Symposium discusses the question of whether democratic global governance is possible

21. June 2012

Bob Brown: Creation of a global parliament “inevitable”

At a symposium held last Friday at the University of Sydney the question was addressed whether “democratic global governance” was possible. The featured speaker was Senator Bob Brown from the Australian Greens Party, who has twice

Bob Brown
Image: Australian Greens

introduced resolutions into the Australian Senate in support of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly and who talked about “The inevitability of a global parliament.”

Brown emphasized the struggle ahead to achieve a sustainable way of living for the planet. “We are already consuming resources at 120% of the sustainable rate, and on current projections the rate will get five times worse by the end of the century. Until we recognize that we’re all equal on this little planet, we’re not going to be able to live with each other.” He attacked national sovereignty as a “prescription for failure”, and said the world should operate under a bicameral parliament to determine international issues like nuclear weapons, transnational financial arrangements and a tax to solve world poverty. “It’s simply common sense”, Brown said.

Another speaker, Michael Cornish from the University of Adelaide, discussed the idea of a UN Parliamentary Assembly. He pointed out that

Jake Lynch, Michael Cornish and Bob Brown
Image: WCA

it is a proposal that “seeks to democratise global governance through the gradual implementation of democratic participation and representation, using the existing United Nations as its vehicle for implementation.” Many details remain to be worked out, but the principle of democracy is clear. Government must be “of the people, by the people, for the people”, as Abraham Lincoln said. He asked the audience to “dream big, and then persist, and persist, and persist to make it into a reality”.

European integration as a model?

The lead speaker was Chris Hamer, President of the World Citizens Association of Australia, who discussed “Pathways to Democratic Global Governance”. He noted that uniting seven billion people and 200 nations under a global parliament or world federation is an enormous task, “analogous to climbing Mount Everest.” World

Brett Bowden, Chris Hamer and Jonathan Kuyper
Image: WCA

federalists, he said, “have tried various routes, including the constitutional route, the UN reform route, the democratic route, and the regional route.” He emphasized that since “nobody can predict where the eventual breakthrough might occur, world federalists need to support each other in pushing forward on all fronts.”

According to Hamer, the most successful strategy has been that of European integration which started with a small group of progressive states in an association with limited aims. It evolved through successive treaties to arrive at the present European Union. He suggested that this strategy could be reproduced at the world stage and put forward a scheme for a “World Community of Democracies”, based upon NATO and the OECD, as a first step towards an eventual system of universal, democratic global governance.

Other speakers at the event included Brett Bowden, from the University of Western Sydney, Jonathan Kuyper, from the Centre for Deliberative Democracy at the Australian National University, and Jake Lynch, the Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.

The occasion coincided with Bob Brown’s retirement from the Australian Senate. He told the audience that he was looking forward to “getting out of the cage and getting on to important issues” as an advocate for global democracy and a global parliament.

The symposium was hosted jointly by the World Citizens Association of Australia, and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney.

Read more

30 June 2011: Australia should support efforts for a global parliament: Green party leader

02 April 2012: World Congress of Green parties calls for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly

Top image: Students at the University of Sydney, Australia, listen to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s lecture, transmitted live via speakers, By United Nations, 7 September 2011, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Tags: Australia