New book illustrates how a UN Parliamentary Assembly could be created, boosts campaign

The case for creating a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) rests on two widely accepted truths.

The first is the proposition that democratic governance is a good thing. Most people would agree with that. Indeed, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 21, clause 3) affirms that, “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections…” There are only 48 of the world’s 193 governments that are considered (by organizations like Freedom House) not to be democratic; and many of these governments actually claim that they are democratic. With the end of the Cold War, democracy has become a universal value.

Joseph Schwartzberg's book was published in July 2012

The second proposition relied upon by UNPA campaigners is the importance and relevance of global governance. Many of the most important issues affecting the well-being of citizens – our security, climate, the integrity of our financial structures, etc. – are global in their scope. They are beyond the capacity of national jurisdictions and present international organizations to adequately address. Okay, fair enough. You don’t get any arguments anymore over the existence of “globalization” or the importance of global issues.

But when UNPA campaigners try to combine these two widely accepted truths – the existence of a global political agenda and the inherent desirability of democracy – to make the pitch for a UNPA, well, that’s when eyes glaze over and questions arise.

Tell them that most international organizations already have a companion parliamentary assembly, but the UN does not. Tell them it’s not necessary to reform the UN Charter to create a UNPA. Tell them it would evolve gradually, beginning first as a consultative body, just as the European Parliament has done. No matter. Somehow, folks just have a tough time imagining it.

This is why Joe Schwartzberg’s volume, Creating a World Parliamentary Assembly: An Evolutionary Journey, provides such an important contribution to the UNPA campaign literature.
Schwartzberg tackles head-on some of the most important questions about the UNPA proposal. The book discusses how a UNPA could be created; what powers it may have; how its members might be selected; and the apportioning of seats. In all cases, Schwartzberg discusses relevant options, or models for addressing these critical questions. There is no single blueprint.

The book deals most extensively with the possible models for apportioning seats in an evolving world assembly. Schwartzberg is a political geographer who is comfortable – probably more so than many of his readers – in the milieu of weighted voting and the architecture of more representative governance structures. The book includes, in painstaking detail, many charts, tables and maps supporting the various models for apportioning seats in a UNPA. One is grateful for the academic rigor, but it gets to be heavy going at times.

Nevertheless, the underlying importance of this book is the fact that he demonstrates how this big idea is both practical and possible.

The book was first presented at the World Federalist Movement's Congress in July 2012.

A hardcopy of the book can be purchased online, for example at or

It can be downloaded for free here.