UN Parliamentary Assembly discussed at meeting in the Swedish Riksdagen

Left to right: Folke Tersman, Tommy Waidelich, Åsa Lindestam, Petter Ölmunger, Andreas Bummel, Rebwar Hassan, Hans Dahlgren, Bodil Ceballos, Jens Holm, and Torbjörn Tännsjö

Left to right: Folke Tersman, Tommy Waidelich, Åsa Lindestam, Petter Ölmunger, Andreas Bummel, Rebwar Hassan, Hans Dahlgren, Bodil Ceballos, Jens Holm, and Torbjörn Tännsjö (photo: M. Gerenstein)

On March 20, the proposal to establish a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) was discussed at a meeting in the Swedish national parliament, the Riksdagen. The meeting was attended by parliamentarians from five parties and other personalities from civil society and academia. Åsa Lindestam from the Social Democratic party, a supporter of the campaign for a UNPA since its launch in 2007, opened the meeting by introducing Andreas Bummel, the campaign's international coordinator who came to Stockholm from Germany. Mr Bummel then gave a short presentation of the proposal to establish and gradually develop a democratic UN parliament, followed by a round of questions and answers.

Jens Holm, a representative from the Left party, suggested that the central task of a new parliamentary UN body should be to deal with global environmental challenges. Folke Tersman, a professor of practical philosophy at the university of Uppsala, further pointed out the importance of mobilizing civil society to create the necessary political pressure for democratization of global decision-making processes. The discussion showed a broad agreement that the UN is the centerpiece of multilateral cooperation and that a parliamentary assembly should be embedded into its structure.

On a question from Petter Ölmunger, the campaign's Swedish coordinator, on what the next step would be to move the project further towards its goal, Mr Bummel suggested that the "next important milestone could be that a few like-minded member states of the UN create a group that takes the initiative  for the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly according to article 22 of the UN's charter. Sweden," he added, "could very well be one of these member states." Article 22 allows the UN General Assembly to create subsidiary bodies.

Bodil Ceballos said that for her "as a member of the Swedish Green party, it's easy to express support for the establishment of a UNPA. The Global Greens Congress has already twice adopted resolutions supporting this proposal. Therefore, I am determined to work towards this aim and I also want to encourage others to work within their international and global organizations to promote this cause."

Christer Winbäck, representing Folkpartiet (the Liberal Party of Sweden), and who was one of the hosts, could not attend the meeting as he had to travel to New York to help lobbying for a the UN's Arms Trade Treaty. Mr Winbäck was substituted by Gunnar Andrén.

On the occasion of the meeting, Mrs Lindestam, Mr Winbäck, Mrs Ceballos and Mr Ölmunger published a joint OpEd in the Swedish newspaper Uppsala Nya Tidning. In the article they argued that supporting the establishment of a UN Parliamentary Assembly would fit very well to Sweden's long tradition of promoting democracy and a strong United Nations.

Further reading:

16.11.2012: United Nations parliament promoted at the Swedish Forum for Human Rights

20.06.2012: Call for a UN Parliamentary Assembly gains traction among Swedish lawmakers

02.04.2012: World Congress of Green parties calls for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly

An update on campaign activities in Sweden

Next week, on Tuesday, September 18, the annual opening ceremony of the Parliament of Sweden will be held in Stockholm, marking the end of the summer break and the beginning of the 2012/2013 session. As a national coordinator of the Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA), I will of course continue to follow the Swedish political discourse with big interest. Could this be the year when global democracy (and democracy, according to the Swedish government, is parliamentarian!) is seriously brought up in the political debate in Sweden for the first time?

Petter Ölmunger, Andrew Strauss and Andreas Bummel meeting in Lund, Sweden, in April 2012 (right to left)

Since this spring, 21 members of the Swedish Parliament and 4 Swedish members of the European Parliament have endorsed the appeal for a UNPA, bringing the total number of Swedish parliamentary supporters to 29. Among them, three are leaders or spokespersons of a national party, and several are members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. In June we published a report that included comments from some of these Swedish representatives. 17 of the Swedish signatories are professors, many are very respected within the fields of political science and international relations. Torbjörn Tännsjö, a professor of practical philosophy, has written the book "Global Democracy: The Case for a World Government", and Leif Lewin, a professor of political science, is about to published his book "2119 – The Year Global Democracy Will Be Realized" (I think it could be sooner).

Furthermore, several other individuals, former politicians, experts and NGO representatives also support the proposal to strenghten democratic governance on global issues through the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly. Most famous outside of Sweden is probably the author and activist Henning Mankell. But the crowd of supporters also includes influential and respected personalities such as KG Hammar, former archbishop of the Church of Sweden, Stefan Edman, environmentalist and former adviser to the Swedish prime minister and Ove Bring, a professor of international law who in 2011 was declared "UN friend of the year" by the Swedish UN association, partly thanks to his big book in Swedish from the same year on "The road of Human Rights - through history and literature".

From November 12-13, Human Rights Days will be celebrated in Gothenburg. Well-known politicians, NGOs and experts with an interest or a stake in human rights issues will gather for seminars and workshops. The UNPA Campaign will also be there. Christer Winbäck, a Swedish MP who supports the UNPA Campaign, and I will arrange a seminar on "The right to have influence in a global society."  It will be a good opportunity for us to promote the UNPA proposal, and also to show that one of the most fundamental human rights is actually the right to have a say and to be heard on issues and challenges that affect us all. The establishment of a UN Parliamentary Assembly would be a decisive step on the road toward strengthening the voice of humanity.