Preparing for Peace
The website of the Westmorland General Meeting 'Preparing for Peace' initiative
We the Peoples: Building a World Parliament
Our global revolution requires no tumbrils, no guillotines, no unmarked
graves. No revanchist running dogs need be put against the wall. We have within
our hands already the means to a peaceful, democratic transformation.
These means arise inexorably from an analysis of how the world is
run, and why the existing world order fails. The following three chapters each
examine one aspect of global governance, show why the current system is not
working, consider the possible alternatives, choose those which seem to work
best and then explain how we - the dissidents of the rich world and the citizens
of the poor world - can, using only those resources available to us, replace the
system which works for the powerful with one which works for the weak. The first
of these tasks is perhaps the most pressing: altering the mediation of war and
peace and the relations between nation states, and seeking to replace a world
order built on coercion with one which emerges from below, built upon democracy.
United Nations was conceived in 1941, by the United States, the United Kingdom
and the Soviet Union, as an alliance against the Axis powers. As the Second
World War progressed, its scope and membership expanded, until, in June 1945, 50
nations signed a declaration of principles – the United Nations Charter –
whose purpose was to promote peace, human rights and international law, to
encourage social progress and higher living standards, and to prevent another
UN, in other words, was founded with the best of intentions. But these, like the
motives surrounding every aspect of the post-war settlement, were mixed with
some rather less elevated concerns. No one gives power away, and those nations
which constructed the UN were careful to ensure that it reinforced rather than
diminished their global pre-eminence.
concern is reflected in the constitution of the supreme international body,
which is charged with the prevention of war, the United Nations Security
Council. If one nation is threatening or attacking another, the council may use
whatever measures are necessary to force it to desist: it can order a ceasefire,
for example; levy economic sanctions; send in peacekeepers; or, at the last
resort, authorise the armed forces of the UN’s member states to take military
action against the aggressor. At the international level it asserts (though with
little success) what the state asserts at the national level: a monopoly of
Security Council mimics, in other words, the notional constraints of the
democratic state. It claims, by this means, to sustain a world order founded on
right rather than might. The problem with the post-war settlement is that those
with the might decide what is right.
are fifteen members of the council, of which ten have temporary seats (held for
two years and then passed to another state) and five have permanent seats. Each
of the five permanent members has the power of veto: no decision can be taken by
the Security Council unless all five have approved it. Unsurprisingly, the five
permanent members are the three powers which founded the United Nations - the
United States, United Kingdom and Russia - and their principal wartime allies,
China and FranceY.
They granted themselves the ability to determine, for as long as the UN
continues to exist, who is the aggressor and who the aggressed.
The power of veto was introduced partly in order to prevent those states in possession of nuclear weapons from attacking each other: had the other member states, for example, collectively decided that the Soviet Union was threatening one of its neighbours, and then sought to restrain it through military action, the USSR may have responded by offering to meet that force with greater force, provoking another world war. Indeed, during the Cold War the Soviet Union used its veto repeatedly, precisely in order to prevent the other states from restricting its attempts to expand its imperial domain. But, while the veto may have functioned as a safety valve, preserving a global peace at the expense of the weaker states being threatened or attacked by one of the permanent members, it has also proved to be an instant recipe for the abuse of power and the impediment of justice.
The problem with the way the Security Council has been established is
that those who possess power cannot be held to account by those who do not. The
key democratic question – who guards the guards? – has been left unanswered.
The Security Council is, by definition, tyrannical. Those who defend the way the
world is run point out that veto powers have rarely been used since the end of
the Cold WarΨ and that the veto can, in
theory, be deployed (as France and Russia tried to deploy it in 2003) to protect
states from unauthorised attacks; but the truth is that the threat of the veto
informs every decision the Security Council does or does not make. Other member
states know perfectly well, for example, that there is no point in preparing a
resolution which the United States will reject. The US and, to a lesser extent,
the other permanent members, assert their will without even having to ask.
As other nations cannot hold them to account, the permanent members (or,
more precisely, the two permanent members which have, since the UN’s
formation, wielded real power) can blithely defy every principle the United
Nations was established to defend. Since 1945, the United States has launched
over 200 armed operations*2, most of which were intended not to promote world
peace but to promote its own political or economic interests. The Soviet Union
repeatedly used its veto to prevent other member states from interfering with
its sponsorship of violent insurrection and direct invasion. The five permanent
members also happen to be the world’s five biggest arms dealers, indirectly
responsible for exacerbating many of the conflicts the Security Council is
supposed to prevent. The five nations which possess the exclusive power to
decide how threats should be handled are the five nations which present the
gravest threat to the rest of the world.
The problem is compounded – and this is not commonly understood – by
the fact that the powers of the Security Council are not confined to the
administration of peace. The UN Charter also grants the five permanent members
vetoes over constitutional reform
of the United NationsY.
Even if every other member of the General Assembly votes to change the way the
institution works, their decision can be overruled by a single permanent member.
Any one of the five can also block the appointment of the UN Secretary-GeneralY,
the election of judges to the International Court of Justice, or the admission
of a new member to the United Nations*3.
who benefit from this system argue that it simply reflects the realities of
power: if the five permanent members were not using their vetoes to force other
states to do as they bid, they would find some other means. This is undoubtedly
true. But the problem with the way the council is established is that, rather
than moderating the realities of power, it compounds them. It offers an
immediate and painless means for a permanent member to prevent the rest of the
world from pursing peace or justice, whenever it suits its interests to do so.
These special powers have rendered the UN General Assembly, in which
every member state has an equal vote, all but irrelevant. The 186 member states
which do not occupy permanent seats on the Security Council can huff and puff
about how the world should be run, in the certain knowledge that real power lies
But even if the Security Council was disbanded tomorrow, and the supreme
powers it possessed were vested instead in the Assembly, the United Nations
would still be far from democratic. Many of the member states are not themselves
democracies, and have a weak claim to represent the interests of their people.
Even those governments which have come to power by means of election seldom
canvas the opinion of their citizens before deciding how to cast their vote in
There is, partly as a result, little sense of public ownership of the
General Assembly or the decisions it makes. At public meetings, I have often
asked members of the audience to raise their hands if they know the name of
their country’s ambassador to the United Nations. Seldom, even at gatherings
of the most politically active people, do more than two or three per cent claim
to know; on one occasion an audience of 600 mostly well-read, middle-class
people (it was a literary festival) failed to produce a single respondant. In
turn, many of the ambassadors, who are appointed, not elected, appear to be
rather more conscious of the concerns of their nations’ security services than
those of the citizens whose part they are supposed to take.
The assembly, too, is riddled with rotten boroughs. It is widely
recognised in the United States that there is something wrong with a system in
which the 500,000 people of Wyoming can elect the same number of representatives
to the Senate as the 35 million of California. Yet, in the UN General Assembly,
the 10,000 people of the Pacific island of Tuvalu possess the same
representation as the one billion people of India. Their per capita vote, in
other words, is weighted 100,000-fold. If the assembly had real powers, this
inequity would be a major liability: in international bodies which do make real
decisions, such as the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and
the International Whaling Commission, rich and powerful nations bribe and
blackmail small and weak ones to obtain the votes they need*4.
But even if all the world’s nations were of equal size, so that all
the world’s citizens were represented evenly, and even if the Security Council
was abolished and no state, in the real world, was more powerful than any other,
the UN would still fail the basic democratic tests, for the simple reason that
its structure does not match the duties it is supposed to discharge. The United
Nations has awarded itself three responsibilities. Two of these are international
duties, namely to mediate between states with opposing interests and to restrain
the way in which its members treat their own citizens. The third is a global responsibility: to represent the common interests of all the
people of the world. But it is constitutionally established to discharge only
the first of these functions.
From time to time, nearly all the UN’s member states will unite to
condemn a government’s atrocious treatment of its citizens, such as the ethnic
cleansing commissioned by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. But this is
possible only because that country’s behaviour is anomalous. There are other
issues over which the interests of almost all member states are demonstrably at
variance with those of their people. Defence spending is an obvious example. In
most countries, from the democratic superpower to the tinpot military
dictatorship, the confluence of interests which Dwight Eisenhower called “the
military-industrial complex” exercises inordinate power over government, and
money which should be spent, for example, on public health and education, is
instead spent on unnecessary weapons. But the member states will not unite to
condemn this imposition, because almost all of them engage in it. The nation
states tacitly conspire against their peoples.
For similar reasons the UN is inherently incapable of representing the
common interests of all the people of the world. There is a strong argument, for
example, for severely restricting the freedom of financial speculators, whose
activities have, in recent years, wrecked several formerly healthy economies and
contributed massively to the indebtedness of the poor nations. But because of
the power these speculators possess to strip a nation of its financial assets,
they have become the world’s kingmakers. Nearly all the governments in power
today are those whose policies are acceptable to the financial markets: they
are, in effect, the representatives of global capital. The opposition parties
who might challenge this dispensation are kept out of power partly by
citizens’ fear of how the markets might react if they were elected. So while
it might suit the interests of nearly everyone on earth to re-impose capital
controls and bring many forms of speculation to an end, the existing system
suits most of the world’s governments rather well, even as their populations
suffer. An assembly of nation states is therefore unlikely to take the kind of
collective global action which would be necessary to rid the world of this
plague. The preamble to the UN Charter begins with the words “We the peoples
of the United Nations”. It would more accurately read “We the states”.
since the formation of the UN, there have been efforts to modify this
undemocratic order. But few of the existing proposals address the fundamental
problems. Many of them fall into one of two categories: permitting national
parliamentarians to influence UN policy, and granting members of “civil
society” a consultative or, in some cases, a junior decision-making role.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union, for example, which is an association of
members of national parliaments, founded in 1889, now has “consultation
status” on the UN’s Economic and Social Council and “observer status” at
the World Trade Organisation*5. This permits some form of representation,
albeit diffuse and indirect, for the citizens of the world. Like the e-parliament, which now provides national MPs with a virtual
debating chamber*6, the Inter-Parliamentary Union might, as some of its
proponents argue, help encourage global democratisation. But these initiatives
also suffer from some of the constraints which limit the democratic potential of
the UN General Assembly.
Every member of the Inter-Parliamentary Union or the e-parliament is
subject to three conflicting pressures: the demand by her constituents that
their immediate, or local, needs be met; the demand by her national party
leaders that she keep to the party line; and, if they are sufficiently
interested, the demand by certain of her constituents that she represent their
needs or views at the global level. She will have been selected by her party
largely on the grounds of her responsiveness to the second demand, and elected
by her constituents largely on the grounds of her adherence to the first. These
conflicting demands cause a number of problems at the international level.
The first is that her main concerns are likely to be more parochial than
we might wish of a truly international or global parliamentarian. Her membership
of the international union will, as it must take second place to her local
concerns, be something of a hobby. If ever she is faced with a conflict between
the domestic needs of her constituents and their international needs, she will
resolve it in favour of the former. This is why the people of Europe are
represented in the European Parliament not by their national MPs, but by special
members elected for this purpose.
The second problem is that she remains a member of her national party.
If it discovers that her international activities conflict with its policies, it
will instruct her to desist. A national party’s concerns will always, of
course, be overwhelmingly national.
third problem is that, as soon as the work of any international group of
national MPs is taken seriously by powerful nation states, they will use the
members' national interests to rein them in. This lever is repeatedly pulled by
powerful states to discipline the representatives of weaker nations. When, for
example, the United States wanted a UN resolution permitting it to wage war on
Iraq in 1990 and discovered that some of the temporary members of the Security
Council were opposed to it, it bought the votes of Zaire, Ethiopia and Colombia
by persuading Saudi Arabia to offer them free oil. This helped ensure that Cuba
and Yemen were the only two members of the Security Council to defy the
resolution. As soon as it had been adopted, the US ambassador turned to the
Yemeni representative and told him that his was “the most expensive vote you
will ever cast.''*7. Three days later, the US cancelled its $70 million of
annual aid to Yemen. An international body composed of national MPs is destined
either to be ineffective and ignored, or effective and crushed.
A further problem arises from the number of potential representatives it
mobilises. Either all 25,000 of the world’s democratically elected
representatives (or however many of them can be bothered) vote on every issue,
or they must surrender their powers to a committee or a subcommittee of a
committee. This leads to one of two political outcomes. Either there is a gross horizontal
diffusion of accountability, caused by the vast number of potential
representatives, or there is a gross vertical
diffusion of accountability, caused by the process of photocopy democracyY.
In either case, it leaves constituents feeling that they have little real
leverage over the decisions the parliament makes.
Another obvious problem is that this system leaves the people who do not
live in representative democracies with no opportunity to determine how the
world is run. These people, perhaps more than anyone else on earth, need
international or global assistance, both to undermine their oppressive
governments and to secure the peace and material prosperity those governments
tend to deny them. Far from offering them a means of confronting oppression,
this system leaves them doubly unrepresented, placing them at a still greater
and other problems have encouraged some people to suggest that the democratic
deficits of the United Nations should be addressed instead through the
representation of “constituencies of interest”, by which they mean
non-governmental organisations, or NGOs. Already, gatherings of NGOs are being
granted formal rights by some international bodies. The UN’s Economic and
Social Council, for example, has given “consultative status” to 1500 NGOs.
In 2000, the UN hosted a “Millennium Forum” of NGOs, whose declaration was
adopted as an official UN document, and whose representative became an official
delegate at the UN Summit. Several eminent scholars have called for the creation
of a permanent “NGO Forum”, sitting alongside the United Nations, helping to
inform and guide the decisions it makes. This would, I believe, be a disaster
Permitting NGOs to represent the people of the earth introduces several
unresolvable problems. The first is that either every body calling itself an
“NGO” must be permitted to attend, or someone must determine who can and who
can’t turn up.
If every self-appointed NGO is to be represented, then the diffusion of
accountability which vitiates the parliamentary unions will be multiplied many
times over, as every sub-faction of every possible interest group seeks to
enter. If every member of an international NGO forum was to receive one vote,
then we have effectively established a plutocracy
(a political system governed by money), as the richest organisations (in
particular the corporations and corporate lobby groups) could each establish
several hundred separate NGOs to represent their interests. Needless to say,
such a forum would be so big as to be utterly incapable of making a decision.
If, on the other hand, one vote was to be allocated to each agglomeration of
interest groups, we would discover, for example, that the representatives of
those (few and tiny) NGOs whose members insist that the human race was sired by
aliens would possess the same global power as the big development agencies.
So it seems clear that someone must decide which groups can and cannot
be represented. There are several possible criteria this “someone” could
apply. The most obvious is to appoint to the forum those NGOs with the biggest
global membership. The world’s people would then be represented by animal
welfare charities and cancer research trusts.
So the Grand Inquisitor with the responsibility of deciding who
qualifies would need to establish his own criteria for choosing the
representatives of the people. This means that he will pre-determine the
political outcome of whatever debates the NGO forum might hold. NGOs, of course,
represent entrenched and generally non-negotiable interests, so simply by
deciding which groups and in which proportion should be allowed to attend, the
Inquisitor decides in advance how every issue will be resolved.
This is, in other words, not just an impossible task, but a ridiculous
one, which leads not to the promotion of democracy but the pre-emption of
democracy. And these constraints arise even before we come to consider such
issues as presumed consent, accountability and the ranking of issues. The
Inquisitor takes the place of the world’s people in determining what is and is
not important. Far from increasing the scope of popular representation, an NGO
forum reduces it to the decision of one, inherently unaccountable person or
committee. It should not surprise the members of the global justice movement
that two of our most committed enemies, the former director-general of the World
Trade Organisation, Michael Moore, and the European trade commissioner, Pascal
Lamy, have both supported the idea of NGO representation, even though both men
have questioned NGOs’ transparency and accountability. It is precisely because
they lack accountability that their engagement is acceptable to the dictatorship
of vested interests. Whenever the NGOs it has elevated turn against it, it can,
quite reasonably, dismiss them as illegitimate.
those who live in democratic nations today would regard as intolerable a
proposal to replace their national parliaments with one or other of these
schemes. If a government announced that it intended to abolish parliament or
congress and replace it with a union of the country’s thousands of local
councillors (many of whom know nothing of national politics), which would seek
to legislate either as a vast and sprawling body or by means of ever more
obscure subcommittees, that government should expect to be overthrown. If it
were to suggest that the task of representation should be handed instead to a
forum of voluntary organisations, either self-selected or chosen by some
all-powerful ombudsman, it would never recover from the ensuing ridicule.
Why such substitutes for democracy should be any more acceptable at the
global level is impossible to see. If we wish to be represented, then let us be
represented, and let us no longer accept the evasions, half-measures,
impediments, intermediaries and arbiters whose installation masquerades as
global democratisation. The only genuinely representative global forum is a directly
representative global forum, by which, of course, I mean a world parliament.
It is hard to think of any issue of national importance which now stops
at the national frontier. The World Trade Organisation has extended its mandate
so far that its decisions could come to govern everything from food labelling to
railway timetables. The World Bank and IMF have penetrated the poorer nations to
the point at which they are, in some cases, telling their schools which brand of
computers they should buy. The decisions being made by the Security Council will
help to determine whether we live in peace or are perpetually subject to
terrorism and war. Climate change, financial speculation, debt and deregulation
reach us wherever we live.
As everything has been globalised except democracy, the rulers of the
world can go about their business without reference to ourselves.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, many - perhaps most - of the decisions they make
conflict with the interests of the majority, and reflect only those of the
While the rulers of the world cloister themselves behind the fences of
Seattle or Genoa, or ascend into the inaccessible eyries of Doha and Kananaskis,
they leave the rest of the world shut out of their deliberations. We are left to
shout abuse, to hurl ourselves against the lines of police, to seek to smash the
fences which stand between us and the decisions being made on our behalf. They
reduce us, in other words, to the mob, and then revile the thing they have
created. When, like the cardinals who have elected a new Pope, they emerge,
clothed in the serenity of power, to announce that it is done, our howls of
execration serve only to enhance the graciousness of their detachment.
They are the actors, we the audience, and for all our catcalls and
imprecations, we can no more change the script to which they play than the
patrons of a cinema can change the course of the film they watch. They, the
tiniest and most unrepresentative of the world’s minorities, assert a popular
mandate they do not possess, then accuse us
of illegitimacy. Their rule, unauthorised and untested, is sovereign.
A world parliament endows us, in theory, with three democratic resources
the world does not yet possess. The first is a forum, which carries weight and
commands recognition, in which good ideas can do battle with bad ones. There is,
of course, no guarantee that a democratically elected parliament will make
sensible decisions, that people will elect those who best represent their
interests or that the battles between them will always be resolved in favour of
justice and distribution. But this is the risk associated with democracy
everywhere. It is the risk which preserves democracy. We cannot warrant that
democracy will deliver what we consider to be the right results. We can warrant
that the absence of democracy will deliver the wrong ones.
The second is a system which can, in theory, hold the global and
international powers to account. It gives the people of the world, in other
words, an opportunity to influence the decisions which affect their lives. It
forces those who claim to act on our behalf to respect us.
The third is an accelerated fusion of human interests, which propels us
towards the metaphysical mutationY.
By itself, the investiture of a world parliament is an insufficient
measure. As part of a series of transformative actions, it is an indispensable
Some of the models are staggeringly complex, demanding weighted voting,
special chambers to represent minority interests, and sophisticated and
elaborate means of delivering proportional representation. These are supposed to
ensure that the system is as fair as it could possibly be, and in principle they
could enhance a parliament’s authority. But complexity undermines legitimacy.
If people cannot grasp immediately how the system works, why it is relevant to
them and how they can affect the decisions it makes, they will lose interest,
relegating it to that ever-growing list of “things I ought to know about but have neither the time nor energy to
comprehend”. Indeed, one of the impediments to public attempts to hold the
dictatorship of vested interests to account is the extraordinary complexity of
both the issues themselves and the structures, with their multiple layers of
delegated authority, through which that dictatorship works. The fewer the
citizens who engage in a democratic process, the less just and less legitimate
it becomes. So while we could devise an assembly which catered, in advance, for
every possible permutation of justice, it is likely, in practice, to prove less
just than a system without such complex safeguards. The version I've chosen is
therefore the simplest of all possible models. Every adult on earth possesses
The parliament would need to be big enough to represent a wide range of
views, but small enough to make decisions with efficiency. So let us say, as it
permits us to deal with nice round numbers, that it should contain 600
representatives, each with a constituency of 10 million people. The implications
for global justice are obvious. A resident of Ouagadougou has the same potential
influence over the decisions the parliament makes as a resident of Washington. A
Haitian has the same representation as a Hungarian. The people of China will
possess, between them, sixteen times as many votes as the people of Germany.
While, unlike other models, this design makes no special provision for the votes
of the poor, their representatives will massively outnumber those of the rich.
It is, in other words, a revolutionary assembly.
A further implication is that, if we are to establish 600 constituencies
of even size, many of them will have to straddle national borders. This is not,
as some people have suggested, a liability, but an asset. The less our
representatives are bound to the demands of nationhood, the less parochial their
outlook is likely to be. The more we, as constituents, are forced to share our
political destiny with the people of other nations, the more we are forced to
understand and engage with their concerns.
Some people object that these constituencies would thereby affiliate the
people of two hostile nations. So much the better. All existing constituencies
lump together people with starkly different interests, crossing boundaries of
wealth and poverty, farmland and industry, ethnicity and religion. If they did
not, and represented, as an NGO forum does, only communities of interest, most
political outcomes would be pre-determined, a simple matter of arithmetic.
Elections would, in these circumstances, be fixed by whoever established the
A key determinant of the success of a world parliament is that its
members are seen to have no connection to the governments of the nations from
which they come. This helps defend them from the pressures that governments
might exert. If the United States told a member from Yemen that unless she
changed her policies it would cut the aid it gives her country’s government,
she could reply that the decisions she makes have nothing to do with the
government. This is not an assembly formed by nation states, but an assembly
formed by the world’s people. It is global, not international.
So how do we begin? We begin by liberating ourselves from the perception
that we must wait upon nation states to deliver global justice. This assembly
will belong to the people, and we require no one’s permission to establish it.
So let us picture a process which starts with a series of global
meetings, open to everyone, but whose participants have not – as it has to
begin somewhere – yet been elected. Let us picture, for example, the annual
meetings which already engage some tens of thousands of people, organised by the
World Social ForumY.
These are in no sense representative assemblies. The people who attend them are
self-selecting and drawn from among those who can either afford an airfare (to
Brazil or India) or persuade someone else to provide one for them. But they
attract citizens from most of the potential constituencies the members of a
world parliament would represent.
Our first task would be to publish pamphlets and web pages explaining
the idea in as many languages as we possess. Our second would be to organise a
consultation of as many of the world's people, through randomly-selected
samples, as the budgets we raise permit, to discover whether or not our proposal
commands popular consent. If the consultations reveal that the idea is unpopular
then (though we might seek, through further publication and debate, to change
people's minds), we should cease the process of development.
But let us assume, for now, that most of the people we have polled
approve of the proposal. We then find ourselves in a rather stronger position to
raise funds, and to set up an electoral commission, staffed by professionals,
with a strictly neutral mandate. This could begin to draw up boundaries and
design an election. Its reports would then be disseminated for global
It is important that, at this pre-democratic stage, as little is decided
as possible, and that all decisions made could be reversed if either public
referenda or the parliament itself decided that they were wrong. The first
general election, for example, could be accompanied by a full referendum on
whether the parliament should, indeed, be formed, and how it should work. The
process must belong to the people at every stage.
The plan then becomes more expensive, more complex and more hazardous.
The first and most obvious impediment is money. A global general election is
likely to cost something in the order of $5 billionY,
while the establishment of a parliament might cost around $300 millionY,
and its annual expenses a further $1 billion or soY
(an electronic assembly would be, though a poor substitute for a real debating
chamber, much cheaper). A very small proportion could be raised from individuals
and charitable foundations. The only bodies which possess sufficient funds to
provide the rest, however, are states, the international institutions and
corporations, and we should, of course, be wary of accepting money from them,
for fear either that they would co-opt the assembly or that we would feel
constrained to adjust our plans to their convenience. Corporate funding, for
obvious reasons, should be ruled out altogether. There may be a few liberal
states and perhaps even a sympathetic UN agency which would give substantial
sums and expect nothing in return, and this might be deemed acceptable to both
the initiators of the model and the people they consult. But there is an
inherent contradiction between national or international funding and the aims of
a global assembly.
Some people have suggested establishing a global lottery, offering
enormous prizes and attracting, as a result, plenty of punters. This, though it
has some ugly implications, provides us with both independent funding and weekly
publicity, as even the most hostile media would find it hard not to report the
results of the “World Parliament Draw”. An alternative is to wait for the
implementation of the proposals outlined in Chapter 5, which have the potential
to generate far more money than we would ever need. Even so, we can anticipate a
tussle over these funds between nation states and the global assembly.
The next obvious impediment is the opposition of national governments.
Democratically elected governments would be foolish to seek to impede elections
to a world parliament, as they would immediately be accused of despotism. But
undemocratic governments would correctly perceive such elections as subversive.
Their citizens are likely to acquire a taste for voting. We can anticipate,
therefore, that unelected leaders would seek to prevent elections to the world
parliament from taking place.
There are two possible means of defeating them. The first is to hold
underground elections. These are likely to be dangerous for both the
participants and the people overseeing them. They could also – as visibility
is essential to democratic accountability – be captured and co-opted, possibly
by the very governments which drove them underground in the first place. The
other is to hold elections among the exiles of the closed constituencies. This
means that the great majority of the constituents would, initially at least, be
deprived of a vote, while those who lived abroad would be disproportionately
powerful. But, though both solutions are far from ideal, neither should be
discounted, for the very reason that they are, as the governments would fear,
destabilising. Underground elections are precisely the kind of process which
could begin to co-ordinate and mobilise opposition to an undemocratic regime.
Elections among exiles have the potential to create profound resentment within
the domestic population, as it perceives that it has been deprived of choice by
its government. In both cases, we employ the self-reinforcing potential of
democracy. A gradient of hope is established, and nothing is so threatening to
tyranny as hope. Even so, we may have to start without some regions of the
Building a world parliament is not the same as building a world
government. We would be creating a chamber in which, if it works as it should,
the people's representatives will hold debates and argue over resolutions. In
the early years at least, it commands no army, no police force, no courts, no
departments of government. It need be encumbered by neither president nor
cabinet. But what we have created is a body which possesses something no other
global or international agency possesses: legitimacy. Direct elected, owned by
the people of the world, our parliament would possess the moral authority which
all other bodies lack. And this alone, if effectively deployed, is a source of
Even those bodies whose legitimacy is, at best, diffuse, derivative and
vague possess enough moral authority to moderate the behaviour of the world’s
only superpower. The government of the United States could have attacked Iraq
whenever it wanted, without asking anyone’s permission. It has sufficient
military power to defeat any state on earth. It requires, as the president has
constantly hinted, no allies to pursue its military adventures. Yet, at the end
of 2002, it chose to submit itself to the intensely frustrating and, at times,
humiliating, scrutiny of the other members of the United Nations Security
Council. It did so because it wanted to persuade its citizens that the war it
was proposing against Iraq was a just one. Opinion polls within the United
States (whose people, despite the best efforts of successive governments,
remain, by and large, civilised and humane) showed that the Americans would look
more kindly upon a war which had the UN’s approval. They did not want to see
themselves as the citizens of a nation whose foreign policy was built entirely
on brute force. The events of 2003, however, suggest that the council’s
limited reserves of moral power have been exhausted.
Similar concessions to moral authority have constrained the behaviour of
all but the most tyrannical states. The governments of the European Union have
repeatedly enhanced the powers of the European Parliament, despite the fact that
it competes with them for control over European decision-makingΨ.
They have done so in order to persuade their people that the Union - and
therefore its governments - is democratically accountable.
Perhaps the most startling example of moral power is one which takes us
back to the potential starting point for our own parliamentary assembly. The
50,000 people who gathered in Porto Alegre in Brazil for the World Social Forum
in 2002 represented no one but themselves. Yet theirs was widely perceived as
the only international assembly which had any claim to reflect the views of the
people of the world. The result was that officials from some of the world’s
most powerful governments and institutions came to try to persuade the forum
that they were listening. Twice as many French ministers travelled to the World
Social Forum as to the World Economic Forum, the official, intergovernmental
meeting which was taking place at the same time in New York*8. Even the
president of the World Bank, one of the least accountable of all international
bodies, applied to speak there. But, as if to show where moral power really lay,
the forum turned him away*9.
If even this self-selected convention can attract, without inviting
them, representatives of some of the world’s most powerful institutions, then
we can only guess what moral power an elected global assembly might wield. A
world parliament would be able to determine whether or not the international
actions of a government or an institution have the support of the world’s
people. And as most of the world’s big governments and institutions claim to
act democratically, they would be drawn to our assembly like moths to a flame.
We already possess an example of a people’s parliament built on moral
authority, which managed to bring the world’s most powerful government to
heel. In the 5th century BC, Rome was governed by consuls, drawn
solely from the patrician, or
aristocratic, class. Theirs was an oppressive government, exercising absolute
power over the other social classes. The record is a little hazy, but it seems
that one day in 494 BC, prompted by issues which would not be unfamiliar to
today's global justice movement (debt, unequal access to land and arbitrary
treatment by the authorities) thousands of the plebeians,
or working people of Rome, suddenly disappeared*10. This event came to be known
as the “first secession of the plebs”. They had agreed to meet on the Sacred
Mount, a hill outside the city. There they arranged themselves into a people’s
parliament – the Consilium Plebis
– and elected two tribunes, or
representatives. All the people on the hill swore that anyone who harmed the
tribunes, irrespective of class or power, would be killed.
first the tribunes of the plebs had no constitutional powers. They could merely
urge the authorities to recognise the needs of their constituents. But, backed
by huge numbers, they were hard to ignore and impossible to kill. Gradually, the
scope of the Consilium’s powers began to increase, and in 449 BC, after a
second secession of the plebs, it was officially recognised by the state. The
tribunes, now ten in number, were granted a right of veto over the business of
the government. The resolutions adopted by the Consilium Plebis (known as plebiscites)
gradually began to be passed into law. The plebians also elected a number of
officials – the aediles – whose
purpose was to record the proceedings of the Senate (the patrician’s
parliament), in the hope of being able to hold its members to their word, and to
establish a body of written law which would protect the plebs from arbitrary
treatment by magistrates.
power of the plebs lasted for about 100 years. By 367 BC, at least one of the
tribunes had been admitted to the Senate as a consul. But (and there is surely a
lesson here for all democratic movements), the transformation appears to have
been rather too successful, for the tribunes began to accumulate so much power
that they ceased to identify with the powerless and came, instead, to see
themselves as a new ruling class. Ambitious young men began using the Tribunate
as a means of entry to the Senate, and gradually the plebs’ movement was taken
over by the nobility. But, for a century or so, the oppressed people of Rome had
moderated the power of the ruling class by means of a parliamentary assembly
founded on moral authority.
There is, then, plenty of evidence to suggest that our parliament can
work this way. But should it work this
way? Is there an alternative to coercive power based solely on moral authority?
In the early stages at least, I don’t believe there isΨ.
The only available alternative is a parliament whose decisions are imposed on
other bodies, if necessary by force of arms. This is how the Security Council
works today. But the armies and the weapons the Security Council calls upon are
those which reside in the hands of the state. Its coercive powers (and hence the
monopoly of violence it asserts) depend on the compliance of the world’s most
powerful governments, which is why it is such a partisan organisation. The point
of a people’s assembly is that it is independent of pre-existing powers. Only
if the delegated officials of the parliament managed to accumulate so much
weaponry that they could force every nation to do as they demanded would the
parliament be able to impose its will. But that would necessitate a world
government so powerful that it would swiftly become the most oppressive force on
There is, moreover, a great advantage to a parliament whose power relies
entirely on moral authority, and this is that it sustains this power by showing
that it continues to command the support of the people. If it loses touch with
the people, it loses much of its force. This has the potential, then, to be a
So we are left with an assembly whose primary purpose is to hold other
powers to account. It would review the international decisions made by
governments, by the big financial institutions, and by bodies such as the United
Nations and the World Trade Organisation. It would, through consultation with
the world’s people and through debates within the chamber, establish the broad
principles by which these other bodies should be run. It would study the
decisions they make and hold them up to the light. When it discovers that they
have breached the principles of good governance it has established, it would
pass resolutions and publish critical reports. We have every reason to believe
that, if properly constituted, our parliament, as the only body with a claim to
represent the people of the world, would force them to respond.
Let us picture a situation, for example, in which a body such as the
World Bank had decided to pay for the construction of a giant hydro-electric
dam. The villagers whose homes were due to be flooded might approach the World
Parliament and ask it to examine the Bank’s decision. The parliament would ask
the World Bank for its comments, and perhaps send a fact-finding mission to the
site of the dam. It would then judge the scheme by the principles it had
established. If it found that the dam fell short of those principles, it would
say so. The World Bank could refuse either to change the project or to withdraw
its funding, but only if it was prepared to lose credibility. Judging by the
success of an unelected and little-known body called the World Commission on
Dams in forcing the Bank to promise to change the way it operatesY,
I think we can expect the Bank to consider itself obliged to respond to the
world parliament's decisions.
The same approach could be used, though to a lesser extent, to change
some of the underlying principles governing the way the big international bodies
operate. If our parliament, for example, ruled that the World Trade
Organisation's decisions are unfair because they are made by committees of
corporate lawyers meeting in secret, I think we could expect the WTO to change
those procedures. But it would soon collide with some intractable political
realities. We could not expect our assembly to be able to prevent dictators from
murdering their people or powerful states from invading other nations. The
parliament might decide that the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO should dissolve
themselves, but without any expectation that they would feel prompted to do so.
Such tasks will require a different approach, which I will explain in subsequent
chapters. The world parliament is the body which could hold our new, more
responsive institutions to account.
But we can see how the power of this parliament could be enhanced even
by those agencies which would rather it did not exist. Once citizens came to the
parliament with a complaint, the bodies they were criticising would feel obliged
to respond. By responding, they would validate and recognise the parliament’s
authority. By recognising its authority once, their obligation to respond on the
following occasion would increase: they would gradually find themselves handing
more power to the parliament. In this respect, as in many others, democracy can
the main function of our parliament, in the early years at least, may be to hold
other bodies to account, it is also possible to see how it could begin to
propose and initiate measures of its own. Though we cannot anticipate the novel
solutions to some of the world’s problems which an assembly, freely guided by
its electors, might devise, it is not hard to see how the parliament might help
to promote some of the progressive measures which have already been devised but
which have so far proved impossible to implement.
only just and sustainable means of tackling climate change, for example, is
“contraction and convergence”, the model designed by the concert viola
player and obsessively effective campaigner Aubrey Meyer*11. This scheme first
establishes how much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases humans can
produce each year without frying the planet. It then divides that sum between
all the people of the world, and allocates to each nation, on the basis of its
population, a quota for gas production. It proposes a steady reduction (or
“contraction”) of both the total world production of climate-changing gases
and the excessive production within nations which currently exceed their quotas.
National production per head of population gradually “converges” to
equality. Any nation which wants to produce more than its share must first buy
unused quota from another one.
model has been approved by ministers and government scientists in dozens of
countries, and now appears to be the favoured solution of the United Nations and
even the World Bank. But, because it conflicts with their national interests,
none of the governments which claim to support it appear prepared to implement
it, or even to champion it with any vigour. While we don't know how a world
parliament might respond to this idea, it is easy to see why, if it did adopt
the model as policy, it could prove to be a far more effective advocate than
either governments or the existing international bodies, all of which are
constrained by national politics. It might also become, for example, a powerful
defender of multilateral disarmament, a global tax (the “Tobin tax”) on
financial speculation, or the UN’s proposal that the rich nations should each
devote 0.7 per cent of their national wealth to foreign aid.
every case, if the parliament agreed that these were worthy goals, it could play
the role of honest broker: an agency unconstrained by competition between
nations. Indeed, we may well find that national governments begin to turn to the
parliament for the arbitration of political matters, much as they use the
International Court of Justice for the settlement of legal disputes today. In
doing so, they would, of course, be recognising and reinforcing the
parliament’s moral authority.
This, at any rate, is how we might expect our assembly to begin. But
democracy demands that we make no attempt to prescribe how it should evolve. It
may continue to exercise such modest functions as I have already described. It
may, if the people will it and if states begin formally to recognise its powers,
become a legislative body. This could begin to establish a body of global law
supported – uniquely – by democratic consent. While the parliament would
continue to exercise no direct control over
nation states, those which have signed a treaty granting it certain formal
powers are likely to feel bound by the laws it passes, or risk the loss of
credibility. It could become the legislature which complements and helps
legitimate the judicial authority of the International Criminal CourtY.
Or, if the people of the world demand this, it could begin to establish the
rudiments of a global government, accumulating certain powers hitherto vested
only in the hands of nation states. But it is not for those of us who propose
this body to make such decisions. The point of democracy is that it gets out of
control. No person or faction, least of all those who design the system which
starts the process, should be able to steer it. The parliament must come to
belong to the world’s people, not to the authors of the model.
If you respond with horror to the idea of a world parliament, as many
do, I would invite you to examine your reaction carefully. Is it because you
believe that such a body might become remote and excessively powerful? Or is it
really because you cannot bear the idea that a resident of Brussels would have
no greater voice in world affairs than a resident of Kinshasa? That the
Ethiopians would elect the same number of representatives as the Italians (and
more as their population increases)? That the people of Mexico would,
collectively, become two and a half times as powerful as the people of Spain,
while the Indians would cast 17 times as many votes as the inhabitants of the
United Kingdom? That, in other words, the flow of power established when a few
nations ruled the world would be reversed? Are you afraid that this parliament
might threaten democracy, or are you really afraid that it would actuate it?
In the heart of even the most radical European or North American
campaigner lurks, I suspect, a residual fear of the Yellow Peril, of the people
of other lands, who do not share our worldview, becoming too powerful. We might
lament the excessive power of the United Nations Security Council, but are we
not, in some secret recess of the heart, also thankful that our governments can
force the world to comply to their demands? Which of us in the rich world is not
aware that we have benefited, through public spending, safe housing and secure
food supplies, from the power our government wields over others? Which of us
does not offer a secret prayer of thanks to the earthly powers who have decreed
that we need entertain no fear of invasion? Which of us, in other words, cannot
see that the current dispensation of power relieves us of the need to break the
economic grip of our own ruling classes, which, without the fruits of the
colonial economy, would be so oppressive as to compromise our prospects of
survival? Which of us cannot see that our governments’ power to demand the
compliance of other nations permits us to be complacent about the treatment of
those nations, knowing, as we do, that they cannot punish our violations with
conquest? Which of us, at heart, is not an oligarch?
as we claim, we belong to a “global justice movement”, then we must be
prepared to accept the loss of our own nations' power to ensure that the world
is run for our benefit. In rising against the excessive powers of our
governments, we must rise against our own instincts: against the fear of other
people’s freedom, against the indolence which recognises that our freedom not
to act relies on their incapacity to act. Unless we are prepared to take our
arguments to their logical conclusion, we may as well furl our banners and go
Few people frankly admit that they fear the freedom of the people of
But when they do, they tend to argue that this freedom would compromise our own. Joseph Nye, for example, dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, is one of the fiercest opponents of a world parliament. It would permit, he claims, the “citizens of around 200 states” (the rest of the world) to “be continually outvoted by more than a billion Chinese and a billion Indians.” The result would be “a nightmare” for those who “seek to promote international environmental and labor standards, as well as democracy.”*12
This assertion appears to rely on several curious assumptions. The first
is that the Chinese or the Indians would vote not according to what they wanted
but according to their nationality. The second is that the people of these
nations would vote against the people of the rest of the world. He fails to
explain why the interests of people in China or India should be at variance with
those of everyone else. We could surely expect the impoverished textile workers
of China, India, Bangladesh, Mexico and Haiti to express quite similar
interests. We can further expect their choices to be at variance with those of
their employers, which are likely to be more consonant with those of the Western
Professor Nye further assumes, again without explanation, that the
people of China and India would vote against higher environmental and labour
standards, and even against democracy. Why the people of the biggest democracy
on earth would seek to overturn democracy is not clear. As several revolutions
and attempted revolutions, a successful decolonisation movement and the
extraordinary courage of those who stood against the tanks in Tiananmen Square
suggest, the people of China and India are just as capable of assessing their
political options and making rational decisions as anyone else. Nor is it
obvious that the people who suffer most from low environmental and labour
standards would be the keenest to keep them that way. Indeed, the world’s
biggest environmental movements are in India, and in both nations there is
constant agitation, though often brutally suppressed in China, for higher labour
standards. While the bosses of Chinese and Indian corporations might vote to
keep their employees in a state of near-slavery, we would, I think, have good
reason to assume that their workers would not vote the same way.
The truth is that many people in the West, as they have done for
centuries, entertain a lively hatred of the Chinese. We have long chosen to see
them as faceless masses, statistics rather than human beings, without the
capacity for reason or freewill, who prefer to be told what to do than to make
their own decisions. One hundred and fifty years ago, we hated them for refusing
to trade with us and for rebelling against our economic impositions. Now we
appear to hate them for trading too successfully, and because we fear they won’t
rebel against our economic impositions. In both cases, our hatred reflects our
unvoiced fear that they might become free and, in becoming free, challenge the
injust world order which permits us to oppress them.
Of course, we cannot guarantee that the people of India and China will
always vote for democracy and for higher environmental and labour standards –
the point of democracy is that you cannot guarantee anything. But we can
guarantee that the current system of global governance will continue to
discriminate against these
others have maintained that a global parliament would be yet another imposition
of Western political and cultural values upon the rest of the world. This
argument is also founded on a presumption that democracy is alien to the people
of non-Western nations. In truth, the majority of those who live in
parliamentary democracies, flawed as some of them may be, live in the poor
world. Those of us who have worked in such nations can attest that few of their
inhabitants would prefer to be governed by a different system. It is true to say
that the model on which many of their parliaments are based was first developed
in the West, but it is also true to say that this model no longer belongs
exclusively to the West.
can hope and expect, moreover, that as our parliament belongs to the people from
the beginning of the process, it would differ from, and be an improvement on,
the kind of democracy which prevails in the rich world. Guided by the consent of
the electors, it should evolve its own political dynamic, which reflects the
combined will of all the world’s people and, because of the weight of numbers,
particularly those who do not live in the Western nations. But our greatest
safeguard against imposition is to ensure that nothing is imposed. If, in the
initial referenda, the people of the world reject a world parliament, then a
world parliament will not come into existence.
concerns do, however, suggest the need for a further safeguard, in the form of a
new referendum every ten or twenty years, which would permit the people of the
world to vote for the parliament’s dissolution. This would be particularly
important if we had to begin without some regions of the world, because of the
opposition of their governments. It would help to protect the world not only
against the imposition of the values of a minority, but also against the
possibility that our parliament may, itself, accumulate oppressive powers.
A variant on this objection is that the creation of a world parliament
depends on a sense of global nationhood which does not yet exist. Joseph Nye
argues that “there is little evidence that a sufficiently strong sense of
community exists at the global level” on which we could build a parliament.
The world would first require “a widespread sense of identity as a citizenry
as a whole”*13.
is surely clear that parliamentary democracy does not depend on a strong sense
of community. Within even the longest-established democratic states there are
large numbers of distinct communities, which share little sense of engagement
with their neighbours other than the fact that they inhabit the same nation and
vote in the same elections. Professor Nye’s own country, the United States of
America, offers, perhaps, the definitive example of diversity co-existing with
democracy. The ultra-conservative Christian communities of the deep South, for
example, could scarcely have less in common with the gay and hippy communities
of San Francisco. The poor Hispanic districts of Los Angeles are a world apart
from the mansions of Beverley Hills. The nation’s Orthodox Jews and
fundamentalist Muslims could scarcely be said to see themselves as comrades. Yet
no one in the US argues that democracy there is impossible because an
“insufficiently strong sense of community exists at the national level”.
all nationhood is to some extent artificial, the product of historical accident,
the convenience of tyrants and the disengagement of colonists. It is hard to
think of any nation whose members belong to just one religious, ethnic or tribal
community. Even the tiny Pacific island states incorporate tribes which once
collected each other’s heads as trophies. Nations do not fall apart at every
general election just because their people think in different ways; in fact most
communities unconsciously reinforce the democratic process by vying to make that
process work for themselves. The expansion of the European Union requires that
the Hungarians must now perceive that they have a common destiny with the
Portuguese, but not - at least until 2007 - with the Romanians. The Greeks must
reconcile themselves to the idea that they may, one day, belong to the same
community of nations as the Turks, but might never belong to the same
confederation as the Russians. If we believe that this political project is
viable, and that the people of the European Union are sufficiently adaptable and
far-sighted to accept these staggeringly arbitrary distinctions, then we should
surely have no difficulty in seeing the potential viability of a global
world’s population, by contrast to those of its nation states, is a
self-defined entity, a country whose borders are indisputable, whose sense of
common destiny requires no patriotic speeches, no hanging of flags, no wars with
other worlds. Though most of us are yet to acknowledge it, a global identity –
rather, a species identity – has been there from the moment our ancestors
first walked upon two legs. The
demagogues who have created nations and established empires have sought to
justify their governance by suggesting that the people who live beyond their
borders are fundamentally different from those within. But, now that the racial
stereotyping required by empire is beginning to abate (or rather, because of the
multi-ethnic character of the powerful nations, to be reserved only for the leaders
of the enemy), many humans are coming to see that the other members of the
species have broadly the same needs and responses, and that these needs and
responses differ in some respects from those of other species. The nationhood of
human beings, what Alfred Tennyson called the Parliament of Man, is
by making this political identity visible, by creating a forum in which the
people of diverse nations can unite on some issues and divide on others,
irrespective of nationhood, our parliament has the potential to begin to
establish a sense of common destiny, to start the process of catalysis which
foments the metaphysical mutation.
here we do encounter a real conflict, though for precisely the opposite reasons
to those advanced by the good professor. Is there not a clash between the
universalism of human concerns and the diversity of human cultures? Could our
world parliament, and the other measures proposed here - or, for that matter,
the metaphysical mutation itself - not accelerate the destruction of the
distinct forms of social organisation which so many of us in the global justice
movement rightly wish to defend?
is not the fey or aesthetic concern which some universalists have suggested. The
diversity of human cultures is valuable not only because it makes the world a
fascinating place. Many cultures have evolved the subtlest of responses, honed
over hundreds of generations, to environmental constraints. The anthropologist
Darrell Posey has shown, for example, how the Kayapó of the southern Amazon
have developed a farming system which permits them to survive in places
otherwise hostile to agriculture*14. They cultivate fire-resistant sweet
potatoes, which catch the nutrients released when tree-trunks are burnt, and a
staple crop which both produces its own pesticides, and, through a commensal
relationship with a species of ant, weeds itself. Their survival relies on a
refined appreciation of microclimates and the relationships between animals and
plants. By contrast to almost all the more recently established cultivators in
the Amazon, they both improve the soil, and, through planting islands of useful
trees in the savannah, expand the forest cover.
techniques are encoded in their songs and stories, and in concepts which cannot
be successfully translated into other languages. Their language and their sense
of self-worth, like those of most of the world’s indigenous people, are now
threatened; in this case by a combination of economic globalisation, political
oppression, and the seizure of their resources by other Brazilians. This
compromises not only their own economic survival, but also the survival of the
ecosystems in which they live. Nor are indigenous people the tiny minority we
often imagine. According to the United Nations, they comprise some five per cent
of the world’s population, or 300 million souls.
There is a conflict here which cannot be denied. There has always been a struggle between diversity and universalism. Those who, like most of the members of the global justice movement, wish to promote universal human rights find themselves at odds with cultural distinction whenever they contest female genital mutilation or the stoning of adulterers. By bringing people together politically, we are likely to enhance the use of common languages and common ways of thinking. We might also discover that we accelerate economic globalisation. All these factors have the potential further to undermine cultural identity.
But we also invoke a countervailing force, in the form of an unparalleled opportunity for advocacy. Already, indigenous representatives are making better use of international bodies than any other citizens’ groups, except, perhaps, development NGOs. Every few months, there are assemblies of people from all over the world whose cultures are threatened. Inuits from Greenland find common cause with the Dani of West Papua; the Maya agree strategy with the Maori. It is arguable that all that prevents the final destruction of most of the world’s indigenous peoples is the support which they and their defenders can summon from beyond their own national borders. By appealing to universalism, they defend diversity.
world parliament provides indigenous people with more potent opportunities for
mobilising global support. A parliamentary resolution condemning the treatment
of the Saami in Norway or the Aborigines in Australia could, for example, be
profoundly embarrassing to the democratically-elected governments of those
present, the coercive power of economic globalisation is unmatched by the moral
power of political globalisation. One paradoxical outcome of the Age of Consent
could be that we cultivate a universal consciousness of the right to be
But these considerations do convey a warning for our democratic model:
that we should be wary of striving for perfection. We
must accept that democracy will always be something of a mess. Attempting to
tidy it up too much could mean subordinating diversity to universalism and the
individual consciousness to the general will to such an extent that we may
establish the preconditions not for freedom but for captivity. We must leave
gaps between the building blocks, in case we accidentally build a wall.
there is no clearer exposition of the dangers of excessive tidiness than one of
the most advanced and most visible plans for a world parliament, the scheme
presented by a gathering of academics, bureaucrats and other worthy people who
call themselves the World Constitution and Parliament Association*15. The
Association’s proposals have carefully eliminated all the uncertainties
introduced by global democracy, by pre-ordaining its outcomes.
consultation or election, it has drawn up a “Constitution for the Federation
of Earth”. This provides for a world parliament consisting of three chambers,
namely an elected “House of Peoples”, an appointed “House of Nations”,
and a “House of Counsellors”, whose purpose is “to represent the highest
good and best interests of humanity as a whole”*16. Members of the House of
Counsellors will be proposed by representatives of the world’s universities,
colleges and scientific institutions, otherwise identifiable as “people like
us”. These guardians of “the highest good” will kindly spare the rest of
us the trouble of choosing a World President.
parliament will be accompanied by a “World Administration”, consisting of 30
departments of government, whose duties and powers have already been determined
by the Association. It will possess a “Presidium”, an “Integrative
Complex”, a “World Ombudsmus”, an “Office of World Attorneys General”,
a “World Supreme Court” and any number of other grand posts and positions,
some of which already appear to have been filled. Its decisions will be
“enforced” by the “World Police” which, “armed only with weapons
appropriate for the apprehension of the individuals responsible for violation of
world law”, will perform such light duties as ridding the world of nuclear
weapons. Happily, they won’t encounter much resistance, as “all member
nations shall disarm as a condition for joining and benefiting from the world
federation, subject to Article X VII, Sec. C-8 and D-6” of the World
democracy is not self-establishing, it is not democracy. Any system we initiate
must contain the scope for its own transformation or improvement, for all the
unanticipated developments propelled by the collective genius of free debate.
Far from seeking to pre-ordain its outcomes, we must pre-ordain only the
openness required to permit its electors’ chosen outcomes to evolve.
critics might suggest that we need to prescribe “subsidiarity”: the
principle that decision-making will always be devolved to the lowest possible
level. But while we would do well to hope that our assembly does not become so
intrusive or so pettifogging as to seek to wrench control of national or local
policy from national and local parliaments, there are three problems with
seeking to restrict its scope in advance. The first is that it is unnecessary:
while states continue to exist, they will, or so we should expect, contest its
ability to reach far into their domestic politicsY.
The second is that the line between what is properly the preserve of a national
government or a global body can be established only by practice, rather than
principle: it is hard to prescribe, for example, the extent to which a
government’s sovereignty should be challenged when it treats its own people
without humanity; the answer is likely to be different in every case. The third
is that we should not seek to pre-empt the will of future generations. Faced
with conditions yet more extreme than those to which we are responding today,
they might, for example, decide that the nation state retains no relevance or
purpose. Though we should be wary of parliamentarians seeking to seize too many
powers for themselves at the expense of their constituents, their scope for
abuse should be curtailed by our referendum, every ten or twenty years, on
whether or not the parliament should be dissolved.
Some members of the global justice movement have argued that even the
most open parliamentary model limits the scope of democratic choice, for the
simple reason that it relies on representation rather than participation. There
is no question that representative democracy is a clumsy system. The model
proposed here permits people to represent “us” even if they were fiercely
opposed by 49 per cent of their constituents. We elect them once, yet they
continue to represent us throughout their term of office, even if we later
change our minds. We may vote for them because we agree either with the policies
they choose to emphasise or with the majority of the policies they propose, or
simply because their policies are not as bad as those of the other candidates.
But once in office, they may press for other policies, which very few of their
constituents would support.
But, while representation without participation is clumsy, participation
without representation is simply the dictatorship of those who turn up. The
participants in any global gathering must be - by comparison to most of the
world’s people - rich, for they can afford to travel and can afford to take
time off from work. They must possess passports and enjoy freedom of movement,
which means that participation is also the privilege of people who are both
permitted to leave their home states and permitted to enter the state in which
the meeting is being held, without being turned away as suspected refugees.
Similar constraints govern electronic direct democracy: only the rich or the
educated have access to the necessary technology, and only the free are
permitted to use it.
The truth is that “direct democracy” of this kind is, at the global
level at least, a form of representative democracy, but one in which the
participants appoint themselves to represent the views of the rest of the world,
rather than being elected. Like the academics and bureaucrats who run the World
Constitution and Parliament Association,
they would be seizing, without a popular mandate, the power to determine how the
world should be run.
But there is no reason why our representative system cannot be tempered
with some forms of participation. We could envisage, for example, public
consultations on major decisions, especially those with constitutional
significance. There also seems to be a strong case for constituency ballots. If,
for example, the members of a constituency managed to gather a certain number of
signatures for a petition, they could demand a referendum on a decision their
representative was about to make. Perhaps we could also introduce the
possibility of a constituency vote of no confidence in its representative. If
successful, this would force a by-election: a possibility guaranteed to
concentrate the mind of any parliamentarian beginning to pull away from her
These safeguards alone might prove inadequate to the defence of the
world parliament from all the undemocratic pressures likely to confront it. Any
body which becomes politically effective will attract the attention of groups -
some of which will be extremely well-resourced and adept at persuasion - hoping
to obtain special favours. Democracy everywhere is compromised by the lobbying
power of special interest groups, particularly those representing the interests
of large corporations and powerful religious groups.
Those of us who have studied the co-option of democracy in nation states
or at the European level are familiar with a range of well-trodden techniques.
The richest lobby groups will establish offices with a permanent staff large
enough to outclass any competing interest, assign intelligent and well-rewarded
people to work on a particular issue, and gradually wear down the resistance of
our elected representatives.
In many nations, their assaults on democracy have been helped by their
financial contributions to political candidates or parties. They may also resort
to criminal bribery or, as I have documented elsewhere*18, to subtle or less
subtle forms of blackmail. The candidates themselves, if they are either
extremely rich or have the backing of someone who is, can effectively buy votes
through blanket advertising, handing out free gifts, or paying for some
grandiose and visible gift to the public, such as a free party, street lights,
even a football stadium, just before the election takes place.
All these distortions are compounded, on a daily basis, by the media organisations controlled by another special interest group (which is often affiliated to the powerful corporate or religious groups): the multi-millionaires who own them. Max Hastings, formerly editor of the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, afforded his readers a rare exposure of proprietorial pressure, when writing about his boss, Conrad Black*19. “Like most tycoons, Conrad was seldom unconscious of his responsibilities as a member of the rich men’s trade union. Those who have built large fortunes seldom lose their nervousness that some ill-wisher will find means to take their money away from them. They feel an instinctive sympathy for fellow multi-millionaires, however their fortunes have been achieved. … Not infrequently, adverse comment in our newspaper about some fellow mogul provoked Conrad’s wrath. Our excellent art critic, Richard Dorment, once wrote scathingly about the malign influence on the international art market of the vastly rich Walter Annenberg … It took some days of patient argument to dissuade Conrad from insisting upon Dorment’s execution for speaking unkindly of his old friend Walter.”*20
By appointing editors who represent and anticipate their points of view
and by instilling the fear of “execution” into their employees, proprietors
ensure that their opinions dominate and therefore distort the way their
newspapers, television and radio channels and websites report everything from
government initiatives and popular demonstrations to, as we have seen, the
structure of the art market. Almost all multi-millionaires are fiercely opposed
to the furtherance of the interests of the poor, as they have, by definition,
benefited from inequality. Even those with rather subtler politics than Conrad
Black’s are encouraged to advance the interests of capital by the requirements
of their advertisers, who do not wish to discover a promotion of their new car
on one page, and an article about the adverse impact of private transport on the
next. The great majority of the world’s media helps to limit our political
choices by misrepresenting them.
There are no definitive solutions to the distorting influence of
lobbyists and multi-millionaires, as it is in the nature of all special interest
groups that they will find enterprising means of negotiating the barriers we
might raise against them. But
are plenty of lessons to be learnt from systems which possess insufficient
safeguards. We should, for example, consider introducing a strict limit on the
amount of money that any candidate or party can spend on seeking election. There
is also a case for restricting the size of individual donations to the
equivalent of a few tens of dollars, if individual donations are to be permitted
at all. Some nations are beginning to discover that the only fair system for
funding candidates is state sponsorship. Our parliament, of course, has no state
to draw on, but one of the other proposals presented in this book would generate
many tens of billions of dollars, some of which we could hope to secure for the
perpetuation of our parliament and the funding of its candidates. Even so, we
would need to lay down rules governing the sources of money both the parliament
and the parliamentarians are permitted to use, and preventing any of its
possible sponsors (nation states or other institutions) from influencing the
decisions it makes. It seems to me that it would be better to run a skeleton
parliament which can discharge only a few of the functions we might envisage
than a lavishly-funded one which belongs to its sponsors.
is hard to see how we might prohibit the inordinate activities of the
professional lobbyists without also
prohibiting the petitions, complaints and suggestions from the public (and the
counter-petitions from the institutions about which the public might complain)
whose consideration is a large part of the business of a responsive global
parliament. But we might be able to prevent our representatives from being
unduly influenced by the special interest groups. One defence is full freedom of
information. If parliamentarians are acting in our interests, then they should
have nothing to hide from us. We have every reason to be suspicious of public
servants who refuse to let us see what they are doing.
global representatives would not be able to argue that they are prevented from
disclosing full details of all the meetings and discussions they attend by
concerns about “national security”, as they would have no national security
interests to defend. Our world parliament can therefore be more transparent than
any national parliament. In combination with our proposed ability to sack our
representatives, either individually or en masse, this provision is likely to
give us plenty of scope for forcing them out of the arms of the powerful. We
might also establish a strict definition of corruption, and call upon the
International Criminal Court to help us prosecute any representative who breaks
course the constraint which then emerges is the reporting of our
representatives’ activities, and of the circumstances governing the decisions
they make. Those who rely for their information on the mass media, owned by
multi-millionaires, are unlikely to discover that their representatives have
been too responsive to multi-millionaires. They may also be gravely misled about
the global context in which a debate is taking place, and the implications of
the possible decisions the parliament might make. A mass media which
systematically distorts our perception of the way the world is run is one of the
greatest impediments to democratic choice.
is no easy solution to this problem. Any attempt to lay down rules governing the
way the world’s affairs are reported would be either unenforceable or
oppressive. The gravest distortions, for example, often arise from the media’s
omissions: by ignoring the outrages commissioned by the powerful but emphasising
those perpetrated by the weak, and by disregarding the needs of the oppressed
while championing those of the oppressor, their factually correct but partial
reports can be just as misleading as their misreporting. It is not clear how one
might legislate to prevent this. And if legislation was so prescriptive that it
could govern editorial choice, it would surely also be so prescriptive as to
curtail the freedom of speech which is one of the predeterminants of democracy.
best we can do, I believe, is to seek to establish competing sources of
information. Already the global justice movement has produced thousands of
websites, magazines, videos, pamphlets and books. Most of them reach only those
who are interested already, and our resources are limited by comparison to those
of the corporations with which we are competing. But their audience appears to
be growing. The role of the world’s alternative media is rather like that of
the aediles, the parliamentary reporters appointed by the Consilium
Plebis. As our movement grows, the ratio of aediles
to other citizens will increase accordingly, until, perhaps, we can begin to tip
the balance against the mainstream media.
of our great challenges is to reach people who are illiterate and without access
to technology. This task requires hundreds of thousands of volunteers: it
responds, in other words, to our strengths. There are plenty of well-developed
techniques, perhaps the most effective being those devised by the Brazilian
educationalist Paolo Freire, for both raising people’s awareness of the
underlying causes of the problems they confront, and assisting them to listen
sceptically to the voices of the powerful*21. Interestingly, we may be helped
here by national governments, which, in a desperate attempt to re-awaken
people’s interest in politics (and thus enhance their democratic legitimacy),
have introduced citizenship lessons to schools. These, in some countries, draw
upon the liberal and liberating techniques of the barefoot pedagogists.
are a few other measures which could help to ensure that our parliamentarians
continue to represent their constituents rather than just the most aggressive
special interest groups. The first is to defend them from their own party
structures. In most of the world’s parliaments, representatives are controlled
by their party managers. On those issues considered by their leaders to be
important, they are told how to vote. Indeed, a “free vote” in some systems
is seen as a luxury, to be exercised only when the party leadership either
wishes to prevent a parliamentary rebellion or regards the issue as so
inconsequential that it does not matter which way the decision goes.
Parliamentarians, moreover, are expected, in their speeches and public
statements, to place their loyalty to the party and its policies above their
other concerns. These restraints, often described as the “whipping system”,
can be enforced with ferocity. Members of parliament in Britain, for example,
have complained of discovering that ballot papers have been completed for them
in advance, of being assaulted in the corridors of the House of Commons by the
“Whips”, and of being warned that if they do not do as the party says,
embarrassing details of their private lives will be passed to the tabloid
newspapers*22. British MPs know that they have no chance of promotion unless
they do precisely as they are told.
whipping system, in other words, is a system of blackmail. Its purpose is to
prevent our representatives from discharging their democratic duty, namely to
vote and act according to their consciences, informed by the interests of their
constituents. That this whipping system supplants our control of our
representatives with control by the party hierarchy; that it ensures that party
leaders rather than constituents are represented in the decisions they make; and
that the interests of the leadership are often at variance with the interests of
constituents, is so obvious that we surely tolerate this system only because it
is familiar to us.
of the governing party often maintain that this system is the only means of
implementing their political programmes. They promised in their manifestos to
introduce a body of legislation, and they can complete that programme only if
parliamentarians do as they are told. But hardly anyone votes for everything in
a party’s manifesto, and most voters for most parties are unhappy with at
least a few of the manifesto’s promises. These promises, moreover, while so
sacred when they prove to be politically expedient, turn out to be disposable as
soon as a government encounters more opposition from vested interests than it
expected. We should surely expect our representatives both to be able to force
the governing party to review the promises with which their constituents are
unhappy, and to keep the promises for which their constituents voted.
course, if our world parliament has, at least in the initial stages, no
executive and no direct legislative mandate, this excuse is removed outright.
But in all parliamentary systems, democratic consent, if it is to mean anything
at all, surely requires that party officials are forbidden to seek to interfere
with the decisions our representatives make. In our world parliament, we might
add this provision to those rules on corruption which could be enforced with the
help of the International Criminal Court.
A further protection could be to keep the salaries of the
parliamentarians relatively low. In countries in which the parliamentary wage is
much greater than the national average wage, the representatives are removed
from the people. Their salary encourages them to see themselves as a ruling
who defend high wages for representatives argue first that they are necessary to
attract the “best” candidates, secondly that they protect the successful
candidates from corruption, as they do not need to supplement their wages. But
it seems to me that the “best” candidates are the men and women who are
prepared to subordinate their own interests to those of the people they are
supposed to represent. High wages attract greedy people. If MPs are paid less,
then people who are interested only in self-advancement are likely to keep away
from parliament. Instead of lamenting their disappearance, as most of those in
the political classes do, we should wish them good riddance.
In the early 1990s, Brazil’s congressmen sought to eliminate
corruption (or this, at any rate, was their excuse) by awarding themselves the
highest parliamentary salaries in the world. All that happened was that they
gained sufficient legitimate wealth to hide the extra money some of them made by
taking bribes. No one could now point to their new cars and new houses as proof
that they were taking money to which they were not entitled. High wages,
moreover, as anyone who has studied remuneration in the corporate sector knows,
appear not to satisfy greed, but to encourage it.
There seems to be an argument, then, for pegging global parliamentary
salaries somewhere close to the global average wage. There is also an argument
for preventing our representatives from taking money from any other source
during their term in office. Representing us should be a full time job. These
are all high, even draconian, standards to demand of our representatives. But
the paradox of parliament is that the more their options are restrained, the
more open our system remains.
For similar reasons, we might demand that the parliament should be
established in a poor country. While this may permit parliamentarians to see
themselves as superior to those who live around them, that hazard is likely to
be counteracted by their absorption of the perspectives of those they encounter
while on parliamentary business. If we wish to contest the excessive power of
the wealthiest nations, we harm our cause by permitting our assembly to be based
in one of them.
Counter-democratic pressures of the kind I have listed here are often
advanced as arguments against a world parliament. If we have so much difficulty
holding our national representatives to account, would that difficulty not be
compounded at the global level? It is certainly true that the greater the scale
on which an organisation operates, the less responsive it tends to become to the
people it is supposed to serve. It is also true that it is harder to co-ordinate
the opposition of ten million people to a policy, especially if they are
distributed across national borders, than the opposition of ten thousand people.
But all the counter-democratic pressures listed here operate whether a world
parliament exists or not. Indeed, they are far more potent when applied to
bodies which have no claim to democratic legitimacy, by which I mean all the
current organs of global governance. Abandoning the idea of a world parliament
does not mean that these pressures go away, simply that we have no means of
preventing them from being exerted. The alternative to a world parliament, in
other words, is not no global
governance, but governance by a few self-appointed and unaccountable men in the
rich world. That democracy is hazardous and uncertain of success is not an
argument against democracy. It is an argument for public vigilance.
But a world parliament will rapidly discover that there are limits to
its powers. Its moral authority will force international bodies to amend some of
their practices; it will not, as I have suggested, persuade them to close
themselves down. Nor, without resort to armed force, will it be able to prevent
conflict between states or prevent a state from murdering its people. While
nation states exist, political globalisation, however legitimate, must be
accompanied by internationalism, if we are to retain any possibility of
preventing international violence.
This suggests that, if there is to be a corrective to global governance
by means of brute force, we will continue to require an international body which
attempts to broker peace between armed states. We could (and should) disinvent
the United Nations Security Council, but we would swiftly discover that we had
to develop another organisation, with a similar mandate.
If such a
body is to be regarded as both legitimate and authoritative, it must surely be
seen to operate by means of consent, rather than coercion. This suggests that
the organisation responsible for global security should be as democratic as an international
body can be.
democratic security system would be controlled not by five self-appointed
governments, but by the entire General Assembly. Each nation’s vote would be
weighted according to both the number of people it represents and the democratic
legitimacy it possesses.
government of Tuvalu, representing 10,000 people, would, then, have a far
smaller vote than the government of China. But China, in turn, would possess far
fewer votes than it would if its government was democratically elected. Rigorous
means of measuring democratisation are beginning to be developed by bodies such
as the Centre for Business and Policy Studies in Sweden and Democratic Audit in
the United Kingdom. It would not be hard, using their criteria, to compile an
objective global index of democracy. Governments, under this system, would be
presented with a powerful incentive to democratise: the more democratic they
became, the greater would be their influence over world affairs.
would possess a veto. The most consequential decisions - to go to war for
example - should require an overwhelming majority of the assembly’s weighted
votes. This means that powerful governments wishing to recruit reluctant nations
to their cause would be forced to bribe or blackmail most of the rest of the
world to obtain the results they wanted. The nations whose votes they needed
most would be the ones whose votes were hardest to buy.
and the world parliament are likely both to enhance each other’s legitimacy
and to restrain each other’s actions. The incentive to democratise would
discourage governments from banning elections to a world parliament. The
parliament’s ability to review the decisions of the General Assembly would
reinforce the Assembly’s democratic authority. We might anticipate a shift of
certain powers from the indirectly elected body to the directly elected one. We
could begin, in other words, to see the development of a bicameral parliament
for the planet, which starts to exercise some of the key functions of
The problem this scheme immediately encounters is that we can do nothing
to change the way the United Nations works except at the behest of the five
nations which control it. They can veto any attempt to remove their veto. They
can use the UN Charter to prevent any changes to the Charter.
appeared, until March 2003, to be an intractable problem. In the past, global
security arrangements have been radically altered only in the wake of
devastating world wars. But by shoving aside the Security Council in order to
prosecute its war with Iraq, the United States may have begun to destroy the
system which had formerly served it so well.
to war without the council’s authorisation, and against the wishes of three of
its permanent members and most of its temporary members, the US appears to have
ceased even to pretend to play by the
rules. If this is so, then the Security Council’s residual claims to
legitimacy and relevance will evaporate. It will lose its power of restraint.
This would leave other nations with just two options.
The first is to accept that the
security system has broken down and that disputes between nations will in future
be resolved by means of bilateral diplomacy backed by force of arms. A world
with no system would be, as we would soon discover, even crueller than a world
with the wrong system. There would be no means of preventing the escalation of
disputes and the possibility of world war.
is to tear up the UN’s constitution, override the US veto and build a new
(and, we should hope, more democratic) global security system. This is a bold
and dangerous strategy.
system, just as the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto protocol on
climate change have done, would have to begin without the involvement of the
United States. The world’s foremost military power would not then be party to
the system of international law.
expect the US government to react with even greater hostility to this proposal
than it has done towards the criminal court. The United States has tolerated the
existing system only because it is undemocratic. A system which the US could
neither veto nor easily reduce to an instrument of its foreign policy would be
perceived as a threat to its power. The US government would then threaten to
settle its disputes without reference to anybody else.
So if a
democratic security system, built on the weighted votes of the General Assembly,
were to be devised, we would need either to persuade the United States to join
and live by the rules, or to reduce its power to act outside the system. This
second task is surely necessary whether the existing Security Council collapses
important to remember here that the excesses of the US government do not suggest
that there is anything the matter with the American people. Their government has
behaved as any lone democratic superpower would behave. It is threatening simply
because it is powerful. Part of the purpose of a democratic security system
would be to prevent any nation from becoming so powerful again.
military power of the United States looks unchallengeable, it is, in other
respects, far weaker than it might appear. Its vast national debt and budget
deficit are sustainable only because the dollar has become the dominant
international currency. As Chapter 5 will explain, the US obtains a massive
subsidy from this arrangement. This is unlikely to last. In Europe and China the
case for holding currency reserves in euros or yuan, rather than dollars is
being seriously considered. In 2000, Saddam Hussein insisted that Iraq’s oil
be purchased in euros, not dollars. Other oil producing states have, as the
euro’s value increases and their trade with Europe expands, powerful economic
reasons to follow him. If they do, the international requirement for dollars
could be greatly reduced. Indeed, the need to prevent this possibility might
have been one of the reasons for the US government’s determination to go to
war with Iraq.*23.
of the world, in other words, has the means to wreck the US economy, and, in
doing so, to threaten its status as the global hegemon. This may be necessary if
we are to construct a world order based on equity and justice.
expect our governments to seek every opportunity to duck these challenges.
Confrontation with the superpower is something almost all of them have sought to
avoid. I suspect, though, that oil traders, financial speculators
and independent central banks will unwittingly begin to establish the
financial pre-conditions for US containment on their behalf. Their courage will
then be measured by their preparedness to seize the opportunity this creates.
They will find this courage only if their electorates (led by a global justice
movement which has, in many countries, given rise to and merged with the new
peace campaigns) press home their
duty to prevent the possibility of another world war.
 Russia acquired the seat formerly occupied by the Soviet Union. China’s seat was, following the revolution, held by Taiwan (the Republic of China) until 1971, when it reverted to the People’s Republic (mainland China).
 They have been used on eleven occasions between 1990 and 2001. Six of these were US vetoes on resolutions restraining Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians*34.
 In Articles 108 and 109.
 In 1996, for example, the US blocked the re-appointment of Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
 A horizontal diffusion means that, as decisions are split between a huge number of representatives, their individual contribution becomes so small as to be negligible, which means that they cannot individually be held to account for what happens. A vertical diffusion means that accountability becomes lost in the obscure hierarchy of committees and sub-committees.
 I have used Houllebecq’s term throughout this book, though it might be more accurate to describe a change in the way human beings think as an epistemological mutation. While metaphysics is “the science of being”, epistemology means the theory of knowledge.
 “Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.”
 This is the biggest of the global justice movement’s gatherings. In 2003, over 100,000 people took part. The first three forums have been held in Porto Alegre, in Brazil. In 2004 the meeting is likely to move to India.
 The data on national election costs are sparse (but for some reason more abundant for Africa than any other continent). I have taken the costs of general elections in five poor nations (Kenya, Senegal, Togo, Mozambique and Ghana) and two rich nations (the United States and Australia) and divided them by their populations to arrive at an average cost per citizen of $1.03*41. Multiplied by the world population, this gives a very tentative $6.46 billion. I have reduced it to account for economies of scale (the election would be co-ordinated by a single administration).
 The European parliament at Strasbourg, at 220,000m2, cost $560 million to build*42. If the world parliament is based in a poor nation, as I suggest later in the text, the building costs would be reduced. Construction costs an average of $567/m2 in the Philippines and $657/m2 in Kenya*43, giving $124.7 million and $144.5 million respectively. I have doubled the figure and rounded it up to account for the cost of equipment and recruitment.
 The Strasbourg parliament costs $1.005 billion a year to run*44. It is slightly bigger than the proposed world parliament (750 seats). While staff costs in a poor nation will be lower, the MPs’ travel and interpretation costs will be higher, so I’m guessing that the overall expense would be roughly the same. These calculations are, of course, rudimentary. Their purpose is to provide an idea of the order of cost.
 This point has been made by the legal theorists Richard Falk and Andrew Strauss.
 I am indebted to Troy Davis for persuading me of the benefits of this approach.
 The Bank has since been accused of backtracking*48, but the WCD’s report has proved invaluable to the people seeking to hold it to account.
 The ratification of the ICC, in 2002, could be viewed as the first clear victory for democratic globalisation. It is, in some respects, a global criminal court as, unlike the International Court of Justice, its resolutions do not depend on direct brokerage between nation states. It came into being partly as a result of determined lobbying by civil society, in particular the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, which is a network of over 1,000 NGOs.
 The European Union has intruded so far into domestic policy partly because it was initially an international body, empowered to do so by the member states.
This paper is chapter 4
from The Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a New World Order, by George Monbiot,
published by Flamingo, 2003.