The Importance of Building a World Community, Part 2

In last month’s blog we discussed how building a participatory, values-based and sustainable world community was the most important challenge facing the planet in the new millennium. We made the point that such a community needs to be participatory in order to be responsive to its members and engage them in the process of governance. It needs to be values-based and grounded in the global norms and standards agreed upon by world leaders since the end of World War II, for example the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A world community also needs to be sustainable, committed to replenishing the natural resources that people on the planet use to feed, clothe and otherwise support themselves.

In the absence of such a global community, the world is likely to remain fragmented and vulnerable to continued environmental degradation, socio-economic conflict, and autocratic leadership.

Our members have asked us to go beyond these descriptors, and suggest more specifics about what the goal of a world community should be, how do we get there, and what would it look like? These are deep and complex questions, but here’s an attempt to start a conversation on how to answer them. (You are invited to join this conversation by posting a comment or response on the Blog page of the TGCI website.)

In our view, the goal of building world community should be to establish solutions to the growing list of urgent issues that affect the whole planet and can’t be solved by individual countries. These issues are well known. A partial list would include:

  • lack of human rights
  • increased global warming
  • continued degradation of the earth’s environment
  • the prevalence of poverty and income inequality
  • the inability to more effectively prevent conflicts within and between countries
  • the failure to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, and
  • the lack of effective governance at different levels

The solutions needed by the world community to address these pressing issues must be universal and work for all countries and people. Achieving such universality requires changes in awareness and engagement on the part of many stakeholder groups, particularly citizens and their governments. 

First, it requires that people increase their awareness of the ways in which global issues deeply affect their quality of life. They need to start behaving as global citizens, as well as citizens of their countries. They have a responsibility to advocate for global solutions to global problems, and must be vocal in letting their governments know about their global citizenship concerns.

Secondly, national governments need to change their perceptions about their proper role in the world. They must begin to see that it is in their best interest to collaborate rather than compete with one another. If they fail to act in consort with other countries, they will be harming their own people.

Finally, in order to solve planet-threatening global problems that we face, more participatory engagement processes need to be put in place that enable solutions to boil up from the local and national levels. Solutions to global problems will not work if a top-down development process drives them.

The importance of raising and increasing the awareness and engagement of people and governments in working collaboratively to solve global problems, is an overlooked and under-resourced task. It is a role that NGOs and other organizations, not viewed as biased, should play, similar to the role played by the League of Women Voters in the United States. Much educational outreach and advocacy work needs to be done if we are to make a dent in changing the long-established parochial attitudes of people and in modernizing the role of the nation-state.

Now we come to the question of what would our participatory, values-based sustainable world community will look like in real-time? The first thing to point out in trying to answer this question is that we can’t say for sure. In fact we shouldn’t even try and posit a model. The process of constructing the world community architecture is just as important as achieving the outcome. We should not say too much about what the end result looks like without allowing people and governments to work together and collaboratively build the finished product.

However, based on experience to-date with global governance, we know enough to make some recommendations about what should be inside the finished product.

First, there needs to be more participatory, end-user-responsive global governance institutions. Global governance institutions, are those institutions engaged in establishing global norms, standards, and regulations for the activities that fall within their jurisdictional domain. Such institutions are many and varied and range from the United Nations to the International Federation of Accountants. Many of these organizations do excellent work. However, quite a few of them, including such well known institutions as the UN and the World Bank, need to develop stronger mechanisms for directly engaging the citizens whom they serve in their decision-making processes. Global governance institutions need to find alternatives to always working through sovereign states whose interests often are more politically self-serving than committed to the development of whole world solutions.

Secondly, we need to put in place better systems of accountability and transparency for the implementation of global agreements. We need to know which nations have signed onto established international treaties and agreements and which have not; and to what extent are those countries that have signed living up to what is expected of them?

Thirdly, we need to be less cautious about the delegation of decision-making responsibility for the monitoring and enforcement of global policy. Once citizens of the planet and their governments agree to a set of international norms and standards, there need to be institutions and people entrusted with responsibility for making sure that these agreements are effectively implemented; and who have the authority to impose sanctions or penalties on those who are not living up to their agreement commitments. We cannot leave it up to the vagaries of each nation state to decide how it is going to comply with an international agreement.

The vision of having a participatory, values-based, sustainable world community does not imply the creation of a world government. It doesn’t call for the dismantling of the nation state or existing global governance mechanisms. Instead, it calls for strengthening citizen engagement and responsibility for global governance, and for transforming the role of the nation-state into a more responsible actor on the world stage.