The establishment of a Kenyan chapter of Democracy Without Borders (DWB) was met with broad support at a launch event on 4 March 2019 in Nairobi.
The case for democratic representation of world citizens at the United Nations, a key goal of DWB, was endorsed in a speech by Florence Mutua, a member of parliament representing Busia county in the west of Kenya.
Creating an inclusive UN
The parliamentarian of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) pointed out that the UN is doing important work but that the connection to the people on the ground is too weak. “Citizens have no access to the UN but it is them who know best what is needed”, said Mutua who gained first-hand experience as a long-time UN employee before winning a seat in Kenyan National Assembly. “A UN Parliamentary Assembly will bring the UN closer to the citizens”, she stated, referring to DWB’s main program. Mutua stressed that adequate representation of women and the youth at such a forum would have to be guaranteed. Prior to concluding, she vowed to table a report on the creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) at an upcoming parliamentary session. She encouraged all those in attendance to offer their input.
The meeting elected Caleb Wanga, a community safety activist, as chairperson of DWB in Kenya. He stressed that in Kenya it was easy to be profiled and that promoting ethnical and tribal divisions was undermining democracy. “We need to talk about boundaries that create divisions and conflict”, he said, „including national divisions.” He emphasized that the current UN structure was exclusive in nature with no room for citizen’s participation. He cited this as one of the reasons why a UNPA was crucial.
Promoting global citizenship
The executive director of DWB, Andreas Bummel, pointed out that global citizenship is the core idea behind DWB’s efforts. “We all belong to one human family”, he said with reference to the Southern African concept of Ubuntu that was promoted by Nelson Mandela. “Equality is the essence of global citizenship. Everybody needs to have an equal opportunity in shaping the political affairs that affect them and at the global level this means the establishment of a global parliament.”
In addition to a UNPA Bummel highlighted the creation of a public UN petition instrument – a World Citizens’ Initiative –, as DWB’s key goals. The South Africa-born activist noted the importance of having a global parliament now that the world has become interlinked via globalization. The executive director also mentioned that the UNPA would be a tool in helping the UN fulfill its promise of “Never again” with regard to mass atrocities. Lastly, Bummel highlighted that Africa needs to have a strong voice at the UN and expressed hopes that the continent may be pioneering the efforts for a more democratic and inclusive UN.
Broad support for DWB-Kenya
Samson Ochieng Jera, Deputy Chair of the ODM in Nairobi, welcomed and supported the establishment of DWB in Kenya. He emphasized the vision of free movement in the world. “The visa system creates global classes”, he said. Yasir Ahmedm a representative of CISA Somalia, also endorsed DWB and noted that countries such as Somalia would benefit from a more democratic UN.
George Kabougha, Executive Director of the Africa Peace Forum, noted that democracy was under siege and that it was the right time to take action to counter this trend globally. Martin Mavenjina of the Kenya Human Rights Commission said that DWB was “a very important initiative”, an assessment that a representative of the Usalama Reforms Forum agreed to. Another civil society organization that pledged its support was County Governance Watch. Meanwhile, Daniels Taabu, Executive Director of NARC Kenya, mentioned that implementing DWB’s goals would be helpful in reducing the lack of gender representation and lack of free movement that some global citizens face.
Inaugural board elected
In addition to Caleb Wanga, board members elected at the meeting were Florence Mutua, Martin Mavenjina, Zipporah Syokau, a journalist, and Daniels Taabu. In order to ensure diverse and broad representation in DWB-Kenya, it was decided to set up an additional advisory board. Initial members are Raphael Mahulo (Ignite Africa), Rapudo Hawi (County Governance Watch) and Ruth Mukuba (NARC Kenya). More members of the advisory board will soon be selected. DWB will operate as a non-partisan organization based on cross-party support.
The call for a world parliament and the establishment of DWB in Kenya was covered by KTN News, Kenya’s leading TV news channel.
DWB now has chapters in Germany, Kenya, Sweden and Switzerland. DWB’s primary program, the Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly, has supporters in over 150 countries.
The launch event in Nairobi was generously supported by the Workable World Trust.