Global support for UN Parliamentary Assembly

By Till Kellerhoff

Within the last seven months, the Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) has been gathering additional support from around the world.

As of November 2015, over 1,400 current and former lawmakers from more than 100 countries, and hundreds of renowned personalities from politics, science, cultural life and civil society, signed the campaign’s international appeal that urges the United Nations and its member states “to establish a Parliamentary Assembly at the United Nations.” The appeal and the list of endorsements was presented to the President of the 70th UN General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, in New York. On this occasion, the coordinator of the campaign, Andreas Bummel, said that a parliamentary assembly could help to revitalize the UN’s main body and could enhance the world organization’s democratic legitimacy.

An encouraging step was made on the African continent. The Pan-African Parliament called on the African Union and Africa's governments to support the creation of a UNPA. In a resolution adopted by consensus in May by the plenary, the parliamentary body of the African Union states that "a UNPA is necessary to strengthen democratic participation and representation of the world’s citizens in the UN." The president of the Pan-African Parliament, Nkodo Dang from Cameroon, added, "More than 70 years after the establishment of the United Nations, global interdependence has made us all world citizens. It is long overdue that 'We, the Peoples,' as the UN Charter begins, have more say in global affairs. For this purpose, a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly needs to be established. I am happy to confirm my personal support of the international campaign that works towards this goal."

At the European level, support was voiced by Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs. Speaking at an event in Rome in February, she said that a UNPA could be a very useful tool and would be able to “strengthen the link between a system of global governance, which is remote by definition, and a citizenship that includes a global dimension."

Progress has also been made in several individual countries.

In October 2015, the German Parliament adopted a joint motion of the coalition parties CDU/CSU and SPD, urging the government under Chancellor Angela Merkel to support efforts to reform the United Nations that aim at making the world organization more efficient and more transparent. The democratic legitimacy of the UN needs to be guaranteed through modernization, the motion says. "This includes to examine the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly," the parliament stated.

The proposal for a UNPA was also presented at an international conference on South-South cooperation, SSC, that was held in New Delhi in March. In a session on "One World Global Citizenship," the representative of the UNPA campaign in India, James Arputharaj, suggested that South-South politics should pursue the goal of democratizing global institutions.

Following the federal elections of October 2015, members of the Canadian House of Commons and the Canadian Senate came together in April in Ottawa to re-establish a joint all-party group that deals with UN matters. The purpose of the Canadian Parliamentary Friends of the United Nations is to “support the UN’s current mandate and Canada’s involvement in the UN.” As the group’s co-chair Don Davies, a parliamentarian from Vancouver, explained, the group intends to explore support for a UNPA.

In late April, around fifty students from Germany, Europe, and around the world came together in Halle (Germany) in order to simulate international negotiations on the establishment of UNPA. The chairman of Germany’s Green party and patron of the event, Cem Özdemir, wrote in a message to the participants that he supported the idea of a UNPA from the beginning. Another supportive note was received from Germany’s Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel.

Support for a UNPA also took a step forward in Sweden. At its national congress, the Swedish Green Party Miljöpartiet de gröna, which is part of the governing coalition, adopted a motion calling "for a democratic United Nations." The motion was accepted by an overwhelming majority of the congress delegates. It expresses the party's support of the UNPA campaign and calls on the Swedish government to advance the proposal at the UN.

Besides this news from parliaments and politicians around the world, positive developments also took place in the academic realm. In June, around twenty researchers and practitioners met for two days at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, to discuss "the practical politics of global integration." According to the convenors of the World Government Research Network, Luis Cabrera of Griffith University and James Thompson of Hiram College in Ohio, "over the past two decades, some of the world's leading International Relations theorists, normative political theorists, international law scholars, economists and sociologists have turned their attention to the concept of world government. They have assessed the prospects for full global integration, and in many cases identified reasons to support it." The establishment of a world parliament was one of the topics discussed at the workshop.

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