A United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) for the first time would give elected representatives and members of the opposition a formal role in the world organization. Supporters envisage that it would act as an independent watchdog and as an engine for UN reform and a progressive democratization of global governance.
According to the Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly which was launched ten years ago by Democracy Without Borders, states initially could choose whether their UNPA members would come from national (or regional) parliaments, reflecting their political spectrum, or whether they would be directly elected. Eventually, however, all members should be directly elected. Step by step, the assembly should be vested with rights of information, participation and oversight vis-à-vis the UN and the organizations of the UN system.
Support by nearly 1,500 members of parliament
By now, a UNPA has been endorsed by thousands of politicians, former UN officials, distinguished scholars, cultural innovators, representatives of civil society organizations, and committed citizens from all walks of life. The full list is available on the website. In particular, the campaign was supported by nearly 1,500 members of parliament from over 100 countries (around half of which are still in office). Among them were Federica Mogherini, today’s the European Union’s Foreign Minister, Justin Trudeau, who is now Canada’s Prime Minister, or Gabriela Michetti, now Vice-President of Argentina.
The campaign continuously works on broadening the support. One of the most important advocates was former UN-Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Other former UN officials who took a stand include former Under-Secretary-Generals Ibrahim Gambari, Shashi Tharoor, Brian Urquhart or Heitor Gurgulino de Souza.
Highlights from the past 12 months
Ten current and former UN experts elected by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva are on record as well. Six of them endorsed the campaign recently. Other recent supporters include several Nobel Laureates: the Dalai Lama (peace), John Hume (peace), Richard J. Roberts (medicine), Eric S. Maskin (economy), and Mohamed Fadhel Mahfoudh from Tunisia who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 on behalf of the Quartet for National Dialogue. All in all, the campaign counted around 25 Nobel laureates who at some point supported a citizen-elected UN body, among them Albert Einstein.
According to the Pan-African Parliament a UNPA is necessary to strengthen democratic participation and representation of the world’s citizens in the UN
The adoption of a pro-UNPA resolution by the Pan-African Parliament, the African Union’s parliamentary body, was one of the higlights of the previous 12 months. In addition, the campaign organized two panels on the question of a world parliament that featured eight speakers at the conference on “New Topics in Global Justice” at Yale University.
In mid-March a book by Jo Leinen and Andreas Bummel on the history, relevance, and implementation of the idea of a world parliament was published in Germany and generated media interest in the issue. An English edition is in preparation.
Following numerous bilateral meetings, an off-the-record information session on a UNPA was held in New York in early May 2017 in collaboration with the Canadian UN mission. For the first time, members of government delegations at the UN came together to be briefed on the proposal and to ask questions. The campaign hopes to establish an ongoing informal deliberation at the UN that eventually could lead to a formal process.
In the meantime, the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs approved of a recommendation to the Council of the European Union on May 30 to foster a debate on the establishment of a UNPA. A final vote on the resolution will take place in the plenary in July.
Top image: Plenary hall of the Pan-African Parliament