I would like to congratulate the International Association of Constitutional Law (IACL) that organized its upcoming World Congress on the theme of “Violent Conflicts, Peace-Building, and Constitutional Law.” I also want to congratulate the organizers of this Workshop on the “Debate on Establishment of the World Constitution,” especially Professor Byung-Yoon CHO, for bringing the question of a World Constitution into focus through this Workshop and for inviting WCPA to participate in the discussions. Although I am not able to be there physically for the workshop, I want to give some input if people are interested. I have written this short paper and will be happy to be available for a Skype dialogue if this is requested.
In this brief paper, I would like to address each of the eight topic headings suggested in the Workshop announcement from the point of view of my scholarly and activist work toward a democratic world government under the authority of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. By addressing each of these topics, I hope to elucidate for the consideration of the scholars in Workshop #1 both the fundamental work that has already been done by the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA) and some of the ways that we have addressed the issues identified in this listing of topics. I have addressed in eight possible workshop topics in a different order from the one listed in the workshop announcement. Each topic is boldfaced.
- Universal concept of constitutionalism and (2) World Parliament
Constitutionalism, of course, includes the idea that it is essential to have a written framework that not only defines the powers of government and the role of its representatives but also defines the limits on those powers and holds those in power accountable to the framework of the laws as specified by the constitution. The Earth Constitution establishes a “positive constitutionalism” (Murphy 2007, 7) in which the government is mandated to foster the common good of the people of Earth and in which strict constitutional limits are placed on the authorities within government.
The Earth Constitution is not a direct heir of the separation of powers ideas of Montesquieu, as are found, for example, in the US Constitution. It sets up, rather, a dynamic parliamentary system in which the World Parliament, composed of three houses, represents the highest authority in the world, not countered by an Executive Authority with veto, military, or resistance powers. The World Executive under the World Parliament has no veto, no military, no refusal or police powers. The civilian Enforcement System (World Police) is independent of the Executive, as are the World Judiciary and World Ombudsmus, all agencies dedicated to protecting freedom, equal treatment under law, and human rights.
The World Parliament is itself designed for constitutional checks and balances among the three houses and for a maximum of diversity of representatives from every corner and constituency on our planet. The House of Peoples has 1000 representatives by population from around the globe. The House of Counselors has 200 representatives chosen for their intellectual stature and wisdom. This House has special nominating and advisory functions that add a dimension of wisdom and knowledge to the broad diversity of representation in the Parliament. Third, the House of Nations has 1, 2, or 3, representatives from each nation depending its population.
The World Parliament, of course, is also constitutionally limited. As philosopher of law H.L.A. Hart declares, “A written constitution may restrict the competence of the legislature not merely by specifying the form and matter of the legislation…but by excluding altogether certain matters from the scope of its legislative competence” (1997, 68). The broad functions of the Earth Federation Government under the World Parliament constitute a broad conception of a common good for the people of Earth. This includes ending war and disarming the nations, protecting universal human rights, diminishing poverty and social differences, and protecting the planetary environment (Article 1). The structure of government specified by the Constitution is designed to actualize these common goods with maximum diversity, democratic participation, and effective action. One of the ways the World Parliament is constitutionally limited is that the Constitution specifies a federalist framework in which local matters are the province of local government, internal national matters the province of national governments, and global matters the province of the World Government.
- The creation of a world assembly of peoples: the legitimacy and power of popular sovereignty.
As I argue in my forthcoming book, Human Self-Transcendence and Our Global Social Contract (2018), the “sovereignty” of governments is derived from the people of Earth, whose delegation of authority for their own common good is the only legitimate source of governmental authority. As Immanuel Kant (1957) affirmed, governments do not have “dignity,” they claim a spurious “majesty” linked to their military power, but only human beings have dignity. The authority of government represents the popular sovereignty of the people of Earth, for only people have the dignity that is the premise for governmental authority.
That is why governmental authority derives from popular sovereignty. The positivist view is misguided. The fact of simply being in power proffers no legitimacy. The right of governments to their authority is a moral right, and this moral right is derived from their protection and respect for the citizens of the state. As philosopher Alan Gewirth asserts, “the primary justification of governments is that they serve to secure these rights” (1982, 3). As philosopher of law Ronald Dworkin affirms, the legitimate framework for governing is “concern and respect” for the rights and common good of the citizens (1978, xv). Similarly, law professor David Luban states, legitimate governing requires “respect for the governed, respect for the autonomy of the governed, and trust in the governed” (2007, 112).
The many initiatives to create an assembly of peoples going back to the very beginning of the UN system in 1945 are misguided insofar as they attempt to create another powerless body, like the UN General Assembly, that cannot delegate sovereignty, or represent the sovereignty, of a real world authority capable of protecting their common good and that of future generations. We cannot evolve the UN into a world authority or world parliamentary system because the UN is premised on the false notion of the sovereignty of its member nations. Many thinkers, since the “Westphalian system” was created in the 17th century, have pointed out that the system of sovereign nations recognizes no enforceable laws above the nations and is, therefore, inherently a war system. Kant pointed out that it is “war” even when they are not fighting one another. We can integrate the UN into the Earth Federation by replacing its charter with the Earth Constitution.
If we want to survive and prosper as the world civilization of unity in diversity that we surely are, then we must create a World Parliament of peoples under the authority of a genuinely constitutional system, which is what the Earth Constitution does. The threats of nuclear war and on-going climate collapse do not give us the leisure for such innocuous experiments like trying to reform the UN. It does not matter who wrote the Earth Constitution (though in fact it was written through a powerfully democratic as well as scholarly process), for it can only be ratified through the democratic criteria specified in Article 17. Ratification by the people of Earth would transform our broken world disorder overnight.
As a matter of fact, the Provisional World Parliament, at its Eighth Session in Lucknow, India, in 2004, passed World Legislative Act #29 for a Global People’s Assembly. This legislation sets up grassroots institutions worldwide to facilitate the people of Earth in communicating with their representatives in the World Parliament. The World Parliament is already grassroots in that the people of Earth, from 1000 electoral districts worldwide, directly elect representatives to the largest House of the Parliament. Nevertheless, the Global People’s Assembly intensifies and facilitates that process. By contrast, more “World Social Forums” or another powerless assembly within the UN system, we not even begin to address our lethal problems on this planet.
- The need and methodology for the establishment of the World Constitution
I would respectfully submit that we need to ratify the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, and a perfectly good wheel is already available to the people of Earth in many editions and many languages. One of the strengths of this Constitution is that the Fourth Constituent Assembly, meeting in 1991 in Troia, Portugal, declared it finished and ready for ratification. By contrast, if we try to bring in all interested parties today into a methodology for drafting and establishing a World Constitution, the components of the resulting document would be so watered down as to make no significant difference in transforming the World System to one ensuring the common good of ending war, protecting universal human rights, diminishing poverty, and protecting the global environment. The world has passed repeated tipping points in the collapse of its biosphere and scientists agree that we are living far beyond sustainability. We are daily diminishing the capacity of the Earth to support future generations. Daily we encounter the possibility of nuclear war that will end all life.
Why we dally and vacillate is beyond both me and many of the tens of thousands of thinking people around the world within WCPA. If there are tenants in the Earth Constitution that any of us would want changed (and this is the case even with the officers of WCPA), then the Constitution offers ample space for the World Parliament to make these changes. We will never reach universal agreement on the details of a World Constitution. Our moral obligation, it appears to me, is to get this brilliant document ratified so that the world has the hope of a decent future, and, once weapons of mass destruction are eliminated and climate collapse is brought under control, we can then tinker with the secondary details.
- Universality of human dignity and (6) Global democracy: consider a more democratic global system
My forthcoming book, Human Self-Transcendence and Our Global Social Contract, has an entire chapter on human dignity. It cites many sources for this idea and goes into the dynamics of human self-transcendence, self-awareness, freedom, and moral responsibility that form the basis for human dignity. It is not possible to go into this detail here, but as I affirmed above, human dignity is the moral basis for the ideal of popular sovereignty and the foundation for all legitimate government authority. A consequence of this, as philosophers Errol E. Harris (1966) and John Finnis (1980, 129-30) have argued, is that all present day governments are increasingly illegitimate because they cannot possibly protect the common good of their citizens in a globalized world in which conditions are out of their hands. Harris declares, “The national state no longer has the right to exercise sovereign power and the conditions from which its authority originally derived are now obsolete, because they consisted in the pursuit of common purposes which can no longer be achieved within the limits of the nation-state and are attainable only in common with other communities beyond its borders” (1966, 186).
Human dignity is a universal concept, and nation-states are mostly militarized and often hostile to other nations. They are legally not responsible (under the UN sovereign state system) to protect human rights anywhere in the world. Even protection of human dignity and rights within their own borders is considered a voluntary moral obligation by the UN, since there is no global public authority to legally require this. If democracy means governmental authority arising from the dignity of the people and constitutionally organized to promote the common good of the citizens, then it cannot be a matter of “considering a more democratic global system” because there is nothing at all democratic about today’s global system. Without the rule of enforceable law over nation-states, there remain most basically power relationships, as Hans Morgenthau (2006) emphasized. Decisions for the rest of the world are not only made by the most powerful nations, but transnational corporations of immense wealth and power also determine the fate of billions. The world is a nightmare of oligarchical and imperial domination.
Real democracy today is only possible at the global level. The reason why it has failed in so called “democracies” worldwide is because under the fragmented system of sovereign states and transnational banking cartels and corporations there can be no democratic control of the internal affairs of any country. The Earth Constitution alone (or some very similar document) can establish effective democracy for the 21st century. The affairs of people within each and every country are no longer independent of global forces—from nuclear weapons, to climate collapse, to imperial powers, to global banking cartels. Only an effective global authority with enforceable power above these entities can bring democracy, justice, peace, and sustainability to our planet.
- Constitutional Education of Human Dignity for the Establishment of the World Constitution
and (8) Governing the whole world
I think it is very important to educate people concerning human dignity and human rights. As I have argued in a number of publications, human rights since the mid-twentieth century have included the right to planetary peace and the right to a protected, viable global environment. No nation-state nor treaty of nation-states can actualize these planetary rights, only a World Government could do this and the Earth Constitution is the gold standard for making this possible. WCPA has educators and educational institutions in a number of countries that teach about human dignity in relation to the Earth Constitution, because the Constitution is premised on this dignity.
The world today appears ungovernable because it violates dignity, equality, and justice everywhere on Earth, because environmental collapse is causing crises everywhere, and because the powers that control things (imperial nations, banking cartels, and transnational corporations) are themselves not in the slightest committed to peace, justice, or sustainability. Governing the whole world would not be difficult given computer technology and global communications used by a World Parliament perceived everywhere to be concerned with the common good. But to make this happen requires fundamental system change from the unworkable system of militarized sovereign nation-states and ungovernable transnational corporations to a genuine constitutional system predicated on human dignity, and hence on peace, justice, and sustainability.
We need to found a decent world system, rather than trying to evolve the current anachronistic and outdated world system, because human beings by this time in history are maturing to a worldcentric level in which we understand that our problems and their solutions are global in scope, and the present world system intrinsically violates this scope. This is demanded not only by our universal human dignity, but even for survival. The easiest and most rational way to found this global democratic system is through ratifying the Earth Constitution through the criteria specified in Article 17. Not only Albert Einstein, but Carl Jung and many other great thinkers and psychologists have pointed out that our apparently intractable conflicts and problems will be not so much solved, but dissolved, when we move to a higher level of understanding and maturity. That is what the Constitution for the Federation of Earth does. It brings the world into a unity in diversity of mature democratic globalism in which many of the apparently suicidal conflicts of the present system will disappear like the morning dew. I urge the participants in this forward thinking workshop to study and seriously consider promoting the Earth Constitution.
Dworkin, Ronald. 1978. Taking Rights Seriously. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Finnis, John. 1980. Natural Law and Natural Rights. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Gewirth, Alan. 1982. Human Rights: Essays on Justification and Applications. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Global People’s Assembly, WLA29, found at: http://www.radford.edu/gmartin/PWP.legis.acts.list.htm
Harris, Errol E. 1966. Annihilation and Utopia: The Principles of International Politics. London: George Allen & Unwin, LTD.
Hart, H.L.A. 1994. The Concept of Law. Second Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kant, Immanuel. 1957. Perpetual Peace. Ed. Lewis White Beck. New York: Macmillan.
Luban, David. 2007. Legal Ethics and Human Dignity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Martin, Glen T. 2018 (forthcoming). Human Self-Transcendence and Our Global Social Contract. London: Cambridge Scholars.
Morganthau, Hans. 2006. Politics among Nations. Seventh Edition. New York: McGraw Higher Education. (Orig. Pub. 1948.)
Murphy, Walter F. 2007. Constitutional Democracy: Creating and Maintaining a Just Political Order. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.