A WORLD FEDERATION – Chapter 2– The United Nations Charter

United Nations

1 The San Francisco Conference

After the unspeakable horrors of World War II, delegates from 50 Allied nations met in San Francisco California. The purpose of the conference, which took place between 25 April and 26 June, 1945, was to set up an international organization that would be able to abolish the institution of war. However, the Charter which the delegates produced was too weak to achieve this goal. In many respects the United Nations has been highly successful. During the 73 years that have passed since its establishment, a world war has been avoided. The agencies of the United Nations, such as the World Health Organization, the Food and Agricultural Organization, UNESCO and the IPCC, have provided urgently-needed services to the international community.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Millennium Development Goals have set up norms towards which we can and should aim. Furthermore, the UN has provided a place where representatives from many nations can meet for informal diplomacy, through which many dangerous conflicts have been avoided. Nevertheless, the United Nations, with its present Charter, has proved to be too weak to achieve the purpose for which it was established – the complete abolition of the institution of war. If civil wars are included, there are, on any given day, an average of 12 wars somewhere in the world.

The task of abolishing war has become extremely urgent since the advent of thermonuclear weapons. The danger that these weapons will be used, through accident, technical or human error, or through uncontrollable escalation of a war with conventional weapons, poses an existential threat to human civilization and the biosphere.


Figure 1: Harold Stassen. In 1985 he visited Denmark to lecture at a symposium entitled “Towards a Non-Violent Society”. At that time he was the only living person who had signed the United Nations Charter. In his lecture, former Governor Stassen proposed steps for reforming the Charter.

2 Article 1

The Purposes of the United Nations are:

  1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;

  2. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;

  3. To achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and

  4. To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.

3 Article 2

The Organization and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the following Principles.

  1. The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.

  2. All Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter.

  3. All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.

  4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

  5. All Members shall give the United Nations every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with the present Charter, and shall refrain from giving assistance to any state against which the United Nations is taking preventive or enforcement action.

  6. The Organization shall ensure that states which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.

  7. Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter Vll.

Clearly the aim United Nations Charter is to abolish the institution of war.

4 Against the institution of war

As we start the 21st century and the new millennium, our scientific and technological civilization seems to be entering a period of crisis. Today, for the first time in history, science has given to humans the possibility of a life of comfort, free from hunger and cold, and free from the constant threat of infectious disease. At the same time, science has given us the power to destroy civilization through thermonuclear war, as well as the power to make our planet uninhabitable through pollution and overpopulation. The question of which of these alternatives we choose is a matter of life or death to ourselves and our children. Science and technology have shown themselves to be double-edged, capable of doing great good or of producing great harm, depending on the way in which we use the enormous power over nature, which science has given to us.

For this reason, ethical thought is needed now more than ever before. The wisdom of the world’s religions, the traditional wisdom of humankind, can help us as we try to insure that our overwhelming material progress will be beneficial rather than disastrous. The crisis of civilization, which we face today, has been produced by the rapidity with which science and technology have developed. Our institutions and ideas adjust too slowly to the change. The great challenge which history has given to our generation is the task of building new international political structures, which will be in harmony with modern technology. At the same time, we must develop a new global ethic, which will replace our narrow loyalties by loyalty to humanity as a whole.

In the long run, because of the enormously destructive weapons, which have been produced through the misuse of science, the survival of civilization can only be insured if we are able to abolish the institution of war. While in earlier epochs it may have been possible to confine the effects of war mainly to combatants, in our own century the victims of war have increasingly been civilians, and especially children. For example, according to Quincy Wright’s statistics, the First and Second World Wars together cost the lives of 26 million soldiers, but the toll in civilian lives was much larger: 64 million. Since the Second World War, despite the best efforts of the U. N., there have been over 150 armed conflicts; and, if civil wars are included, there are on any given day an average of 12 wars somewhere in the world.

In the conflicts in Indo-China, the proportion of civilian victims was between 80 percent and 90 percent , while in the Lebanese civil war some sources state that the proportion of civilian casualties was as high as 97 percent. Civilian casualties often occur through malnutrition and through diseases, which would be preventable in normal circumstances. Because of the social disruption caused by war, normal supplies of food, safe water and medicine are interrupted, so that populations become vulnerable to famine and epidemics.

In the event of a catastrophic nuclear war, starvation and disease would add greatly to the loss of life caused by the direct effects of nuclear weapons. The indirect effects of war are also enormous. Globally, preparations for war interfere seriously with the use of tax money for constructive and peaceful purposes. Today, despite the end of the Cold War, the world spends roughly a trillion (i.e. a million million) US dollars each year on armaments. This enormous flood of money, which is almost too large to imagine, could have been used instead for urgently needed public health measures. The World Health Organization lacks funds to carry through an anti-malarial program on as large a scale as would be desirable, but the entire program could be financed for less than the world spends on armaments in a single day. Five hours of world arms spending is equivalent to the total cost of the 20-year WHO campaign, which resulted in the eradication of smallpox. For every 100,000 people in the world, there are 556 soldiers, but only 85 doctors.

Every soldier costs an average of 20,000 US dollars per year, while the average spent per year on education is only 380 US dollars per school-aged child. With a diversion of funds consumed by three weeks of military spending, the world could create a sanitary water supply for all its people, thus eliminating the cause of almost half of all human illness. A new and drug-resistant form of tuberculosis has recently become widespread, and is increasing rapidly in the former Soviet Union. In order to combat this new form of tuberculosis, and in order to prevent its spread to Western Europe, WHO needs 450 million US dollars, an amount equivalent to 4 hours of world arms spending.

By using this money to combat tuberculosis in the former Soviet Union, WHO would be making a far greater contribution to global peace and stability than is made by spending the money on armaments. Today’s world is one in which roughly ten million children die each year from diseases related to poverty. Besides this enormous waste of young lives through malnutrition and preventable disease, there is a huge waste of opportunities through inadequate education. The rate of illiteracy in the 25 least developed countries is 80 percent, and the total number of illiterates in the world is estimated to be 800 million. Meanwhile every 60 seconds the world spends roughly 2 million U. S. dollars on armaments.

It is plain that if the almost unbelievable sums now wasted on armaments were used constructively, most of the pressing problems now facing humanity could be solved, but today the world spends more than 20 times as much per year on weapons as it does on development. Because the world spends a thousand billion dollars each year on armaments, it follows that very many people make their living from war. This is the reason why it is correct to speak of war as a social institution, and also the reason why war persists, although everyone realizes that it is the cause of much of the suffering that inflicts humanity. We know that war is madness, but it persists. We know that it threatens the future survival of our species, but it persists, entrenched in the attitudes of historians, newspaper editors and television producers, entrenched in the methods by which politicians finance their campaigns, and entrenched in the financial power of arms manufacturers, entrenched also in the ponderous and costly hardware of war, the fleets of warships, bombers, tanks, nuclear missiles and so on.

Science cannot claim to be guiltless: In Eisenhower’s farewell address, he warned of the increasing power of the industrial-military complex, a threat to democratic society. If he were making the same speech today, he might speak of the industrial-military-scientific complex. Since Hiroshima, we have known that new knowledge is not always good. There is a grave danger that nuclear weapons will soon proliferate to such an extent that they will be available to terrorists and even to the Mafia. Chemical and biological weapons also constitute a grave threat. The eradication of smallpox in 1979 was a triumph of medical science combined with international cooperation. How sad it is to think that military laboratories cultivate smallpox and that the disease may soon be reintroduced as a biological weapon! The institution of war seems to be linked to a fault in human nature, to our tendency to exhibit altruism towards members of our own group but aggression towards other groups if we perceive them to be threatening our own community.

This tendency, which might be called “tribalism”, was perhaps built into human nature by evolution during the long prehistory of our species, when we lived as hunter-gatherers in small genetically homogeneous tribes, competing for territory on the grasslands of Africa. However, in an era of nerve gas and nuclear weapons, the anachronistic behavior pattern of tribal altruism and intertribal aggression now threatens our survival. Fortunately, our behavior is only partly determined by inherited human nature. It is also, and perhaps to a larger extent, determined by education and environment; and in spite of all the difficulties just mentioned, war has been eliminated locally in several large regions of the world. Taking these regions as models, we can attempt to use the same methods to abolish war globally. For example, war between the Scandinavian nations would be unthinkable today, although the region once was famous for its violence. Scandinavia is especially interesting as a model for what we would like to achieve globally, because it is a region in which it has been possible not only to eradicate war, but also poverty; and at the same time, death from infectious disease has become a rarity in this region.

If we consider the problem of simultaneously eliminating poverty, war and frequent death from infectious disease, we are lead inevitably to the problem of population stabilization. At the time when poverty, disease and war characterized Scandinavia, the average fertility in the region was at least 6 children per woman-life. Equilibrium was maintained at this high rate of fertility, because some of the children died from disease without leaving progeny, and because others died in war. Today, poverty and war are gone from the Nordic countries, and the rate of premature death from infectious disease is very low.

The simultaneous elimination of poverty, disease and war would have been impossible in Scandinavia if the rate of fertility had not fallen to the replacement level. There would then have been no alternative except for the population to grow, which it could not have continued to do over many centuries without environmental degradation, bringing with it the recurrence of poverty, disease and war. In Scandinavia today, democratic government, a high level of education, economic prosperity, public health, high social status for women, legal, economic and educational equality for women, a low birth rate, and friendly cooperation between the nations of the region are mutually linked in loops of cause and effect.

By contrast, we can find other regions of the world where low status of women, high birth rates, rapidly increasing population, urban slums, low educational levels, high unemployment levels, poverty, ethnic conflicts and the resurgence of infectious disease are equally linked, but in a vicious circle. The three age-old causes of human suffering, poverty, infectious disease and war are bound together by complex causal relationships involving also the issues of population stabilization and women’s rights. The example of Scandinavia shows us that it is possible to cure all these diseases of society; but to do so we must address all of the problems simultaneously.

Abolition of the institution of war will require the construction of structures of international government and law to replace our present anarchy at the global level. Today’s technology has shrunken the distances, which once separated nations; and our present system of absolutely sovereign nation-states has become both obsolete and dangerous. Professor Elie Kedourie of the University of London has given the following definition of nationalism: “…a doctrine invented in Europe at the beginning of the 19th century.

It pretends to supply a criterion for the determination of the unit of population proper to enjoy a government exclusively its own, for the legitimate exercise of power in the state, and for the right organization of a society of states. Briefly, the doctrine holds that humanity is naturally divided into nations, that nations are known by certain characteristics which can be ascertained, and that the only legitimate type of government is national self-government.” A basic problem with this doctrine is that throughout most of the world, successive waves of migration, conquest and intermarriage have left such a complicated ethnic mosaic that attempts to base political divisions on ethnic homogeneity often meet with trouble. In Eastern Europe, for example, German-speaking and Slavic-speaking peoples are mixed together so closely that the Pan-German and Pan-Slavic movements inevitably clashed over the question of who should control the regions where the two populations lived side by side.

This clash was one of the main causes of the First World War. Similarly, when India achieved independence from England, a great problem arose in the regions where Hindus and Moslems lived side by side; and even Gandhi was unable to prevent terrible violence from taking place between the two communities. This problem is still present, and it has been made extremely dangerous by the acquisition of nuclear weapons by India and Pakistan. More recently, nationalist movements in Asia and Africa have derived their force and popularity from a reaction against the years of European political and economic domination. Thus, at first sight, they seem to deserve our sympathy and support.

However, in building states, the new nationalists have often used hate for outsiders as mortar. For example, Israel is held together by hostility towards its Arab neighbors, while the Pan-Arab movement is held together by hostility towards Israel; and in this inflamed political climate of mutual fear and hatred, even clandestine nuclear weapons appear to either side to be justified. A basic problem rooted in nationalist mythology exists in the concept of sanctions, which treat nations as if they were individuals. We punish nations as a whole by sanctions, even when only the leaders are guilty, even though the burdens of the sanctions often fall most heavily on the weakest and least guilty of the citizens, and even though sanctions often have the effect of uniting the citizens of a country behind the guilty leaders.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the concept of the absolutely sovereign nationstate is an anachronism in a world of thermonuclear weapons, instantaneous communication, and economic interdependence. Probably our best hope for the future lies in developing the United Nations into a World Federation. The strengthened United Nations should have a legislature with the power to make laws which are binding on individuals, and the ability to arrest and try individual political leaders for violations of these laws. The World Federation should also have the military and legal powers necessary to guarantee the human rights of ethnic minorities within nations. In setting up a federation, the member states can decide which powers they wish to delegate to it; and all powers not expressly delegated are retained by the individual states. We are faced with the problem of constructing a new world order which will preserve the advantages of local self-government while granting certain carefully-chosen powers to larger regional or global authorities. Which things should be decided locally, or regionally, and which globally?

In the future, overpopulation and famine are likely to become increasingly difficult and painful problems in several parts of the world. Since various cultures take widely different attitudes towards birth control and family size, the problem of population stabilization seems to be one which should be solved locally. At the same time, aid for local family planning programs, as well as famine relief, might appropriately come from global agencies, such as WHO and FAO. With respect to large-scale migration, it would be unfair for a country which has successfully stabilized its own population, and which has eliminated poverty within its own borders, to be forced to accept a flood of migrants from regions of high fertility. Therefore the extent of immigration should be among the issues to be decided locally. Security, and controls on the manufacture and export of armaments will require an effective authority at the global level. It should also be the responsibility of the international community to intervene to prevent gross violations of human rights.

Since the end of the Cold War, the United Nations has more and more frequently been called upon to send armed forces to troubled parts of the world. In many instances, these calls for U. N. intervention have been prompted by clear and atrocious violations of human rights, for example by “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia and by genocide in Rwanda. In the examples just named, the response of the United Nations would have been much more effective, and many lives would have been saved, if the action which was finally taken had come sooner. Long and complex diplomatic negotiations were required to muster the necessary political and physical forces needed for intervention, by which time the original problems had become much more severe. For this reason, it has been suggested that the U. N. Secretary General, the Security Council and the General Assembly ought to have at their disposal a permanent, highly trained and highly mobile emergency force, composed of volunteers from all nations. Such an international police force would be able to act rapidly to prevent gross violations of human rights or other severe breaches of international law.

In evaluating the concept of an international police force directly responsible to the United Nations, it is helpful to examine the way in which police act to enforce laws and to prevent violence and crime at local and national levels. Within a community which is characterized by good government, police are not highly armed, nor are they very numerous. Law and order are not maintained primarily by the threat of force, but by the opinion of the vast majority of the citizens that the system of laws is both just and necessary. Traffic stops when the signal light is red and moves when it is green whether or not a policeman is present, because everyone understands why such a system is necessary.

Nevertheless, although the vast majority of the citizens in a well-governed community support the system of laws and would never wish to break the law, we all know that the real world is not heaven. The total spectrum of human nature includes evil as well as a good. If there were no police at all, and if the criminal minority were completely unchecked, every citizen would be obliged to be armed. No one’s life or property would be safe. Robbery, murder and rape would flourish. Within a society with a democratic and just government, whose powers are derived from the consent of the governed, a small and lightly armed force of police is able to maintain the system of laws. One reason why this is possible has just been mentioned – the force of public opinion. A second reason is that the law acts on individuals. Since obstruction of justice and the murder of policemen both rank as serious crimes, an individual criminal is usually not able to organize massive resistance against police action. Edith Wynner, one of the pioneers of the World Federalist movement, lists the following characteristics of police power in a well-governed society:

  1. “A policeman operates within a framework of organized government having legislative, executive and judicial authority operating on individuals. His actions are guided by a clearly stated criminal code that has the legislative sanction of the community. Should he abuse the authority vested in him, he is subject to discipline and court restraint.”

  2. “A policeman seeing a fight between two men does not attempt to determine which of them is in the right and then help him beat up the one he considers wrong. His function is to restrain violence by both, to bring them before a judge who has authority to determine the rights of the dispute, and to see that the court’s decision is carried out.”

  3. “In carrying out his duties, the policeman must apprehend the suspected individual without jeopardizing either the property or the lives of the community where the suspect is to be arrested. And not only is the community safeguarded against destruction of property and loss of life but the rights of the suspect are also carefully protected by an elaborate network of judicial safeguards.”

Looking towards the future, we can perhaps foresee a time when the United Nations will have been converted to a federation and given the power to make international laws which are binding on individuals. Under such circumstances, true international law enforcement will be possible, incorporating all of the needed safeguards for lives and property of the innocent. One can hope for a future world where the institution of war will be abolished, and where public opinion will support international law to such an extent that a new Hitler or a future Malosovic will not be able to organize large-scale resistance to arrest, a world where international law will be seen by all to be just, impartial and necessary, a well-governed global community within which each person will owe his or her ultimate loyalty to humanity as a whole.

Besides a humane, democratic and just framework of international law and governance, we urgently need a new global ethic, – an ethic where loyalty to family, community and nation will be supplemented by a strong sense of the brotherhood of all humans, regardless of race, religion or nationality. Schiller expressed this feeling in his “Ode to Joy”, the text of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Hearing Beethoven’s music and Schiller’s words, most of us experience an emotion of resonance and unity with its message: All humans are brothers and sisters – not just some – all! It is almost a national anthem of humanity. The feelings which the music and words provoke are similar to patriotism, but broader.

It is this sense of a universal human family, which we need to cultivate in education, in the mass media, and in religion. Educational reforms are urgently needed, particularly in the teaching of history. As it is taught today, history is a chronicle of power struggles and war, told from a biased national standpoint. Our own race or religion is superior; our own country is always heroic and in the right. We urgently need to replace this indoctrination in chauvinism by a reformed view of history, where the slow development of human culture is described, giving adequate credit to all those who have contributed. Our modern civilization is built on the achievements of ancient cultures.

China, India, Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt, Greece, the Islamic world, Christian Europe, and Jewish intellectual traditions all have contributed. Potatoes, corn and squash are gifts from the American Indians. Human culture, gradually built up over thousands of years by the patient work of millions of hands and minds, should be presented to students of history as a precious heritage – far too precious to be risked in a thermonuclear war. In the teaching of science too, reforms are needed. Graduates in science and technology should be conscious of their responsibilities. They must resolve never to use their education in the service of war, or in any way which might be harmful to society or to the environment. In modern societies, mass media play an extremely important role in determining behavior and attitudes. This role can be a negative one when the media show violence and enemy images, but if used constructively, the mass media can offer a powerful means for creating international understanding. If it is indeed true that tribalism is part of human nature, it is extremely important that the mass media be used to the utmost to overcome the barriers between nations and cultures.

Through increased communication, the world’s peoples can learn to accept each other as members of a single family. Finally, let us turn to religion, with its enormous influence on human thought and behavior. Christianity, for example, offers a strongly stated ethic, which, if practiced, would make war impossible. In Mathew, the following passage occurs: “Ye have heard it said: Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thy enemy. But I say unto you: Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that spitefully use you and persecute you.” This seemingly impractical advice, that we should love our enemies, is in fact of the greatest practicality, since acts of unilateral kindness and generosity can stop escalatory cycles of revenge and counter-revenge such as those which characterize the present conflict in the Middle East and the recent troubles of Northern Ireland. However, Christian nations, while claiming to adhere to the ethic of love and forgiveness, have adopted a policy of “massive retaliation”, involving systems of thermonuclear missiles whose purpose is to destroy as much as possible of the country at which the retaliation is aimed. It is planned that entire populations shall be killed in a “massive retaliation”, innocent children along with the guilty politicians.

The startling contradiction between what the Christian nations profess and what they do was obvious even before the advent of nuclear weapons, at the time when Leo Tolstoy, during his last years, was exchanging letters with a young Indian lawyer in South Africa. In one of his letters to Gandhi, Tolstoy wrote: “…The whole life of the Christian peoples is a continuous contradiction between that which they profess and the principles on which they order their lives, a contradiction between love accepted as the law of life, and violence, which is recognized and praised, acknowledged even as a necessity…” “This year, in the spring, at a Scripture examination at a girls’ high school in Moscow, the teacher and the bishop present asked the girls questions on the Commandments, and especially on the sixth. After a correct answer, the bishop generally put another question, whether murder was always in all cases forbidden by God’s law; and the unhappy young ladies were forced by previous instruction to answer ’Not always’ – that murder was permitted in war and in the execution of criminals.

Still, when one of these unfortunate young ladies (what I am telling is not an invention but a fact told to me by an eye witness) after her first answer, was asked the usual question, if killing was always sinful, she, agitated and blushing, decisively answered ’Always’, and to the usual sophisms of the bishop, she answered with decided conviction that killing was always forbidden in the Old Testament and forbidden by Christ, not only killing but every wrong against a brother. Notwithstanding all his grandeur and arts of speech, the bishop became silent and the girl remained victorious.” As everyone knows, Gandhi successfully applied the principle of non-violence to the civil rights struggle in South Africa, and later to the political movement, which gave India its freedom and independence.

The principle of non-violence was also successfully applied by Martin Luther King, and by Nelson Mandela. It is perhaps worthwhile to consider Gandhi’s comment on the question of whether the end justifies the means: “The means may be likened to a seed”, Gandhi wrote, “and the end to a tree; and there is the same inviolable connection between the means and the end as there is between the seed and the tree.” In other words, a dirty method produces a dirty result; killing produces more killing; hate leads to more hate. Everyone who reads the newspapers knows that this is true.

But there are positive feedback loops as well as negative ones. A kind act produces a kind response; a generous gesture is returned; hospitality results in reflected hospitality. Buddhists call this principle of reciprocity ”the law of karma”. The religious leaders of the world have the opportunity to contribute importantly to the solution of the problem of war. They have the opportunity to powerfully support the concept of universal human brotherhood, to build bridges between religious groups, to make intermarriage across ethnic boundaries easier, and to soften the distinctions between communities. If they fail to do this, they will have failed humankind at a time of crisis. It is useful to consider the analogy between the institution of war and the institution of slavery. We might be tempted to say, “There has always been war, throughout human history; and war will always continue to exist.” As an antidote for this kind of pessimism, we can think of slavery, which, like war, has existed throughout most of recorded history. The cultures of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome were all based on slavery, and, in more recent times, 13 million Africans were captured and forced into a life of slavery in the New World. Slavery was as much an accepted and established institution as war is today. Many people made large profits from slavery, just as arms manufacturers today make enormous profits. Nevertheless, in spite of the weight of vested interests, slavery has now been abolished throughout most of the world.

Today we look with horror at drawings of slave ships, where human beings were packed together like cord-wood; and we are amazed that such cruelty could have been possible. Can we not hope for a time when our descendants, reading descriptions of the wars of the twentieth century, will be equally amazed that such cruelty could have been possible? If we use them constructively, the vast resources now wasted on war can initiate a new era of happiness and prosperity for the family of man. It is within our power to let this happen. The example of the men and women who worked to rid the world of slavery can give us courage as we strive for a time when war will exist only as a dark memory fading into the past.

5 Reforming the UN Charter

History has given all of us living today an enormous responsibility, and two daunting tasks: If civilization is to survive, we must not only stabilize the global population but also, even more importantly, we must eliminate the institution of war. We face these difficult tasks with an inherited emotional nature that has not changed much during the last 40,000 years. Furthermore, we face the challenges of the 21st century with an international political system based on the anachronistic concept of the absolutely sovereign nation-state. However, the human brain has shown itself to be capable of solving even the most profound and complex problems.

The mind that has seen into the heart of the atom must not fail when confronted with paradoxes of the human heart. We must replace the old world of international anarchy, chronic war and institutionalized injustice, by a new world of law. The United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court are steps in the right direction, but these institutions need to be greatly strengthened and reformed. We also need a new global ethic, where loyalty to one’s family and nation will be supplemented by a higher loyalty to humanity as a whole. In the words of the great Hungarian-American biochemist Albert Szent-Gyo¨rgyi, “Man lives in a new cosmic world for which he was not made. His survival depends on how well and how fast he can adapt himself to it, rebuilding all his ideas, all his social and political institutions. …Modern science has abolished time and distance as factors separating nations. On our shrunken globe today, there is room for one group only – the family of man.” The Russell-Einstein Manifesto of 1955, which led to the founding of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, contains the following words: “There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.”

Features of a reformed UN Charter

The United Nations should be given a bicameral legislature. This would consist of an unchanged General Assembly and a much reformed and possibly renamed Security Council. In the reformed and democratized Security Council, the veto power would be absent, and final votes would be taken between regions with roughly equal populations. In both the General Assembly and the reformed Security Council, legislature approved by a simple majority would pass, but the approval of both chambers would be needed for the legislation to become international law. The laws would act on individuals, who could be arrested for violations, and tried by an expanded and reformed International Criminal Court even if they happened to be heads of state. These reforms would give the United Nations a much improved decision-making capacity.


Since the end of the Cold War, the United Nations has more and more frequently been called upon to send armed forces to troubled parts of the world. In many instances, these calls for U. N. intervention have been prompted by clear and atrocious violations of human rights, for example by “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia and by genocide in Rwanda. In the examples just named, the response of the United Nations would have been much more effective, and many lives would have been saved, if the action which was finally taken had come sooner. Long and complex diplomatic negotiations were required to muster the necessary political and physical forces needed for intervention, by which time the original problems had become much more severe. For this reason, the governance model put forward above proposes that the U. N. Secretary General, the Security Council and the General Assembly ought to have at their disposal a permanent, highly trained and highly mobile emergency force, composed of volunteers from all nations. Such an international police force would be able to act rapidly to prevent gross violations of human rights or other severe breaches of international law. Within a society with a democratic and just government, whose powers are derived from the consent of the governed, a small and lightly armed force of police is able to maintain the system of laws. One reason why this is possible has just been mentioned – the force of public opinion. A second reason is that the law acts on individuals. Since obstruction of justice and the murder of policemen both rank as serious crimes, an individual criminal is usually not able to organize massive resistance against police action.

Resources and Financing

An extremely important first step towards strengthening the United Nations would be to give the U.N. a greatly enlarged and reliable source of income. The amount of money available to the U.N., and its member organizations such as UNESCO, WHO and FAO, should be increased by a factor of at least 50. The beneficial services rendered by expanded agencies such as WHO would give the U.N. de facto power and prestige that could be used in situations where conflict resolution is needed.

Various sources of increased income have been proposed:

• Dues paid to the U.N. by member states. These should be compulsory in the sense that member states would lose their voting rights if they did not pay their dues.

• Revenues from resources belonging to the international community, for example seabed resources.

• A tax on multinational corporations for the service of regulating international agreements.

• The Tobin tax, i.e. a tax of between 0.1% and 1% on international currency transactions.

12 European countries favor the Tobin tax. These include France and Germany, although not the U.K.

Tobin taxes are in place in some of the world’s fastest-growing financial centers – Hong Kong, Mumbai, Seoul, Johannesburg and Taipei – where they are said to collectively raise 12 billion U.K. pounds a year. The volume of international currency transactions is so enormous that a universally imposed Tobin tax of only 0.5% would raise between $100 billion and $300 billion per year. In 2015 the total UN budget was only $5.6 billion, an absurdly small sum, considering the enormous importance of global governance, or the fact that the world spends $1.7 trillion each year on armaments..

General Security

The problem of building a stable, just, and war-free world is difficult, but it is not impossible. The large regions of our present-day world within which war has been eliminated can serve as models. There are a number of large countries with heterogeneous populations within which it has been possible to achieve internal peace and social cohesion, and if this is possible within such extremely large regions, it must also be possible globally. When we ask how very large and heterogeneous states achieve internal peace and security, we find that they do so by means of laws that act directly on individual citizens. Thus, the International Criminal Court is an extremely important first step towards the globalization of the methods of governance used by large states. In the Description section, we noted that the power to make and enforce laws which act directly on individuals is one of the key powers of successful federations.


In federations of states, all powers not expressly granted to the federal government are retained by the member states. Thus it is possible to grant powers one at a time, to see how they work in practice, and to gradually grant other powers. Historically, most federations have begun with very limited powers. More powers were granted later as the member states gained confidence in the federal government.

Accountability and Transparency

In order to make its activities more widely known and better understood, the United Nations ought to have its own television channel. Such a network could produce an unbiased version of the news. It could broadcast documentary programs on global problems. It could produce programs showing viewers the music, art and literature of other cultures than their own. It could broadcast programs on the history of ideas, in which the contributions of many societies were adequately recognized. At New Year, when people are in the mood to think of the past and the future, the Secretary General of the United Nations could broadcast a “State of the World” message, summarizing the events of the past year and looking forward to the new year, with its problems, and with his recommendations for their solution. In order to reduce the danger of misuse of power, a bicameral legislature could be introduced, retaining the on-nation-one vote system in the General Assembly but introducing a new legislative body where final votes would be taken by regions with roughly equal populations.

Giving the United Nations the powers of a federation

Many of the changes that we need to achieve a stable, sustainable and war-free world involve reform of the United Nations. Our best hope for the future lies in changing the United Nations from a confederation into a federation. The federation would be a limited union, where the federal government would have the power to make laws binding on individuals, but where the laws would be confined to interstate matters, with all powers not expressly delegated to the federal government retained by the individual states. In other words, in a federation each of the member states runs its own internal affairs according to its own laws and customs; but in certain agreed-on matters, where the interests of the states overlap, authority is specifically delegated to the federal government. History has shown that federations of states are stable and successful, while confederations, like our present United Nations, have always proved to be too weak. Some examples of modern federations are Brazil, Australia, the United States, Russia, Switzerland and the European Union. Successful federations have two key powers: • The power to make and enforce laws which are binding on individuals. • The power to impose taxes In addition, it is very helpful if the federal government has greater military power than any of the member states. This it true of the United States and Russia, but it does not hold for the European Union. The history of the Constitution of the United States is very interesting. In 1777, the member states formed a confederation (like the present United Nations), but this proved to be too weak.

Then a group of leaders that included James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, urged that the Articles of Confederation of 1777 be replaced by a federal constitution. In 1787, a Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia with the aim of drafting a new and stronger constitution. In the same year, Alexander Hamilton began to publish the Federalist Papers, a penetrating analysis of the problems of creating a workable government uniting a number of semi-independent states. The key idea of the Federalist Papers is that the coercion of states is neither just nor feasible, and that a government uniting several states must function by acting on individuals. This central idea was incorporated into the Federal Constitution of the United States, which was adopted in 1788.

The International Criminal Court

In 1998, in Rome, representatives of 120 countries signed a statute establishing the International Criminal Court, with jurisdiction over the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. Four years were to pass before the necessary ratifications were gathered, but by Thursday, April 11, 2002, 66 nations had ratified the Rome agreement, 6 more than the 60 needed to make the court permanent. It would be impossible to overstate the importance of the International Criminal Court. At last, international law acting on individuals has become a reality! The only effective and just way that international laws can act is to make individuals responsible and punishable. Although the ICC is in place, it has the defect that since it is opposed by powerful states, it functions very imperfectly. Nevertheless, we can hope that with the passage of time, world public opinion will demand that the ICC become more impartial. We can also hope that the range of crimes under its jurisdiction will be extended.

The Nuclear Weapons Convention

On July 7, 2017, a treaty banning nuclear weapons was adopted by an overwhelming majority at the United Nations General Assembly.1 Although opposed by all of the nuclear weapon states, the treaty is a great achievement. Here are the first few articles:

Article 1: Prohibitions

  1. Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to:

(a) Develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess, or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

(b) Transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices, directly or indirectly.

(c) Receive the transfer of or control over nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices directly or indirectly.

(d) Use or threaten to use nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

(e) Assist, encourage, or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a state party.

The Tobin tax

James Tobin, who was Sterling Professor of Economics at Yale University, and Nobel Laureate in Economics, proposed that international currency transactions be taxed at a small fraction of a percent. He believed that even this extremely small tax would make exchange rates much more stable. When asked what should be done with the proceeds of the tax, Tobin added, almost as an afterthought, “Give it to the United Nations”. In fact, the volume of international currency transactions is so enormous that even the tiny tax proposed by Tobin would be sufficient to solve all the UN’s financial problems.

In 2016, China drafted rules to impose a genuine currency transaction tax and this was referred to in financial press as a Tobin tax. The 2016 Democratic Party presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, also favored a small tax on international currency transactions. However, the United States has consistently opposed the idea of giving the proceeds to the United Nations.

Links between poverty and war

The eradication of war as an institution will require that the United Nations be strengthened, that it be given the power of taxation, the power to make laws that are binding on individuals, and a reformed and democratic voting system. These reforms are likely to be opposed by the wealthy part of the world, because rich countries do not wish to give up their present advantages of power and wealth. For example, the wealthy nations may fear that if the United Nations had the power to impose taxes, the result would be a transfer of money from themselves to the poorer parts of the world. From this discussion we can see that the problem of eliminating the institution of war by reforming and strengthening the United Nations is closely related to the problem of eliminating the intolerable economic inequality that characterizes the world today. The two problems must be addressed together.

Governments of large nations compared with global governance

The problem of achieving internal peace over a large geographical area is not insoluble. It has already been solved. There exist today many nations or regions within each of which there is internal peace, and some of these are so large that they are almost worlds in themselves. One thinks of China, India, Brazil, Australia, the Russian Federation, the United States, and the European Union. Many of these enormous societies contain a variety of ethnic groups, a variety of religions and a variety of languages, as well as striking contrasts between wealth and poverty. If these great land areas have been forged into peaceful and cooperative societies, cannot the same methods of government be applied globally? Today there is a pressing need to enlarge the size of the political unit from the nationstate to the entire world. The need to do so results from the terrible dangers of modern weapons and from global economic interdependence. The progress of science has created this need, but science has also given us the means to enlarge the political unit: Our almost miraculous modern communications media, if properly used, have the power to weld all of humankind into a single supportive and cooperative society.

Suggestions for further reading

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A freely downloadable book

A new 418-page book entitled “A World Federation” may be downloaded and circulated gratis from the following link:


John Scales Avery is a theoretical chemist at the University of Copenhagen. He is noted for his books and research publications in quantum chemistry, thermodynamics, evolution, and history of science. His 2003 book Information Theory and Evolution set forth the view that the phenomenon of life, including its origin, evolution, as well as human cultural evolution, has its background situated in the fields of thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and information theory. Since 1990 he has been the Chairman of the Danish National Group of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. During his tenure The Pugwash Movement won a nobel peace prize.  Between 2004 and 2015 he also served as Chairman of the Danish Peace Academy. He founded the Journal of Bioenergetics and Biomembranes, and was for many years its Managing Editor. He also served as Technical Advisor to the World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe (1988-1997).

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Figure 1: L´aszlo´ Szombatfalvy, a highly successful Swedish businessman born in Budapest in 1927. His concern regarding threats to human civilization and the biosphere led him to establish the Global…

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