Monday, 4 May 2015

Framework for a Free United Nations

Last week, I wrote a post about how the United Nations has become one big joke that should be replaced with what I call a Free United Nations; a global organization composed only of freedom-loving, democratic nation-states.  I also suggested that such an organization should operate more like a government rather than an international organization made up of diplomats, like the current U.N. I did not, however, go into great detail in regards to how I see a new, Free U.N. being structured.  Therefore I will use this post to provide a more in-depth description of what I think the Free U.N. should look like.

The Global Parliament

In my original post on the U.N., I said that there should be a parliament.  By this, I meant a parliament that is democratically elected by the people of each member state, rather than an assembly of diplomats, like the current U.N.'s General Assembly (UNGA).  Furthermore, unlike the UNGA, where each nation-state has one vote, I would suggest that the Global Parliament of the Free U.N. use a formula of representation based on population.  So for example, the United States, with a population in excess of 300 million people, would have far more representatives than say, my home country of Canada, which has only about 35 million people.  I do believe, however, that each nation-state should have a minimum of two representatives.

All the member states would be able to decide for themselves what electoral system they use to elect their representatives, be it proportional representation, first-past-the-post or some other method.  The only condition would be that the representatives have to be directly elected by the countries' citizens through universal adult suffrage; ie. all citizens of each country aged 18 years or more would have the right to vote.  It may be feasible to structure the Global Parliament as a bicameral legislature if many member states insist on having a chamber where each state has an equal number of votes, instead of just having a unicameral legislature based on representation by population.  In this case, I would recommend that one chamber, called the Global Assembly, be structured based on the representation by population model, while a second chamber, which I will call the Global Senate, be made up of two representatives from each country, regardless of population; ie. each country gets two representatives and two votes.  All representatives in the Global Parliament will be elected to fixed terms.  I personally would recommend four year terms.

The Prime Minister and Cabinet

As in any parliamentary governmental system, the Global Parliament, or the lower house thereof, will choose a Prime Minister, who will in turn choose ministers to form a cabinet. 

The Council of Ministers

Although I argued that the Free U.N. should be structured as if it were the democratically elected government of a country, I would also contend that it is the member states that must have the final say in the decisions made by the new organization; at least on a temporary basis.  What I mean is that even though I believe that the leaders of the free world would agree to form a new, Free United Nations, I don't believe that they would be willing to turn over their sovereign right to create and enforce international laws to what will essentially be an aspiring world government.  Hence, I propose that until a certain level of trust and unity amongst the nation-states is obtained, the member states of the Free U.N. must have an organ of power that they can use in order to have the final say on whatever decisions the organization makes.

My proposed Council of Ministers would be that organ of power and would function in very much the same way as the Council of Ministers in the European Union does today.  The E.U.'s Council of Ministers was created as the original, de-facto legislature of the organization.  It is composed of one minister from each member country.  The portfolios of those ministers depend whatever issue is up for discussion at any given time.  So for example, if the Council is discussing agricultural subsidies, the ministers responsible for agriculture in each member country will meet.  Each member state in the E.U.'s Council of Ministers has a certain number of votes in accordance with their respective populations.  The Free U.N.'s Council of Ministers would work the same way.  In many cases, special majorities or even unanimous votes are required in the E.U.'s Council of Ministers in regards to issues of major importance.  I would suggest that in the Free U.N.'s Council of Ministers, a special majority, say two thirds, be required when authorizing the use of force in order to enforce international law, though I believe that other issues should be decided by majority vote.  Furthermore, under NO circumstances should one country, no matter how populous or powerful, have a veto over decisions in the Free U.N.  The last thing we need is the kind of dysfunction and deadlock that passes for normalcy in the current U.N.'s Security Council.

The President of the Free United Nations

All international governmental organizations have one person at the top.  The current U.N. has the Secretary-General, the European Union has the President of the European Commission, and so the Free U.N. should also have someone at the top who can speak on its behalf.  I will call this person the President of the Free United Nations.  He or she will be elected by the Council of Ministers and subject to approval by the Global Parliament.  For the most part, the President of the Free U.N. will simply be a spokesperson for the organization, so the office will be largely ceremonial.  The only authority the President will command will be the authority to choose a person in the Global Parliament to be the Prime Minister and charge him or her with the task of forming a cabinet.  This is the power vested in the heads of state in all parliamentary democracies, be they presidents or constitutional monarchs, such as Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.  I do not envision, nor do I recommend, any one person having the kind of power that the President of the United States has. 

The Global Supreme Court

All democratic governments have an independent judicial branch, and so should the Free United Nations.  The Global Supreme Court that I envision will perform the tasks currently performed by the current U.N.'s International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.  It will also be tasked with determining a nation-state's eligibility to be a member of the organization.

The Making of International Law in the Free United Nations

As I see it, measures to uphold, enhance or change international law should be proposed in the same way as bills meant to become laws are proposed in parliaments throughout the democratic world.  Such a measure could originate in either the Global Parliament or the Council of Ministers.  In the Global Parliament, it will be primarily the job of the Prime Minister and his or her cabinet to set the agenda on what proposals are debated and ultimately passed, just as it is in any current parliamentary democracy.  Any proposal passed by the Global Parliament would have to be approved by the Council of Ministers before becoming law.  The process could also begin in reverse, where the Council of Ministers would ratify a proposal before seeking its approval by the Global Parliament.  Basically, no proposal could become law without the consent of both the Global Parliament and the Council of Ministers.  It is my hope, however, that over time, the member states of the Free U.N. will build up a sense of trust and unity amongst each other so that eventually the Council of Ministers ceases to exist and power is placed solely in the hands of the Global Parliament, the Prime Minister and his or her cabinet. 

Upholding, Creating and Enforcing International Law

As the subheading above implies, it will be the right and duty of the Free United Nations to uphold international law and facilitate the creation of new international law if need be.  These are essentially the same things that the current U.N. is supposed to do, but has largely failed to do.  In theory, the current U.N. is also supposed to enforce international law by force of arms, if necessary.  Many people don't know it, but the U.N. was originally designed to have a military force of its own.  This never came to fruition, however, so the U.N. is reliant on the military forces of its member states to do the enforcing.  And as history has shown, this formula for enforcing international law hasn't worked very well.

The Free U.N. that I envision will have its own military force so that it is not entirely dependent on the good will of its members.  How big this force will be and what equipment it will be armed with will obviously be subject to agreement by the members of the new organization.  The Free U.N. force would be under the command of the Council of Ministers.  It will be the sole discretion of the Council of Ministers to authorize the use of force.

Financing the Free United Nations

How does the current United Nations finance itself?  Well, basically it's dependent on its members to pay their agreed-upon annual dues.  Unfortunately, this formula hasn't worked too well, and so it's no surprise that the U.N. is often tight for money.

So how will the Free United Nations finance itself?  Well, since I envision the Free U.N. working very much like a government, I would recommend that it finance itself the same way any government does: through taxes.  Giving the current U.N. taxing powers is an idea that's been floating around for quite some time.  But it's an idea that can't gain traction because of the U.N.'s reputation for being unaccountable and undemocratic.  Now of course, everyone hates paying taxes, but most of us in the democratic world accept the burden of taxes because we know it pays for a lot of the things that we need, like schools, hospitals, police and so forth.  We also know that the folks who make us pay taxes are the folks that we choose to put in power.  I believe, therefore, that people in the democratic world would be willing to pay taxes to a Free U.N., knowing that the organization functions democratically and that it is an effective tool of global governance. 

How Can We Create The Free United Nations?

It will obviously be up to the leaders of the free world to create the Free United Nations that I envision, or something similar.  I myself do not have any political power beyond that of an ordinary citizen of the world, nor do I aspire to any political office in the future.  So for now, all I can do is share my ideas and hope that the leaders of the world's democracies start considering alternatives to the mess that we call the United Nations.

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