Human Rights

In Berlin, NGOs consider the possibilities for global governance

BERLIN -- Representatives from European non-governmental organizations (NGOs) called for a variety of measures to reform and restructure the United Nations and the international order at a special one-day forum on global governance, held here on 20 September 1995.

Such measures should include greater efforts to encourage democracy worldwide, they said, as well as the development of new educational institutions and curricula that can promote the concept of world citizenship and structural changes to the United Nations that will make it more representative of the world's peoples.

More than 200 people turned out for the event, at which some 40 NGO statements were delivered. Held in Berlin's historic Haus der Demokratie (House of Democracy), the event was organized by Landegg Academy, a Bahá'í-affiliated institution of higher education based in Wienacht, Switzerland. The forum was held in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.

"In the past few decades, humanity has been hit again and again by shock waves, becoming conscious of an increasing number of man-made global dangers, from the threat of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons to the overexploitation of the world's resources to the verge of climatic catastrophe," said Peter Spiegel of Landegg in his introductory remarks. "It is apparent that there is an ever widening gap between the requirement for action on a global level on the one hand and the ability to undertake such global action on the other."

The forum began with keynote statements by representatives of five NGOs who have been particularly active in promoting the discussion on global governance in German-speaking Europe: Burkhard Koenitzer, managing director of the Bonn-based, nonpartisan Foundation for Development and Peace (SEF); Yehezkel Dror, member of the Club of Rome; Stefan Mögle-Stadel of the One World Network "Terra"; Fritz Vilmar of the World Federalist Movement; and Saba Khabirpour of the Bahá'í Community of Germany.

The proposals which emerged ranged from the concrete and specific to a call for broad and general change.

"We have had a de facto world state for a long time now, although, de jure, we haven't yet got a world state," said Mr. Mögle-Stadel. The consequence of this "legitimacy gap," he said, is that the structures of global governance existing in actual fact today exhibit traits that are so undemocratic and arbitrary that no civilized society would tolerate them in its government.

"The international world 'disorder' must therefore speedily become a federal, mutually supportive and democratically legitimized global world order, so that world society can attain the sovereignty necessary for the regulation of the world's problems," Mr. Mögle-Stadel said.

Dr. Koenitzer said UN reform depended on recognition of a global system of values, emphasizing human rights and democratic government, which all member states of the UN would adhere to. He also called for the introduction of a world tax to make UN organs more independent of member states. He added, however, that such reforms must be presented to world powers as a "win-win" situation, because "UN reform carried out without the support of the world powers has no hope of succeeding."

Prof. Dror, author of a recent report entitled "The Capacity to Govern," outlined three possible paths to a new system of global governance: 1) a "global state of emergency, triggered by one or several global catastrophes"; 2) a "great advance in global ethics," as perhaps through the introduction of a new religion, which he said is currently due according to "historical experience"; and, 3) a general movement at the national political level towards more global mindedness. Change, he said, may well come from all three directions.

Prof. Dror also urged greater efforts to make the European Union successful, calling it history's most ambitious experiment in international economic, social and political integration. Should Europe be successful, he said, it would offer a model for the rest of the world.

Ms. Khabirpour called the promotion of the consciousness of world citizenship "the indispensable foundation for all globally responsible action." She also urged the strengthening of civil society in all countries, particularly through the greater involvement of NGOs and women in decision-making at all levels.

In the afternoon, statements from some 40 NGOs on the topic of global governance were presented. They echoed many of the same themes.