is involved. In this way, the parliamentary assembly actually would contribute to an increased efficiency and efficacy of international actions.
1.13. Not all UN politics are to the good of the people—-why then concentrate on the UN at all?
The United Nations was set up after the Second World War in order to avoid wars in the future and to reduce narrow nationalist thinking through cooperation of states. This is also reflected in the UN Charter which describes as the task of the UN “to maintain international peace and security, to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples and to achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social cultural or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion” (Art. 1of the UN Charter). In pursuing these goals, the UN has achieved a lot throughout the years, be it with regard to the whole system of human rights, the decolonization process, development, etc.
Of course, not all UN politics may be to the good of all affected by them. The reason for this is that particular political decisions beyond the framework just described are left to the states which have to decide about them in the UN organs. Thus states within the United Nations may be fixated upon the narrow advantage of the governing elites of those states rather than the underlying interests of even their own peoples, let alone the underlying international and global interests of the people of the world as a whole. States are represented by governments not by direct representatives of the people and in addition often have pure national interests and not the common good of the world as their highest priority, for example in the prioritizing of immediate national political concerns over the long-term avoidance of global climate change. Moreover, the UN is made up of thousands of bureaucrats and people in complex organizations and structures always in need some leadership and control in order to be reminded of public goals and not only to cling to their personal interests.
Thus, what the UN needs is an enhanced control and guidance mechanism and not its abolition. It needs most an independent organ which controls governments’ UN decision making, weighing it against the common good of all humankind, and similarly evaluates the actions of those implementing the decisions—mainly, the UN Secretariat and governments. The UN has achieved many good things for humanity. More to the point, however, is the simple fact that there is no viable alternative to the United Nations—-it is the only organization capable of acting effectively on a global scale in respect to the global problems which urgently need solving. Without it, the world would be poorer, colonized, crueler, and less supervised. Thus, it is better to maintain and improve the UN and to rectify its deficiencies and wrongdoings.
Creation of a UNPA
2.1. Wouldn’t a UNPA be too hard to establish? Wouldn’t a complicated reform of the UN charter be needed to establish a UNPA? Wouldn’t some big country just veto it?
No! Perhaps surprisingly, United Nations Parliamentary Assembly with consultative functions vis-à-vis the UN General Assembly can be established relatively simply by a simple majority vote of the UN General Assembly according to Art. 22 UN Charter which says: “The General Assembly may establish such subsidiary organs as it deems necessary for the performance of its functions.“ No veto right applies, because the Security Council need not be involved in the decision making.
Besides, a UNPA could also be established by a standalone international treaty and a cooperation agreement with the UN. A reform of the UN Charter, however, would be necessary should the UNPA once be transformed into a more fully functioning principle organ of the world organization at a later step.
2.2. Where will the UNPA be located?
It is too early to determine the eventual seat of a UNPA administration. The Committee for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly does not make recommendations in this respect at this time. To save costs and take advantage of existing infrastructure, however, plenary sessions could be held free of charge in the hall of the UN General Assembly in New York, for example, or at other venues all over the world. A rotation system whereby the assembly would shift its location in successive meetings to the various continents or regions, perhaps in coordination with regional parliamentary assemblies such as the Pan-African Parliament or Parlatino, would involve the opportunity to impart the work of the UNPA to a larger public in the respective regions. Perhaps a system of alternating meetings between New York and on a revolving circuit of each successive continent might be desirable. If a government or regional international organization is ready to place appropriate premises at the UNPA’s disposal, at zero cost and for an indefinite duration, this could be an argument to settle the administrative headquarters there.
2.3. Which are the steps to be taken for the creation of this new body?
Politically, the most important step is to secure considerable support by national parliaments and governments, by the concerted efforts of their underlying peoples. Eventually, the proposal needs to be scrutinized and debated in detail by like-minded governments, ideally in cooperation with parliaments and civil society. Depending on the results, these deliberations then would lead to the introduction of an a Proposal into the respective committee of the United Nations General Assembly or, in the alternative, to a special-purpose treaty negotiation process.
2.4. How much does a UNPA cost and where would the money come from?
First calculations of the Committee for a Democratic UN as to how much the setting up of a UNPA would cost resulted in a first rough total estimate of 100 to 120 million Euro per year. This would include the establishment and maintaining of a permanent UNPA Secretariat, the administration, logistics and the carrying out of parliamentary work in a first, still limited step, during an initial contemplated annual session of two to six weeks per year. The figure was calculated based on the budget of the InterParliamentary Union (IPU) for the administration of its Secretariat and on the budget of the European Parliament for travelling, accommodation during sessions as well as for extra costs, costs for special travels in execution of the mandate and general reimbursements. It is based on the assumption that all UN member states which participate possess a constitutionally elected parliament. The actual financial need for the first step can only be quantified if it is clear how the UNPA is to be designed, for example composition, voting procedure, participating states and legal basis. The money could most likely come from UN Member States through incorporating it into the regular UN budget and financing process, as far as a UNPA established according to Article 22 UN Charter is concerned, which Article states: “The General Assembly may establish such subsidiary organs as it deems necessary for the performance of its functions,” otherwise arrangements might be made through a budget which has to be set up and financed separately. Alternatively in such a context it is sometimes suggested that voluntary contributions for a direct financing of the UNPA from governments, international organizations, individuals, corporations and other entities could be made possible, analogous to Article 116 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court. This could relieve the regular contributors. A necessary precondition in this respect would be that these contributions are in accordance with relevant criteria defined for this purpose which especially would have to guarantee the independence of the UNPA from donors influence. Furthermore, the UNPA could be recipient of means raised by innovative financial sources such as global taxation of airline travel, and taxation of international financial instruments and flows as reflected in the Tobin Tax proposal, should they once emerge from the process of longer-term historical evolution to be established.
2.5. Couldn’t civil society organize its own world parliament? Why draw upon national parliaments?
Certainly, civil society could organize its own global conferences to discuss issues of global concern. In fact, it is doing so. The World Social Forum, for example, is a successful implementation of this approach. Another example was the civil society components of the Millennium Forum which took place in 2000 or the efforts to create a regular NGO Global Conference synchronized to meet yearly just ahead of the annual United Nations General Assembly sessions.
A parliament, however, is something different. The term describes a type of representative deliberative assembly vested with a varying degree of political powers under a respective express or implied constitution which holds the executive branch of government accountable and participates in action, lawmaking or policymaking. A self organized conference which has no legal links to the established political order and which is not officially elected by the populace obviously is not a “parliament“ or parliamentary assembly and certainly cannot undertake public action, develop authoritative policy or adopt any sort of treaty or legislation. Since civil society organizations and their representatives are not popularly elected, they lack a central precondition which characterizes parliaments and their membership, namely to speak with accepted authority for their peoples. The same applies to any self appointed “people’s assemblies“ or other “Do-it-Yourself” quick fixes. By its definition, therefore, a “world parliament“ or authoritative world parliamentary assembly in the any genuine meaning of the term as such cannot be organized on a do-it-yourself basis by NGO’s or civil society without integration into the governmental process of legal governance, and without which it would lack democratic legitimacy and authority, not to mention governmental resources. However, it is possible to draw upon national parliaments because these are regularly elected by the populace.
Design of a UNPA
3.1. How many members will each country have?
The Committee for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (CUNPA) recommends that the determination of the number of delegates per country in the UNPA should be left to the political negotiations of the governments during the preparatory process. The basis of the negotiations should be a commitment to a graduated division oriented primarily according to population size but including other modulating factors, corresponding, in principle, to existing parliamentary assemblies. Besides purely population size, other criteria could play a role, such as the equality principle (one member one vote) or the financial contributions to the UN system. However, the calculation should and can be made in such a way that huge countries, such as China or India, are not overrepresented or overdominant and small countries have guarantees of some minimal weight and influence. A graduation constitutes a perfect means for achieving this and, practically speaking, reflects the modern usage in existing parliaments and international institutions which are not 100% proportional as to population alone but balance other factors. Furthermore, CUNPPA recommends an upper limit for the total number of delegates between 700 and 900.
3.2. If such a planetary assembly would be popularly elected, a third of the seats would go to China and India. What voice would people from smaller countries have?
Not necessarily. A third of the seats would only go to China and India if such an assembly would only take the population size into account and if it would be directly mirrored in the distribution of seats. However, the composition of none of the existing regional parliamentary assemblies purely mirrors the population size of their member states. The Committee for United Nations Parliamentary Assembly also does not recommend such a pure, one-factor only approach. As in the case of the voting power of Germany, the largest nation in population within the European Union, most likely a commonly negotiated framework necessary to gain acceptance by all the parties would lead to significant dilution of the “one-man-one-vote” principal, however legitimate that may or may not be, and would be modified to include a larger proportionate representation of smaller nations to provide at least some minimum national voice and influence, plus reflecting the necessary compromise of abstract principles with the practical and power-based considerations of “Realpolitik.” Existing regional assemblies all work with a graduation of seats and/or votes which workably allows avoidance of an over or under representation of member states. Moreover, besides population size, other criteria, such as the equality principle (one member, one vote) or an equity in representation derived from the greater financial contributions to the UN system and others, are being discussed as additional criteria to calculate the distribution of seats and/or votes. See also question 3.1. and para. 3943 of the strategy paper.
3.3. How can one have free elections for the UNPA in countries that do not allow free elections for their citizens at all?
In undemocratic countries which do not allow for free, equal and secret elections at all, realistically speaking, it will not be possible to have pure democratically legitimate delegates for the United Nations Parliamentary Assembly in the short term. Pseudo-parliamentarians coming from such undemocratic states actually would probably be subject to the clandestine control and instructions of their home government or monopoly party. CUNPPA has dealt with this problem in its strategy paper, para. 32. There are legitimate objections that the participation of such “pseudo-parliamentarians” could undermine the democratic legitimacy and moral authority of the assembly altogether. This opinion contradicts the fact that the affected states are already represented in the United Nations with equal rights according to international law. In view of this, excluding these states from a participation in a Parliamentary Assembly at the United Nations could hardly be explained.
Furthermore, to draw the line between the criteria for an inclusion and those against would hardly be possible in a convincing way. An exclusive membership excluding large numbers of states would undermine the global perspective and would make its effectiveness and legitimacy implausible. Having said this, it certainly is important that the clear majority of the membership is democratically legitimate, and that processes are instituted for further evolution to make it progressively more and more so. Since the majority of the UN Member States as a result of favourable historical evolution in recent decades are to a greater extent democratic than ever before, this prospect would not be infeasible.
3.4. Are there other models than that recommended by the Committee for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly?
In a question as complex as the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, it would be pretty extraordinary if there were not many different opinions on various aspects and possible models. These are the most important differences between the recommendations of CUNPPA and other proposals:
CUNPPA recommendation Other proposals
Mode of establishment
In a first step subsidiary body to Standalone
international treaty by
General Assembly according to
Art. 22 UN Charter or
transformation of InterParliamentary
Union and subsequent cooperation agreement
between UN and IPU
Open to all
Only to democracies
United Nations, later
At first step indirect election through national parliaments, later direct election optional or phased in.
Direct election or Indirect
Furthermore, there are initiatives promoting a self-organized People’s Assembly. For this see question 2.5. “Couldn’t civil society organize its own world parliament? Why draw upon national parliaments?“
3.5. How can the ordinary citizen participate in the work of a UNPA?
One of the reasons to establish a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) is to provide for a closer link between the United Nations and its affairs and the citizens in the UN member states. Citizens would be able to contact their own delegate to the UNPA responsible for their constituency and in this way would have a direct contact person to raise issues which may affect them and are of international concern or directly linked to the UN or its affiliated organizations. Delegates would be able to provide information and to take up issues for further consideration in the UNPA.
3.6. Why should the maximum number of delegates range between 700 and 900?
The Parliamentary Assembly at the United Nations should not exceed a certain number ofdelegates in order that its efficiency and functionality is maintained. This means that if the Assembly is too big the members will most probably be unable to effectively communicate, interact, bargain, reach effective understandings and compromises, develop interpersonal relationships, understandings and bonds of trust, and develop leadership and the purposive collective consensus and will necessary to make their work effective. The Committee for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly thus estimates that the upper limit for this is at about 900 delegates. These seats then would be distributed to the participating states. An example for this procedure is the European Parliament. Representing about 450 million citizens of the European Union, it has a maximum number of MEPs fixed at 750, with a minimum threshold of five per member state and no member state being allocated more than 99 seats.
Rights and functions
4.1. What would a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly do?—–What would the main functions of a UNPA be?
The populations and civil societies of the UN member states have to be better and more directly included into the activities and decision making processes of the United Nations and its international organizations. This can be achieved by setting up a parliamentary assembly. Possible functions a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly could be vested with have been named in CUNPPA’s strategy paper (para. 5). The functions of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly would minimally include:
- Submission of its own opinions/resolutions to the General Assembly, ECOSOC, the Secretary General, the Security Council, and to the organs and other institutions of the UN system;
- Consultation with the General Assembly, ECOSOC and by organs of other institutions of the UN system with regard to important questions;
- The right to address questions to the Secretary General, the Presidents of the General Assembly, of ECOSOC and of the Security Council as well as to the heads of other institutions of the UN system and demand appropriate answers;
- Rights of information and participation in relation to the activities of the institutions of the UN system including the still independent Economic and Financial Institutions;
- Readings of draft resolutions of the General Assembly, of ECOSOC and perhaps the Security Council with the right to submit suggestions for amendments;
- The right to submit to the General Assembly and to ECOSOC draft resolutions for further negotiation and adoption;
- Co-decision with regard to the adoption of the UN budget;
- Co-decision with regard to the election of the UN Secretary General;
- The right to be integrated into all treaty negotiations and conventions which are conducted under the auspices of the United Nations to establish or modify international institutions or for other purposes;
- The right also to be integrated into multilateral treaty negotiations or conventions at the international level not under the auspices of the UN;
- The right to submit, in accordance with Article 65 of its Statute, legal questions to the International Court of Justice.
Furthermore, a UNPA must have the right to establish inquiry committees which may summon functionaries of the UN institutions and conduct investigations with full powers to fulfill their task. In line with a comprehensive reform of the United Nations in the future, the UNPA could be transformed into a UN main body and become part of a global legislature.
4.2. Would delegations of the UNPA have the right to participate in international governmental conferences?
Wide parts of the populations of the various nations and of the population of humanity on earth globally do not feel sufficiently represented by their government in International institutions and negotiation processes. An indication of this are the continuing protests of civil society alongside international government conferences such as the WTO, COP, G8 or G20, which they feel are not only democratically illegitimate but in increasing ascendency in controlling the conditions of their daily lives. The Committee for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly therefore strongly recommends that the United Nations Parliamentary Assembly should have the right to fully participate in multilateral treaty negotiations processes and to this end should have the right to send official representatives or delegations and make proposals. For instance a delegation from a UNPA would be seated at such conferences as the Copenhagen/Durban Climate Change Conference or at plenary meetings of the WTO.
4.3. Can you give some examples where parliamentary control of international action would have been crucial?
A government-independent Parliamentary body a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly could have assumed a role to scrutinize international action, or inaction, in the case of the genocide in Rwanda 1994, to name an important example. While there in fact has been a subsequent inquiry commissioned by the UN Secretary General on the failings of the international community in face of the genocide, a UNPA would have been able to address the inadequate response by the United Nations during the events themselves. Since a UNPA would include delegates of oppositional parties from the parliaments of the UN member states, it would offer them an international platform to voice concerns which governments would not address. Alerting the world community of large scale human rights abuses therefore is an area where a UNPA could play an important political role.
Another area where a UNPA could assert oversight functions and conduct important analysis is with regard to the UN’s sanctions regime. The United Nations Oil for Food programme, for example, was only thoroughly scrutinized by an international inquiry committee set up for this purpose by the UN Secretary General after the US General Accounting Office discovered severe irregularities in its operations. This underlines the need that there be a permanent independent body which is able to provide continuous oversight and public feedback in respect of the UN’s programmes. A UNPA would be well suited for this purpose. In contrast to inquiries by national authorities or by ad hoc bodies set up by the UN Secretary-General, a UNPA inquiry committee would be representing an international viewpoint and would be democratically legitimate and speak with authority through its parliamentary membership.
4.4. What is the ultimate aim of establishing a UNPA?
The creation of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly will be an ongoing long term process which will continue even after it is once established as consultative body in the first phase. Connected with globalization, this process will be closely interlinked with the continuing evolvement of an ever closer world community and a growing need for effective global governance. A UNPA is the embryonic starting point for the creation of a world parliament in the longterm future in order to guarantee the involvement of the citizens in international affairs as closely as possible and to support a sense of the global common good and democratic legitimacy and oversight as globalization requires more and more powers to be transferred to international bodies to deal with the ever more internationalized problems of a globalized world. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Parliamentary_Assembly
Campaign for a UNPA
5.1. What can I do to support the campaign?
As an individual citizen you can do one or more of the following:
- Sign the international appeal for the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly published as ofApril 2007;
- Write an email to your friends and colleagues and invite them to sign the appeal as well;
- Subscribe to our newsletter in order to be up to date on current developments;
- Write politely to the member of parliament of your constituency and ask him/her to support the proposal to establish a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly. Should you get an answer, share it with us!
- Help us with a donation to the Committee for a UNPA. Any amount counts!
- Become supporting member of the Committee for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly;
- Volunteer your professional skills. The campaign is largely based on volunteer collaboration. We need translators, web programmers, graphic designers, lobby assistants, research assistants and volunteers with other skills which are necessary to build an international campaign of this kind;
- If you are member of a civil society organization or a political party, campaign for its support of the establishment of a UNPA;
- Write a carefully drafted letter to the editor of your newspaper if an article invites a comment touching upon the UNPA proposal. Maybe it will be published!
5.2. Which governments support the UNPA proposal?
On 7 July 2009 Pope Benedict XVI published his first social encyclical called “Caritas in Veritate,“ charity in truth. In this writing, the Pope contemplated the nature and consequences of globalization, the global economic crisis and the world order. Benedict XVI stressed the importance of a reform of the United Nations Organization and of international economic and financial institutions. “There is urgent need of a true world political authority,” the Pope proclaimed. According to a study published today by the Committee for a Democratic U.N. (KDUN) in Germany, “it is possible to derive from catholic social doctrine the creation of a democratic world legislative which, in particular, has the task to exercise oversight over the executive world authority.”
“The establishment of an effective political world authority has been continuously advocated by the Holy See since Pope Pius XII in the 1950s and was now again reiterated by Benedict XVI.
The Committee for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly is trying to establish a dialogue with open-minded governments on the proposal to establish a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly. Despite widespread support at many levels, as yet, no government officially sponsors the approach officially in diplomatic negotiations. Historically, a similar proposal was put forward by one of the first democratic governments of Germany in 1919, after the First World War. Its draft for the statutes of the League of Nations included a “world parliament“ elected by the parliaments of the member states. Naturally, as defeated country at that time, Germany’s position had no effectiveness at that time.
5.3. Which parliaments support the UNPA proposal?
In 1993 the European Parliament has been the first directly elected parliament to endorse the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly in an official resolution adopted by its plenary. It has reiterated its position in resolutions from 2003 and 2005 and up to the present. In January 2006 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has also adopted a resolution containing such support. As at October 2006, no similar resolutions have been adopted on national level. However, a majority of the members of the National Council of Switzerland have endorsed the UNPA proposal in an open letter addressed to then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in February 2005. In 1993 the Standing Committee on External Affairs and International Trade of the House of Commons of the Canadian Parliament did support the UNPA proposal. Because of subsequent elections, the plenary never dealt with the issue, however. It is the goal of the Committee for a Democratic UN’s campaign to build more parliamentary support for the proposal. These and other relevant resolutions and documents are available on the websites of various wholly independent, unrelated and distinct organizations sharing parallel goals to this Committee such as:
5.4. Who else from NGO’s, Civil Society, Academia and individually is supporting the idea?
The Campaign’s Appeal for the Establishment of a Parliamentary Assembly at the United Nations is supported by thousands individuals from 137 countries and 217 non-governmental organizations from 57 countries, among them 17 international networks.
Notable supporters include former United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former Czech President Vaclav Havel and Nobel Prize winners Günter Grass. The Pope’s endorsement of the general concept in his first social encyclical called “Caritas in Veritate”, Charity in Truth has been noted above.
The two Campaign’s statements together are as of 2010 supported by 699 members of parliament from 94 countries and 155 former parliamentarians from 40 countries. The sitting MPs represent estimated 111.8 million people from their constituencies.
The individual supporters include hundreds of distinguished personalities, in particular 226 professors from 50 countries, 6 Nobel laureates, 11 Right Livelihood laureates, 8 former foreign ministers, 3 former prime ministers and people from all walks of life.
Besides parliamentary support, several organizations and conferences have supported the proposal of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly. To name the most important: The Socialist International, the Liberal International, the World Federalist Movement Institute for Global Policy and the United Nations Millennium Forum 2000. Furthermore, the idea of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly is being supported by hundreds of distinguished individuals from more than 70 countries, among them parliamentarians, leading scholars, former government members, civil society leaders, human rights activists, authors, Nobel laureates and others. See the list of initial supporters of the international appeal for a Parliamentary Assembly at the UN and the continuous updates to be published on the sister websites http://en.unpacampaign.org/index.php and . http://www.kdun.org/en/index.php .
5.5 What Testimonials and Statements of Support has the Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly received from Parliaments, NGO’s and notable individuals?
Testimonials and statements of support include the following, amoung thousands of others:
“The European Parliament calls for the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) within the UN system, which would increase the democratic profile and internal democratic process of the organization and allow world civil society to be directly associated in the decision-making process”
European Parliament, June 2005
Former United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Butros-Ghali Calls for Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (16 May 2007)
“States and societies everywhere in the world increasingly confront forces far beyond the control of any one state or even group of states. Some of these forces are irresistible, such as the globalization of economic activity and communications. In the process, problems which can only be solved effectively at the global level, are multiplying and requirements of political governance are extending beyond state borders accordingly. Increasing decision-making at the global level is inevitable. In this process, however, democracy within the state will diminish in importance if the process of democratization does not move forward at the international level. Therefore, we need to promote the democratization of globalization, before globalization destroys the foundations of national and international democracy. The establishment of a Parliamentary Assembly at the United Nations has become an indispensable step to achieve democratic control of globalization. Complementary to international democracy among states, which no less has to be developed, it would foster global democracy beyond states, giving the citizens a genuine voice in world affairs. As the Campaign’s appeal rightly implies, a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly could also become a catalyst for a comprehensive reform of the international system. In particular, I would like to point out, it should become a force to provide democratic oversight over the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO. We cannot just dream, or wait for someone else to bring our dream about. We must act now. In this sense, I strongly encourage you in your struggle for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly. Once established, this new body will be a decisive contribution to strengthen democracy at all levels.”
“…the Latin-American Parliament declares … its support to efforts towards the creation and establishment of a Parliamentary Assembly of the United Nations Organization (UNO) with the purpose of strengthening the effectiveness, transparency, representativeness, plurality and legitimacy of the international system”
24th Ordinary Assembly of the Latin-American Parliament, Panamá, December 2008
On 7 July 2009 Pope Benedict XVI published his first social encyclical called “Caritas in Veritate”, charity in truth. In this writing, the Pope contemplated the nature and consequences of globalization, the global economic crisis and the world order. Benedict XVI stressed the importance of a reform of the United Nations Organization and of international economic and financial institutions. “There is urgent need of a true world political authority,” the Pope proclaimed. According to a study published today by the Committee for a Democratic U.N. (KDUN) in Germany, “it is possible to derive from this Catholic social doctrine the creation of a democratic world legislative which, in particular, has the task to exercise oversight over the executive world authority.” The establishment of an effective political world authority has been continuously advocated by the Holy See since Pope Pius XII in the 1950s and was now again reiterated by Benedict XVI.
Pope Benedict XVI, in his first social encyclical called “Caritas in Veritate”, Charity in Truth
“The method of representation at the UN should be considerably modified. The present method of selection by government appointment does not leave any real freedom to the appointee. Furthermore, selection by governments cannot give the peoples of the world the feeling of being fairly and proportionately represented. The moral authority of the UN would be considerable enhanced if the delegates were elected directly by the people. Were they responsible to an electorate, they would have much more freedom to follow their consciences”
Open letter of Albert Einstein to the UN General Assembly, October 1947
Former WTO Director-General Mike Moore Endorses Creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly
In a comment published today, the former Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mike Moore, has spoken out for the creation of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA). “The global architecture is in need of refurbishing. It is necessary to build democratic principles into global governance,” said Moore who was also Member of Parliament for the New Zealand Labour Party for over 20 years.
“A parliament at the U.N. would symbolize the notion of humanity as a community of world citizens.”
Günter Grass, Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature (1999)
“The United Nations would probably have to rest on two pillars: one constituted by an assembly of equal executive representatives of individual countries, resembling the present plenary, and the other consisting of a group elected directly by the globe’s population in which the number of delegates representing individual nations would, thus, roughly correspond to the size of the nations.”
Václav Havel President of the Czech Republic (1993-2003) at the Millennium Summit of the United Nations, New York, September 2000
“The call for a Parliamentary Assembly at the United Nations has my support”
Emma Thompson, Actress, Academy Award recipient
“I support the call for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, and believe that a more democratic United Nations as envisaged by this campaign will strengthen the accountability and legitimacy of the UN”
Ken Livingstone, 2000-2008 Mayor of London
“A UN Parliament would be an epiphany. By contrast to the UN General Assembly which is driven by the narrow interest of government representatives only, a UN Parliament would truly reflect the world’s public opinion.”
Akbar Alami, Member of the Islamic Consultative Assembly
PACE: Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Calls for UN Parliamentary Assembly
In a resolution on the reform of the United Nations which was adopted today(1 Oct 2009), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has called for “the incorporation of a democratic element in the United Nations system.” While the assembly reiterates its “unabated support” to the UN and multilateralism, it also stresses that “the United Nations is in urgent need of a far-reaching reform in order to make it more transparent, accountable and capable of facing the global challenges of today’s world.” The resolution states that the assembly regrets that although numerous reform proposals have been advanced over the last years in the UN none of them aimed at “improving the democratic character of the United Nations.” This could be done, according to PACE, through “the introduction of a parliamentary element in the structure of the UN General Assembly.”
“A long-term Green goal is overcoming the international democracy deficit. This includes greater democratization of the UN and other international institutions. Among these reforms, Greens support the creation of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) as a parliamentary body within the UN system.”
Global Greens Second Congress, São Paulo, May 2008
“The Pan-African Parliament … notes that in a first preliminary step the United Nations Parliamentary Assembly could be composed of national parliamentarians, but that eventually it should be directly elected by universal adult suffrage in the UN member states. … Stresses that a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly eventually should have participation and oversight rights, in particular, to send fully participating parliamentary delegations or representatives to international governmental fore and negotiations and to establish inquiry committees to assess matters related to the actions of the United Nations, its personnel and its special programmes”
Pan-African Parliament, October 2007
“The World Federation of United Nations Associations supports the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly as a consultative body within the United Nations system as a voice of the citizens and calls upon the governments of the United Nations member states, parliamentarians and civil society representatives to jointly examine possible steps and options to create a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly”
38th Plenary Assembly of the World Federation of United Nations Associations, Buenos Aires, November 2006
“Whilst international organizations and negotiations will remain essentially the domain of intergovernmental co-operation, the democratic accountability of existing organizations should also be improved through the increased participation of national parliaments in global economic management. This calls for increasing the role of national parliaments in monitoring and mandating the work of their governments in international forums as well as for strengthening existing and creating new forums for inter-parliamentary co-operation in different international organizations.”
Report from the Helsinki Process on Globalization and Democracy, co-chaired by Foreign Ministers Jakaya M. Kikwete from Tanzania and Erkki Tuomioja from Finland, August 2005
“In the belief that the principles of separation of powers and democracy should be made beneficial on the international level … the Liberal International calls on the member states of the United Nations to enter into deliberations on the establishment of a Parliamentary Assembly at the United Nations.”
53rd Congress of the Liberal International, Sofia, May 2005
“A Parliamentary Assembly at the UN would encompass a number of advantages. Representation of the population and participation of civil society within the organization would promote the faith of citizens in the UN and increase its acceptance and legitimation. … peoples and minorities could introduce their concerns more efficiently within a Parliamentary Assembly at the UN, ultimately promoting the preservation of global diversity.”
Open letter of a majority of 101 members of the Swiss National Council to then UN-Secretary General Kofi Annan, February 2005
“Parliamentary oversight of the multilateral system at the global level should be progressively expanded. We propose the creation of a Parliamentary Group concerned with the coherence and consistency between global economic, social and environmental policies, which should develop an integrated oversight of major international organizations.”
World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization established by the International Labour Organization, April 2004
“Better-structured democratic control and accountability is needed if the world’s democratic deficit is to be addressed seriously. At some point, contemplation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly will be needed. … Such an Assembly should be more than just another UN institution. It would have to become a building block of a new, democratically legitimate, world order”
22nd Congress of the Socialist International, São Paulo, October 2003
“The Forum urges the United Nations to consider the creation of a UN parliamentary body related to the UN General Assembly. One proposal that should be considered is the creation of a consultative Parliamentary Assembly”
Millennium Forum of Civil Society, United Nations, May 2000
It has also been suggested that [an assembly of parliamentarians, consisting of representatives elected by existing national legislatures] could function as a constituent assembly for the development of a directly elected assembly of people. We encourage further debate about these proposals. When the time comes, we believe that starting with an assembly of parliamentarians as a constituent assembly for a more popular body is the right approach. But care would need to be taken to ensure that the assembly of parliamentarians is the starting point of a journey and does not become the terminal station.”
Report of the Commission on Global Governance, co-chaired by Swedish Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson and former Foreign Minister of Guyana, Shridath Ramphal, 1995
“The feasibility of a parliamentary chamber or assembly complementing the present intergovernmental structure should be seriously explored, as it might enhance the political legitimacy of the organisations and strengthen accountability of organisations and governments”
High-Level Expert Group of the InterAction Council, chaired by Andries van Agt, former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, May 1994
“[The European Parliament] wishes consideration to be given to the possibility of setting up within the UN a parliamentary consultative assembly to enable the elected representatives of peoples to participate more fully in the work of UN bodies”
European Parliament, February 1994
“A World Parliamentary Assembly would enable national parliaments to become better acquainted with the work of the United Nations … The establishment of a second body in which the major nations would have an added weight would bring the United Nations closer to the one man, one vote ideal”
Twentieth Report of the Commission to Study the Organization of Peace, New York, November 1969
“There should be a study of a house directly elected by the people of the world to whom the nations are accountable”
Ernest Bevin, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1945-1951), Speech in the House of Commons, November 1945
An international Parliament elected by the Peoples should replace the assembly of delegates proposed in the Paris text [of the Statutes of the League of Nations]. This Parliament should have full prerogatives and legislative powers”
International Conference of League of Nations Societies, Berne, March 1919
“I support the efforts of the Committee to establish a parliament at the UN because with this the world community would clearly commit itself to common democratic action.”
Sigmar Gabriel, Federal Minister for the Environment, Germany
5.6. What are the views inside the Inter Parliamentary Union about the CUNPPA campaign?
The Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) at the moment consists of 148 member parliaments. The views held within the IPU therefore are not uniform. Consciousness of a legitimacy deficit of the UN and of a role of the IPU in overcoming this deficit is there. However, views diverge with regard to which way to follow. The official road map of the IPU is becoming and maintaining the “parliamentary dimension of the UN”. This amounts to a representation of national parliaments at the international level, rather than representing the people at the UN and democratically controlling the UN, i. e. being a watchdog of UN affairs and speaking for those represented within “we, the peoples”. However, there are also those members and individual parliamentarians who perceive the IPU as being capable and being predestined for being more a real UN Parliament, which includes democratic decision making and control, building on the large institutional knowledge which the IPU has acquired within more than 115 years. Yet, up to now, these voices are still in the minority within the IPU.
See also question 1.9. “Doesn’t the Inter Parliamentary Union already fulfill the function of a UNPA?”
5.7. What if the United States or another veto power does not support the proposal?
First of all, in order to set up a UNPA, support of the veto powers on the UN Security Council legally is not necessary. If a UNPA is established as a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly, its majority vote alone is sufficient (every state has one vote and no veto power). If a UNPA would come into existence through a rapprochement of the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) to the UN, this could be done through a more detailed cooperation agreement which would contain genuine parliamentary rights and duties for the IPU. In this case, the UN organ to which the UNPA should be linked, in this case the General Assembly, decides about the treaty either by Majority vote or, if it is judged to be an “important question” in accordance with Art. 18 (2) of the UN Charter, by a two thirds majority of the members present and voting. In the IPU itself, which naturally also would have to decide about such an agreement, the US is not a member anymore. And even if it were, the decision making organ of the IPU, the Governing Council, also decides by majority vote. Thus, US support, or the support of any Security Council veto-power legally is not necessary to set up a UNPA and it is important to realize that the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly is not subject to any veto.
Nevertheless, political support of the veto powers would of course be highly desirable. The United States, in particular, throughout the last years under conservative administrations repeatedly criticized the UN for not being efficient, effective, and of being corrupt. The US even conducted its own investigations at Congressional and federal level into the corruption accusations towards the UN Oil for Food Programme, for example. This gap in the UN legal system is exactly what the Committee for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly wants to fill: Since the UN members and the UN administration cannot control themselves effectively, we need an institution which is independent and is equipped with sufficient investigation and control powers and rights. This would be the main task of a UNPA. A UN Parliament should be able to set up inquiry committees, which can question UN officials and have access to documents. It would be able to rectify possible wrongdoings within a huge institution such as the UN. Furthermore, the US has stated its desire to increase democracy in the world, which necessarily also includes democracy within international organizations and institutions.
For a fuller discussion see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Parliamentary_Assembly.
(Thanks and acknowledgement is given to the Committee for a United Nations Parliamenary Assembly and KDUN, of which the author serves as a Senior Associate and whose FAQ contributed to this FAQ.)
Copyright Robert Sheppard 2013 All Rights Reserved