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Survey: People ahead of elite, support parliamentary body at the UN

PRAGUE July 21, 2009 - Aerial photograph of people visiting the Old Town Square

An international survey carried out in twelve countries across the world’s regions suggests that “the people are ahead of elites when it comes to fundamental issues of global governance and concrete ideas for improving it”.

According to the poll that covered the member countries of the G7 and BRICS groupings, “support for strengthening global governance” was widespread “across the divides of North versus South or East versus West”. The survey included over fifty questions exploring public perception of global trends, peace and security, pandemic response, economic development, climate action, multilateralism, global citizenship, and other subjects. In all countries polled, a majority supported multilateral action on major global issues. 

The survey report says that among the respondents around the world “there is a readiness to make key bodies of global governance more inclusive, more effective, and more connected”. An example for this is their view of the creation of a UN parliamentary network. Asked about whether such a new body should be established “to inform parliamentarians of the UN’s agenda and obtain their feedback on it”, on average 62% responded favorably and only 17% opposed. With the exception of Russia, the idea was supported by majorities in all countries polled, ranging from 55% in the UK and 84% in China.

62% support the creation of a UN parliamentary network

Responses according to individual countries on the question “Would you favor or oppose creating a UN Parliamentary Network?” Source: Global Governance Survey 2023, data provided by Stimson

It was not explored whether much bigger steps might be approved as previous polls suggest. In a survey study published last year, for instance, respondents tended to favor a directly elected chamber over the status quo where UN bodies are exclusively made up of government diplomats. In another survey in 2020, respondents where favorable of “binding global decision-making”.

In the new survey carried out by the New York-based polling firm Charney Research in collaboration with the Stimson Center in Washington D.C., with the exception of India and China, a majority of respondents in all countries said that the world was going “in the wrong direction”. On average, 28% said that global cooperation was worse now than a decade ago, while 21% said it was better. Other subjects covered in the survey included, among others, non-recognition of territory occupied by an aggressor (supported by 67%), reducing or cutting off trade with an aggressor (supported by 72%), cooperation to bring war crimes suspects to the International Criminal Court (supported by 70%), giving the World Health Organization bigger powers to address pandemics (supported by 67%), creating an International Anti-Corruption Court (supported by 70%), or identification as global citizens.

The barrier to change is not popular opposition

In terms of global citizenship identity, 57% confirmed they believe they are both global citizens as well as citizens of their own country while 35% agreed more with the view that they are only citizens of their own countries and that global citizenship does not exist. The report notes that the global citizen perspective “is somewhat weaker in the more nationalistic BRICS” countries. In India, for instance, 52% rejected the idea of global citizenship and only 40% agreed it is part of their identity in addition to being citizens of their own country. In a different survey carried out six years ago, the latter figure for India stood at 93% which suggests a dramatic downward trend. 

With regard to reforming global governance, the report concludes that the “barrier to change is not popular opposition. Indeed, public support could, if effectively mobilized, help to inspire and drive initiatives to innovate in global governance and provide multilateral responses to critical global problems. The challenge, in a world of divided nations marked by Great Power competition, is to provide opportunities for this consensus to express itself and offer cooperative alternatives toward achieving more effective and inclusive global governance.”

At the online presentation of the survey Craig Charney of Charney Research was asked whether polls conducted in autocratic countries like China and Russia could be taken seriously as the report did not elaborate on the issue. In his view, such polls were solid as long as respondents could be assured that their views would be recorded anonymously. Research appears to suggest, however, that there is a tendency of self-censorship with regard to sensitive issues that needs to be taken into consideration.

A UN Parliamentary Network is promoted as an initial step towards a fully-fledged UN Parliamentary Assembly. Most recently, support of the latter was expressed in the Interim Peopleʼs Pact for the Future drafted by experts and civil society representatives.

The G7 includes the US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan and the BRICS groups is Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

Andreas Bummel
Andreas Bummel is Executive Director of Democracy Without Borders and co-authored the book "A World Parliament: Governance and Democracy in the 21st Century"