Post-2015 Agenda should include elected UN Assembly to strengthen democratic participation

22. oktober 2013

5th International Meeting of the Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly concludes with declaration / Strong support from key Members of the European Parliament

The fifth international conference on a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly held in the European Parliament in Brussels on 16th and 17th October called on the United Nations and the international community to make democratic participation a key

One of the conference panels
Image: European Parliament

element of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

In a final declaration, participants from around thirty countries unanimously expressed concern that "no adequate measures have been taken to address the democratic deficit of global governance in general and of the United Nations in particular." The conference suggested that "a global democratic body of elected representatives" should be established "to bring global governance in the pursuit of post-2015 development goals" closer to the world's citizens.

Conference hosted in the European Parliament

The conference was hosted by the Members of the European Parliament Elmar Brok, Jo Leinen, Isabella Lövin, and Graham Watson from the four largest political groups European People's Party EPP, Socialists and Democrats S&D, the Greens, and the liberal ALDE group respectively. At the opening of the conference, Elmar Brok who serves as chairman of the European Parliament's Commission on Foreign Affairs stated that a consultative UN Parliamentary Assembly would "allow world civil society to

Antonio Vigilante, Jo Leinen, and Alfred de Zayas
Image: European Parliament

be directly associated in the global decision-making process."

Jo Leinen who is a co-chair of the advisory board of the international campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly emphasized that until now no formal body exists that would give citizen-elected representatives a say in global governance. At best they had an observer status. "This is not acceptable," said Mr Leinen. "In a democratic system, the representatives of the citizens are not observers of what the governments do. They should provide oversight and hold the government executives accountable."

At a panel discussion Isabella Lövin used the example of the global fishery policy to show that the system of international governance is dysfunctional. "It's still governed by 16th century principles," she said. Graham Watson pointed out that "there will be times when national interests and global interests collide. A UN Parliamentary Assembly could act as an arbiter and ensure that the voice of the world's citizens is heard."

In a message issued on the occasion of the conference, the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, emphasized the longstanding support for the proposal by the European Parliament. In addition, he declared that "The European Parliament may serve as a model for how a UN Parliamentary Assembly could develop over time. What once began as an advisory body composed of national parliamentarians is a directly elected legislature today."

Consultation with the UN's Independent Expert

A similar position was taken by the UN's Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, Alfred de Zayas, who was participating as a special guest. In a statement delivered at a special consultation, he confirmed that "Participation is a hallmark of democratic governance" and that "civil society is entitled to more space." He said that the establishment of a World Parliamentary Assembly was "a promising avenue" to achieve this and could be modelled according to the example of the European Parliament. Mr de Zayas pointed out that his upcoming report to the UN General Assembly includes the recommendation that it "may consider convening a conference to discuss promising initiatives such as the creation of a World Parliamentary Assembly."

In a comment following the statement by Mr de Zayas, the Member of the European Parliament and chairperson of Democracy International, Gerald Häfner, said that "We cannot leave the world to decision-making that is in the interest of big money or big powers – but not in the interest of the world’s citizens. A UN Parliamentary Assembly is a first step to establish global democracy."

The final declaration adopted by the conference welcomes "the decision of the UN’s Human Rights Council to mandate an Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order," and encourages the Independent Expert "to keep considering the question of a UNPA and in particular to examine possible processes towards its creation."

Main points of the final declaration

In the discussion the Secretary-General of the campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly, Andreas Bummel, emphasized three elements in the final declaration: That it puts the proposal for a UN Parliamentary

Gathering in front of the European Parliament

Assembly in the context of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, that it highlights the possibility of having a UN Parliamentary Assembly act as a "network of networks" and finally that the document says that "innovative forms of civic participation" in a UNPA through models of electronic democracy could be considered. In its last session, the conference also deliberated on a possible roadmap towards a UN Parliamentary Assembly as well as on the campaign's goals and strategy.

Other speakers at the conference included, among others, Andrew Strauss from Widener University School of Law in the United States, the UN's representative in Brussels, Antonio Vigilante, the Member of the European Parliament and President of the Union of European Federalists Andrew Duff, the European Parliament's Vice-President Anni Podimata, Swiss parliamentarian Daniel Jositsch as well as Juan Behrend as representative of the Global Greens Coordination, Gregory Engels as representative of Pirate Parties International, and Hanno Schedler of the Society for Threatened Peoples.

Week of Action for a World Parliament

The conference was also a kick-off event for the Global Week of Action for a World Parliament that takes place until UN day on 24 October. At the end of the conference participants gathered in front of the European Parliament at Place du Luxembourg in Brussels and displayed the week's slogan, "World Parliament Now!"


Final declaration of the conference
Statement by the UN's Independent Expert
Statement by the President of the European Parliament

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Top image: Official group photo, by European Parliament