This week, the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly was opened in New York. Next week’s general debate of heads of state and government will be held under the motto of “making the UN relevant to all people.” We would like to use this occasion to recap some highlights in the efforts for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) since we last published an overview in November 2017.
European Parliament adopts landmark resolution
Last year, the European Parliament called on the governments of the European Union “to foster a debate” on the creation of a UNPA during the 72nd session of the General Assembly. As this recommendation was ignored – merely the Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney indicated that Ireland was open to the idea -, the elected representatives of the European citizens chose stronger words in a plenary resolution on the EU’s UN policy adopted in Strasbourg this July. This time, the parliament called on the EU’s governments “to advocate” the establishment of a UNPA within the UN system
“in order to increase the democratic character, the democratic accountability and the transparency of global governance and to allow for better citizen participation in the activities of the UN and, in particular, to contribute to the successful implementation of the UN Agenda 2030 and the SDGs.”
This request gives the campaign a strong momentum as the UN is approaching its 75th anniversary in 2020. Legislators from Argentina, Switzerland and Mozambique voiced their support on this occasion.
In line with ongoing efforts of a group of civil society organizations including Democracy Without Borders, the European Parliament resolution also called for “an open and inclusive intergovernmental preparatory process under the auspices of the UN General Assembly for a UN 2020 summit” that will “consider comprehensive reform measures for a renewal and strengthening of the United Nations.”
Report of the Independent Expert
In his final overview report to the Human Rights Council in January 2018, the first UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas, reaffirmed his previous call for the formation of a world parliamentary assembly, which he argued would “address democracy deficits by giving expression to global public opinion and including citizens in global decision-making through elected officials”.
The report went on to argue that “In a time where we see less connection between the will of peoples and the policies put forward in their name, the world’s citizens need representation on the global stage. Democratic initiatives, including the proposal to create a World Parliamentary Assembly, would include all citizens in global decision-making and give voice to currently neglected global public opinion.”
In March 2018, the Human Rights Council elected human rights defender Livingstone Sewanyana from Uganda as Mr. de Zayas’ successor.
In August 2018, the Permanent Commission of the Mexican Congress adopted a call on the Mexican government to pursue a reform of the UN Charter. Mexican deputy Macedonio Tamez who initiated the motion and supports a UNPA said that Charter revision should enable the UN to adopt “effective international legislation”.
NGO groups from around the world issued statements of support for the Campaign, including Citizens for Global Solutions in the United States, Geneva International Centre for Justice, and the United Nations Association of Sweden.
The campaign gained a number of prominent new supporters, from a diverse range of professions. These include, among others, former Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu, Swedish Parliamentarian Jens Holm, and futurist and author Hazel Henderson. US-American actor Justin Baldoni noted in a statement that
“We cannot meet global challenges like climate change, multinational corporate exploitation, nuclear proliferation, and so many more threats to humanity without international regulation. We need a World Parliament elected by the peoples of the world to give them a voice in the process of globalization.”
Finally, this year also marked the launch of a new book by Jo Leinen and Andreas Bummel, which proves to be an authoritative text on the topic of the UNPA proposal and the underlying idea of a world parliament. The book launch took place at the UN in New York, the European Parliament in Brussels and at this year’s World Congress of the World Federalist Movement in The Hague. Another presentation of the German edition was held in Berlin.
Image: First Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly’s 73rd Session chaired by María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés (on screen), 18 September 2018, UN Photo/Loey Felipe