A global parliamentary assembly

Professor Andrew Strauss (source Widener University School of Law)

Professor Andrew Strauss addressed a meeting this evening on how to set up a global parliamentary assembly. He was speaking at a meeting organised by the One World Trust, so he didn’t need to spend much time on why to set up a global parliamentary assembly. Most people present, I guess, were already convinced about democracy, that it doesn’t just stop at national borders. An elegant example of this, that Professor Strauss quoted, was the border between the United States and Canada, which was rather arbitrary – it was the same kind of people of each side of the border – yet somehow they were divided into different countries. The things they had in common ought to be recognised, not ignored.

On to the how. First, things will be slow and gradual. Partly because there is no sign of any universal agreement on setting up a parliamentary assembly, so it will only involve a few countries at first; partly because it is hard to persuade national governments to give up too much power at once, so the assembly would start with consultative powers only. In effect, they will be asked to give up the powers of their successors, which might be a rather easier request to meet.

National governments meeting together amounted to a “mafia” system of governance, with the threat of force always loitering in the background. Asking made men to leave the family immediately was hard to imagine, better to bring them to better ways by stages.

Another criminal metaphor: the system of international law has to be mandatory and not voluntary as at present. Individual countries can pick and choose which aspects will apply to them. You would not ask bank robbers to decide whether they should be bound by the law against robbing banks.

Secondly, the system should be set up outside the existing global institutions. Some of the proposals for reform of the United Nations had failed, Professor Strauss argued, because they were too unambitious and not the contrary. Trying to pick a path through the present institutional maze was never going to lead to a satisfactory solution. A clearer and more dramatic approach was more likely to succeed.

Read the whole pamphlet here: http://www.oneworldtrust.org/documents/taking%20democracy%20global.pdf. I don’t agree with all of it myself, but, as Professor Strauss himself said, no-one can be sure right now exactly what the next steps should look like but that thinking and talking about them is the way to find out.

About the Author