Global democracy is a controversial issue that involves several theories posit by different personalities, from authors to political theorists. It is likewise a field of political activism and academic study. It has become the focus of inquiry of different published writings such as sociology, international law, international relations and political philosophy. From the points of view of different groups, from scholars of global justice to global democrats, global democracy is related to how decision-making among different nations can be rationalized, and who would be chosen to participate in the creation of global laws, regulations and rules.
Why is global democracy being discussed?
Globalization has an impact on each country, which has the possibility of affecting the traditional concepts of democracy. The discussions on global democracy have been going on for several years. For example, American author and political activist Thomas Friedman introduced his Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention in 1996. He said that he came up with the theory according to his observations that no two countries that have McDonald’s stores have gone to war. While the theory looked sound, it was doomed to fail. In 1999, the Third Balkan War occurred that led to the crumbling of Yugoslavia, followed by the military strife between Georgia and Russia.
The theory presented by Friedman was almost analogous to the theory of democratic peace. It’s a theory on foreign policy stating that democratic nations essentially do not go into military conflict because there is an open flow of information, the government is transparent, and there is a free press. The openness helps in preventing governments from thinking about military engagements to find solutions to conflicts, such as sanctions and diplomatic talks.
Democratic peace is one of the cornerstones of the foreign policy of the United States to export peace. Former U.S. President George W. Bush explained in 2005 that the U.S. is engaging in exporting democracy through economic pressure and trade. The United States acts as a leader as it claims to have the oldest democratic government in the world. Likewise, the U.S. possesses the economic strength to exert pressure and provide incentives to ensure that other countries can easily adopt democratic processes.
As more nations favored a democratic form of government, the globalization of nations increased. Right now, global politics use democracy as a standard. Democratic nations put aside nationalism and isolationism as they increase their trade relations among other nations. Economic zones and free trade agreements have blurred geographical borders. With such conditions, many nations trading with each other consider the interests of their trade partners when creating new laws and regulations.
A government above all governments
Columbia Law School and Social Science professor Charles Sabel and American philosopher and faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley and Apple University Joshua Cohen, are political scientists. They identified several attributes of global democracy, one of the most prominent being the presence of organizations made up of different nations. They should have coalitions between their national governments with the ability to formulate global rules that can impact countries, businesses, agencies and individuals. According to Sabel and Cohen, it is like having a government over other governments.
In that context, you can already see the existence of global democracy worldwide, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Commonwealth of Independent States and the United Nations.
How will global democracy grow?
Many of these groups promote economic prosperity and human rights. Many things still hinder the growth of a “real” global democracy, such as the desire for one powerful country to dominate instead of being a leader. In order for global democracy to mature, there should be a more effective democratic approach.
There are several threats to the development of global democracy, especially the various contentions against the concept. Many nations are still in favor of localism instead of globalization. For them, self-sufficiency can be achieved by looking at the smaller regions instead of competing with larger nations. Even a number of wealthy nations oppose the idea because they are afraid that it will shake up their economic prosperity due to trade restrictions, loss of tariffs and the possibility of having only one currency.
Global democracy through digital technology
Jacques Attali, the founder of the General Assembly for Future Generations, a movement with Up for the Planet, a global citizen consultancy, believes that digital technology is critical in fostering global democracy. He is also the Positive Planet Foundation’s president.
Why digital technology? Digital technology changes the world in various aspects, including politics, consumer society, people’s way of life and the world’s economic model. It allows increased participation in decision making involving the public, in information and the development of policies. Digital technology is involved in the creation of new platforms for reinventing democracy, creating more balance in the world.
It still has many loopholes since the digital world has advantages and disadvantages. It allows people to be informed. It provides a continuous flow of information. If digital communication is always on, it can drive policymakers to create decisions immediately, as it creates transparency. But the present environment does not allow people to implement sustainable actions because it is more pressing to satisfy current needs, instead of thinking about the future of succeeding generations. Democracy does not happen overnight. It is vital to regulate digital technology, with procedures and rules established, to see to it that democracy is preserved.
While digital technology improves communication, thus limiting travel which means saving on fuel and energy while improving efficiency, it traditionally favors wealthy nations. The reason behind this is simple. Building digital tools and networks is dependent on the demands of profitability and efficiency. In terms of financing, the wealthier nations will have the budget to build the required tools and infrastructure, a major component that smaller and poorer nations lack.
Other points of view
Some skeptics believe that having global democracy is far-fetched. However, distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Australian National University, Robert Goodin said in 2009 while delivering a lecture that while global democracy may still be in the distant future, the world is moving towards it.
The professor presented a democracy model he called a ”reform act.” In this model, a person is entitled to one vote. He said that in a democracy, leaders are chosen through elections.
For global governance, the model needs an elected people’s assembly that has the power to make laws. Comparing it to discussions in the United Nations, it is like making a request for an assembly composed of representatives, whose number is based on the population, paralleling a second assembly wherein each country casts one vote, disregarding the nation’s population size (one country, one vote).
Prof. Goodin said that there is a ”global reform act” where people call for an elected global assembly where individuals are represented instead of states, with rules that limit the activities closely identified with typical elections. It may still be unrealistic today, but it will eventually happen in the future, Prof. Goodin predicts.
Is global democracy possible?
Proposals from different groups regarding a global parliament have been made from the time of the French Revolution to the founding of the League of Nations and the eventual formation of the United Nations. While discussions and various theories and materials have been published regarding global democracy, a firm resolution for its formal establishment has not been found.
Moreover, global democracy takes on a different meaning based on an individual’s perception. For the movement called Global Democracy, it is about giving voice to people with an Internet connection, allowing them to vote on issues that affect the world through the group’s mass voting platform.
Some scholars believe that having a true global democracy is not possible, as this means educating the entire world, using a common language for discussion and creating an institution that will facilitate real discussions about democracy.
Others think that global democracy is a contradiction because the consensus from the elites often forms the base of decision making at global level. Moreover, some of the democratic countries in the world face internal problems that democracy cannot resolve. In the U.S., a country that claims to have the oldest democracy, many citizens do not participate actively in the decision-making process that affects the country, compared to Ireland that periodically holds a referendum to get the people’s consensus.
Fostering understanding between nations
Proper and effective communication is critical in maintaining mutual understand and peace between nations. One of the proven methods is to have written communication accurately translated, using the official language between governments to avoid any misunderstanding. Day Translations, Inc., a human-powered professional translation company, offers a full suite of language services for governments, organizations, enterprises and individuals alike. All our translators are native speakers and live in-country, ensuring they have a deep understanding of the language and its nuances.
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