Year XXIX, 1997, Number 3, Page 212
THE CONGRESS OF THE WORLD FEDERALIST MOVEMENT
From August 6 to 13, 1987, the World federalists met in Philadelphia, the city where two hundred years ago the Constitution of the United States was drawn up, to participate in a symposium on the strengthening of the United Nations and to attend their Twentieth Congress.
The symposium was organized to reply to the following question: “What has Philadelphia 1787 to say to the world of 1987?” It was solemnly opened with a paper by Norman Cousins, President of the United States section of the Association of World Federalists, in the Independence Hall (where the independence of the United States was proclaimed and where the Convention which drew up the first federal constitution in history met). The symposium then continued in the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, where the Congress of the World federalists itself also took place.
The symposium was above all a confrontation between American scholars of federalist theory and diplomats representing some of the most important countries in the world at the United Nations. Scholars of federalist inspiration illustrated the outlines of a “federal” reform of the UN institutions. The diplomats illustrated the difficulties hampering this reform. They paid tribute to federalism, but substantially defended national sovereignties.
Of particular interest was the speech by Professor Timofeev, of the Moscow Academy of Sciences, who argued that the world faces a turning point arising from the priority character assumed by the problem of peace and the need that East and West have as regards resolving the problem of security together. Hence the need to draw up new thinking enabling us to face the new problems raised by the evolution of contemporary history. It was with great surprise and pleasure that the audience learned from Timofeev that federalism has become a matter of study in the Soviet Union. In this speech there was an echo of the changes of the Gorbachev era, confirmed by various American federalists who recently met groups of Soviet pacificists in Moscow. On the basis of these premises, and provided the process of renewal is not interrupted, it is a legitimate to believe that, in a few years’ time, we will have a Soviet section to the World Federalist Movement. The full meaning and significance of this is evident if we bear in mind that the prospects for world federalism are linked to the end of the East-West conflict, without which the bases for the first steps on the road to the world’s unification are missing.
The symposium did not, however, tackle the issue of the type of political action needed to achieve a union of states in a peaceful way, action on which few are aware because of the absolutely extraordinary nature of such an event. Yet an alysis of the precedent of the formation of the United States would give important guidelines for all those who are struggling to unify the continents and the world with federal institutions. It is well-known that Spinelli studied this precedent and was inspired by it in drawing up the strategy in the struggle for the European federation.
The work of the Congress has been carried out mainly in four commissions: 1) disarmament and security, 2) development on common heritage, 3) strengthening the United Nations, 4) human rights. The plenary sessions were given over to debating and approving the resolutions and amendments of the statutes.
The contents of the four resolutions drawn up by the commissions reflect the richness of the debate and the vastness of the themes discussed. In the resolution on the problems of security the following proposals are advanced: a) calling a permanent conference on security and international law, to improve the mechanisms needed for the peaceful settlement of international conflicts; b) establishment of a UN Agency for satellite control of armaments; c) creation of a peacekeeping force, available to any state which calls for its use, made up of soldiers directly recruited by the UN; d) creation of a UN Agency guaranteeing peaceful use of outer space; e) support for a nuclear weapons freeze, a moratorium on testing and a policy of no first-use of nuclear weapons.
In the resolution on development and common heritage, the Congress noted that faced with the growing needs of the world’s population, and in particular in Third World countries, there has been a decrease in the amount of available resources: destruction of tropical forests, spreading of deserts, contraction of supplies of fish, a tendency to exhaust unrenewable mineral resources and energy supplies, some of which (such as oil) have a key role to play in the working of the world economy. To this we need to add the crisis in the international monetary and commercial system and the growing indebtedness of Third World countries. All this “requires global strategies to maintain natural resources and to plan the world’s development, in such a way as to reduce pollution of the biosphere, develop sources of clean energy, improve production and distribution of foodstuffs, ensure that everybody has access to health services, promote the transfer of resources from rich countries to poor countries, extend the use of special drawing rights in international regulations. But the line along which major developments of the powers of the United Nations are possible is the affirmation of the principle, contained in the Convention on the Law of the Sea, that the seabeds beyond the limits of territorial waters are mankind’s common heritage, and, on the basis of this, their exploitation must be attributed to a world authority. The Congress invited those states who have not yet ratified this Convention to do so and to extend the concept of common heritage to new sectors, such as outer space and Antarctica.
As regards the reform of the UN institutions, the following are the main proposals: a) limitation of the right of veto within the Security Council, starting with its abolition in cases such as the appointment of an enquiry commission and the admission of new members and banning the recourse to it by a permanent member when this is one of the parties to the conflict; b) replacement of the system of voting in the General Assembly with a system (called “binding triad”) which, as well as the principle of equality of all the member states, also takes into account their population and their financial contribution; c) institution of an assembly of the peoples elected by universal suffrage side by side with the current assembly of nations; d) the strengthening of the International Court of Justice. The calling of a constitutional convention was indicated as the most correct method of achieving reform in the federal sense of the international organizations which operate both at a world and at a regional level.
On the question of the defence of human rights the Congress proposed: a) the development within the UN of legislative instruments for their defence laid down by the European Court of Human Rights; b) to oversee the application of world and regional conventions which protect them and to denounce violations; c) to fight to obtain recognition of the rights of minorities, of the emarginated and of those who live in a foreign country.
Both from the resolution and from the debate the tendency emerged, in particular among the leaders, to direct the discussion towards the identification of the stages in the transition to the World federation and the search for intermediate objectives. This shows that a process of evolution is underway in the Movement, which in its turn is the result of great changes that have taken place in world politics.
For many a long year the work of the World federalists has been to define the shape of the ultimate goal, i.e. of the Constitution of the World federation, taken as an alternative to the limits of the UN and its incapacity to guarantee peace. The nature of this commitment was a consequence of the great gulf separating the idea of world unity from the possibility of actually achieving it. The rise of the idea of transition is the expression of the need to search for a stronger relationship with the transformations in the course of contemporary history. The premise for this choice is the awareness that the struggle for world unification is a long-term objective. Hence the disappearance of the illusion that the final objective can be achieved quickly, jumping intermediate phases, i.e. by calling a world constituent assembly. At the same time, however, the evolution of history has raised problems that cannot be solved except on a world scale and through the strengthening of the UN. Hence the effort to identify intermediate objectives, whose realization would make it possible for the world to make a U-turn in its crazy course to nuclear and ecological disaster and to direct it bit by bit towards unity.
Security was recognized as the absolute priority which in the nuclear age, and even more in the age of crisis in the balance of terror, must be taken as an indivisible good, i.e. as mankind’s security, based on the progressive development of world institutions, starting with the creation of a UN Agency guaranteeing satellite monitoring of armaments and the peaceful use of space. But other intermediate objectives seem to have become concrete. For example, it emerged for the first time with the Convention on the Law of the Sea that it is possible to uphold the sovereignty of the United Nations on what is defined as “mankind’s common heritage”, such as the seabeds, Antarctica and space, creating within the UN forms of functionalist integration on the model of the European Community.
Despite this rethinking phase underway, the World Federalist Movement has not yet managed to conceive the European federation as an element in this process of transition. It is seen as a fact whose significance is exhausted on the regional level and not as a start to the process of pacification which, although underway in one part of the world, affects the entire world.
European federalists (and in particular the group whose mouthpiece this review is) attribute great historical significance to European unification: it represents the first step towards the defeat in the logic of force in international relationships and towards international democracy. It also represents a step towards the World federation, which for European federalists has ceased to be merely a distant ultimate goal without any influence on the present and has become a driving force in the process of pacification of mankind.
This explains why we must consider the reasons for the separation between European federalists and World federalists as being groundless. Greater agreement regards not only the theoretical line (i.e. the way of conceiving the basic trends in contemporary history), but largely the political line, insofar as the greatest political and social problems (peace, environment, social justice etc.) have taken on world dimensions (and not just European ones) and can be solved only through world federalism.
Differences exist, it is true, as regards the strategic line, i.e. on the objective on which to concentrate forces. All in all, however, the respective positions, which originally were considered as alternatives, today seem to be increasingly complementary. The presence of the representative of the Italian national organization, whose membership in the World Association for World Federation was approved on the eve of the Congress, was considered as one of the most promising events in this Congress. This presence was interpreted as the sign of the emergence of a new prospect: the possibility of relaunching ever tighter links between the World federalists and European federalists after the split 40 years ago. This conviction which matured as a result of various meetings (the meeting of the Council of the WAWF, which took place in Aosta in 1986, and the Strasbourg Congress of the European Union of Federalists this year), has become consolidated thanks to the diffusion of this review, whose approach has received unanimous agreement among World federalists.
The collaboration which has been started would seem to be particularly fruitful even in the light of a further consideration. The World and European federalists are present in Europe to different extents according to the territorial areas: where there is no UEF or only a weak group there are strong WAWF groups (the Scandinavian countries and Netherlands), while where the UEF is strong the WAWF is either inexistent or very weak (Italy, Germany, Belgium). The bases thus exist to multiply the influence on European public opinion on the basis of serious joint work.