Establishment of a global parliament discussed at international meeting in New York

Secretariat, 30. October 2009

The progress of the international efforts for the establishment of a global parliamentary assembly was discussed at a meeting across the United Nations headquarters in New York. Around 60 participants from 19 countries, among them 12 Members of Parliament and numerous representatives of non-governmental organizations who are part of the Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) attended the event on Monday in order to exchange their different experiences and views.

In her welcome remarks Senator Sonia Escudero, Secretary-General of the Latin-American Parliament, pointed out that the United Nations, established in 1945, “reproduces an age old international order.” Said Senator Escudero: “One of the challenges that the United Nations will have to face in order not to become obsolete is its own reform. It is imperative to undertake an integral reform of the United Nations taking into account that any representative institution, that is to say democratic institution, should have an structure that honours this characteristic. It is clear that the establishment of a UN Parliamentary Assembly would be a decisive step towards the democratic consolidation in the United Nations system.”

Jo Leinen, Member of the European Parliament, stressed the long-standing support of the European Parliament for the creation of a UNPA. The most recent resolution was adopted in June 2005. Mr Leined noted that a new effort to reiterate the parliament’s support will be taken in the current new legislature. A representative of the Argentine Chamber of Deputies, Fernando Iglesias, reported on a resolution calling for a UNPA adopted by his parliament in August this year. Mr Iglesias promoted that the participants in the campaign reach out intensively to civil society and the academic world as well in order to build a broader base of public awareness. This approach was endorsed by Mike Sebalu, Member of the East African Legislative Assembly, saying that “it is crucial to reach critical mass of supporters from all walks of life.”

Presenting a report adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on the reform of the United Nations a few weeks ago, Andreas Gross, a Swiss Member of Parliament and leader of the Socialist Group in PACE, pointed out that the modernization of the UN should include by necessity a parliamentary dimension. Giving the example of the Council of Europe, Gross stressed that the UN runs the risk of becoming irrelevant in the long-term if no Parliamentary Assembly is established. “If the Council of Europe were a government organization alone, without a parliamentary body, its importance would have diminished completely by now,” Gross said.

The afternoon session concentrated, among other things, on a debate on the concept of a UN Parliamentary Assembly and, more in particular, models for the possible distribution of seats in a UNPA. The Chair of the Committee for a Democratic U.N., Andreas Bummel, presented a paper on the subject. He outlined that the report shows the feasibility of the proposal and that there are realistic and pragmatic options on the table. Joseph Schwartzberg, Professor emeritus of the University of Minnesota, presented his own incremental approach for the creation of a UNPA and elaborated on his suggestion to distribute seats according to population, equality, and share in UN membership dues. Andrew Strauss, Professor of Law at the Widener University School of Law, argued that a UNPA should be established through a stand-alone treaty rather than as a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly.

Participants in the meeting generally felt that the campaign has gathered considerable political momentum over the past two and a half years since its launch in April 2007. The event was filmed by a crew led by Lisa Russell who recently won an Emmy Award and works on a documentary on U.S.-UN relations.