Sam OnuigboThe impacts of climate change are devastatingly felt across the world. To combat the climate crisis effectively, legislators as representatives of the people have a crucial role to play. This must extend to the UN and global governance. That's why I endorse the creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly that can provide oversight and push for decisive action.
Lawmakers in a joint statement call on UN to consider Parliamentary Assembly, other proposals
In a joint statement published on 26 January 2022, more than 120 parliamentarians from over 40 countries call on the United Nations and its member states to strengthen the world organization’s “democratic and participatory character.”
The document recommends that three proposals should be implemented, among them a UN Parliamentary Assembly, in short UNPA, which includes elected representatives. The other two proposals are a UN World Citizens’ Initiative which enables people to put forward proposals on key issues of global concern and a high-level UN Civil Society Envoy to enable greater participation of civil society representatives.
The statement lends political support to a global campaign of 200 civil society groups rallying for these reform ideas dubbed “We The Peoples” in reference to the opening words of the UN’s Charter. It follows on a report of UN Secretary-General António Guterres titled “Our Common Agenda” which highlighted the need for greater participation and inclusion of various stakeholders in the UN’s work.
The lawmakers suggest that governments should establish a “Group of Friends for Inclusive Global Governance” that works to advance the three proposals “in collaboration with parliamentarians, civil society and experts” with a view of a “Summit of the Future” which Guterres proposed for 2023.
Democracy Without Borders, Democracy International, and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation are the organizations leading the “We The Peoples” campaign. They commented that the support of parliamentarians from around the world sends a strong signal that, in the midst of a global pandemic and the climate crisis, global governance urgently requires a democratic transformation in order to bring ordinary citizens closer to the UN and global decision-making.
A separate campaign for a UNPA that has been run by Democracy Without Borders for fifteen years over time was endorsed by more than 1,700 current and former members of parliament, among others. The new statement connects these efforts to a broader program for inclusive global governance and the ongoing UN consultations on the "Our Common Agenda" report.
Civil society statement on "inclusive global governance" calls for a UN Parliamentary Assembly
On the occasion of the International Day for Multilateralism on 24 April, a group of 100 civil society organisations has issued a joint statement calling on the UN and its member states to implement three proposals "to strengthen the inclusive and democratic character" of the world organization. One of the demands is the creation of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA).
The statement points out that this new assembly would allow "for the inclusion of elected representatives in the agenda-setting and decision-making of the UN." Further, according to the document, a UNPA is supposed to "act as a representative body and watchdog connecting the people with the UN and reflecting a broad diversity of global viewpoints."
The endorsement of this proposal in the joint civil society statement represents another major step forward in a campaign for a UNPA that has been ongoing since 2007. In January, a UN report on public consultations carried out in the course of 2020 identified a UNPA as one of the most frequently mentioned proposals in the field of renewing the UN.
Signatories of the new statement include organisations such as Avaaz, Greenpeace and Open Society Foundations as well as networks such as the Coalition for the UN We Need, Forus International, Together 2030 and Together First. It was initiated under the title of "We The Peoples" by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Democracy International and Democracy Without Borders. The latter also serves as Secretariat of the UNPA campaign.
The other two proposals highlighted in the joint statement are the instrument of a UN World Citizens' Initiative as well as a high-level UN focal point for civil society.
Top image: A view of the flag of the United Nations that flies in front of UN Headquarters in New York. UN Photo/Evan Schneider
Gulnara ShahinianThe need for democratization of the UN has been widely discussed within the organization and raised by former UN Secretary Generals. Furthermore, the need for modernizing the UN to more effectively address the challenges of the modern world has also been recognized. Adopted after the Second World War, the UN’s structures, policies and rules are not only inadequate in the current world, they perpetuate inefficiency and paralysis. I believe that modernization and democratization go hand in hand. Democracy Without Borders pursues a promising approach by advocating a strengthening of democratic representation and participation of citizens. Creating a UN Parliamentary Assembly in particular would address the UN’s democratic deficit by giving the people a stronger voice in decisions that affect them.
UN report: a UN Parliamentary Assembly could serve as a "citizens' advisory body"
In a global consultation carried out by the United Nations in the course of 2020, citizens worldwide overwhelmingly expressed support of international cooperation but also raised the need for the United Nations to innovate and become more inclusive. Launched to mark the organization’s 75th anniversary, the exercise was the UN’s most ambitious effort so far to gather input from the global public. According to the UN, more than 1.5 million people from 195 countries took part through surveys and dialogues.
An overview of responses and conclusions was provided in a 96-pages report in January. The document points out that some of the most frequently shared and key ideas offered by dialogue participants to renew the UN included stronger moral leadership of the UN, making the UN Security Council more representative, re-consideration of the veto power of permanent members, convening a global intergovernmental conference “to reformulate key aspects and mechanisms of global governance” and improving the participation of non-governmental groups and stakeholders, among other things.
The UN report elaborates on the proposal of a UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) promoted by Democracy Without Borders and a broad spectrum of civil society organizations from across the world. For instance, the proposal was endorsed in the UN75 People’s Declaration adopted in May 2020 as a common platform of global civil society or put forward by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation at a high-level meeting organized by the UN’s Economic and Social Council in July 2020.
Specifically, the UN75 document observes that “the UN can be democratized” through reforms “such as establishing a UN parliamentary assembly as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly under article 22 of the Charter.”
Further, in a section on an “inclusive and participatory UN system”, it is said that a parliamentary assembly, representative of the voice of the people, “could be established to serve as the citizens’ advisory body to the General Assembly.”
Democracy Without Borders’ Executive Director Andreas Bummel, who is also coordinator of the international Campaign for a UNPA, commented that it was now high time for the UN and member states to seriously consider the proposal. “The UN75 consultations confirm once again that citizens want this to be done”, he said.
Top image: A woman from St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean holds up a sign after completing the UN75 survey. Image: UN
Augusto Lopez-ClarosAs we face a whole range of unresolved global problems, many of them casting a shadow over the future of our species, we urgently need to revitalize our mechanisms of international cooperation. At the center of this is the transformation of the United Nations into a problem-solving organization and, without doubt, the establishment of a Parliamentary Assembly would be a powerful catalyst to enable the UN to live up to the ideals on which it was founded, delivering peace, security and prosperity for all.
Over 100 Japanese lawmakers call for a UN Parliamentary Assembly
According to the Japanese Parliamentary Group for World Federation, more than 100 members of the Japanese House of Representatives and the House of Councillors, the two chambers of the National Diet, in recent weeks endorsed an international call for the creation of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly. Signatories include parliamentarians from all major parties.
“These endorsements confirm that a UN Parliamentary Assembly is one of the important topics that needs consideration in the discussion on how to achieve more effective and more inclusive global governance. We urge the Japanese government to look into the subject”, said lawmaker Seishirō Etō, chair of the Japanese Parliamentary Group for World Federation.
The international call recommends “a gradual implementation of democratic participation and representation on the global level” and suggests that “the establishment of a consultative Parliamentary Assembly at the United Nations” is “an indispensable step”.
A report presented by the Japan Commission on Global Governance in May already highlighted broad support of the proposal.
Sukehiro Hasegawa, chair of the commission, is quoted in the report saying that “global challenges such as pandemics of infectious diseases, environmental pollution and climate change, conflicts and terrorism, widening gaps between rich and poor, financial and energy problems” could not “be handled effectively by UN agencies which are based on the sovereign state system.” It was “becoming necessary to transform the UN system by establishing a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly as the preliminary step for creation of the World Parliament”.
The commission’s sub-committee on parliamentary diplomacy recommended that a UN Parliamentary Assembly should be promoted by individual politicians and in international parliamentary settings.
The support from Japanese legislators was strongly welcomed by representatives of the international campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly. “This initiative indicates that Japan could play a leading role in building support for the proposal”, said Andreas Bummel, the campaign’s Secretary-General and Executive Director of Democracy Without Borders.
The Japanese Diet in a landmark resolution adopted fifteen years ago resolved that Japan should strive towards the realization of a world federation in order to achieve world peace. There is an understanding that a UN Parliamentary Assembly may be a step in this direction.
Top image: Building of the National Diet in Tokyo. Image taken in 2011. Source: Flickr/Dick Thomas Johnson, CC BY 2.0
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The UN at 75: United Nations Parliamentary Assembly "more important than ever"
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.
David Victori Blaya
After this pandemic we cannot afford to lose this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to organise and demand—as united people—a global parliament based on a universal global constitution capable of taking care of every global challenge in the common good.
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the need for a UN Parliamentary Assembly that can address human security and other global issues of direct concern to the people around the world more directly than other organs of the United Nations. The existing UN General Assembly and the Security Council represent the executive branch of sovereign states that are primarily concerned with national security and interests. The world needs to transcend the Westphalian system of independent states to a world federation to deal with global issues such as coronavirus pandemic, climate change, arms proliferation and international terrorism by the norms and standards set by its Parliamentary Assembly.