This site brings together internet petition sites that enable you to vote for action on global issues.
All around the world, decision makers are being influenced by social media campaigns.
You too can participate. Simply go to the GD.Org List on the home page, and click in to the links. See campaigns that are happening now, and vote if you wish.
There are no borders and no obstacles to letting your opinion be counted.
It is all about you, in your capacity as a global citizen, helping decision makers to do what makes sense to the majority of those affected by their decisions. We are all stakeholders in some decisions made far away from us. We are entitled to have our opinions taken into account.
So, if you want to engage in this new, but important, form of global democracy, go ahead. Start here.
About global democracy
- What is global democracy?
- The United Nations
- A World Parliament?
- Social Media Vehicles – the new global democracies?
1. What is Global Democracy?
As long as decisions made outside our countries have a real impact on us – and they frequently do – people may legitimately pursue greater empowerment in influencing those kinds of decisions.
Any step towards improving our individual and collective influence over decisions that affect us in our capacity as global citizens, is the pursuit of global democracy.
There are different ways of pursuing global democracy. This section explains, and provides links to find out more.
2. The United Nations
The United Nations was formed after the Second World War, for the purpose of promoting security, peace and harmony in the world.
All the countries of the world are represented in the United Nations, at the General Assembly. The General Assembly is the forum where representatives from all countries come together (normally in September each year, to the UN building in New York City) to discuss and debate international issues. As a group, the General Assembly strives to make recommendations, seek consensus and pass resolutions (if two thirds majority) on matters of global significance. They cannot intervene in the governance of any one country, but they deliberate on many important global initiatives. To find out more about what they do, go to the link to the General Assembly on the official UN website: http://www.un.org/en/ga/about/index.shtml.
Sitting above the General Assembly is the Security Council. The General Assembly defers to the Security Council on matters of international security. The Security Council is made up of five permanent members, and ten rotating country members. A majority of nine votes will pass a resolution, but any one of the five permanent members may block, or ‘veto’ a resolution. The five members with these special powers are the USA, China, Great Britain, France and Russia. To find out more about the Security Council, including latest news from the Council, go to www.un.org/en/sc/.
Aside from the General Assembly and the Security Council, there are many institutions set up under the United Nations that do work around the globe, including the World Health Organization, World Food Organization, and World Bank. To see an overview of the many UN agencies and what they do, go to www.un.org/en/aboutun/structure/index.shtml. The International Criminal Court based at the Hague is not one of their institutions, but was developed under a separate treaty arrangement. For more information on the International Criminal Court go to www.icc-cpi.int/Menus/ICC.
The UN relies for its funding entirely on voluntary member contributions. The USA is the largest contributor to the budget (22%). Some of the key players in the Security Council have surprisingly small contributions (China 4%, and Russia, 2%). Interestingly, the annual budget for the UN is only around US $5 billion. There are many individuals around the globe with more money than the annual budget of the UN.
Is the United Nations democratic?
The UN General Assembly comprises representatives of national governments, of which there are around 193 that are recognized. Given that around 120 of these are now democracies of one kind or another (compared to about 30 in 1975), it could be said that the General Assembly is quite representative of the peoples of the world. When one considers that even the representatives of non democratic countries can still, to be fair, be presumed to be voting for what is in the interest of their people, it can be seen that all people in the world are, to a reasonable degree, represented at the United Nations.
However, two aspects of its voting system diminish the ability of the UN to be a truly representative democracy in world affairs:
- The population variability of member states means that, hypothetically, a block of countries representing the smallest two third nations, thus representing only 8% of the world population, could pass a resolution. Further, a block of the one third smallest countries – representing less than one percent of the world population – could theoretically block any resolution in the General Assembly!
- At the other end of the spectrum, any one of the five permanent members of the Security Council – some of which represent less than one percent of the global population – can block any resolution before the Council.In other words, the voting system gives significant latitude for the politics of self interest to prevail over the vote of the majority. These limitations render it very difficult for the UN to make ‘hard’ decisions, as local political considerations can very easily trump the democratic process. If there were a compelling case for the world to act as one to do something, such as blow up an asteroid, or defeat an alien invader, one could imagine the United Nations could organize all governments to take urgent action, in our interests. But on more subtle issues, where politics and economics are involved, it can be plainly seen that political considerations may easily prevail, and it’s decisions may well not represent the wishes of the majority of the people in the world.
3. A World Parliament?
There is not presently such thing as a world parliament. However, the idea of one has been talked about for many years, by many people.
Albert Einstein was a believer in a world government. He said: “It is obvious that no difficulty in the way of world government can match the danger of a world without it.”
There have been many groups and organizations formed promote the idea of a world parliament elected directly by the people. Some groups have even proposed constitutions . If you are interested, examples of two such world constitutions that have been proposed are:
World Beyond Borders – http://www.worldbeyondborders.org/chicagodraft.htm
The World Parliament Association – http://worldparliament-gov.org/articles/the-earth-constitution
The most organized group is the World Federalist Movement. This started with 50 like minded groups from around the world coming together, back in 1947. The number of affiliated organizations ballooned after that year. It later established an Institute of Global Policy in 1983, and has its own Secretariat, with offices in New York and the Hague. It is the main proponent of a world parliament as a part of the the United Nations. For more information on the history and activities of the World Federalist Movement, see http://www.wfm-igp.org/site/
United Nations Parliamentary Assembly
It is widely thought that there is a legal basis for a world parliament to be established under the auspices of the United Nations – as a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly – because the UN Charter says:
The General Assembly may establish such subsidiary organs as it deems necessary for the performance of its functions.
There is less agreement as to how such a body would operate. Under most proposals, it would be more representative of the global population than the General Assembly, where voting is effectively one vote per country. However, finding an alternate method of representation is problematic (see below), and it is widely thought that any such body should, if created, start off having a consultative role, only, to the General Assembly.
The campaign for a UNPA has recently involved the convening of a number of international conferences, and the launch of a campaign called the ‘Global Democracy Manifesto’. To see the Global Democracy Manifesto launched in October 2012, go to: http://globaldemocracymanifesto.wordpress.com/english-2/
For more information on the campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, including up to date developments, see http://en.unpacampaign.org/index.php
Would a World Parliament be Democratic?
The most likely model for a World Parliament at this time is a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly. It is far from agreed, however, how it should be elected. One can anticipate that there will be difficulty ever obtaining consensus, when one considers:
- If the UNPA were to give country delegates power equivalent to ‘one person, one vote’ in their respective constituencies, this would lead to Chinese and Indian people having almost 40% of the voting rights between them. Such would undermine the existing power held by the vast majority of world nation states, who may therefore not support it.
- On the other hand, if it were one state one vote, the system would be so close to that of the present General Assembly that it would add little to world governance, other than being just another layer of bureaucracy; and
- Any other proposed weighted voting system will likely be opposed by any nation that feels such would diminish its existing power. This will be a very large number of states, regardless of what is proposed
Taking these things into account, it is difficult to see how it is going to move forward in the near term. Should there be any major developments, this site will keep you informed.
There are other concerns about the likely effectiveness of any new world parliament. Picture an election for representatives for the new world parliament, in your country. One might rationally expect we will all elect, as our own delegates, people who we feel will look after our interests in our country. Given this will be occurring everywhere, can we really trust representatives to put that which is politically expedient for their country to one side, when voting on an issue with global consequence? Or will we continue to find ourselves locked in political battles, while world issues remain unattended? These are the kinds of issues to be grappled with by those who continue to press for a world parliament.
For a summary of the history of and recent campaigns for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Parliamentary_Assembly. For arguments that have been made for and against such a body, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parliament
There are other ways of visualizing global democracy: see http://www.buildingglobaldemocracy.org/
One such other way is as an expansion of the social media campaign vehicles that have started to emerge:
4. Social Media Vehicles – the new global democracies?
Many people bemoan the lack of a system of world governance that can deal with urgent global issues.
We perceive a failure of our system of national governments to tackle issues of global significance. We find that too often our governments are interested, first and foremost, in the next election, and thus they place finding solutions to global problems a distant second behind addressing local needs. People also despair the lack of accountability of large international corporations, who seem able to freely make decisions with global ramifications, without consulting us as global citizens.
In 2011, people around the world left their homes and took to the streets to ventilate their discontent, in what was known as the “Occupy” movement. It was a seemingly spontaneous movement, born of frustration with ‘the system’. For more information on the Occupy campaigns see : http://www.occupytogether.org/
As a revolution, the Occupy movement was widely commented upon for its lack of focus. It seemed, at first, to be aimed at the big banks who were behind the Global Financial Crisis. It then morphed into a protest mostly against corporations, but really against any decision maker that put the interests of a few first, above the interests of the many. It did not generally isolate individual decision makers to be replaced. Rather, it sought to pressure all those invested with power to change the way they approached making decisions. People seemed to be saying “Those of you who are in power, do that which is in the interests of all, not just yourselves (or those to whom you are beholden (eg shareholders))”.
The idea of influencing, and not replacing, decision makers has likewise been the subject of increasing efforts by various internet social media vehicles, in recent times. Pressuring decision makers, state and corporate, to do the right thing has, in the last couple of years, become a new function of the internet. More and more websites are seeking to organize people to make their collective views known, and so to provide a kind of ‘consultative democracy’ to decision makers.
In recent times, we have repeatedly seen examples of large groups of people succeeding in influencing decision makers, via the social media, through voting campaigns or arranging petitioning for a particular action, policy or idea.
It works like this:
The social media political vehicle places on its website a petition, asking people to indicate their support for a particular cause. Once the numbers in support of an idea reach a certain weight, the petition is taken to the relevant decision maker. That decision maker, who may be a politician or a corporation head, hears this: “If you do this, you will be liked by all these people. If you do not, then you will be not liked by all these thousands of people”.
They very often work. Whether it is that decision makers need to know people are watching them, or that they just want to be liked, these campaigns are now shown to work.
Here is a small number of recent examples:
- Avaaz. This is a US based global social media political campaign site that claims to have swayed many decisions through popular demand. Here is an example from its highlights page:Half a million of us joined more than 1,000 indigenous protesters in demanding that Bolivian President Evo Morales halt construction of a highway that would slice through the heart of the Amazon. Avaaz staff met at length with top Bolivian cabinet ministers in a stormy meeting and our widespread solidarity strengthened the hand of the indigenous protesters. The pressure worked! After our campaign, Morales canceled construction, repealed the decision granting permission for the project, and pledged to protect the impacted TIPNIS national park and indigenous territory …
- Change.org. This is a US based ‘petition’ site, where people can post their own cause and seek ‘signatories’ to pressure decision makers. Here is an example from their highlights page:In just five days more than 5000 people signed ( a petition) to take action and abolished a 65 year old tradition of practicing ‘Untouchability’ from Dangariya Village. After witnessing the support, Sunita (Video Volunteer correspondent) met (village leader) and talked about Dalit women being humiliated due to their caste by so called “upper caste” neighbourhoods. In just 2 days,(1) The (village leader) took immediate action and made a trip along with Sunita and the Superintendent of Police to village Dangariya from Karauli;(2) Where he called a Public Hearing on the misleading tradition that forced women to take off their footwear when they pass through so called “upper caste” neighbourhood;.(3) Villagers promised the (village leader) that there will no more complaints from the village and that the practice will be abolished in Dangariya.(4) He sent a press release to all the police stations and village heads in District Karauli, informing them about this incident and how untouchability is a punishable offense in the Indian constitution, according to Article 17.
- In September 2012, an Australian Avaaz style website, ‘Get Up’, pressured, through a petition, the Australian government to deny a Dutch ‘supertrawler’ permission to fish in Australian waters, for fear of unacceptable harm to marine life.
Is the Social Media Campaign democratic?
It is easy to argue that this kind of ‘consultative democracy’ is hardly global democracy. That this is just a mishmash of websites, interest groups and petitions. It does not include people who are not connected to the internet (over half the world population), it has no physical presence, and so would cease to exist if the lights went out. It has no power of enforcement. Furthermore, it may lead to privacy breaches, as marketers could use information about participants to target advertising.
But recent examples of the success of the social media campaign cannot be denied. That they do influence decision makers to do that which the majority of interested citizens consider fair and reasonable is a difficult assertion to displace. And it is in the light of their early successes that one can start to comprehend that these social media political vehicles could well be precursors to the global democracy of the future.
In reality, the global democracy of the future might not be a world parliament where we vote for people. It could instead be a kind consultative democracy, where people vote, on the internet, for actions and ideas. To pressure existing institutions and decision makers to do the right thing for all.
In favor of such a future for global democracy, it could be said, people who use the internet at least have at their fingertips the tools to find out more about an issue, before they vote. The internet itself. Each person has access to information, whether they use it or not, before they vote. To many, this is preferable to simply relying entirely and only on the views of another person that has been elected, possibly on other platforms. Research further shows that people will ‘self select’ as to the websites and petitions they visit, and the issues they vote upon, in a way that aligns with their interest and knowledge (see article “People Power – A Short Discussion on Group Dynamics” on the home page).
This is not just a one way process. It is not only about large groups of people pressuring reluctant decision makers. Good decision makers want to be informed as to the wishes of people who may be affected by their decisions. In 2012, the government of Finland changed its constitution to require every proposal from the public with 50,000 signatories to be voted upon by the parliament. Their parliament also established an online platform to make it easier for eligible voters to propose new laws. Such platforms have bloomed all around the world in subsequent years.
It is a function of this website to bring order to the loose array of social media platforms that enable you to vote just on global issues. To help you find those places where you can go, as a global citizen, to legitimately influence decisions on global issues (See GD.org list). To enable you to participate in the new ‘global democracy’.
One day, we may see the setting up ‘super vehicles’ to convey peoples views on global policies in an even more organized way. Perhaps, directly to the United Nations. Hopefully, we can also look forward to a day when there will be sites established where people with specialist interest, knowledge or skills may be able to debate openly and argue various policies and solutions on issues of global importance. To enable a better understanding of the alternatives, before voting starts, on the same site.
In the meantime, it is hoped that you will find this site useful in bringing together those websites sites that you can go to visit or join, as a global citizen, to influence decisions that affect you.
There is already a global democracy of sorts – the United Nations. It has many important functions, and it is quite democratic. But, its voting systems mean national political considerations can trump what is best for the people in the world.
There are ongoing efforts to advance the development of a democratic world parliament. The work of those promoting a world parliament is admirable, but it is difficult to see one being established anytime soon, for the reasons outlined above.
Recently, it has become apparent that the future of global democracy may well be the social media vehicle. That it will be about voting for actions and ideas, not people. To inform, rather than replace decision makers, and to pressure existing institutions to do that which is in our interest. If that is the future of global democracy, then the future starts here.