The UN at 75: United Nations Parliamentary Assembly "more important than ever"

22. September 2020

New study recommends a UN Parliamentary Assembly

On the occasion of the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) that started last week in New York, a study published by Democracy Without Borders recommends the establishment of a new parliamentary body at the UN.

According to the Berlin-based international group that coordinates the international Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA), the new body would help “promote global collaboration and democracy” at a “critical time”, adding that it was "more important than ever."

The study says that a citizen-elected global parliament would empower citizens, civil society and global institutions “to work together for the global common good.”

The document points out that in a first step, the UN General Assembly could establish the new parliamentary body “without the need to amend the UN Charter” as a largely consultative body whose powers would be expanded gradually. This means that no approval of the Security Council would be required. The study explains that members initially could be appointed by political groups in national or regional parliaments. The goal, however, should be direct elections.

“We urge diplomats in New York and leaders in the world’s capitals to support the creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly. The UN’s 75th anniversary is the right opportunity”, said the group's Executive Director, Andreas Bummel, who also heads the Secretariat of the Campaign for a UNPA. 

UNPA would make the UN more democratic, legitimate and effective

At an event on a more democratic UN organized by the University of Padova in Italy, the co-chair of the campaign, Argentine legislator Fernando Iglesias, highlighted the importance of a UNPA to strengthen the UN's legitimacy and thus enabling it to take on a more relevant role in dealing with matters of global concern such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking at an online panel organized as part of the virtual UN75 Global Governance Forum, South African legislator Nomsa Tarabelle Marchesi noted that a UNPA "needs teeth" and that the Covid-19 crisis has exposed "how flawed the current global cooperation system is" as it lacks transparency and effectiveness.

The UN’s independent expert on international democracy, Livingstone Sewanyana, commented that “this new assembly is necessary to improve the democratic character of the United Nations and global governance.”

The international campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly since 2007 got support from over 1,500 current and former elected representatives from more than 100 countries. It was launched under the auspices of the late former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. The proposal was first put forward in 1949.

The new study is the most comprehensive assessment of its implementation so far. It was co-authored by Maja Brauer, a political scientist affiliated with Democracy Without Borders, and Andreas Bummel.

In May 2020, the proposal of a “of a directly elected advisory UN Parliamentary Assembly” was endorsed in the UN75 People’s Declaration of global civil society prepared by the UN2020 campaign.