It’s time for citizens to have a voice at the global level. With complex challenges that are increasingly global in nature, we need global solutions. A UN Parliamentary Assembly would be the first step towards giving the world a world parliament.
The UN's democratic deficit
The coronavirus pandemic, climate change, and many other challenges underline the fact that all people on this planet are connected to each other. As world citizens we are all in the same boat, but we have no say at the United Nations (UN) as the most important arena of global politics. The Security Council decides on matters of international peace and security, and the General Assembly makes recommendations, launches treaty negotiations, or is engaged in international agenda-setting. The UN, however, is an exclusive club of appointed government diplomats. The UN’s democratic deficit has been known for decades. While the UN has made some effort to include civil society organizations and other major groups in some of its deliberations, there are no means for ordinary citizens to take influence.
A UN Parliamentary Assembly
A United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) for the first time would give popularly elected representatives a formal role in global affairs. As an additional body, the assembly will directly represent the world's citizens and not governments.
Initially, states could choose whether their UNPA members would come from national parliaments, reflecting their political spectrum and gender equality, or whether they would be directly elected. Eventually, the goal is to have all members directly elected.
Starting as a largely consultative body, the rights and powers of the UNPA could be expanded over time as its democratic legitimacy increases. The assembly will act as an independent watchdog in the UN system and as a democratic reflection of the diversity of world public opinion.
In the long run, once its members are all democratically elected, the assembly could be developed into a world parliament which - under certain conditions and in conjunction with the UN General Assembly - may be able to adopt universally binding regulations.
In short, the UN should evolve from what many believe to be a generally ineffectual “talk-shop” into a viable democratic and legislative body.
The UNPA has the transformative potential to kickstart action on global issues that until now have largely been ignored. Making the UN more democratic and inclusive is the key to tackling many of the challenges we face today: a truly diverse community of activists from all over the world agrees with us on this. Over 300 civil society organizations have already joined our campaign. Their work focuses on issues ranging from climate change to promoting peace.
Why this matters now
We are not alone in thinking that the UN needs an urgent update. At the occasion of the UN’s 75th anniversary last year, Secretary General Guterres organized a yearlong round of discussions with a total of over 1.5 million citizens in over 195 countries. The goal was to find out how people around the world see the UN and what role it should take on in the future. An astounding 97% of them said that they think the work of the UN is important and necessary, but 40% also said that it is very remote from their lives. Many of them pointed towards a UN Parliamentary Assembly as a solution and it was even suggested in the UN’s own concluding report.
Our Common Agenda
The results of these consultations were a wake-up call for UN member states and they decided to launch a real reform process. They tasked Secretary General Guterres with drafting a roadmap for the future of the UN ahead of the General Assembly in September 2021. One of the main elements he should investigate is how the UN itself can be upgraded. To collect ideas from citizens and civil society, he launched an online consultation where people could propose solutions and vote for the ideas of others.