The Earth Constitution as Our Only Practical Option

Glen T. Martin

International Conference of Chief Justices of the World, Lucknow, India, December 2012

We are gathered here, as honored guests of Dr. Jagdish Gandhi, his family, and the many fine people of CMS, Lucknow, out of concern for the world’s two billion children whose future is seriously endangered at this point in history. And we are gathered here because we share a common understanding of the significance of the rule of law and the need for enforceable world law. With your permission, ladies and gentlemen, I want to discuss why I believe the Earth Constitution is our only viable option.                     .

The perception that the universal rule of law lies at the heart of human civilization has been fundamental to thinkers since the time of Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero in the ancient world. Both democratic theory and the philosophy of law were born in ancient Athens of the 5th and 4th centuries BCE.  Greek and Roman Stoic philosophers understood universal law among all peoples as essential to peace, justice, and the very possibility of social living with virtue and integrity. Comparable conceptions of universal law also developed in the great civilizations of Asia, especially in China and India.[i]  In the history of legal thought, this prominent philosophy of law emphasizes legal monism: the idea that all law derives from a single source and that a single coherent system of law is destined to become universal. That is what I believe as a philosopher of law: that the Earth Constitution, or something very like it, is destined to become the supreme law for our planet Earth.

By the European Enlightenment of the 18th century, democratic theory and philosophy of law emerged as systematic elaborations on the nature of legitimate government and the rule of law, both still considered as being at the heart of human civilization. For 18th century philosopher of law, Immanuel Kant, the rule of law established both the moral framework for human relationships and made possible moral decision-making among citizens. The opposite of the rule of law, Kant declared, was war.  He defined war as the immoral condition where the rule of power and violence replaces the rule of law and thereby destroys morally based human relationships.

Like many other major Western legal thinkers, Kant saw the system of sovereign nation-states as intrinsically a war-system. Other thinkers who saw it as a war system were Thomas Hobbes, Baruch Spinoza, John Locke, and G.W.F. Hegel.  Nations, Kant observed, recognize no binding laws above themselves (only the voluntary treaties that we call international law). Kant termed this war-system “savage and barbaric.”  He repudiated the war system (and thereby also the system of sovereign nation-states) as intrinsically immoral, since we are morally required to live under the rule of democratically legislated, enforceable universal laws.

Nations that are not part of a federation legislating binding laws over everyone are illegitimate governments, for Kant. They are in violation of the fundamental imperative for a social contract uniting all under the rule of law. [ii]   

The Constitution for the Federation of Earth proposes to organize the world institutionally on the basis of the universal rule of effective law that is at the heart of human civilization. It envisions a due process of law, applied to every human-being, that is absolutely fundamental to peace, as well as to justice, reasonable equality, and environmental integrity. Regardless of whether we work to ratify this particular constitution, it needs to serve as a concrete model and regulative ideal for what must be done if these children and young people are going to have a future on this planet. The Constitution, and the world it envisions, should be before our minds at all times. It should be studied in every educational institution. There are really no other viable options.  The Constitution is widely known, respected, and promoted by a worldwide network of persons and organizations.[iii]

The Earth Constitution was written with the input of thousands of world citizens over a period of 23 years beginning at a large international meeting in Switzerland in 1968 and ending in a 4th such meeting in Troia, Portugal in 1991. Since 1991, it has been considered a finished document ready for ratification by the people and nations of Earth under the rules spelled out in its Article 17.

Its explicit purpose is to deal with global issues beyond the scope of nation-states.  These are spelled out in Article 1:

  1. to prevent war and secure disarmament.
  2. to protect and secure universal human rights.
  3. to end poverty and diminish social differences.
  4. to regulate world trade and use of resources.
  5. to protect the environment and the ecological fabric of life.
  6. to deal with all problems beyond the scope of nation-states.

We must demand global institutions that accomplish all six of these functions. Some of the eminent speakers at this conference have called for strengthening international law; others have called for a world judiciary with binding powers; still others have called for reform of the UN to make it more democratic.  However, to date, international law involves merely voluntary treaties among sovereign nation-states. Real law needs to be binding over all individual persons.  You cannot withdraw from, refrain from signing, or write in exceptions for yourself if it is real law. But that is exactly what the nations do today.

Because the UN is merely a treaty of sovereign nations, its mechanism for stopping war in Chapter VII shows that fallacy:  The Security Council is empowered to stop war by—believe it or not—going to war.   How does the UN keep the peace? By going to war, or by economic sanctions that hurt an entire population.  That is the fallacy behind the system of sovereign nations.  The world has no future until nations give up their false sovereignty and unite as states within a common constitution.

How about making the world judiciary stronger and its decisions more binding?  Another proposal made at this conference.  But you cannot bind sovereign nations.   How could decisions of the International Court of Justice in The Hague be enforced?   If these decisions are over nations rather than individuals, then the only way is by war. Real law binds individuals, not nations.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague, on the other hand, holds individuals responsible for crimes against humanity or war crimes.  But that court is only the result of a treaty affirming the Rome Statute by sovereign nations who call themselves the Assembly of States Parties. ICC is ineffective because of this. It lacks the power of mandamus, the court order.  All investigation, arrests, processing of subpoenas, gathering of evidence, etc., requires the voluntary cooperation of signatories to that treaty.  Again, national sovereignty blocks effective rule of law.

 How about reforming the UN?  Another suggestion urged at this conference.   But attempts to reform the UN have been going on since 1945 and all but a few cosmetic changes have failed.   Reform is made impossible by the Security Council veto which is at the heart of the UN Charter. Article 109 of the UN Charter allows for a charter review conference.  There is a coalition of organizations, including WCPA, working to get such a review conference called, but I believe this will never happen because it will be vetoed by the US.  To reform the UN properly we need to replace its Charter, a mere treaty, with a real Earth Constitution.

The wonderful students here at CMS have been asking how to protect the environment, how to stop war, how to prevent corruption, and how to protect human rights, and they get no straight answers.  That is because there is only one real answer that few wish to face up to.  We need real, effective democratic government for the entire Earth.

This is the plain truth of our situation that is hard to face up to:  you cannot solve global problems unless we have real, effective government for the Earth.  There are seven key features to having effective government that can adequately and fully address global problems:

  1. You must have a constitution for the Earth, not a charter or treaty of sovereign nations.
  2. You must have a decent, moral economic system that is designed for the benefit of everyone, not just the rich, and that is regulated under this constitution.
  3. You must have a democratic world parliament legislating genuine world laws (not treaties).
  4. You must have a world judiciary, with full judicial authority, protecting and implementing the constitution and the legislation of parliament.
  5. You must have a world administration with all the bureaucracies and resources necessary to effectively follow the world legislation and the courts.
  6. You must have a world civilian police force capable of enforcing the law over every person on Earth.

All military forces will have to be disbanded, since they are the problem, not the solution.

  • You must have a world government human rights agency that serves as a watchdog on the police and the government itself to prevent abuse of power.

These seven features are built into the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.  That is why this Constitution remains our central hope and our only practical option.

How legitimate is the Earth Constitution?  In most social contract theories of government, the legitimacy of government rests on three central features:

  1. The unmanipulated consent of the governed.
  2. The protection of human rights of citizens.
  3. The government’s protection of the general welfare or the common good.

As thinkers like Errol E. Harris have pointed out, today these criteria make every government on Earth illegitimate.  For no government can any longer protect the common good of its citizens.  The common good includes peace (not war); it includes protection of the environment which gives the very possibility of life, and it includes the elimination of extreme poverty. Under global capitalism and World Trade Organization rules, there is no way the government of India can eliminate the immense poverty of its citizens.  Global forces have taken these out of the hands of governments.  The only legitimate government, now, would have to be a world government.

      It is not a matter of giving up some of their sovereignty, as some have suggested. It is a matter of understanding that no sovereign territorial nation can be legitimate any longer.  Sovereignty belongs to the people of Earth, no nation is legitimate unless it is part of a world system that that can protect the common good of its citizens: with a decent environment, peace, and justice.

      Because sovereign nation-states are no longer legitimate, but clinging to power, we cannot expect them to be the leaders in establishing the unity of humankind under democratic world government. That is why the Provisional World Parliament and the Collegium of World Judges become so important. As you know, Dr. Gandhi has graciously allowed the WCPA to hold the 13th session of the Provisional World Parliament here at CMS next December immediately following the Chief Justices Conference.  Please attend.  The people are moving ahead under the authority of the Earth Constitution regardless of whether sovereign nations are willing to follow.

     Here are some recommendations of what we can and must do:

            First, we must bring the Earth Constitution into educational institutions everywhere on Earth, into law schools, liberal arts education, peace education forums, the media—everywhere it should be discussed, debated, and studied.

            Second, justices can lend their luminary status simply by becoming honorary sponsors of the Earth Constitution.  This is honorary and symbolic with no obligation attached, but it is very important.

            Third, justices, especially retired justices, can join the Collegium of World Judges and begin discussing these issues among themselves and developing the idea of a world judiciary.

     Fourth, we can support the development of the Provisional World Parliament and other initiatives designed to make what needs to happen, happen.

The Earth Constitution, therefore,serves as both a concrete model and a regulative ideal for the kind of future we want for our children. It is the beacon of light that can guide humanity to a civilized and humane future under the universal rule of law, establishing universal moral relationships among human beings. The Constitution itself represents a living embodiment and transformative force for a civilized, just, and peaceful world system. It needs to be taught, studied, and discussed in every educational venue.

Dear friends and colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to leave you with these questions: How can each of us similarly make our lives a living embodiment and transformative force on behalf of the universal rule of law? Can we establish a connection between our personal moral aspirations and the concrete reality of the Earth Constitution?  Can we help humankind transcend its present confusion and chaos, and the barbarism and lawlessness endless worldwide wars, by providing a specific focus for the future in the form of the Earth Constitution?

(Glen T. Martin is Professor of Philosophy at Radford University in Virginia and President of the World Constitution and Parliament Association. He is author or editor of eight books on global crises and the rule of law.)


[i] Martin, Glen T. (2008). Ascent to Freedom: Practical and Philosophical Foundations of Democratic World Law. Pamplin, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press, Chaps. 4.  Cf. Cicero (1999). On the Commonwealth and On the Laws. J.E.G. Zetzel, ed. Cambridge University Press, pp.113 & 126.

[ii] Martin, Ibid. Chaps. 4-6.  Cf. Immanuel Kant’s Perpetual Peace (1795).

[iii] The Constitution can be found at the Institute on World Problems (IOWP) website:  It is promoted by the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA, in cooperation with the IOWP.  Additional relevant sites are,,, and