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Number 6 August 2000

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A World Governance Adapted to the Challenges of the 21st Century

Revised draft of the discussion paper of the workshop
"Global Governance" of the Alliance (may 25, 2000)
Drafted by Georges Berthoin, Pierre Calame,
Stéphane Hessel & Jérome Vignon*

The failure of the launching of the Millennium Round in Seattle was a perfect illustration of a lack of consistency and a major lack of legitimacy of the current world order. The lack of consistency is due to the gap between the institutions and the interdependence of the problems that they deal with, the institutions being marked, moreover, by a strong dissymmetry of power. The lack of legitimacy is due to the increasingly elitist and opaque nature of the organization of decision processes, an elitism that is in fact not any less avoided by the forums organized around the meetings of the Bretton Woods institutions, or within the very framework of the United Nations.

How else to approach this? The objective of governance cannot be separated from the method used to achieve it. It can only be interactive, made of successive backs and forths between the institutional progress and the contribution of experiences from of all parts of the world. This is probably where the contribution of what is sometimes inaccurately called the "civil society" is unavoidable; indeed, it operates "in situ" the synthesis between the principles and the required applications.

Any initiative, however, requires a starting point. Our proposal is to focus successively:

  1. on searching for the general principles of governance, because they will be the source of consistency;

  2. on further elaborating the conditions of the legitimacy, both ethical and procedural, of the existing institutions and international rules.

  3. to end with, on making practical proposals to undertake the reform of multilateral institutions.

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I - Three Founding Principles for the Consistency of Reforms

The three principles that follow did not come about by chance. They have been proved right by the experience of numerous development enterprises taken at various geographic scales and in several continents. What they all had in common was to induce a collective mobilization in view of complex objectives including numerous dimensions and acknowledging the fact of interdependence beyond the territorial limits of their application. These principles can therefore be seen as a contemporary form of wisdom. Nonetheless, their formulation is open to discussion.

A-1. The principle of subsidiarity

One of the functions of international rules is to assume as much as possible the cohesion and the unity of the whole, on two conditions: that they promote the common good or goods; that they preserve maximum autonomy of each of the component parts.

The principle of subsidiarity leads first to a distribution of competence among various levels of authority or responsibility. It gains to be enriched by the notion of active subsidiarity in the increasingly frequent situations of shared competence. According to this view, decisions are taken at the lowest possible level, but must also comply with the duty to achieve a set of given results. The definition of this duty to achieve given results is the fruit of collective elaboration.

Active subsidiarity also serves as the foundation for the necessary cooperation among the different levels of power. No major problem, whether it has to with security, the provision of essential needs, or the management of the biosphere, can be dealt with at a single level of power. Hence this supposes cooperation among these levels and leads to the exercise of shared responsibility.

A-2. The principle of responsibility

All forms of power imply the responsibility of whoever exercises it not only with regard to those who entrusted it and have the possibility of withdrawing it but, more broadly speaking, with regard to all those who, in the society and the biosphere, can be affected by the exercise of such power. From this two principles follow:

  • All forms of power can be tried by a higher authority and are held accountable. In particular, any public authority can be tried by a higher authority, any sovereignty is limited, and any state is held accountable not only to its own citizens but also to the competent international bodies.

  • The scope of responsibility does not only ensue from the mandates that are given for the exercise of power by voters or shareholders but more generally speaking from the impact of the exercise of power on third parties. The obligation of transparency and the obligation of accountability encompass a broader community.

A-3. The principle of plurality

It is not possible to fully enter into a collective action without the acknowledgement of a common objective. The identification of such an objective must not, however, conflict with the diversity of belonging and cultural identity. This is what the principle of plurality expresses.

This principle will be applicable through legal provisions designed to prevent or repress discrimination founded on ethnic belonging, gender, or religion.

It should in addition make positive use of geographical, cultural, and linguistic diversity. At the various territorial scales - local, regional, national and plurinational - where collective action is sought, the process of construction of a form of unity making positive use of plurality, can translate into partnership processes.

B. Ethical foundations and universal vocation

The above principles can serve as constituent foundations for the institutions in charge of drawing up and implementing international rules.

For these rules to be efficient and to meet with long-term support, it is also necessary that they correspond to the orientations of an ethical order according to which the citizens involved wish to guide their conduct. Thus, the principle of subsidiarity is in agreement with personal inspiration to freedom and creativeness, including the spirit of research and innovation. Thus, the principle of responsibility goes hand in hand with the personal obligation of solidarity and mutual aid; in the same way, the principle of plurality is truly able to flourish only in agreement with the individual exercise of tolerance and respect of others.

These correspondences totally escape the legal field and its ensuing policies. They refer to the responsibilities and duties of the citizens themselves, which leads us to underscore the importance of the role of education and teaching assumed by the various moral and religious traditions.

We wish in this respect to highlight the educational and symbolic importance of the work aiming to illustrate concretely the necessary correspondence between the general principles of collective action - the source of law - and ethical orientations - the sources of individual behavior.

An example of such work is provided by the current development of the Charter for a Responsible, Plural and United World on the initiative of the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World (see Caravan N°4).

* Respectively: Member of the Trilateral Commission and former collaborator of Jean Monnet and Robert Shumann; Director general of the Foundation Charles Léopold Mayer for the Progress of Humankind; Former Ambassador of France to the United States and President of the 'Comité Français pour la Solidarité Internationale'; Director of DATAR (France) and Former Director of Forwards Studies of the cabinet of the European Commission. The authors of this discussion paper know they are europeans - french, in fact - and know that their point of view is therefore partial, marked by their continent's singular experience of the past years. Between the excessive pretension of universality and a complete lack of communication, they have chosen to take the chance of proposing a process of dialogue and mutual enrichment. This paper testifies to the preceding statement: it constitutes the second version of a first draft, enriched by sometimes vivid reactions from three continents: America, Africa, and Asia. A third draft enriched by the proceedings of the International meeting of Villarceaux (See article) will be issued in September.

C. Toward a constituent charter for the International Community

Work on the development of the Charter for a Responsible, Plural and United World has resulted in the formulation of the functions that should be assumed by the "International Community". Those that stand out in particular:

  1. Preservation of the common good, extended to the whole of the field of the living, and the integrity of the ecosystem.

  2. Guarantee of the preservation of the diversity of society, of the preservation of people's dignity, of the access of all to the common good, of the implementation by all of the principle of caution.

  3. Distribution and redistribution. In particular, the distribution of scarce goods and the management of the debt incurred by some nations vis-a-vis others and vis-a-vis the biosphere by the fact of having used these goods.

  4. Observation, establishment, and means to monitor the evolution of humankind and the ecosystems, and compliance with codes of conduct and norms.

  5. Learning: dissemination of all goods that are increased in their sharing, in particular experience; initiation to the resolution of conflicts through cooperation; education to tolerance; permanent thinking on the rights and responsibilities of humankind;

  6. Arbitration, in particular of contradictions between norms and codes of conduct; construction and updating of priorities among norms and search for complementarity links among them.

  7. Recourse on the way in which the private and public actors, in particular supranational, assume their responsibilities.

It is clear that these functions are not currently assumed. There is no "International Community", only an "international society" composed of actors having mutual codes of communication and forms of interaction. Moving from an international society to an International Community will have to include a constituent process, which will aim to complete the existing texts (United Nations Charter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights) with provisions relative to the relations among peoples as with humankind as a whole. The process opened by the elaboration of the Charter for a Responsible, Plural and United World goes in this direction.

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II - Ensuring the Legitimacy of International Rules

Very often, in the Anglo-Saxon world in particular, the extension of the rules of international law is not trusted, in the absence of the transparency traditionally linked to democratic practices. In other regions of the world, where on the contrary a reinforcement of these rules is hoped for, lack of trust is fed by the influence attributed to the most powerful actors. These two attitudes lead to discrediting the institutions themselves to the point of obstructing their modernization, including in fields - such as the environment or finances - where disorder is patent.

It is therefore urgent to promote rules for the legitimization of existing institutions.

A. Transparency and justiceability

The first rules likely to restore the legitimacy of institutions aspiring to governance ensue from the principle of responsibility. Their application does not require, in principle, modifications of their constituent treaty. They very often just come straight out of rules of procedure.

The consultation that we conducted brought out in particular:

  • Transparency. It is thus suggested that all international rules that have been the object of a national transposition should be the object of an identification of source and recourse. The subjects and users of these rules should insofar as possible know the references of the international and national agencies that originated the statement of the rule as well as the methods of recourse in case of litigation on their application.

  • Publicizing the ways institutions in charge of enforcing international rules have achieved their mission.

  • Possibilty of sanctions in cases of serious shortcomings with regard to the execution of mandates.

B. Position of the civil society

It will be lastingly difficult to establish a parliamentary-type representation on a world or plurinational scale, even though this perspective remains a long-term objective. Nonetheless, there is already a worldwide public forum where many forms of civilian influence are exercised and heard, independently of national and international public authorities, for the promotion of individual or general interests.

This "world civil society" is not limited to NGOs. Its emergence, increasingly organized at the international level, is facilitated by the new information and communication technology. This is one of the major changes of these past fifty years. It is often through the more-or-less organized forms of the civil society that new issues appear on the political arena, and that the actions of the public authorities and the implementation of international conventions are monitored and checked. Similarly, the large companies and large pension funds have become major actors and sometimes regulators of international choices.

Associating this international civil society to the preparation and the implementation of international rules can constitute a legitimization factor for the institutions themselves, provided that there is compliance with rules of procedure. The following are given as examples:

a. The companies and NGOs acting at an international scale should necessarily subscribe to a code of conduct, the implementation of which must also be controlled at the international scale (symmetry of levels of action and control).

b. Methods for the representation of the civil society and an obligation of transparency of this representation must be defined by all international agencies as a guarantee for public control over their action.

c. Appeal mechanisms for the civil society should be able to produce audits of the action of the public authorities at different levels or of the implementation of codes of conduct and rules of the international community. At present, this power of referral to higher authorities is reserved for all practical purposes to the holders of financial power: shareholders in the case of companies, and the World Bank and the IMF in the case of countries. This capacity of referral needs to be extended to all those who undergo the impact of the action of private or public actors.

d. Grassroots initiatives should be able to lead to the organization of world consensus conferences, on the model first initiated by the Danish government. These consensus conferences would apply to the complex problems engendered among others by the impact of science and technology.

e. Civil society must be associated to the setting up and the management of monitoring systems at the international scale.

f. The consequences of scientific and technological development play a decisive role in the evolution of humankind. They should be part of the public good par excellence. Their forms of production and exploitation are leading today to their increasing privatization. The International Community must plan that a part of the investment devoted to the development of new technology should go to a citizens' use of technology, to strengthen the civil society.

g. In order to increase the awareness of a single human community and the consideration of the diversity of contexts and interests, it is necessary to work toward the emergence of an international representation of the different social sectors with organization and appraisal means allowing them to take into account the complexity of the problems and to move beyond corporatistic attitudes.

C. The involvement of parliaments

In the absence of a world parliament, the legitimacy of international rules depends on that of the national governments themselves, which can also, in the framework of constitutional rules, be suited to the exercise of shared sovereignty. Ultimately, however, in the democratic states, national parliaments have the responsibility of ensuring the proper application of any international action conducted by governments, directly or indirectly.

International comparisons show that the provisions by which the competent parliamentary commissions or delegations are informed or are set up to assume their responsibilities are extremely variable. All too often, the international field escapes parliamentary discussion and assessment. It is necessary to encourage the dissemination of good practices, interparliamentary cooperation in the framework of treaties, and the constitution of independent assessment bodies at the service of parliaments.

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III - Some Concrete Leads to Governance

The principle of realism is very often opposed to the practical implementation of the founding principles and to the effort of legitimizing governance at the source. This is why we propose here a set of experiences or tools recommended on the basis of their success.

A. Extending monitoring, warning, and assessment systems

The development of world governance involves, and will involve even more in the future, the development of monitoring and measuring tools. It is necessary set up information systems focusing simultaneously on exchange flows between human activities and the biosphere, on the terms of contracts, on compliance with codes of conduct and norms, and on the assessment of actions. One of the major functions of these monitoring systems will also be to provide early warning systems allowing preventive conflict management. It will be a central element of the future system of world security.

B. Accelerating the setting up of regional entities

The representation and decision processes within the various international agencies and institutions should include an incitement to the formation of these open regional entities, while guaranteeing the convergence of the rules elaborated in every regional entity on the basis of essential common principles or exigencies.

The definition of these essential principles or requirements of a world nature could be based on a new definition of the typology of the goods necessary for well-being and development in general. This typology, put to discussion, is to take account of the recent developments of science and technology. It therefore makes a distinction among several categories of goods: those that are destroyed when shared, for example the integrity of ecosystems; those that are the result of the working of the biosphere, such as energy; those that are the object of human intervention in their production and are divided when shared; those that are increased when shared, starting with knowledge and experience. The privatization of goods should concern mainly the third category of goods. The rest should be included the vast category of common goods for which suitable rules of management need to be designed.

C. Diversifying the bases for the financing of international collective action

The past fifty years' experience has shown the fragibility of the financing mechanisms in the international agencies or programs founded exclusively on contributions from member states. This financing method, unavoidable in the first construction phase of an international action, presents an array of possible disadvantages: it opens the door to political blackmail; it generates too much uncertainty to set up permanent means to guarantee security; it encourages, as shown in the case of the European Union, every state to keeps accounts of the costs and benefits of international cooperation, which reinforces national egoism. It is therefore necessary set up world partnerships to tax, for instance:

  • the use of the world's scarce resources or of those with low renewability, use that can be summarized in particular by "the ecological footprint";

  • the usufruct of common goods;

  • the exchange flows, for both matter and money exchanges

  • capital, in the idea that the creation of wealth is linked directly to international capacity for ensuring civil peace and maintaining the major balances between humankind and the biosphere.

D. Reconciling national sovereignty and international efficiency

The United Nations system constitutes, today, the weak link in the elaboration of world rules. Our proposal is to engage in an evolutionary and pragmatic reform process of the United Nations that would take its inspiration from the process followed by the European Community to reconcile the respect of national sovereignty and the efficient implementation of common policies and rules. This proposal is submitted to discussion and assessment, of course, but it appeared to us that it was necessary, in order to stimulate the discussion, to provide a complete formulation of it.

a) The targeted configuration

  • The Secretary General would become an "extranational" institution exclusively endowed with a power of proposal, in the image of the European Commission.

  • The Security Council (composed, to start with, of Ministers or their representatives from the five permanent Member Countries and from the countries chosen according to the present geographically based procedures) would be the decision institution. In order to establish an equality of treatment and responsibility, the right of veto would be granted to all. This procedure would have the benefit of reinforcing the need for regional cooperation.

b) An elaboration and ratification process

To integrate these ideas into the political and diplomatic reality, it would be desirable for an initiative to be taken that combines credibility, the quality of proposals, and a critical mass such that it brings governments to take them into consideration. It is therefore suggested that it should be examined during a Global Governance Congress (GGC) of 6,000 persons gathered to this 0effect, for the first time in history, for a few days, on the invitation of a head of state or an organization with major world authority. The persons invited to attend would be the leaders of organizations using the transnational dimension in the public or private field. (Examples: Universal Postal Union, IMF, Red Cross, Arab League, Médecins sans Frontières, IBM, religions, IATA, Rotary club, etc.).

GGC participants will have answered a questionnaire including the five following points:

  • What role (origin, history, and purpose) does your organization play in transnational life?

  • What is your view of the present state of the world? How do you see, and would like to see it evolve?

  • What reforms would be needed for a world that fulfills your hopes?

  • What are the respective merits of an intergovernmental, supranational, federal, or extranational institutional solution? (on the basis of an explanation note, sent with the invitation)

  • Do you think that your organization could contribute to these transformations? In what way?

The summary of these answers, preliminary documents, and discussions would make it possible to draft the GGC Acts. Since this would be a consultation of unprecedented scope benefiting from unprecedented authority and practical experience, it would be possible to consider the writing of a White Paper, which would be sent by the host power to all the Heads of State and Government of the UN Member Countries proposing that they accept it as a basis for the general negotiations that should lead to a true International Community.

It would thus follow the two major negotiations that led to the creation of the League of Nations then of the Organization of the United Nations, which were stages, essential but incomplete, of the institution of a global governance.

E. Formulating a chart for the International Community

World governance will be the fruit of a multifaceted process, not of an instant global performance. Initiatives will come from all the institutions that make up the present multilateral system, and from governments, parliaments, and the civil society.

Such a process could get bogged down for lack of the political will of a determined group of states. It might also be indecipherable in the eyes of citizens. This is why we remain attached to the development of a constituent charter for the unfolding International Community. The main benefit of this construction is to make the purposes of the overall process visible, as they are expressed in terms of both rights and of responsibilities, for the nations, the peoples, and the persons who compose them. It also makes it possible to ensure an ongoing confrontation between those who detain the power to act in the name of public authority and those who detain the experience of action on the field.

It is in this spirit that we propose to open the elaboration of a Charter for a Responsible, Plural and United World and are disposed to take part in any broader enterprise pursuing the same ambitions.

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© 2000 Alliance for a Responsible and United World. All rights reserved. Last updated October 22, 2000.