Democratization of the United Nations discussed at an event in Lyon

Secretariat, 24. May 2016

On the occasion of the UN's 70th anniversary last year, a public event was held at the Political Sciences Institute in Lyon, France, on 11 May 2016 to discuss perspectives for making the world organization more effective and more democratic. Around 70 participants attended the event that was organized by the Young Europeans and the Union of European Federalists Rhône-Alpes.  


The event was moderated by Guillaume Bullier (left) of the Young Europeans

As a first speaker, Jean-Francis Billion, president of the UEF Rhône-Alpes and a council member of the World Federalist Movement presented the history of the federalist movements in the world and in France. He explained that the European federalists fought for the election of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage, a European currency and a real European constitution. The world federalists on the other hand promote a UN Parliamentary Assembly, UN reforms and regional integration across the world as a key towards effective and credible global governance.

Subsequently, Sylvain Schirmann, university professor and director of the Political Sciences Institute of Strasbourg, spoke about the history of the League of Nations as important precursor of the UN. The League of Nations was weak because its membership was not universal. In particular, the United States did not join and the Soviet Union did so only very late. Other countries in Latin-America as well as Japan were reluctant, too.

Finally, Pierre-Yves Maurice, vice-president of the UEF Rhône-Alpes and a former UN employee, elaborated on the strengths and weaknesses of the UN. Among the major problems that he mentioned was the veto right of the five permanent members of the Security Council, ineffective coordination between the myriads of UN institutions, and the lack of democratic representation of the world's citizens. According to Mr. Maurice, "the most important perspective is the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly taking in account the positive experience gained from the Inter-Parliamentary Union."

In the discussion, Mr. Billion asked: "Who is utopian? The person who thinks that a divided planet will regulate itself or someone who envisions global democracy?"