Expert on democracy suggests United Nations conference on a World Parliamentary Assembly

29. Oktober 2013

UN's Independent expert Alfred de Zayas presents report to the United Nations General Assembly, highlights proposal for a World Parliamentary Assembly

In a report presented to the United Nations in New York on Monday, the UN's Independent Expert on "the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order", Alfred de Zayas, suggested that the world organization should consider convening "a conference to discuss promising initiatives such as the creation of a World Parliamentary Assembly and a World Court of Human Rights." Quoting former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the Independent Expert wrote that "A United Nations Parliamentary Assembly – a global body of elected representatives – could invigorate our institutions of global governance with unprecedented democratic legitimacy, transparency and accountability."

Independent Expert Alfred de Zayas during the press conference at UN headquarters in New York
Image: UN

Speaking at the UN General Assembly's main social, humanitarian and cultural body, the Third Committee, the Independent Expert introduced 35 recommendations on international and national democracy, as well as studies to be carried out on topics ranging from self-determination to issues related to indigenous peoples, war and peace, and civil society. The suggestion that the UN consider establishment of a United Nations or World Parliamentary Assembly was also one of the main topics raised at a subsequent press conference at UN headquarters. According to a UN report, Mr de Zayas said that in order for global decision-making to be genuinely representative, the establishment of a world parliamentary assembly was "imperative."

"Taking the temperature of world public opinon"

The expert, who is mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, said that a UN Parliamentary Assembly would ensure the inclusive and open participation of parliamentarians from all states. The assembly, he said, would also serve as a platform for the participation of representatives of indigenous peoples, unrepresented peoples and those living under occupation. Although the parliamentary assembly would not have legislative powers, it would render the United Nations more open and responsive to the needs of the world’s citizens by facilitating participation by all stakeholders in UN decision-making.

During the press conference, the Independent Expert recalled that the idea of an elected world parliament was already supported by Nobel laureates such as Bertha von Suttner, Albert Einstein, Shimon Peres, and others. However, he said that at this point the proposal was not to give the assembly legislative powers but that "there is a way of taking the temperature of world public opinion if you have directly elected parliamentarians in a world parliamentary assembly. They may not have the power to legislate but at least have the power to say what people are thinking and you don't always have it in the General Assembly. In the General Assembly you have governments, not citizen representatives" Mr de Zayas stated.

The Independent Expert suggested that the creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly could be an important element of UN reform in general. Stressing the need for the democratization of the world organization, he noted that, "if the United Nations General Assembly is to be revitalized and strengthened, it also needs to be made more democratic and representative. Complementing the General Assembly with a parliamentary body could be a key to achieving other reforms to the United Nations system."

International campaign welcomes recommendation

The Secretary-General of the international Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly, Andreas Bummel, welcomed the recommendation of the independent expert that the UN convene an international conference on the proposal. "Mr de Zayas has rightfully pointed out that the establishment of a UN Parliamentary Assembly was already suggested in 1949," he said. "The time has come that the UN needs to deal with it."

Mr. Bummel stressed that over 1,000 lawmakers as well as hundreds of professors and distinguished individuals supported the campaign's appeal for a UN Parliamentary Assembly. Referring to the "Global Week of Action for a World Parliament" that was organized from 17-24 October this year for the first time, he noted that popular support for a global parliamentary body was growing. During the "week of action," citizens around the world had called for a "World Parliament Now!"

Last week, an international conference of the campaign convened in the European Parliament included a special consultation with Mr. de Zayas. In a final declaration, the conference called on "the United Nations and its member states to advance the necessary processes for the establishment of a Parliamentary Assembly at the United Nations." The document says that a UN Parliamentary Assembly "is a vital component to strengthen democratic participation in and the democratic legitimacy of the United Nations as well as other intergovernmental organizations such as the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization."

"If the UN decides to look into the proposal of a UN Parliamentary Assembly, this needs to be done in a transparent, open and inclusive manner," Mr. Bummel stated. "A UN-sponsored international conference or even a workshop on a UN Parliamentary Assembly should involve parliamentarians, civil society representatives, and independent experts," he stressed.


Full report of the Independent Expert to the UN General Assembly

Read more

28 October 2013: UNDPI report on the press conference

28 October 2013: UN Webcast of the press conference

22 October 2013: Campaign conference: Post-2015 Agenda should include elected UN Assembly to strengthen democratic participation

16 September 2013: UN expert recommends study on a UN Parliamentary Assembly

Top image: Flags in front of the UN in New York, by United Nations