Why a UN Parliamentary Assembly is supported across party lines

Till Kellerhoff, 18. August 2016

View of the conservative group in the German Parliament. In 2015, it voted in favor of a call on the federal government to look into the UNPA proposal. Image by Tobias Koch, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE

Even if a UN Parliamentary Assembly is usually associated with progressive movements there are very strong reasons for conservatives to also support the idea

The proposal of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) is supported across party lines. It was endorsed by the Socialist International, the World Congress of Green parties, as well as the Liberal International, and the international appeal for a UNPA was signed by politicians and officials from all political affiliations.

But often the idea of a world parliament is primarily associated with a progressive liberal, socialist or left movement which tries to tame the worst excesses of globalization: a lack of democracy at the international level, growing inequality or environmental degradation. Conservatives, however, often seen as the preservers of traditions – and in this context the inviolability of the national state – are thought to be less supportive of this idea. In the following I will argue that this is a mistake.

The paradox of today’s globalized world is that you need change in order to conserve. With the rapid changes in the world's economy and a growing convergence of markets, the shrinking influence of national governance constantly undermines the kind of democracy we know. But if the economic system within a (world) society is changing so fundamentally, retaining the political system – in order to leave everything as it is – is a fallacy.

Throughout the 20th century, the increasing intertwinement of national states and political issues has lead to the creation of multinational political unions such as the European Union or the Organization of African Unity, now  the African Union. Even if things do not always run as planned (Brexit is just one of many examples), a return to national solo efforts is neither possible nor desirable. And this is not only because of values such as international solidarity or cooperation. It is also because the ever changing economic sector affects our world and our lives at a global scale and will do so even more in the future.

It could be argued that the economic system is taken too seriously and that the development from small entities like villages towards bigger entities like kingdoms and nations is a constant feature of human history – even without globalization. This is certainly true. But until now we never experienced a global system in which the economic and financial sphere had such an enormous influence on policymaking throughout the world.

We are now faced with two alternatives: either we watch the global system be shaped by financial markets, multinational companies or undemocratic international organizations, or the world's citizens take back control and design the economic transformation and politics in general in a democratic way, from local to global.

Even conservatives can’t deny that the first alternative would undermine their goal to retain our traditions and institutions dramatically. Powerful - and democratic - global governance is needed and a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly is an important step towards this goal.

The author is currently an intern at the UNPA campaign's secretariat.