Urgent Need for a World Constitution

(For the website of the Democratic World Federalists (DWF), May 2013.)

Over the past several decades, the interdependence of the world’s global problems has begun to dawn on many thoughtful people. There are clear connections between the world’s militarism that spends well over one trillion US dollars per year and the world’s serious economic problems in which austerity is being imposed on civilian economies worldwide in order to pay for this military madness. There are clear connections between the on-going destruction of our planetary environment and the rivalries of sovereign nations who have been unable to reach agreements on the coordinated, major changes necessary to prevent climate collapse. There are clear connections between global poverty in which 60 percent of humanity live on less than two US dollars per day and the system of giant, multi-national corporations, located within certain nations, funneling ever-more wealth to the two percent of human beings who own 48 percent of the global wealth.

In addition, over the past several decades the contradiction between the system of sovereign nation-states and the idea of universal human rights has been emphasized by many thinkers and scholars. In her book, The Global Struggle or Human Rights, professor Debra L. DeLaet points out the contradiction between the fact that human rights are universal and apply to every person on Earth while “state sovereignty is a governing principle in world politics” that “makes interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states a violation of international law.” And yet “sovereign states typically are the actors most responsible for perpetrating human rights abuses.”

If we put these several world problems together, we see that state sovereignty is a key to all of them. The rivalry of sovereign states makes them incapable of cooperating to save the global environment. Their runaway militarism is a result of the same rivalry. Their promotion of their own economic interests and their own multi-national corporations worldwide results in the concentration of wealth in very few hands and massive poverty for the majority. Indeed, the fact that the world is fragmented into some 193 “sovereign” nations, competing with each-other economically, militarily, and politically is the basic reason why the world cannot effectively solve its terrible global problems. It is also the reason why universal human rights are routinely violated nearly everywhere on Earth.

A world constitution would address all these problems at once. Clearly, that is the only practical way they could be addressed. A well-written and coherent constitution would not abolish nation-states. (The Constitution for the Federation of Earth that is already written and ready for ratification is the world’s preeminent example of this.) Such a constitution would unite the nations under the principle of unity in diversity. The diversity, uniqueness, and cultural differences of the world are precious and important, but even these cannot be protected as long as militarism, national economic competition, economic injustice, environmental destruction, and human rights abuses continue to ravage the Earth. A well-written world constitution would unite the nations of the world to create a coherent policy for eliminating war and militarism, protecting the environment, reducing economic injustice and poverty, and protecting universal human rights. Such a constitution is our only practical option if we want a decent future for our children and generations to come after us. Promoting and ratifying an Earth Constitution should be our fundamental concern and the central focus of our life-energy. This is not only our most practical option, it is our only genuine option.
(Glen T. Martin is professor of philosophy and Chair of the Program in Peace Studies at Radford University in
Virginia. He is also President of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA))