direct democracy

          It is a basic principle of effective governance that it should be in accordance with ability to achieve the most important aims and tasks. In terms of this very basic definition, the huge, colossal failures of existing governance systems in our deeply troubled world facing unprecedented threats have been exposed in more and more glaring and disturbing ways in recent times.

This failure is occurring moreover at the most critical juncture of human history when the effectiveness of world governance in facing up to the most formidable challenges is of most critical importance in the sense that this relates to protecting the very life nurturing conditions of our planet. To complete the alarming picture, the failure is actually the most glaring precisely in the context of the most critical issues like disarmament and checking climate change.

The existing governance system with all its heavy infra-structure, commissions and committees and organizations has been reasonably good at identifying the crucial issues. It has been even better at issuing statements. But in terms of effective action  it really lags far behind the actual needs,  which can be disastrous keeping in view the time-bound urgency of the issues.

With respect to the most life-threatening issues of weapons of mass destruction, climate change as well as about a dozen other extremely serious environmental and safety issues, action at world level is  far behind what is needed and the larger perspective that is needed for the timely satisfactory resolving of these issues within a framework of justice, equality and democracy is also  missing woefully.

Unprecedented threats demand unprecedented response. So it is time to consider out-of-box governance changes and improvements which can create the kind of world governance systems that are needed for resolving the most critical issues of our times and the near future in a time-bound framework before it is too late. This cannot be done very abruptly of course but we need to know carefully what we are aiming at and the direction in which we ought to be moving. Let us try to imagine what kind of world governance system we may like to see about three decades from now.

It is the year 2050. About 10 billion people live on earth. For the purpose of highly decentralised administration of daily affairs, they are divided among about 1000 provinces each with an average population of around 10 million (this may range between 5 million to 15 million, depending on population density and other factors).

Each of these provinces, apart from electing its local members for highly decentralised governance at levels of province, district and village, also elects a representative for the World Government. The lower house of the World Government is constituted in this way, each of its 1000 elected members being elected by people of one province.

The World Government also has an upper house, consisting of the best available experts on climate, biodiversity, oceans, weapons, peace and other issues of critical importance. These experts are elected to the upper house based on a system combining recommendations of professional associations, provincial administrations and lower house representatives.

The lower and upper houses of the World Government elect a Council of Ministers which is co-ordinated by two leaders who change once every two years or so.

The World Government takes critical decisions on protecting the life-sustaining conditions of planet on issues like climate change, species protection and other critical life-protecting environmental issues.

In addition the World Government has the responsibility of preventing any war or civil war, as well as ensuring that no province has any nuclear weapons, or other weapons of mass destruction (including robot weapons). It is responsible for ensuring that no outer space related destructive activity is carried out by any human being or agency.

In fact a province is allowed to keep very few weapons only for policing needs or checking crime, not for war.

However the World Government is allowed to have some stocks of conventional war weapons, and perhaps just about 10 nuclear weapons (with supporting infra-structure) as the World Government has the responsibility of checking any wars and checking the emergence and spread of any big terrorist force. Any disputes relating to provincial borders are settled by the World Government, involving the concerned provincial governments and their neighbors in the settlement of the dispute. No province has its own army, but contributes personnel to one and only one world army (a very limited armed force with land, air, sea and space sections).

Another task of the World Government is to ensure that a World  Constitution is created to ensure that –

  1. a) all people are equal and there is no discrimination based on class, gender, race, colour, caste, ethnicity, previous nationality etc. (although affirmative action for those who suffered extreme historical disadvantages or injustice is allowed).
  2. b) all provinces have to satisfy certain norms of democratic functioning and are governed in highly decentralised way by representatives elected in free and fair elections.
  3. c) people can move freely from one province to another within the limits of some restrictions.
  4. d) all provinces are free to decide their imports and exports, but certain basic qualitative norms have to be agreed by all of them.
  5. e) all provinces have to observe certain norms of justice and equality, human rights and rights of all forms of life.
  6. f) all provinces have to follow certain norms of controlling infectious diseases.
  7. g) all provinces have to follow certain norms of protecting other forms of life, such as heavy curbs on hunting and harming habitats
  8. h) jobs and income of all former soldiers of army, para military efforts, air force and navy will be protected by giving them work at the same salaries in protection from disasters, rescue work, eco-restoration and related works.
  9. i) Issues relating to currency accepted all over the world will be decided by the world government.

Within these broad guidelines, all provinces and districts are completely free to grow in a highly decentralised manner according to their local conditions and creativity.

The world government will rush relief to areas seriously affected by disasters and work for a hunger-free world.

In other words the world government representing all people on equal basis and obtaining the best available advice creates broad conditions of protecting life-sustaining conditions, avoiding war and maintaining peace, bringing down all weapons to minimal levels, ensuring democracy and decentralisation and compliance to these conditions is ensured at world level.

Once these conditions have been ensured and some norms in keeping with these conditions have been set up, then in these secure conditions there will be the most space for realizing the enormous creative potential of people in various walks of life for creating a better and safer world.

With respect to protecting the life-sustaining conditions (checking climate change, elimination of weapons of mass destruction) all provinces have to strictly abide by the decision of the world government, whose chief mandate is to protect these conditions within a framework of justice, equality and democracy. In a democratic spirit they can certainly debate and oppose some decisions, but in the end, after all has been said and discussed, the provinces have to abide by what the world government says with respect to protecting the life sustaining conditions.

We should aim to achieve such conditions – or somewhat similar conditions within a decade or two. By year 2050 it should then be possible to check climate change to such an extent that remaining within the most essential limits can be achieved more or less. Also by 2050 elimination of nuclear, chemical, biological and robot weapons should be more or less achieved, although a very small stock can be maintained by the world government only (not by any province) to guard against any rogue elements or terrorists.

Can such conditions be achieved so soon? The basic reason for trying to achieve such a fast pace of change is that basic life sustaining conditions of planet earth have to be protected. The basic structure of a different world outlined above, along with other decision for a justice based decentralised world, can achieve this and also bring several other highly desirable changes. However we can also consider other visions.

The vision of a different world outlined above is based on complete elimination of nation-states. As outlined above, there is a truly representative world government which protects the basic life-sustaining conditions of earth at various levels in a framework of justice, democracy peace and protection of all forms of life. At the base there are higly decentralised provinces and districts, committed to decentralised governance, justice, peace and elimination of poverty.

However, the concept of nation states has become so deeply embedded in recent times that many people may not accept this. They may like to consider a different vision which is based on the creation of a world government while retaining nation-states.

In this more limited vision the nation-states remain as before, while electoral constituencies for world government are created, ignoring national boundaries, on average one for every 10 million people. Hence the Lower House of the World Government is created. The Upper House consists of experts, as elected or selected by professional bodies, on leading survival issues such as climate change, species extinction, oceans and weapons of mass destruction.

The mandate of the world government is to keep climate change to acceptable limits, eliminate all weapons of mass destruction and to protect other essential life- sustaining conditions. To the extent that it is necessary for this purpose, nation-states surrender their sovereignty to the world government with respect to decisions on these issues. On these aspects, all nation-states have to abide by what the world government decides. On other aspects, nation-states continue to retain their sovereignty.

In yet another version, we can go one step further. In this version, the nation-state continues to exist, but disbands its army (this includes army, air force, navy, special border protection forces etc.). All former soldiers will get re-employment in disaster and accident protection, rescue and eco-restoration work, as well as in peace keeping forces of the world government. In this version the only army will be with the world government and the world government will take care of all border disputes or disagreements.

All  these three versions of significant change can be debated and considered, together with other alternatives that may be suggested more learned scholars and experts.

The idea of a World Government finding effective solutions for survival crisis within a framework (and strengthening this framework) of peace, justice and democracy is a wonderful and very exciting idea. Many will agree with this but ask – is there even a little hope that this can be achieved in the near future, before it is too late?

If we look at the actual record of the international community for resolving much smaller issues, the situation does not appear hopeful at all. To take an example, the Palestine issue has been discussed endlessly during the last seven decades without any justice-based solutions being found. There have been ups and downs, and some times appeared to be more hopeful than others, and some efforts appeared to have more success than others, but the overall result after over 70 years is a very dismal one.

What hope, then, for much bigger changes of the kind that we are considering?

Before we consider this question let us take another one. If our world is facing serious problems, should we not consider the most obvious and effective solutions, even if these appear difficult to achieve at present?

I think that the most obvious and effective solutions should certainly be considered no matter how difficult and impractical these appear at present. These should be on the world’s agenda for all the people to see. In particular, these should be on the table for all the younger people and children to see, because it is their future which is most in danger under the present system. Adults have been thinking for too long along old lines. Give children and teenagers and young people a chance to see that such solutions are also on the agenda. Who knows? In their (as yet) uncorrupted innocence they may decide to choose these solutions.

As the survival crisis intensifies, there will be a new wave of yearning for new paths and solutions. There will be a turmoil and people, particularly young people, may be willing to consider all options.

In such situations the sincere and honest solutions which appear impractical today may appear the most obvious solutions to the younger people, and these may get much higher acceptability among all solutions.

For this to happen, it is important for some thoughtful people to keep these ideas alive and to provoke discussion on them so that the details of such solutions can be worked out.

Bharat Dogra is a veteran journalist and author. He is Convener of Campaign to Save Earth Decade with its SED ( Save the Earth Decade ) Demand. Several eminent persons have endorsed this campaign. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Man Over Machine Protecting Earth for Children and Earth without Borders, as well as a Hindi version.


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