Year XXXIV, 1992, Number 3 - Page 225


 

Mobilising the Public at the World Level
 
ROBERTO PALEA
 
 
1. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Stockholm Conference the much anticipated Earth Summit on environment and development will shortly take place in Rio de Janeiro. This summit has been called by the UN, and various heads of state and government, as well as representatives of environmental organisations throughout the world, will take part.
World public opinion expects that such an important event will deliver binding commitments on the part of states, such as to be able to modify the course of world economic development and render it more compatible with the need to defend the environment.
Whatever the concrete results that may be achieved at the Rio Conference, the preparatory work and the exceedingly high interest that this has provoked, in conjunction with the world’s expectations for this event, make it clear, even at this stage, that a result of Rio will be an increased awareness of the risks of ecological catastrophe and the need for world institutions that are related to the global size of the problems and capable of taking the necessary measures.
The federalist thesis that a world government is necessary will make headway; a world government is needed above all to restructure the world economy along ecological lines and to establish sustainable development throughout the world.
 
2. Although even very recently the idea of creating any form of democratic world government seemed utopian, today, in the wake of Gorbachev and the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, this goal has become a concrete and achievable political aim.
Mankind faces a choice between uniting or perishing.
An appreciation of the severity of the situation has already produced, and is increasingly doing so, a slow but progressive convergence of the raisons d’état of the world’s principal powers. This coming together is the basis for progress towards the goal of world government.
The nuclear disarmament currently underway between the two opposing blocs; the establishment and work of the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE); the increased role for the UN, demonstrated by its interference in the internal politics of national states in order to safeguard human rights (as in Ecuador, the Gulf War, the Yugoslav conflict, etc.), are situations that have made this convergence apparent, just as are the evident limits to the absolute sovereignty of states (until now unthinkable) that such situations imply.
 
3. As regards democratic world government, the hands-on experience of European federalists in the European unification process during the last four decades, suggests some points to consider:
a) First, and most obvious, is that democratic world government will probably not be realised for a long time to come. But that need not be a source of discouragement. In fact, the conclusion of the world unification process is not a necessity, because international co-operation can nevertheless be increased and the foundations of a common global security system can be rapidly put in place with immediate effect.
The European unification process has demonstrated that the mere fact that Europe, in the post-war period, has started to integrate has led to immediate results of decisive historical importance for the future of Europeans (although the process is still in progress and not complete). Following centuries of fratricidal conflict, the idea of war between European states suddenly seems a leftover from the past; the integration of markets has provided the basis for unprecedented economic development; national politics are inclined, de facto, towards a continental outlook in all those sectors (agriculture, industry, energy and transport policy, and so on) which, up to a few decades before, were considered as exclusive national competences.
Should the world prove capable of choosing the path of unity in a decisive and coherent manner, the realisation of further significant achievements of no less import for the future of mankind (relating to the twin goals of world peace and the transformation of current forms of destructive economic development into “sustainable development”) can be immediately foreseen.
b) The second point, equally obvious, is that the struggle for democratic world government will not simply be a long one, but also very difficult and of uncertain outcome. The process will not develop in a linear fashion: setbacks, hold-ups, and defeats will prove unavoidable and are already visible in the wake of the optimism sparked by the Gorbachev era (it is enough to consider the fragmentation of the Soviet Union, resurgent nationalism, the current US stance with regard to the global ecological emergency, and so on).
The significant criterion, however, is that the world wholly demonstrate the profound desire to proceed towards unity by means of intermediate goals (the completion of a European Federation, the deepening of regional integration, and so on) and the attainment of small-scale objectives that are consistent with, and lead towards, the final objective.
c) The third point regards our own actions.
A movement of ideas and individuals, whose criteria for assessing situations and taking decisions to act are the interests of mankind as a whole, needs to be established on a world level.
The Federalist movement, non-governmental environmental bodies and pro-peace organisations are capable of realising such a movement by joining forces and operating in mankind’s interests. In this way it will prove possible to mobilise world public opinion in favour of common, rational and forward-looking concerns that relate to the ultimate goal of world democratic government.
This movement ought to adopt immediately a common political goal of the most simple nature possible – the organisation of a world-wide popular petition aimed at the heads of state and governments, and the UN. This petition should propose limited, but strategic, objectives, among which: a world environmental agency with real power and independent funding; a global carbon tax; democratic reform of the UN.
d) The fourth point also deals with action.
It is not enough to generate a movement of individuals and ideas as outlined above; it is equally necessary that the transition process towards the goal of democratic world government be clearly identified, and followed through with determination.
Likewise, in this context, the experience of the European unification process seems to have been characterised by three decisive periods:
– the creation of the ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community), which was the first European supra-national institution, and which introduced an institutional formula and a mode of integration that developed later on with the European Economic Community. The result has led us to the brink of a European Federation;
– the direct election of the European parliament, which lay the foundation for democracy in European institutions, and which enables us now to struggle for the parliament’s transformation into a constituent assembly;
– the process currently under way for the creation of economic and monetary Union, which reduces the competences and power of the states and (after Maastricht) will make the process of European unification irreversible.
At the world level, the role of the CSCE could be carried out by the creation of a world agency for the environment which, in similar fashion, exercised supra-national power, was not impeded by the vetoes of participating countries, operated by majority decision-making, and was adequately resourced.
Among this agency’s responsibilities would be included the extremely important task of transferring information and technological know-how to developing countries, and of financing the environmental conversion of economies, particularly in developing countries.
In order to carry out its functions, the agency should possess real autonomy, and hence a secure source of independent financing.
Such independent financing should be primarily based on the introduction of a carbon tax, to be collected in industrialised countries and in those countries on the so-called “industrial periphery”, which foresee rapid development (Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, South Korea). The carbon tax would yield a very significant sum, and would also function as a disincentive to the use of fossil fuels, while encouraging interest in energy-saving technologies, sensible energy use, and alternative sources of energy. However, independent financing should also be provided from “automatic payments” to be generated by royalties on the use of common international goods, such as fish in the ocean, minerals under the sea bed, and the use of satellites, as well as royalties on mining the earth’s natural resources (such as petrol, minerals, etc.).
Finally, the states themselves should contribute to this independent financing; their share to be directed towards programmes of environmental balancing.
For reasons of indisputable logic such contributions should be divided up on the principle of “ecological compensation”; hence, with regard to the extent to which an individual state is responsible for pollution. This should be in proportion both to the quantity of polluting substances that each state currently emits into the atmosphere or deposits in the oceans, and to the emissions of the last century which have triggered off the process of environmental deterioration from which not only the industrialised countries suffer, but also those that have not been in a position to profit in equal measure from economic development and the sacking of the planet’s resources.
The seed of democracy in world institutions can be introduced by means of democratic reform of the UN. Such reform will need to deal with the composition of the Security Council and the direct election of a second chamber, to be elected by universal suffrage of the peoples of the world in order to work alongside the general assembly, initially in a consultative role.
The Security Council must contain a broader representation of the world community than is currently the case. It is necessary to aim at a representation criteria that is not based on the criterion of states who were victorious in the last world war, but rather on the principle of representing the different regions of the world: the EEC in place of its member states; India; Japan; a united body to represent the African people. All these must be included among the permanent members. The rule of unanimous decision-making and the right of veto by permanent members needs to be re-examined.
The second chamber, to be elected by universal suffrage on the model of the European Parliament, is needed for the following reasons: to exercise a minimum of democratic control over world institutions; to respect one of the fundamental principles of democracy by which there can be “no taxation without representation”; to enable a second and more advanced phase in the struggle for democratic world government based on the claim for a more democratic equilibrium in the balance of power in world institutions, by means of gradually and continuously strengthening the competences and functions of the elected chamber.
In conclusion, a global carbon tax and world environmental agency would represent the start of a slow, but definite, process of transformation from the economic sovereignty of states in favour of institutions on a global scale similar to those that have been created within the European Community. Moreover, the international community would possess the necessary instruments (including financial ones) in order to take the first, urgent steps towards establishing sustainable development and common global security in the world.
These, then, are the challenges which we must meet if we really consider our duty to be the good of the whole world, since there exists no higher activity than working to bring closer the achievement of the common good of mankind.

 

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