Global sentiment overwhelmingly rejects the Bush doctrine and its antidemocratic assertion of an American right to dictate collective security unilaterally. Faced with the prospect of a looming war in Iraq, millions around the world took to the streets in protest, sadly with little discernible effect. Now, in the aftermath of the war, those who are serious about promoting a world order that is democratic, equitable and sustainable must consider why so much popular energy produced such meager results and how such energy can be more effectively harnessed in the future.
First of all, it is important for peace forces to advance beyond protest and rejectionism. The global peace-and-justice movement urgently requires its own alternative vision. But beyond this, we believe that this is one of those times when concrete steps for global reform should be proposed and acted upon. A positive vision of world order and the future of the United Nations should be as bold in moving toward global democracy as the Bush Administration’s vision is in advancing its plans for global dominance.
Specifically, we suggest introducing into the global arena an institution that enables citizens to participate directly in the world political process regardless of their geographic location: namely, a citizen-elected Global Parliamentary Assembly (GPA). The struggle against American unilateralism will gain strength to the extent that the peoples of the world find ways to have their voices heard.
At present, there is no consistently effective way to counter the ability of US leaders (or leaders of any other states, for that matter) to mobilize the citizens and resources of their states for purposes at odds with the rules of international law. The world order remains a global system of states rather than laws when it comes to peace and security. Only when citizens are given an institutionalized site of struggle in the international system and citizen politics is allowed to operate beyond the confines of sovereign states is it likely that new sources of authority will gradually emerge.
A GPA would strengthen the international system by creating a new democratic core to that system. Vertically, the global parliament would derive legitimacy and power from its direct, unmediated link to the world’s citizenry. And horizontally this new democratic body would be uniquely qualified to oversee and link the currently disjointed system of weak and disparate international organizations. It is important to realize that the UN as currently constituted is a club of states as represented by governments. How different from the Security Council debate on the prospective war against Iraq would have been a discussion representing the strongly held views of citizens.
What we are suggesting is neither a pipe dream nor a grandiose scheme for world government. Its prototype already exists regionally in the form of the European Parliament. Established in 1957, the European Parliament is, along with the Council of the European Union and the European Commission, one of the three lawmaking bodies of the European Union. In the early days, delegates to the Parliament were appointed by national parliaments, but in 1979 citizens began directly electing representatives. Though it started life as a largely advisory body, its character as the direct representative of the European citizenry has created an inexorable momentum toward empowerment. As a result of the Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice treaties over the past decade, the Parliament now has veto power over approximately 80 percent of European Union legislation. Additional powers are envisioned in the constitution for the European Union that is currently under consideration.