A democratic mandate of the world’s citizens
In a globalized world, national isolation will not help to solve economic, social and certainly not international problems. On the contrary, when global issues are concerned that are beyond the capacity of individual states, there is a need for effective supranational world politics. This should not to be confused with making intergovernmental agreements that are based on the respective nation states and whose scope is also limited to them. Rules for the world society as a whole can hardly be established in an intergovernmental way. The same applies to the implementation of individual rights of world citizens such as the right to life and bodily integrity.
With the exception of the Security Council there is no UN body that can make universally binding decisions. And even in matters of international security where binding decision can be made, the UN often remains paralyzed. The five permanent members of the Security Council have a veto right and often make use of it when they see national interests at risk.
The UN must receive a democratic mandate that is derived directly from the world’s citizens
This lack of global decision-making capacity and lack of global action contrast with the need for global regulation which is rapidly increasing as a result of economic globalization. This dilemma is also the underlying cause for the current political tendencies of re-nationalization: These tendencies seem to be equally hopeless and helpless attempts to reverse globalization and they lack a global perspective in finding solutions.
The Charter of the United Nations was proclaimed in the name of “We, the Peoples”. If we want the United Nations to get the necessary capacity for action in this age of globalization, then the UN must receive a strong democratic mandate, a mandate which is derived directly from the world’s citizens and is not mediated by nation states.
On the basis of such a mandate, an elected UN Parliament could be set up as a representative body of the world’s citizens. Together with the UN General Assembly it could grow over time into the role of a world legislature.
Possibilities for global participation
The goal of global political participation, however, means more than the prospect of a UN World Parliamentary election in the far future. Initiatives, voting and elections via the internet seem to be the best way to create a democratic connection between the world’s citizens and the world organization. In Estonia, Switzerland and also within the framework of the European Citizens’ Initiative, for example, there are experiences to build on in this regard.
Global voting via the internet can create a democratic connection between the world’s citizens and the United Nations
Registered world citizens could be offered ways of participation that could be expanded gradually:
- starting with non-binding polls on global political issues, which would be all the more important, the larger and more representative the circle of participating world citizens becomes,
- adding the possibility to introduce issues and ideas and to discuss these with other registered world citizens – and perhaps also vote on them symbolically,
- further, introducing the instrument of a World Citizens’ Initiative mandated by the UN General Assembly, to enable world citizens to place specific issues on the UN agenda,
- and eventually allowing for binding votes and elections, provided that the necessary foundations are in place, in particular a sufficient number of citizens who are eligible to participate in the respective vote or election.
The subject of the first non-binding polls of registered world citizens could be the resolutions of the Security Council – as a symbolic counterpart to the veto of the five permanent members. The published results of these votes would hopefully also increase the number of registered world citizens.
The respective registration shall, of course, not mean that an individual’s national citizenship should be affected in any way. However, in states whose governments support global citizenship and the goal of global democratic participation, certainly more registrations of world citizens can be expected than in states whose governments reject both.
Online identification as a world citizen
A prerequisite for participating in global polls and elections – even if non-binding and symbolic for the time being – would be a unique personal identification. Multiple registrations and multiple votes by the same individual or by bots must be prevented. Any support of national authorities of UN member states responsible for issuing ID cards or passports would be welcome but should not be a necessary requirement so that the citizens of uncooperative nation states would not be excluded.
Fortunately, personal identification via the Internet is already offered by companies that provide financial, telecommunication and other services. With the continued spread of online identification procedures, their costs will continue to fall and their security and efficiency will increase.
Creating an internet platform
The first step towards global internet-voting (e-voting) would be to create the possibility of personal online identification as a world citizen on a secure and appropriate platform on the Internet. It should not be necessary to wait for action of the UN or for the consent of its member states. This platform could initially be run by an international consortium of non-governmental organizations and would allow for non-binding polls on global issues. For its establishment, the expertise of NGOs with similar objectives should be used as far as possible.
The real aim, however, is to convince the UN to establish an official platform for global citizen participation and the establishment of a World Citizens’ Initiative. The term ‘world citizen’ would thus for the first time have a tangible political meaning and the foundation for global political participation would be laid.
The first upcoming task on the way to e-voting for world citizens will be to develop a detailed step-by-step plan. All interested persons and organizations are invited to be part of this effort.
This piece was written with contributions from Andreas Bummel