The mandate

The mandate and regulations of the global governance structure should be delineated in the Constitution’s preamble and its chapters. In a nutshell, the mandate would be not to interfere with the internal affairs of sovereign states and ordinary people, but to deal with global issues or serious violations of commonly agreed core values and principles. The following are examples of such values, guided by the good of all humankind and by respect for the equal value of all human beings:

  • no deliberate harm should be inflicted upon the civilian population
  • no group should be discriminated against
  • military intervention by one country or group of countries against another is not acceptable unless approved by the international body as a last resort
  • Everybody should have a chance for basic sustenance and development: food and water, shelter, health (e.g. uncontaminated water and air) and basic education
  • no state or corporation should violate or appropriate international space, including the land, waters, the atmosphere and outer space; no harm should knowingly be inflicted on future generations
  • No exceptionalism: all agreed principles should apply equally to all states, corporations and other groups, as well as to individuals

As this proposal argues for a fluid constitution, these examples are not set in stone and can be amended and refined further.

Decision-making paths

In all three chambers, decisions will be made by simple majority, but decisions made in one chamber will be subject to objections by the other two. A decision will be submitted for ratification to the other two chambers, and if neither objects in the allocated time, the decision will be upheld. If only one objects, the decision will still be upheld. If both object, the decision has to be annulled or amended. This may sound like too slow a process, particularly in times of crisis, but it doesn’t have to be. A number of blueprints can be created in advance for various crisis situations. If they have already been approved, a suitable one can be quickly chosen and implemented and then further adapted, if necessary, to the unique set of circumstances of an individual case. In this system, the House of States would have the final decision-making power in many situations, which is not an accident. Without this proviso, there is little chance that states, on which funding depends, would accept the addition of the other two chambers and move (at least in some cases) from non-binding to binding resolutions.

One advantage of this model is that there is no need or justification for a power of veto – or the Security Council. This highly undemocratic relic from the aftermath of WW2 is demonstrably no longer fit for purpose. An inability to deal with so-called ISIS and the crisis in Syria and Iraq is just one example of how the Security Council (and the UN as a whole) has become ineffective. The power of veto is arguably one of the most unhelpful mechanisms in the UN, and should have been abolished by now. Nevertheless, it is anticipated that this could be one of the most difficult things to change, as those who have the power of veto are unlikely to give it up easily. For this reason, implementation of the new system would need to be strategic, at least until the reforms gain some leverage and the chances of success become realistic. To begin with, the new model would work around the issue of the veto and ignore it as much as possible. It would also be helpful to gain the support of the general public by encouraging public debate on this issue (which is currently almost completely absent). This could increase the pressure (from the inside and outside) on those states that have the power of veto. Until the veto can be completely abolished, attempts could be made to limit its use to certain areas, and to gain ground in incremental steps.

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The means of implementing decisions

To be effective, global governance should gradually move from non-binding to binding decisions. In the case of violations of mutually agreed and accepted decisions, actions that are already pretty much standard can be taken (with some modifications):

  • Suspended membership (and therefore suspended participation in decision making) of the international institutions.
  • Economic and trade sanctions (e.g. limiting exports from the country, a ban on selling arms or other non-essential products to that country, freezing assets, etc.). These forms of enforcement are effective because they are highly flexible in terms of who is targeted, how, and to what degree.
  • Interventions: in some (hopefully rare) cases, military intervention may need to be considered. This should be, of course, a last resort but it should not be entirely excluded as its possibility would also act as a deterrent.

Control and accountability

In principle, control and accountability can be internal, top-down, bottom-up and mutual. None of these is perfect on its own. Internal is not always sufficient (e.g. family members may be accountable to each other, but if that family has power over those outside the family, such internal accountability may not be sufficient). A problem with top-down accountability is that whoever is on top is not accountable to anybody; ‘tyranny of the majority’ is a potential issue with the bottom-up model; and mutual accountability can lead to collusion. As none of these options seems to be sufficient on its own, our model combines them:

  • Mutual control and accountability are crucial to the system. One of the reasons for creating a tripartite model is that its chambers can keep each other in check. The Secretariat is accountable to all three chambers and, in return (in the case of a serious breach of guidance and regulations), the Secretariat can also recommend the dismissal of any member of those chambers, but the other two chambers would need to approve such an action. Additional but different forms of accountability are used with each chamber:
  • As the Council has very little direct power, and has to go via other chambers to put its decisions into practice, internal accountability (in conjunction with mutual accountability) is sufficient. Any member of the Council can be voted out by its super-majority (two-thirds).
  • Members of the House of Representatives will be accountable to the people who vote for them (bottom-up accountability).
  • Members of the House of States will be accountable to their respective national governments, which will be able to recall and replace them (top-down accountability).

There is an imbalance with the last two, however. While states can respond to the actions of their ambassadors straight away, people cannot – they usually need to wait for the ballot box. To account for this, their representatives should report back to their constituents on a regular basis and broadly stick to the platform on which they were elected. If their constituents believe that their representative has changed their mind without good justification, an early election can be triggered by a ‘vote of no confidence’.

It is hard to say, at this stage, if this combination can guarantee fool-proof accountability. Human beings can be very inventive in creating models that would benefit all, but they can also be very creative in subverting and circumventing any model for their own ends. These two traits have always been, and are likely to continue playing out. This is why a complex and robust system of control and accountability needs to be provided to build on, but with the awareness that we should never become complacent and that the system should have to keep evolving.

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Transparency is essential for good governance. Although many governments nowadays, as well as the UN, are taking some steps in the direction of greater transparency, much more can be done. This model enhances transparency in key ways:

  • Mutual observers: to secure transparency between the three major entities of this model, whenever one of them has a major meeting, observers from the other two should be present (e.g. observers from the Council and the House of States would attend sittings of the House of Representatives and so on).
  • The organisation would need to be more proactive regarding the general public. As previously suggested for national governance, there should be a gazette, published in print and electronically, that would report to the public (e.g. on how much money has been spent and on what, what the plans and goals are, to what extent goals have been fulfilled and, if they have not, why not). Such a media outlet should be paid for by the organisation, but should run independently to secure impartiality.

Securing ongoing evolution

A number of mechanisms must be put in place to ensure the model is flexible and continues to evolve:

  • Fluent constitution: one of the main tasks of the Council would be to keep refining and adapting the constitution to changing circumstances.
  • The tripartite system itself provides a mechanism for greater flexibility, as any two components can request a revision or improvement of the third.
  • Openness to grass-roots input can also contribute to evolving the organisation.
  • The feedback loop mechanism must also be put in place. It normally consists of:
    • setting a clear and transparent goal and taking steps to achieve it
    • assessing the goal against the outcome
    • if the outcome was not fully satisfactory, analysing the reasons for this
    • on the basis of the above, making revisions and developing strategies to make improvements

This may seem common sense, but it is often ignored in international politics. For example, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 had no clear and transparent goal[1].  After initial triumphalism, a proper assessment against the outcome has never been officially carried out; consequently, a proper analysis and revision were also absent. The same mistake (not having a good strategy for securing normal functioning of civic society in the aftermath of military action) was repeated in Libya in 2011 with the same result: opening a door to endless civil wars.

Protection against the abuse of power

Rightly or wrongly, the EU is often perceived as interfering in the internal affairs of member states. This was cited as one of the major reasons behind the UK voting to leave the Union in the 2016 referendum. In this case it was unjustified, as the UK had to implement very little legislation that its own government did not approve of. However, this example shows that it is important to limit not only actual interference but also the perception of interference. This is why it is crucial to clearly and transparently communicate the organisation’s mandate: to deal with global issues and interfere with actions of individual states only and solely if it is collectively concluded that there are serious violations of agreed core values and principles (e.g. harm inflicted by one country on another or on humanity as a whole). We should also mention that the task of controlling interference as well as the perception of interference would be less taxing for this model than for the EU, as no economic or fiscal union is proposed.

Protection against privileging

The proposed tripartite system would reduce the concentration of political power and consequently reduce the risk of the special interests of individuals, groups and organisations gaining favours. In addition, a number of suggestions that parallel those for national governance can be utilised:

  • Corporate lobbying that involves hiring professionals to influence the members of a governing body can be abolished, on the basis that ordinary citizens do not have the same opportunity to do so[2]. Commercial companies could make their case and offer suggestions in the same way as everybody else, using the same channels.
  • Interest groups, think-tanks, NGOs and other such organisations are sometimes used as a façade to influence national and international politics. Global governance institutions would not be in a position to force them to disclose the sources of their funding because this could be perceived as interference with the national sovereignty of the country to which they belong. However, there is no reason why the cases of those who disclose it voluntarily cannot be prioritised.
  • Some features of this model, such as the addition of the non-state-based chambers and the phasing out of the Security Council and the veto, reduce the possibility of a state or group of states being in a privileged position. It is true that the proposed system of weighted votes in the House of States (linked to their contributions) may legitimise the greater influence of some states, but such influence would at least be transparent and clearly demarcated. Furthermore, it would also be moderated by other chambers. This would be a far cry from the present situation, in which the permanent members of the Security Council effectively have all the power.

One can be forgiven for feeling that the tide is running in the opposite direction to all this: there is strong and growing opposition to ‘globalisation’ (and, by association, global institutions) on the left and the rise of nationalism on the right. But tides go into reverse, and this one may change direction very soon. People are increasingly aware of our inter-dependency, especially in the face of crises such as climate change. According to a recent BBC World Service survey, most people (except in a few Western countries) already consider themselves to be global citizens. Momentum is already present, and when the tide does change, we need to be ready, so let’s see how we could meet the challenges of implementing this or similar models.

[1] Disarming Iraq of (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction was more an excuse than a goal.
[2] In theory, people could collectively hire professional lobbyists, but to do so they would need to organise, while corporations are already organised for different reasons, which still gives them an unfair advantage.

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