Panel in Washington D.C. debates Global Parliament

28. March 2009

During its annual meeting March 19-21 in Washington D.C., Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS) presented a plenary session to discuss the topic, “Is the World Ready for a Parliamentary Assembly?” organized by CGS’s think tank, the World Federalist Institute. The panel consisted of four speakers: Faye Leone, Program Officer for International Democratic Governance at the World Federalist Movement; Jeffrey Laurenti, Senior Fellow and Director of Foreign Policy Programs at the Century Foundation; Andrew Strauss, Professor of International Law at Widener University’s School of Law; and Fernando Iglesias, Member of Parliament, Argentinian Low Chamber. The moderator for the session was Joseph Schwartzberg, Professor Emeritus in Geography at the University of Minnesota.

Ms. Leone gave a brief history of the movement to create a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) and pointed out the key tension between the size of a parliamentary assembly and the size of the constituencies represented. Then, Mr. Laurenti expressed his skepticism about a global UNPA being successful. His key objection was that if more than half of the world operates under non-democratic regimes, what authority would a UNPA possess and why should serious policy makers even participate?

Dr. Strauss stated that the international status quo does not represent people and therefore lacks the authority to deal effectively with global threats like nuclear annihilation. Acknowledging Laurenti’s point that initially a UNPA would lack decision-making power, Strauss argued that by representing citizens it would acquire more authority which would ultimately lead to political power. Pursuing the same logic, Mr. Iglesias used the Spanish word “parlamento” which is derived from the Latin root “to speak,” to emphasize that parliament is a place where discussion occurs, even if action cannot immediately follow. He then recited several cases in history when social change seemed impossible, such as the eradication of slavery, but eventually was achieved through public debate and political pressure.