Integration in a World Community

Submitted by Arthur Dahl on 15. November 2018 - 12:00
Dahl, Arthur Lyon

Integration in a World Community

Remarks by Professor Arthur Dahl
International Environment Forum
Geneva, Switzerland
at the
All Party Parliamentary Group on Baha’i Faith
Luncheon at Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London
14 November 2018

Integration in a World Community

With the theme of oneness at this APPG luncheon which is also taking place during interfaith week, it is worth considering how we can achieve oneness in the world community of today. Science and technology have changed and are changing our world at an accelerating pace, forcing us to acknowledge our oneness as a human race in all our diversity. How do we find our place, when the globalisation of the economy and through the media challenges us at every turn? In our work on global governance for the 21st century, we have drawn inspiration from the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, who already a century and a half ago anticipated our need to live together in peace on this small planet. He called on the world leaders of his time, including Queen Victoria, to settle their differences, and warned them of the consequences of not doing so. Yet despite two world wars and many smaller conflicts, we still see nations strengthening their capacity to annihilate the human race many times over.

We have therefore reflected deeply on the global catastrophic risks we all run today, for which we recently won the New Shape Prize of the Global Challenges Foundation, and are exploring the best ways to diminish them, in a book we are writing for Cambridge University Press. Fortunately we can build on the great progress we have already made with the United Nations over the last 70 years despite its weaknesses. Many things need fixing in the international system, from international security challenges through widespread corruption and growing inequality, to climate change and the other planetary boundaries that we are overshooting. Even more fundamentally, we have built such a complex integrated system of food, trade, communications, finance, human mobility and many of the objects we depend on today like our computers and smart phones, that we are increasingly vulnerable to a complex systems collapse, with damage or a failure in one part of the system bringing down all the others. Imagine what would happen if a giant solar flare or cyberwarfare destroyed the electronic and computer systems upon which we have become so dependent. The banking crisis was only a first warning of what could be ahead, and we are not prepared for it.

This is not something that any one country can address by itself unless it returns to a medieval lifestyle. The best way to ensure that our rich and unique national cultures and traditions survive is to protect them through more effective mechanisms of global governance from those risks and problems that escape from national control. We could as easily trip unexpectedly into a third world war as we did into the first one. Climate change does not stop at national borders. The next financial crisis risks being larger and deeper than that of 2008, with fewer means left to respond. Retreating to our castle and raising the drawbridge is not a solution. We insist on a strong police force for national security; why not a strong international police force for global security? The biggest threat to our national institutions, cultures and values is from giant monopolistic corporations homogenising our world for their profit as they escape from all national control and regulation. They need a global regime of social and environmental responsibility to ensure a level playing field for all economies big and small.

Global Institutions for the 21st Century

To respond to these needs, together with my collaborators Augusto Lopez-Claros, a distinguished economist, and Maja Groff, a specialist in international law, also Bahá’ís, we have considered what needs to be improved in the United Nations to make it suitable to address the global challenges of this century that are beyond national control. First, it would be essential to establish in the Charter the human rights and responsibilities of individuals, and also those that would be reserved to states to ensure the autonomy of the diverse nations that make up our world, reserving to international institutions only those issues that must be addressed globally such as peace and security, the planetary environment and human rights.

On the legislative side, we would give the General Assembly proportional representation to increase its credibility, and empower it to adopt binding legislation in its areas of responsibility. It should be supported in this with scientific advisory bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as well as an Office of Technology Assessment able to review threats from innovations such as geoengineering, artificial intelligence and social manipulation over the Internet. An Office of Ethical Assessment could remind legislators and policy makers of the moral principles and ethical values which governments have accepted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other Declarations and Conventions. A Second Chamber should be created advisory to the General Assembly representing the peoples of the world and the major groups of civil society, providing a forum to debate various themes in the global common interest, rather than national interests.

Reform of the executive functions would see the Security Council replaced by an Executive Council elected by the General Assembly and chaired by the Secretary-General to manage the UN system and address security and conflict prevention. An independent UN funding mechanism might collect 0.1 percent of the GNI of all countries, providing an initial budget of about $70 billion, several times the present UN budget. An International Peace Force would be able to enforce the decisions taken by the UN to ensure world security, accompanied by staged disarmament of all countries. A Mediation and Conciliation Commission would resolve disputes before they reached the stage where force was necessary.

The judicial function of the UN would also be made binding, with the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court complemented by a new International Anti-Corruption Court and an International Human Rights Tribunal, as well as an Office of the Attorney-General.

The UN Specialised Agencies would continue with enhanced functions. New organisations would need to be created to address income inequality between and within states, and to consider the equitable management of natural resources. The new legislative capacity of the General Assembly would make it possible to review all the international conventions and to replace them with more coherent universally binding legislation, retaining all the good features and filling gaps.

A number of alternatives are explored to implement this ambitious agenda for UN reform. The Second Chamber could be created by the General Assembly without the need for Charter revision. Climate change could be an issue on which governments might more readily accept giving up some sovereignty to a global institution, following the example of the Coal and Steel Community at the origin of the European Union, where small steps built trust in the new institutions which gradually took on increasing powers. For those innovations requiring revision of the UN Charter, there are existing provisions in the charter for review that have always been blocked by Permanent Members of the Security Council with the veto. If this blockage continues, governments willing to pursue reform could hold a charter replacement conference, just as the United Nations replaced the League of Nations. The new organisation could be launched, given stronger financing, and once it was established, it could merge with the old UN or buy it out.

While it took World War I to lead to the League of Nations, and World War II to motivate governments to form the United Nations, we can hope that it will not require a third World War to finally achieve effective global governance. We have already presented these proposals to senior officials and diplomats at the United Nations in New York last week at an event organised by the Bahá’í International Community, as well as at the Paris Peace Forum last weekend.

Changing values

Underlying all this is the need for a change in values. Our materialistic consumer society is unsustainable. Our governments have all agreed to the UN 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals as the necessary path ahead, requiring a paradigm shift in our economy and society. Many studies show that cooperation is more efficient that competition. My own work for the World Economic Forum some years ago showed the competitive edge in environmental responsibility. Bahá'u'lláh said that work in a spirit of service was worship, so everyone should contribute to the well-being of society and no one should be left unemployed. Extremes of both wealth and poverty destabilise society. In our vision of a united and interdependent world, as the UN has said, no one should be left behind. Bahá'ís everywhere have been called upon by our international governing body, the Universal House of Justice, to put our values into action in our own communities, experimenting with solutions to the economic and social challenges we face. We do not have all the answers, but need to learn together to find positive ways forward. We hope that you also, in your own areas of responsibility and your faith traditions, will work for the betterment of your communities, your country, and the planet we all inhabit.

Last updated 15 November 2018