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.

Annual meeting of the Japanese Diet Committee for the World Federalist Movement, 12 May 2020. Image source: www.gpaj.org

“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.

Sukehiro Hasegawa

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.

Civil society declarations support a UN Parliamentary Assembly

Manifesto on global democratic governance

As a response to the coronavirus pandemic, a new manifesto launched by the Argentinian civil society organization Democracia Global this week calls for "shared sovereignty, coordination and cooperation at the global level" and a "more federal and democratic political structure able to regulate globalization."

The document is open for endorsements and the website so far lists initial support from around twenty groups as well as sixty individuals, among them five former heads of state or government from Belgium, Croatia, Mali, Mexico and Uruguay.

The signatories of the statement "urgently ask national leaders and inter-national institutions to take lessons from the Coronavirus crisis. Let’s work together to enable a better integrated 21st Century political system, reinforcing regional institutions, reforming the United Nations and making each level of governance more representative and effective; for example, through the creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly."

Declaration on the UN's 75th anniversary

Another declaration that was drafted by the UN2020 civil society initiative and the London-based campaign Together First was presented at a virtual "people's forum" on 14 May 2020 to the president of the current 74th session of the UN General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande from Nigeria.

The 12-page document is intended to serve as input to the intergovernmental consultations on the UN's 75th anniversary and a summit that is currently scheduled to take place in September in New York.

Among other things, the document calls for "a mandated post-2020 follow-up mechanism" to enhance global governance, better funding for the United Nations and enhanced participation of civil society.

The annex lists several further proposals, among them a directly elected UN Parliamentary Assembly that "would promote the well-being of all people and the planet".

Need of a global parliament highlighted at two events

The need of a global parliamentary body was highlighted previously at two virtual events in April, one organized by the Baha’i International Community in collaboration with UN2020 and Together First and another by the Global Challenges Foundation and the Swedish foreign ministry.

Top image: Since 10 March 2020 the UNHQ is closed to the public, due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Image: UN Photo/Mark Garten

Livingstone Sewanyana

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the right of everyone to take part in public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives. This right is not restricted to local matters and extends to global institutions. A UN World Citizens' Initiative and a UN World Parliamentary Assembly represent innovative mechanisms for citizen involvement in global affairs which I proudly associate with.

International peace conference in South Korea supports a UN Parliamentary Assembly

An outcome message of this year’s PyeongChang Peace Forum from 9-11 February 2020 in South Korea that brought together around 4,000 participants calls on the UN's member states to "consider bold proposals, such as a UN Parliamentary Assembly and the World Citizens Initiative to ensure clear, meaningful and empowered civil society consultation and representation within the UN system."

Panel on UN75 with UN Under Secretary-General Fabrizio Hochschild (left)

The call was made in connection with the UN's 75th anniversary that is being commemorated this year. The message says that "civil society advocates are deeply concerned about a UN system that is under-resourced, under attack, underutilized, and unable to respond adequately to the many challenges facing humanity and the planet."

At a panel discussion in PyeongChang, the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy on the UN75 commemorations, Fabrizio Hochschild, noted that it was "a paradox of our time" that countries were retreating from international collaboration "while it is needed more than ever before."

The proposal of a UN Parliamentary Assembly was raised as a way to give representatives of "We, the Peoples" a stronger voice in UN affairs.

Jeffrey Huffines of the UN2020 and Together First civil society initiatives announced that an NGO Peoples’ Forum will be held in New York on 23 April 2020 in order to discuss joint positions of global civil society.

The Secretary-General of the Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly, Andreas Bummel, recalled that the final declaration of the Millennium NGO Forum twenty years ago already included strong support for a UN body composed of elected representatives. "We know that the current environment at the UN isn't good but at the very least we now need to create strong reference points for a Post-2020 process," he said.

More information

PyeongChang Message for Peace 2020

Mephato Reatile

As the world is struggling with major challenges and global institutions such as the UN are ever more important, we need to give a voice to the voiceless. The creation of the International Criminal Court was a milestone for global justice. In a similar way, it is my hope that a UN Parliamentary Assembly will be a milestone for global democracy. I am delighted to support this cause.

Abdihakim Moallim Ahmed Malin

In my capacity as a member of the Somali Parliament and the Pan-African Parliament, I would like to express my endorsement of the establishment of a UN Parliamentary Assembly. The formation of this body will give the citizens of the world the opportunity to have their voice heard at the United Nations and will help highlight issues of global importance. A UN Parliamentary Assembly represents a key contribution to building global democracy, an ideal we all should aspire to reach. It will ensure that the world body and global governance are closer to citizens of the world and their true needs.

Kandeh Yumkella

The United Nations policy-making organs should reflect the realities of the 21st Century, especially the rise of the Global South and changing demographics. A UN Parliamentary Assembly will be one way of ensuring an inclusive global governance system and democratic representation of the world's citizens.