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September 16, 2020

Efforts for global democracy

Opinion

September 16, 2020

It is a paradox: The world and its people have never been so closely interwoven than today, yet there are more fences and walls separating them than ever before.

Many governments seem to resist the inevitable. World unification is no longer a philosophical consideration. It is becoming a political possibility. And for a growing number of people – intellectuals, activists, politicians, academics and others – it is a necessity.

While it is true that important metrics such as global average life expectancy show impressive improvements over time, the current global situation is characterised by escalating crises and unsolved problems.

The danger of global warming was known for decades and yet, to this day, no effective action has been taken, as record levels of carbon emissions testify. Not much time is left, if any, to prevent a runaway climate crisis. It is already creating life-threatening conditions for millions.

For a long time, there have been warnings that new pathogens will evolve and trigger global pandemics. The World Health Organization (WHO) was instructed to launch an investigation into its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic as many felt it was unprepared, incoherent and ineffective.

Inequality is also growing across the world. Addressing this issue in a recent speech, UN chief Antonio Guterres said, “While we are all floating on the same sea, it’s clear that some of us are in superyachts while others are clinging to the floating debris.”

According to the World Food Programme, 135 million people are facing crisis levels of hunger. There are currently close to 80 million displaced people who have fled war, persecution and instability. It is the worst humanitarian and refugee crisis in 70 years.

The advantages of globalisation and rising productivity disproportionately benefit the affluent. Corporate tax rates and corporate tax revenues continue to fall.

Multinational corporations and the super-rich are able to avoid paying taxes using loopholes and weaknesses in the international taxation system. Trillions are hidden from tax authorities in offshore accounts. Intergovernmental efforts to stop illicit financial flows and abolish tax havens have achieved little in the past 25 years.

Despite an obligation in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that the five official nuclear powers need to seek complete nuclear disarmament, there has been no real progress.

Instead, modernisation of nuclear arsenals is pursued. There is a race to build hypersonic missiles and major arms control treaties are crumbling. The destructive power of nuclear weapons continues to represent an existential threat to humanity.

The current political order is unable to deliver lasting solutions. It is suffering from a structural problem. With almost 200 states that insist on their national sovereignty, effective international action and regulation are hard, if not impossible, to achieve.

Intergovernmental organisations such as the UN or the WHO are only as effective as their member states allow them to be. Otherwise, their hands are tied. In particular, they are dependent on those large contributors who pay the bills. The UN does not represent humanity. It is an exclusive club of government executives whose job it is to pursue national interests.

It is time that global institutions be equipped with the power they need to deal with global threats and manage global common goods such as the atmosphere. They need independent legitimacy, authority and funding.

There are signs that a tipping point is being reached. Two years ago, in a survey of 10 countries in all world regions, 82 percent of respondents said that the UN needed to be reformed to better address current and future global challenges. Almost 70 percent agreed that a supranational organisation should be able to make enforceable global decisions to manage global risks. An indispensable element of an empowered UN would be a popularly elected global parliament, based on a global constitution, that represents all citizens of the world.

Excerpted from: ‘Humanity needs democratic representation’

Aljazeera.com