PACE: "Global governance must be based on democratic principles", debate on UN's parliamentary dimension

1. October 2009

In a resolution on the reform of the United Nations which was adopted today, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has called for "the incorporation of a democratic element in the United Nations system." While the assembly reiterates its "unabated support" to the UN and multilateralism, it also stresses that "the United Nations is in urgent need of a far-reaching reform in order to make it more transparent, accountable and capable of facing the global challenges of today's world." The resolution states that the assembly regrets that although numerous reform proposals have been advanced over the last years in the UN none of them aimed at "improving the democratic character of the United Nations." This could be done, according to PACE, through "the introduction of a parliamentary element in the structure of the UN General Asssembly."

"We need a parliamentary body in the United Nations," said Andi Gross, leader of the Socialist Group in PACE and parliamentarian from Switzerland who introduced the resolution as responsible rapporteur of PACE's Political Affairs Committee. "Some words are missing from the UN Charter, these are democracy and fair representation. There is a distance between the UN and the people. This democracy defict needs to be addressed," Gross emphasized.

Taking the floor during the debate, Hendrick Daems, Member of Parliament from Belgium, said that a parliamentary body composed of "elected people" would be important in order to implement "checks and balances" at the UN. Paolo Giaretta, a Senator from Italy, remarked that no alteration of the UN Charter would be necessary to create a UN Parliamentary Assembly. "The procedure to be followed is Article 22 of the UN Charter according to which the UN General Assembly may establish subsidiary organs," Mr Giaretta pointed out.

The Swiss parliamentarian Doris Stump stressed the important achievements which the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the association of national parliaments, has already reached in establishing a parliamentary dimension at the UN. Mrs Stump in particular refered to the IPU's observer status at the UN and that yearly hearings are carried out.

The resolution adopted by PACE now suggests that a UN Parliamentary Assembly could be "composed either by representatives of international regional parliamentary assemblies or directly elected representatives." Rapporteur Andi Gross stated that "nobody should claim to have the exclusive solution." The Chair of the Policial Affairs Commission, the Swedish parliamentarian Göran Lindblad, added that from his point of view there could be multiple ways at the same time to strengthen the UN's parliamentary dimension.

The resolution was part of a report on UN reform prepared by Mr Gross. An amendment was passed in order to acknowledge that besides of a new assembly, the IPU is "one of the potential options to be considered as the parliamentary branch of the UN." "We want to work together," Mr Gross commented.