Starting With Why

The global challenges and concerns we face today are well known: the peaceful coexistence of states and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the deterioration of the environment and the need for sustainable development, the threats to financial stability, the tragic inequalities across the planet in wealth and democracy.

We need to do something. And, first of all, we need to reflect on what to do.

To face such challenges and to guarantee global public goods, the international community has created after world war II a number of international organizations responsible for the pursuit of specific goals, which have been given more or less adequate competences and tools.

Are these organizations democratic? Are they efficient? If the answer is no (or not enough) how could they be improved?

Could we – 75 years later – imagine something new? Is there a  better way to organize coexistence inside the human family, not just aimed at avoiding conflicts but at thriving as species, in harmony with the Earth and with all the other living beings?

The awareness on these topics is growing. It is time to become creative, to network and exchange ideas, to recreate and co-create a new way of living together on this planet (maybe to dis-create something as well…).

Democracy is the result of a social pact: we are all involved.

Democracy nowadays cannot just be national as problems and challenges are getting more and more global.

To try to respond to the challenge, I decided to focus on what are (at least for me!) the three key ingredients of a modern democracy: legitimacy, accountability, inclusiveness. I built on them a paradigm for democracy in international organisations which I called democratic experimentation.

As individuals are an essential ingredient of democracy, I think that democratic international organization should be supranational, or move towards more advanced forms of supranationality. But how individuals can interact on a global stage, legitimize global fora, hold them accountable?

They may interact as civil society or just as informed public opinion. Internet plays a major role in allowing them to become global citizens, if (and where) internet access is guaranteed.

So many topics to discuss about, so important to deepen the analysis and offer solutions. The debate is open and you’re all welcome!

Susanna

The Overview Effect: How Traveling in Space Would Improve the State of the Planet

 

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The famous “Earthrise” picture. Credit to NASA

Since the first image of Planet Hearth seen by humans in the far 1968, taken by the Apollo 8 mission, much has happened.  

Now, race to space belongs to the past. Maybe. Nowadays, at least up there, missions are multinational and they are supposed to be in the interest of the whole humanity, expression of its longing to enlarge borders and knowledge. They are close to getting self-funded, as space tourism takes off, bringing to space a few billionaires at crazy prices.

What is nowadays more multinational than the International Space Station? And which flag a joint mission will plant on the next planet it will land on?

Definitely, we need to develop an earth consciousness and a planet flag, happy that artists and designers are already thinking about both.

 

 

And… here it is an interesting side effect of the walk in the space immensity.

You get to see the Earth.

Having a glance at the planet as a whole is an unforgettable experience not only because of its beauty as a blue marble ball on a black screen but really because of this “wholeness” which is easily missed when looking at it from the surface as we tiny humans are used to doing.

People having this experience experimented with the so-called overview effect. In the words of astronaut  Edgar D. Mitchell, as quoted by Raya Bidhshari, <<seeing Earth from space causes one to “develop an instant global consciousness…” >>.

Not only you realize how small you are, but also how trivial are many political issues, how shortsighted most of political ed economic choices, how silly the conflicts. You start thinking about how better we could all live on this beautiful planet as a brotherhood of men and women. Borders disappear, blue and green triumph in their beauty, cities glow like lights in the night, in the same way, no matter the continent they are in.

From space, the increasing phenomenon of nativist populism so well described by Eirikur Bergmann appears really as an “infantile disease” due to the lack of perspective. I quote Einstein, here, to be compassionate towards those who, for cultural heritage or traumatic experiences miss the big picture. I am sorry for them. I am less sorry for those speculating on the fears nourished by separation and conflict to gain a bunch of votes.  Not sure, yet, where to put the blurring line between the two fields. Anyway, I would send all of them to space (don’t take me wrong, with a return-ticket).

The overview effect has been described in the book by Frank White in 1987, in the movie Overview by the Planetary Collective and it is the subject at the core of the Overview Institute.

I will copy here part of the article by  Raya BidhShari, which expressed these concepts beautifully, a few years ago, on the SingularityHub:

A Cosmic Perspective

What the overview effect leads to is a cosmic perspective. It is recognizing our place in the universe, the fragility of our planet, and the unimaginable potential we have as a species. It involves expanding our perspective of both space and time.

Unfortunately, many world leaders today fail to take such a perspective. Most politicians have yet to develop a reputation for thinking beyond their term limits. Many have yet to prioritize long-term human progress over short-term gains from power or money.

What we need is for our world leaders to unite rather than divide us as human beings and to promote global, and even cosmic, citizenship.

What if every world leader and politician truly experienced the existential transformation of the overview effect? Would they still seek to become “momentary masters of fractions of dot”? Would they continue to build walls and divide us? Probably not. It is likely that their missions and priorities would change for the better.

Obviously, giving everyone a trip to space is impractical—that is, unless space tourism becomes cheap and effective. But there are other ways to promote the much-needed “big-picture thinking.” For instance, we must upgrade the kind of values our education system promotes and equip future generations with a cosmic mindset. We can continue to educate and engage the public on the state of our planet and the need to upgrade our morality in the grand scheme of things.

But there are even other ways. One exciting organization, called The Overview Institute, has developed a virtual reality program that will allow users to experience the overview effect. It is a scalable tool that will make the existential transformation of the overview effect accessible to many.

An Existential Awakening

In the words of Sagan, the image of Earth from space “underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.’

Experiencing the overview effect and developing a cosmic perspective is known to inspire more compassion for our fellow human beings. It stimulates a determination to successfully resolve all the problems we have here on Earth and focus on the issues that matter. It upgrades our consciousness, our values, and the kind of ambitions that we set forward for ourselves, both as individuals and as a species.

It is a powerful awakening of the mind and  a fundamental redefinition of what it means to be human.

 

So, virtual reality could make the trick.

But we can move a step forward. If this cognitive shift is so helpful, why not moving the experience and the comprehension of it back in time, making it part of our educational programs starting from elementary schools wherever on the planet? It seems to be strategic to prepare kids for such a big thing as taking care of the planet where they happened to be born.

 

 

Do We Need an International Organization for Risk Management?

I had the pleasure, a couple of weeks ago, to discuss this topic with two distinguished colleagues: prof. Fabio Bassan (University Roma Tre, Italy), prof. Larry Catà Baker (Penn State University, US).

It was an occasion to reflect on a topic whose importance cannot be missed, as crises are more and more on the global agenda.

 

 

The unprecedented interconnectedness of states, populations, markets, is increasingly contributing to generate global crises. The risk of contagion of financial crises, of diseases, but also of social and political phenomena as terrorism – even the risk of spreading fake news threatening democracy – makes the world a global village. Issues which 50 years ago would have been national become now easily global. The International organizations were not created to manage the global village, but for the need to coordinate states i.e. compartmentalized national markets and national communities.  The current state of the world was unpredictable when most of the international organizations were created after World War II, so – not surprisingly – they are not equipped with proper competences and tools. They are built on rigid founding treaties which cannot be easily modified.

Some global issues, as rising temperatures, water scarcity, deforestation, generate more issues, as extreme weather events, migrations, conflicts, extreme poverty. Crises are often interrelated, multifactorial, cross-sectoral. The current pandemic crisis is also a major economic crisis and it is generating increasing inequality.

Yet, in international law, we see a fragmentation of roles and functions,  as most of the international organizations are sectoral, with a specific focus and field of interest (WFP, UNCCC, UNHCR etc…). Yet, there is a need to deal with the big picture as issues are often interconnected.

There are a few coordination fora, such as the G20 or the UN (and namely the Assembly and the Economic and Social Committee), yet the first lacks legitimacy being a group of self- selected states (just like all the Gs), the second lacks effectiveness, as it does not have legal tools for the enforcement of coordination.

Finally, there is an increasing demand for legitimacy and accountability. We assist in a multiplication of participation tools in the global public sphere – petitions, transnational political movements, structured dialogues of international organizations with civil society. Debates on the improvement of international organizations or the creation of a new international organization cannot avoid taking in these democratic expectations to some extent. The latter cannot be but multilateral as well as multi-stakeholders.

The solution proposed by prof. Fabio Bassan builds on a set of organizing premises. These include, first, that States consider systemic crises a challenge and an opportunity to be seized, in a ruthless competition not only between companies and markets but also between legal systems and between States, which in the dynamic of international relations now devoted to market power, have the effect of transforming the latter into political supremacy. Second, the fact that the marginal benefit thus acquired by one State entails a significant sacrifice for one or more other States and therefore entails a sub-optimal balance, constitutes a secondary but not irrelevant aspect. Given these premises, solutions ought to be guided by a principle of proportionality, among those that minimize the costs for the States in terms of transfer of sovereignty and reduction of competition between legal systems and between States in dealing with the crisis, but at the same time allow to coordinate the reaction to systemic crises.
In this context, IOs must be reconstituted to be able to perform coordination functions of
national actions in the immediacy of the crisis, in its management, and in overcoming the crisis.
In that reconstitution, IOs should be equipped with internal and operational rules suitable for managing and early warning functions and with a coherent power to direct and coordinate the actions of the States that are part of it. This organization should have legitimacy, at the highest level. The decisions would consist of coordinating the actions of national governments. The decisions should consist of identifying ways and forms of coordinated reaction to critical events.
These methods could integrate the use of existing economic institutions. And lastly, an
institutionalized form of connection and cooperation of this organization with the International Organizations responsible for economic, financial, health, climatic matters could also be envisaged, in order to acquire practices, protocols, information necessary for the adoption of decisions.

I entirely agree with the need to fill this gap in the current system of the international organization.

A valid alternative to a new organization is the revision of the existing system of IOs to increase legitimacy and accountability, to create (or upgrade) existing bodies equipping them with the necessary competences and tools, to provide them with data and practices already developed and spread in different organizations, to set transmission chains for information and coordination.

There is a long record of proposals to create a UN Economic Security Council. In this line, an interesting one has been put forward by J. Ocampo and J. Stiglitz:  the creation of the Global Economic Coordination Council (GECC). Even if this body, inside the UN institutional system would not be focused on crisis management, yet it would complement and complete the organization flanking the Security Council. It would meet at leaders’ level (Heads of States) and its representation would be based on the constituencies mechanism (a restricted yet elected body). The option for multilateralism is clear as well as for a more legitimate and representative system. The new body would be in charge of coordinating all branches of the UN that operate in the economic, social, and environmental fields, including the Bretton Woods institutions, so encompassing the ECOSOC competence. Even the WTO, would be brought into the UN system by appropriate agreements.

Another way to manage (economic) crises would be the upgrade of the  Ministerial Councils inside the Bretton Woods institutions– now just advisory bodies -to entrust them with a role of political guidance similar to the one currently played by the G20. The IMF has been created to deal with conjunctural crises and it could play a much bigger role in such occurrences, yet it can just manage national crises, not really systemic, transnational, and global ones. This is due, in our opinion, to its governance: a Board of Governors made up of 189 members representing governments of all member states (usually at ministerial level) and an Executive Board of  24, each representing a single country or groups of countries appointed for two years and full-time officials. So, the political body is just too big to make decisions (which are taken instead in G20, as previously in the G7), the body in charge for the administration lacks political legitimacy and the competence to take the most important decisions. The Ministerial Councils, instead, would represent not just themselves, but the whole membership of the organization through the constituencies’ mechanism. I have described this proposal in detail here.

In more general terms, the eminently technocratic management of many IOs has proved often inadequate, when it gets necessary to move to politically sensitive decision-making (hence the fortune of the Gs) so, the need for a political dimension in the global sphere appears evident. The two problems which need to be solved are the deficit of politics and the crisis of multilateralism (due also to its lack of effectiveness). Action can be taken on both fronts giving to a high-profile, adequately legitimized political body the competence to build strategies, inside a genuine, multilateral organization.

Multilateralism itself could be improved, as we see emerging actors such as the global civil society or companies having now a systemic impact on transnational public opinion and lifestyle, as the “Big Five” (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft). So, multilateralism could now evolve towards multi-stakeholders’ platforms, something we have already seen, for instance, in the internet governance, in some environmental bodies (as UNEA) or in the Committee on World Food Security. Nothing would prevent to give, right now, a small but significant role to civil society. For instance, it could play an advisory role, by commenting and contributing to the first drafts of policy and strategy documents of IOs posted online. No reforms are needed to spread such best practices already tested.

Coming back to the proposal by the colleague Fabio Bassan, it seems to respond to these needs as well as to fill a real gap, nowadays increasingly important, as the management of cross-sectoral crises. Of course, it fits in the European Solution as described in the video by professor Catà Baker – i.e. grounded on common institutions and shared values- and I suppose my comments and additions fit in the same box. It is maybe more than a cultural tribute, our European forma mentis.

I know both solutions are difficult to imagine in the current political agenda of many countries, and especially of some key actors, such as US, China, Russia, or Brasil. European Union, at the moment, is focused inward, on its own upgrade. Yet, as you know, it is not in the spirit of this blog to skip reasoning on something only because it looks unlikely at the moment. Let’s keep reasoning!

 

 

Summary and Concluding Remarks from the Supranational Democracy Dialogue 2020

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The Supranational Democracy Dialogues II (hereinafter “SDDII”) of 2020 is the second edition of a successful two-day event that took place in Lecce (Italy) in April 2018, at the end of which all the speakers and the majority among the organizers and the attendees decided to write and sign a “Manifesto for Supranational Democracy”.

The statements included in that act represented the summary and the shared conclusions of all the presentations and all the matters discussed in the SDD. It promotes, namely, the need for democratic institutions at all levels, from the local to the global, as well as the development of an inclusive dialogue about global democracy among all human beings, the raise of awareness among citizens, communities and populations and the support of democratic solutions to global challenges.

Unfortunately, after having completely organized the second edition event, originally scheduled for April 16th and 17th, 2020 in Brindisi (Italy), the Organizing Committee had to temporarily cancel it because of the COVID-19 pandemic, only to then rethink and reprogram it as a series of webinars.

The first webinar, entitled “European Union: improving democracy and participation”, took place on May 9th, on Europe Day, in 2020 also celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Shuman Declaration. The other meetings followed, precisely, on May 15th (“Rethinking global rules and institutions”), on May 22th (“European Union: improving economic governance and solidarity”), on May 25th (“Shifting the paradigm: new cultural models, new awareness”) and finally on May 29th (“Shifting the paradigm II: new rules for the world order”). The full playlist of the event is on the YouTube Channel of Università del Salento, here.

Panelists came from different backgrounds and paths of life: academia, civil society, activism, business/corporate environment, international institutions. They met in 5 webinars under the label Supranational Democracy Dialogue, to present different visions and perspectives on the future with a constructive approach. They offer an example of how a global political sphere and global political discourse could look like. It is impossible to condense so many diverse contributions in a single vision.

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All the panelists agreed on that: the state of the world may be improved and mankind can be in the near future far better than it is now. The international community should avoid getting out of the pandemic and back to the previous state of the world. A number of issues need to be addressed without delay, among them, are:

– A non-sustainable relationship with nature, a current model based on exploitation;

– Inequalities, fostered by an unfair system of tax -avoidance made possible by competition among states as well as by fight  for control over natural resources in the interest of the few;

– lack or inadequacy of policies implementing shared values, as the fundamental human rights, at the global level and SDGs.

Yet, a double paradigm shift is required: a paradigm shift in cultural models and awareness and a second one concerning global rules and institutions. New technologies may help, but just as tools serving clear purpose-driven goals.

The human species could be able to live as part of an ecosystem where all other species equally thrive, in harmony with nature and as part of nature. Education may encourage the development of creative and critical thinking, contributing to prepare global citizens to take full responsibility for the planet and empowering them. The economy may serve the collective good while serving entrepreneurs and workers. Leaders should be in service of their communities and offer the example of compassionate and mindful leadership.

Ideas and Proposals for the Global Governance

The international community could take this incredible opportunity to move towards more sustainable standards in the relation between human species and the environment and towards more cooperative and supportive global governance. Panelists, in different ways, all supported a more democratic model for global governance, empowering individuals, also in the aggregate form of civil society, to have a meaningful say over issues affecting their existence. They could do so in participating in negotiations, having a dialogue (or being represented) within global institutions, ultimately be part of a new “omnilateral” vision of international relations. Such a model would better pursue the goal of reducing inequality and fostering inclusiveness and gender equality.

 UN or a new international organization could be in charge of the management of crises. The existing global institutions could be reformed – WHO for instance could raise a little tax and then provide for free patents and coordinated solutions – international agreements could oblige companies and states to internalize costs for environmental damage. Simultaneous national policies could provide a frameworks solution; a point for a global government instead of global governance was made as well. Whatever the chosen solutions, the need for global solutions to global issues was stressed as well as the need for legitimacy and representation, for instance through parliamentary bodies (as the suggested UNPA), or by online open consultations, or other tools yet to be invented. The global governance should be part of multilevel governance, where all levels – even the smaller as the local community – is empowered and responsible. 

All levels have to be accountable to citizens and this is especially important for the global one, now escaping any kind of accountability. Inclusiveness has to be cultivated through education, access to the internet, and easily usable tools for participation at all levels. National judges are on the frontline to make common rules enforced also at the national and local levels.

Many suggestions emerged during the five webinars. Some are ready to use:

– the two proposals from Petter Ollmunger (Democracy without borders): (i) establishing a UN parliamentary assembly and (ii) introducing a proposal initiative from the citizens of the United Nations. Both of them do not require a UN Charter review process.

– the proposal by Jerome Bellion-Jourdan of an International Negotiation Platform, which is on its way shortly after “Exploratory talks” convened by the Graduate Institute’s Global Governance Centre, in cooperation with Executive Education.

Most of the proposals require instead a medium or long-term approach as the convening of a global intergovernmental conference to reformulate – among the willing – some key points in global collaboration and governance. Such a process should involve as well civil society, local governments, indigenous communities, and all the other key stakeholders. Some more sectoral goals could be put right now on the agenda of specialized agencies, like UNESCO, WHO, UNEA.

Ideas and Proposals for European Governance

the speakers commented on the European Union response as well as the Member States’ reactions to the pandemic crisis and also the effects that all the measures adopted at all levels would engender to the democratic order and the economic governance.

Due to the emergency, all the democratic institutions at the national level dealt with an unprecedented global and health crisis. This crisis could have been a moment of solidarity and cohesion where a temporary deviation of democratic rules and an equally temporary limitation of human rights could have been justified. Some problems appeared regarding the reactions to these deviations coming from citizens, political parties, and the Member States.

In the European Union, in one hand, most of the economic resources that have been spent came from the Member States. The problem is that within the EU, there are still different spending capacities between the Member States and, in the long term, these differences could create distortions in the internal market. The COVID-19 is going to become an accelerator of the existent divergences, separations, and gaps between States. What the EU needs is a common approach, a common instrument to face this unprecedented crisis, which has hit all countries in a symmetric way.

On the other hand, the European Union contributions consisted, above all, in suspending the application of the stability and growth pact and in suspending the application of the State aid rules.

The S.U.R.E. (Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency) is a temporary measure, which includes some conditions concerning the destination of the resources. Furthermore, the Commission’s proposal for a Council Regulation establishing a European Union Recovery Instrument to support the recovery in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic (COM(2020)441final of 28.05.2020) has been based on art. 122 TFEU, which suggests the temporary and exceptional nature of the measure.

Some speakers proposed to transform the European Stability Mechanism (E.S.M.) into a European development fund (inspired by the Italian “Cassa Depositi e Prestiti”) to be used in the next ten years to finance the long-term investments for local systems, in order to bring the EU citizens closer to the European institutions.

Despite some speakers showed concerns relating to radical institutional reforms in the EU legal order, all of them agreed that the European decision-makers should, at this moment, make important steps in order to avoid the EU going down or, worst, becoming dysfunctional. In particular, all the panelists considered as necessary to abolish unanimity because democracy could not be complete as long as veto powers are subsisting in the decision-making process.

Furthermore, other interventions have to be done in the EU legal system, such as the implementation of transparency in the decision-making process, for example by implementing the possibility for all citizens to access to relevant documents. It has been enlightened how, in this context, the efficiency of the decision-making process had been used as a justification for denying access to documents, above all to those related to the legislative procedure, and this practice cannot be accepted.

Different proposals came up in the discussion concerning the improvement of the participatory democracy in the EU. On one hand, it has been stressed out how important could be the contribution of the European Parliament in promoting the follow-up of a successful European citizens’ initiative: doing this the European Commission would face a twofold encouragement to consider the content of the initiative, but also it has been underlined how important could be in shaping inclusive participation to press the European Commission to motivate in an appropriate manner any rejection to follow a successful ECI up.

Furthermore, there have been some speakers who considered the idea of giving citizens the possibility not just to present “appropriate proposals” to the European Commission, but also to submit amendments to pending legislative measures and to guarantee a role for civil society in the informal negotiations of legislative acts. Others underlined the importance of the citizens’ participation in the sense of bringing constant points of view to the attention of the decision-makers, without complicating the decision making structures. Another important point of discussion has been the implementation of the democratic participation of citizens at all levels, also by promoting the use of new technologies in all the sectors that are relevant to democracy where technologies can actually improve information and participation.

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Some interesting considerations have been collected among the youngest participants to the webinars: high school students.

The most relevant and surprising fact came from their participation in the discussion, despite their young age, was their awareness of the connection between all people and between States as well as the importance of a shared response to all the global challenges.

They proposed the promotion and the improvement of the participation of local authorities and municipalities, which can better represent the local community into the global discussion.

They also underlined the strategic role of technologies in shaping the future of democracy and the importance of governmental intervention in order to prevent all the negative effects deriving from cyber attacks and from fake news, because, as they stressed, otherwise technologies will bring much more distances than closeness in the future.

 

Susanna Cafaro and Stefania Attolini

Shifting the Paradigm II: New Rules in the World Order

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On May 29, at 4 PM CE, the final webinar in the Supranational Democracy Series:
Shifting the Paradigm II: New Rules in the World Order.

Does the Planet need new rules? Does the post-pandemic world need new legal or institutional tools for a more cooperative (and less competitive) system of sovereign states? or even beyond sovereign states?

Can we imagine a more democratic global governance? a more eco-friendly global governance? Can we imagine citizens and civil society have a meaningful say over global issues affecting them all?

This webinar series – which replaced in these pandemic times – a more traditional conference, has been -for me – an incredible journey. I had the amazing opportunity to discuss these huge topics, with many inspiring people: professors and journalists, experts, and activists, researchers in different fields but with equally strong dedication, approaching similar issues from very different angles.

And I could learn how a webinar works, along the way! Gosh, it wasn’t easy…

I had several aha moments. I saw a little preview of something which has still to be built: a frank,  open debate in a global transnational public sphere.

Whatever the world we are envisioning, I suppose that opening such space, encouraging a conversation and a narrative beyond the borders, is a precondition for our evolution as a species.

We are still learning how to communicate as global citizens, how to build a world public opinion of which the young people of the “Fridays for future” have been the vanguard.

There is still a long way to go, but, quoting Lao Tzu, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

And we have taken a few steps.

I want to thank all my wonderful fellow travelers.

Rethinking Global Rules and Institutions

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The current global health crisis shows an unprecedented interconnectedness of the human family. Moreover, it has fostered an unprecedented debate over the borders.

Networks and networks of networks are now debating about the “new normal” and are wondering if we really want to go back to the “old” normal.

It is strange. It seems that we needed such a traumatic event as a pandemic to really stop and think about our development model. We had already plenty of reasons to do so: the unsustainable inequalities, the unacceptable damages to our beautiful planet.

But it seems that we really needed to stop and think. To be forced to do so.

And here we are.

This series of debates was imagined well before the pandemic. A call for papers was put out in October 2020. And it looks like we are going timely to the point, to discuss a change which is necessary, to imagine new scenarios and new models for cooperation, sustainability, and resilience.

The next events in the series are going to focus even more on the needs, and on the awareness required to prioritize them.

Stay with us!

Susanna

The link to the recording is here

May 9, Europe Day

On May 9, 1950, 70 years ago, a brave man, the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman proposed a radically new solution to an old problem.

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Schuman had the courage to think outside the box and above all to listen to a man with a good idea, Jean Monnet, who – without no institutional or political role – reached out to present his solution.

The problem was the control over disputed territories on the border between France and Germany, rich in mineral resources, coal and iron, strategic for the economy in times of peace and even more in times of war

The idea was to “de-nationalize” them: entrusting them to an independent authority under political shared control (ministerial and parliamentary) and under Judicial control. Ownership and national territories would have remained just the same, yet regulation and access would have been uniform and non-discriminatory. A simple, but a disruptive idea in comparison with the logic of borders and alliances than dominating international relations.

Schuman’s speech on 9 May was intended as addressed first of all to Germany, but it was open to other interested governments.

Schuman’s speech was about concrete achievements, step by step, intended to rise solidarity among the people, but it of done, but it drew, as well, a long-term vision of a united continent after centuries of war.

Pragmatism and idealism, hand in hand.

On Europe’s day, we discuss a short and long term vision for it

The full recording of the webinar is online on the YouTube Channel of Università del Salento at this address: https://youtu.be/x8KmXlAxy1g

Here are the links to the four next webinars in the series , feel free to share them
 
 
 
 
 
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Oneness III

Following from chapter I here and chapter II here

Chapter III

Definitions

Brindisi, April 6 2020

 

For an academic mind the first problem is about the definition.

For an academic mind, an even bigger problem is defining a spiritual object, giving yourself permission to dig so far outside your field, accepting judgment (even your own), and deciding to let it go, in advance.

Oneness: awareness of being one of One, a living cell in a huge living body called humanity. Or inside an even bigger body comprising all living beings on the planet. Or, even better, a spark of life in the body comprising – with all of her inhabitants – the very body of Mother Earth, our mothership in this travel called life.

This feeling that some of us have experimented in the contemplation of nature, in meditation or in some altered states of consciousness is the most sublime experience we can recall. Even if, sometimes, we realize we had it only after it has gone, vanished. Trying to explain this feeling may be difficult, even painful.

It feels like pure love. Not just feeling it, being it.

For me, a vivid moment of those was the first glance – eyes in the eyes – with my newborn Giuseppe, sixteen years ago. One of those perfectly quiet moments when the time stops and you feel you are in the right place and in the right moment and everything makes perfect sense.

I can recall other crumbs of infinity when, as a little child, I was contemplating the slow movements of snails on the grass until losing the sense of time. Now, I can somehow hack my system into feeling this state of temporary happiness when I see in my minds’ eyes all of us connected in the same luminescent energy field. Yet, I envy my cat when I see him lost in happiness, just being. Easily.

I suppose all humans, deep down, consciously or unconsciously perceive at times this being all one. Yet many do not know that this feeling may be cultivated with love, compassion, and gratitude and that it may grow like a muscle with exercise.

I feel called to write on this topic by the current pandemic, as we are now, as One, big sick body. Or maybe just now our illness surfaced after so many symptoms here and there. The illness dates back, I suppose, to the origin of what we call the Anthropocene.

How terrible to lose a dear one because of an invisible enemy and how exhausting to fight every day an unequal struggle in hospitals and labs. I have no direct experience, I can only imagine. Yet this could be a good moment to slow down and reflect on ourselves, on this big body we all are. We are sharing a deep common experience, we are more open, more caring to the world, more conscious of our interconnectedness.

Internet is now the circulatory system of this big body: our words and thoughts circulate like blood, bringing life and nourishment or more diseases. Waves of compassion, as well as waves of hatred, spread quickly and we are all responsible for the fragile health we have as a collective.

We don’t speak the same language, we don’t share the same beliefs and rituals, yet we have the same needs of safety and peace, of family and community, of food and fresh air and nourishment for the body, the mind and the heart. We suffer the same climate threatens. We all aspire to the same freedom and sovereignty in making choices for ourselves. We all depend on others, near and far.

Where does a population, a territory end, another start? People living on the borders know this well: it’s not black on one side and white on the other, there are shadows of grey and connections beyond the lines traced by politics and history. And we live in our state as in a big condominium, discussing common elements and big and small injustices, perhaps imagining the condo beyond the street as more comfortable and less quarrelsome. As Italian, I know I was lucky to be born in a good neighborhood.

Yet, the texture of my life is made up of thin threads connecting me to the four corners of the world: I have no idea where my tea, my coffee, my chocolate comes from, or the wood of my furniture, or the apps on my phone. I don’t know the lives of those my comfort relies on. Maybe I should. I could know more and care more about how all these little particles of my reality are produced and dispatched to me.

We are all rings in a chain. My work too is intended to benefit others near and far, or at least, I hope so.

I want to enlarge my glance now and allow myself to dream out loud: one day this big One living body could show a collective intelligence and dance to the same rhythm of life like a flock of birds or a swarm of bees. Just think of the potential of AI, if not misused. Just think of our huge combined creativity.

Maybe it is time for humans to step back, leave the hearth breath and the sun shine and use their terrific brain and its fruits to imagine and realize a more equal and less aggressive society for themselves, for the other living beings, for Mother Earth.

Oneness. II

Following from Chapter I

Chapter II

Brindisi, March 21, 2020

Existential Doubts

The coronavirus pandemic had, as a consequence, an entire nation’s lockdown and many other nations around were following on the same road. Two weeks had already passed.

In Italy, I was watching the developments from some sort of vantage point. We were 10 or even more days ahead of many other countries, already used (resigned?) to the contagion and the “extraordinary measures” going with it. We experimented as the second (after the Chinese people) the effect of this strange “staying at home”.

In those first two weeks, I had seen the good and the bad surfacing in my compatriot captive fellows.

The good was the raise in collective identity.

Italians are great individuals, but I wouldn’t define them as great as people. Yes, for us the family is important, but not so much the community: the town, the country, the others. The sense of the state, the perception of common goods, the respect for what is public are quite scarce.

Pictures and videos of the Italian “balcony flashmobs”, with people singing and clapping together, traveled around the world. People kept each other cheerful, raising the spirit to make up for the lack of social contact.

Facebook, Messenger, Whatsapp conversations were more lively than ever and zoom meetings for work, but also for a chat, a toast, a love conversation, was the new normal. The social dimension never disappeared, not a little bit.

Well, without touch. Missing hugs and kisses was a way to realize how important they previously were in our daily lives.

Doctors and nurses were doing miracles, working relentlessly, with poor safety measures, arousing our admiration. All the people working in the food supply chain couldn’t stop as well. Volunteers provided shopping for the old people at home and tissue facial masks were sewed and gifted in several towns and neighborhoods.

But let’s talk about the bad.

First of all, it was surprising how fast we all accepted that social distancing was the only solution. I wonder if there was some alternative way to protect the weaker with exceptional measures, even at the same high price. As for most of the others, I suppose for me the risk was a viral infection with mild symptoms. Maybe we could cope with it, without putting at risk an entire economic system made of local shops and little enterprises.

As in a revolution, there was no time or desire to discuss alternatives. The only “political” debate was if the government was doing enough, had intervened soon enough or could restrict freedoms even more.

The big doctors on TV appeared to be the only legitimate authorities to discuss measures despite the fact that they had – at least – to be balanced with fundamental rights and freedoms.  I couldn’t help but think that freedom of worship or the right to mourn the dead could be saved somehow – maybe moving them open-air, with due distances. But that wasn’t debatable.

What was much worse, people locked in the houses started judging the few ones moving freely outside: a few runners, people driving cars and riding bikes. For sure, some had good reasons to move (with the special permission we all had in the pocket, when outside) some others were just less obedient. Regrettable of course, but not at the point to be hated. Pointing the finger was easy and lightheartedly done.

And such hatred was real, a sort of decompression for the sense of frustration for being prisoners of the invisible enemy. Overreacting, looking for the responsible for bringing the contagion in town, blaming the authorities for not protecting enough, that was the shadow surfacing in many good citizens at home.  

All in plain sight: the light and the shadow, and the boat we were all in.

I felt I couldn’t go on with business as usual.

In my cozy house – luckily prisoner with my two sons – I was doing my best to stay positive, shielding my boys from the wave of fear and anxiety I could perceive from the outside.

After years and years of frantic activity, staying at home wasn’t too bad.

Yet, from time to time I couldn’t help but think of the sick ones, the seriously sick: those condemned to stay in the hospital without the presence and the comforting touch of the dear ones. Dying alone, this was the curse of this virus.  

My work didn’t stop, even if I was confined at home.
I could teach online, correct theses, advise students, write…
Well, most of my work had always been at home: reading, studying, writing. Especially – and on purpose – in the quiet hours when the boys were at school.
I was used to struggling with the blank page on my personal computer and now I had plenty of time to do so. I couldn’t even complain about all the other chores.

Yet, motivation was totally missing. All of a sudden I was wondering if all my work made sense at all.

I had always seen my life as a continuous upgrading and now – I felt – it was time to upgrade again.
Unfortunately, I was clueless. Waiting for a hint about the next step, out of my old patterns and towards some new, more significant ones…

I had the impression this virus was a sort of wake-up call, not just for me, but for everybody. I felt, deep inside, the responsibility to get the hidden message inside the call.

Sleeping, reading novels, cooking was all I wanted to do in those lazy days of quarantine. All I had never had time to do. I was overwhelmed, at times, with a sense of guilt for this sudden laziness, something I was unprepared to face.

A sudden thought: – maybe this is how searching for the meaning of life looks like: waiting and contemplation. Maybe the white page is where it all starts and where I had to start. Seeing what could flow out of my mind. No plans, no goals, no attachments. Just the free flow of thoughts. Inspiration? Intuition? It was time to see if these were real, if they worked.

And there it was: my “Oneness” posts 🙂

Compassion. A sense of commonality with all the people living the same life and the same fears in so many towns and countries around the world.

Contribute. Could I contribute? How? 

The challenge to me was clear: the virus showing once more how this world is small, how humanity is nothing but a family whose destiny lays in interconnectedness.

We had already seen plenty of images of catastrophes around the world in this strange leap year: desperation, bombs, locusts, floods, and fires. Powerful images calling for our empathy and compassion for our fellow humans, the close and the far away.

Yet this lockdown because of an infinitely small virus – apparently not so terrible –  was something different: a shared experience.

 It was connecting for the first time people around the world, sharing the same fear. Could this become a sharing of love instead? I was wondering. Could we pray for each other, meditate for each other, feel eventually a real, family-like, connection?

Hope.

The light at the end of the tunnel could be brighter than the one we left behind, at least because we learned to enjoy it with new eyes.

Follows in chapter three

A EUROPEAN ANSWER TO THE CORONAVIRUS THREAT TO PROVE THAT THE EU IS A TRUE COMMUNITY WITH A SHARED FUTURE

680px-COVID-19_Outbreak_Cases_in_Europe.svg

file from the Wikimedia Commons

We, European citizens, understand that Covid-19 is a common threat, that may hurt one country sooner than another, but will eventually hurt us all, and can impact our daily life and economy almost like a war.

We, European citizens, are worried and scared by this threat; and even more by the cacophony, selfishness and self-destructive short-sightedness of the different, uncoordinated national responses; by the lack of foresight of our national leaders, who pretend not to know that our interdependence requires a single European answer with strict containment measures of the pandemics, and an EU-wide plan to re-start the European economy afterward.

We, European citizens, denounce the current EU as an incomplete Res Publica, thus ill-equipped to face this challenge, with little competences and powers to face the pandemics. We welcome the timely decision by the Commission to provide 25 billion euro and financial flexibility to cope with this threat. Maybe it is the most it can do, but it is not enough.

We call upon the European Commission and Parliament to propose, and on the national governments to adopt (starting with the Eurogroup meeting of March 16, and a following extraordinary European Council to be called soon after) the following urgent measures, also using the Lisbon Treaty passerelle clause and simplified Treaty revision provisions:

  1. Make public health and the fight against epidemics a shared competence of the EU, subject to the ordinary legislative procedure, and provide the Commission with extraordinary powers to coordinate the response to the epidemics, as a federal government should do.
  2. Enlarge the scope of the European Stability Mechanism to finance the immediate strengthening of the European and national health systems to cope with the pandemics, which threatens the lives of European citizens, and thus also the economic and financial stability of the EU.
  3. Abolish the compulsory balanced budget provision for the EU and create an EU Safe Asset to be issued to finance an EU-wide plan to promote EU economic recovery and social cohesion during and after the emergency.
  4. Move fiscal issues to the ordinary legislative procedure and provide the EU with fiscal powers to adopt new own resources – such as the carbon tax (and carbon tariffs), the digital tax, the financial transaction tax – to finance the EU budget (or the Euro-area Budgetary Instrument, if the decision could be reached only at the Euro-area level).
  5. Immediately approve the next Multiannual Financial Framework increasing the budget to at least 1,3% of the EU GDP, as requested by the European Parliament, on the basis of the current structure of the budget financing; and with the provision to reach 2% with the new own resources, to ensure the provision of crucial EU-wide public goods.
  6. Turn the planned Conference on the future of Europe into a fully-fledged European Convention to draft a new Constitutional Pact among the EU citizens and Member states.

We European citizens believe this is the defining hour for the EU. The social perception of the EU will be shaped for years by its response to this crisis. This is the time to prove the EU is a community of values with a shared destiny, a life-line for its citizens and member states in the face of a turbulent global world with political, economic and health threats. It is time for bold common steps to overcome fear. It is time for European unity, not for national division.

 

To sign follow this link

Below a first list of signatories (now more than 400)

Romano Prodi, Former President of the European Commission, former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, President Sciences Po; President Jacques Delors Institute; former Italian Prime Minister Enrique Baron Crespo, Chair Jean Monnet ad personam, Former President European Parliament Pascal Lamy, Honorary President Jacques Delors Institute; former European Commissioner; former Director-General World Trade Organization Anna Diamantopoulou, President To Diktio, former Greek Minister and European Commissioner José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, former Prime Minister in Spain Ferdinando Nelli Feroci, President Istituto Affari Internazionali, former European Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship Gian Paolo Accardo, Founder of VoxEurope Alberto Alemanno, École des Hautes Études Commerciales (HEC) Paris; Founder and Director, the Good Lobby Daniele Archibugi, Acting Director, IRPPS – Italian National Research Council Brando Benifei, Member of the European Parliament, Head of the Italian delegation in the Socialist and Democrat Group, Board of the Spinelli Group Vítor Bento, Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Políticas Universidade de Lisboa; former Director of the Foreign Department of the Portuguese Central Bank; former General Director of Treasury, President of Junta de Crédito Público and member of the European Monetary Committe Stefano Boeri, President Triennale di Milano; Full professor Urbanistica Politecnico di Milano Pierre Brunet, Directeur du Département des Masters de Droit public de l’Ecole de droit de la Sorbonne Maria Chiara Carrozza, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna di Pisa, former Rector, former Italian Minister of Education, University and Research Innocenzo Cipolletta, President Assonime, former director general of Confindustria (Association of Italian Business) Carlos Closa, European University Institute, former Director of the European, Transnational and Global Governance research area; former Deputy Director at the Centre for Political and Constitutional Studies (CEPC) in Madrid, and member of the Venice Commission for Democracy through Law of the Council of Europe Stefan Collignon, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna di Pisa; former Harvard and London School of Economics; former Director Association for the Monetary Union of Europe Andrew Duff, President of the Spinelli Group; Visiting Fellow, European Policy Centre; former Member of the European Parliament Rafał Dymek, President Polska Fundacja Robert Schuman Sergio Fabbrini, Director School of Government at Luiss University Piero Fassino, President Centro Studi di Politica Internazionale; Vice President Foreign Affairs Committe of the Chamber of Deputies in Italy; Elsa Fornero, University of Turin, Scientific Coordinator of CeRP – Collegio Carlo Alberto, Vice President of SHARE and Research Fellow of IZA and Netspar, Former Italian Minister of Labour and Social Policies John Erik Fossum, Arena Center for European Studies, Oslo Mahmoud Gebril, former Prime Minister of Lybia Sandro Gozi, Member of the European Parliament, President of the Union of European Federalists, former Under-secretary of state for European Policies Ulrike Guerot, Head of Department for European Policy and the Study of Democracy, Danube University Krems, Austria; Founder of the European Democracy Lab in Berlin István Hegedűs, Chairman Hungarian Europe Society Aldo Kaslowski, Chairman of Organik holding, former Vice-President of Tusiad (Association of Turkish Business) Guillaume Klossa, writer, founder of EuropaNova and Civico Europa, Sherpa to the reflection group on the future of Europe 2020-2030, former Director at the European Broadcasting Union Anna Krasteva, New Bulgarian University and CERMES, editor-in-chief of Journal Southeastern Europe Peter Jambrek, President of the New University, Slovenia Cristophe Leclerque, Founder of Euractiv Network, President of Euractiv Foundation Jo Leinen, Former MEP, former President of the Spinelli Group, the European Movement International, the Union of European Federalists Francesca Longo, President Società Italiana di Scienza Politica Paolo Magri, Director Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionali (ISPI) Sylwia Majkowska-Szulc, University of Gdańsk, Secretary of the Board of the Polish Association of European Law Fabio Masini, University of Rome 3, Co-director International Centre for European and Global Governance (CesUE), Fabienne Peraldi-Leneuf, Sorbonne Law School Director of the Franco-Italian double degree Co-Director of the M2 International Lawyer, Giovanni Moro, Chairman of Cittandinanza Attiva Kalypso Nicolaidis, Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford Claus Offe, Hertie School of Governance in Berlin Gianfranco Pasquino, University of Bologna, Johns Hopkins Bologna Center and Fellow of the Accademia dei Lincei Otto Pfersfmann, Directeur d’Etudes Ecoles des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales / Lier-FYT Paris Mikolaj Pietrzak, Dean of the Warsaw Bar Association of Advocates Gaetano Quagliarello, Luiss University, Senator Lia Quartapelle, Research Fellow at ISPI, Member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies Dimitrij Rupel, Nova univerza Ljubljana; former Foreign Minister of Slovenia (1990-1993, 2000-2008) Saskia Sassen, Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology at Columbia University and a Member of its Committee on Global Thought, which she chaired till 2015 Giuseppe Scognamiglio, Chairman East-West European Institute Richard Sennett, OBE FBA; Visiting Professor, The Senseable Cities Lab, MIT; Chair, Council on Urban Initiatives, United Nations Habitat; Chair, Theatrum Mundi, Ingrid Shikova, Head of Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence European Studies Department, Sofia University “St.Kliment Ohridski” Enzo Siviero, Rector eCampus University, Architect Christoph Strecker, Judge, Founder of MEDEL (Magistrats Européens pour la Démocratie et les Libertés) Allain Terrenoire, Président de l’Union Paneuropéenne Internationale Arnaud Thysen, Director European Business Summit Nathalie Tocci, Director Istituto Affari Internazionali, former Advisor to VP/HR Federica Mogherini Nadia Urbinati, Columbia University, Andrea Biondi Director Centre of European Law Dickson Poon School of Law Kings College London, Peter Schiffauer Deputy Director Dimitris-Tsatsos-Institut for European
Constitutional Sciences Fernuniversität in Hagen, Livio Vanghetti, Executive Vice President of Philip Morris Anna Wessely, ELTE University of Budapest, President of the Hungarian Sociological Association, Editor-in-chief of BUKSZ – The Budapest Review of Books Vladimiro Zagrebelski, Carlo Alberto College in Turin, former Judge of the European Court of Human Rights Bénédicte Zimmermann, Directrice d’études at the EHESS Paris, Susanna Cafaro Università del Salento, Vice-President of the Italian Society of International Law, Fabienne Péraldi Leneuf Ecole de droit de la Sorbonne, Nico A. Heller Democracy School, Paolo Garonna Università LUISS G. Carli, Elisa Baroncini Università di Bologna, Pietro Gargiulo Università di Teramo,  Gianpaolo Maria Ruotolo Università di Foggia, Luigi Daniele Coordinatore del Dottorato di ricerca
in diritto pubblico Università Roma “Tor Vergata”, Annamaria Viterbo, Università di Torino, Vesselin Popovski Professor Vice Dean Jindal Global Law School Haryana, India.

 

Oneness

Lungomare_città_di_BrindisiChapter I

Brindisi, March 10th, 2020

When it all started

It started as a quiet subversion of daily habits.

After the declaration of the state of emergency throughout Italy, the roads appeared deserted even in the southern regions where the risk was very low, just a handful of people infected by province.

Few people with masks and scared looks entered and left the shops on that beautiful March day.

Government instructions were clear: you could only leave the house for reasons of strict necessity: for medical treatments, for work, for “survival”, that is shopping for food.

The population was forbidden to touch, hug and kiss, to leave their own town of residence. All the activities that could be carried out from home – as distance learning or smart working – continued. Also some essential public services. But who knows how many activities were interrupted and for how long.

The planes no longer left. The silence was striking. In that green suburb close to the airport it sounded unnatural.

What struck me most was the loss of the little things I had always taken for granted: hugging my father, for example; exchange kisses on the occasion of my birthday; take a walk without a real destination just to look at the sea.

What about meeting my partner? He lived in another town and seeing each other was now impossible. Until when?

I felt a pang in the stomach. What if either of us got sick? No visiting, no help? And if it became serious? 100 km never felt like a difficult distance, now they were.

It was the first time I really thought of sickness as a real possibility.

Back home, I was welcomed by the usual smiles of my sons.

Ours was a little bubble of positivity.

We left daily news enter only for short updates in the morning and in the evening. The TV was turned off most of the time. Except when PlayStation was turned on, which was, for my standards, way too much.

My sons had reacted in two different yet quite healthy ways: one, the younger – just turned fourteen – had celebrated the closure of the school as a historic event per se, but deplored the fact that homework continued to arrive just the same.

The older one, close to his sixteen birthday, had armed himself with patience and although he suffered from the loss of his social life, seemed serene. Both had hobbies and games to play, they enjoyed all this extra time for themselves.

Turning off TV wasn’t a real novelty for us, but now it was self-defense. The virus was on-air h24. This health crisis had obscured all the other crises, not less dramatic: the bombing of civilians in Syria, the desperate situation of migrants on the Greek border, the exceptional Arctic temperatures.

We had all seen pictures of penguins trotting in the mud instead of slipping elegantly on the pack: the photos had circulated on Facebook but had never found their way to TV news, yet 20 ° in Antarctica was big news. And the violations of fundamental rights perpetrated massively on refugees? What was happening?

Moreover, the United States was shipping 20,000 troops in Europe, the largest deployment of forces in 25 years. Apparently, practicing to lead a convoy across the Atlantic. Could we need a new landing in Normandy or Sicily? Who would invade us: the Russians? the Chinese? For the moment the Americans, although they had promised that they would leave Europe after cleaning training areas.

How could all this make sense in the middle of a pandemic?

Internet was the only source for everything that was not the virus and its consequences, a massive and chaotic source, overflowing with fake. Fake news continued to arrive on every mobile via the WhatsApp groups. I had received maybe ten times the same message telling us to fight infection with hot drinks, as ridiculous as it sounded, most of my contacts had believed and passed it on.

I had spent the last two months organizing big conferences, one was already canceled, the other looked uncertain but we were clinging to the idea that everything would be fine and that the emergency would end soon.

Ironically, our conferences were on democratic global governance, on commons and common values. I smiled at the idea that speaking of democracy with the right of meeting suspended was quite a thing.

By the way, our team knew how much this was contradicting the direction that politics seemed to have taken at the national and the global level. Yet, it was a way to face and counter the narrative, hopefully, to start writing a different one.

And now this virus, quietly, was overwriting on its own, putting on hold globalization, reviving borders and building new ones, even from town to town.

I was feeling like a little lab rat. Italy was a little lab. Our first-class citizenship which allowed us to go everywhere, often visa-free, was now rejected. Closed, each of us in our little towns.

And yet, with the coronavirus declared a global health emergency by WHO, we had further (unnecessary!) evidence that borders were pointless in front of great emergencies, that viruses traveled without documents and that you could find yourself on the wrong side in no time.

Solutions, whatever, needed cooperation, not competition. We were all connected, even more with hugs forbidden.

I had so much to work on, articles and chapters on democracy and citizenship and global governance, but all this thinking was bringing me to the core: oneness. I had to work on oneness, skipping all the intermediate steps.

To be continued…

Chapter II

Chapter III