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 climate change 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?

This is the topic to be explored here.

Answers will be offered, comments and contributions will be welcome. The aim is starting a fruitful dialogue because – as history teaches us – 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.  It’s globalization, baby.

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 institutions, hold them accountable? It’s not that easy.

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

Why Democracy is Declining

It’s no surprise that democracy is in a deep crisis, a glance at the democracy index by the Economist’s Intelligence Unit shows it clearly. According to it, only 4.5% of the world’s population lives nowadays in a “full democracy”. It was 9% only few years ago.

eui

This is even more evident in the very countries we always regarded as examples and bulwarks of democracy – Britain, France, US – the cradles of parliamentarism and of the rule of law.

I don’t say that these countries are not democratic anymore, I just worry about the amazing rise of populism and nationalism there, which are testing the democratic institutions as never before.

We can give so many different explanations for that: sociological, psicological, cultural… the liquid society and the solipsism and egotism of the modern human, the globalisation and rise of technology, the circulation of capitals and the social dumping, but I think that all this is just the background picture.

The real problem is in the dimension of the issues we face nowadays: migration waves, financial crises, global warming, terrorism…

Not one of these problems can be faced by a country alone, hardly by a group of countries acting together, even the European Union is struggling.

Citizens feel insecure, unsupported, and they expect answers from their political leaders, and from their governments. After all, this was the reason why the modern state was created in the first place: to offer security. Unfortunately, no state can offer this, not anymore.

Only populist politicians still offer promises and guarantees, do they know how illusory these are? Do their electors know?

And the easiest promise of all is the nationalist one: shutting the world out of the door, raising walls, guarding borders,  stopping people. Our country first… and only.

I understand the fear which originates these reactions and I am not here to add judgment and blame on the already excessive amount of judgment and blame we see around. I just don’t think this will work… if not to buy some time before the same problems knock to our doors again and again.

The solutions to these problems are difficult to imagine and hard to communicate. Nonetheless they do exist.

Just have a look at the agenda for Sustainable Development Goals  and at the countless initiatives started by private citizens to improve the state of the world, such as Geoversive, SimPol, the Good Country, ICRCCEN, Global Citizen, Business Fights Poverty,  and my list could go on and on…. Other solutions are possible and – even if we don’t see them on TV shows or in the news- other people are already thinking of them.

The decline of democracy can be stopped in two ways: one is in the hands of governments and it is the cooperation for the common good, the other is in our hands as citizens and it is in owning the awareness that we are global citizens and claiming for solutions at national and at global level.

Only stepping into our power, supporting and joining the initiatives and the causes aimed at solving our common problems we can still feel proud citizens of our state and and of this world.

 

 

 

Manifesto: “A genuine European Union to ensure welfare, security and democracy”

We European citizens are worried and scared. The economic and financial crisis has impoverished many of us. Youth unemployment risks creating a lost generation. Inequality grows and social cohesion is in peril. The EU is surrounded by war and instability from Ukraine to Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa. The flux of refugees and migrants has become a structural feature we must address together, in a human and forward-looking manner. In many Member states we witness authoritarian tendencies and the rise of nationalist and xenophobic forces. Democracy and the core values of the European modern civilization are under attack. The EU itself is questioned, although it ensured peace, democracy and welfare for decades.

We European citizens don’t want our national politicians to care only about their next local or national election. They ask for European solutions to European problems but then they act to render those solutions impossible or ineffective. They disregard sensible Commission proposals or fail to implement decisions already taken , including when agreed by all. They claim, one day, for Europe to do something and protest, the following day, Europe’s proposed actions. We ask national politicians and the media to stop depicting integration as a zero-sum game, thus pitting nations against one another. In an interdependent world no nation can satisfy all of its citizens’ basic needs and appeals for social justice. In this context, integration and supranational government is a positive-sum game. Our European social model based on liberal democracy and a social market economy can only survive in a multi-level framework of government, on the basis of the subsidiarity principle.

We European citizens are aware that globalization is transforming the world. We need a European government to foster our common values and contribute to the solution of the global problems threatening humanity. The world needs an outward-looking cosmopolitan Europe to help build a more effective and democratic global governance to cope with climate change, peace, global poverty, and the transition to an environmentally and socially sustainable economy.

We European citizens recognise the EU as an incomplete Res Publica. It has a ridiculous budget (0,9% of GDP) and no financial autonomy from Member states, while its current competences are out of date for what is necessary to successfully answer the challenges of the current crises. It has a federal like legislative, judiciary and central bank. But democracy is the possibility for citizens to choose the government and make it accountable. For the Union to work and be democratic its decisions, including budget, foreign and defence policy, and the reform of the Treaties, should primarily be taken by a qualified majority representing the majority will of European citizens and states. The Commission should evolve into a fully-fledged government, setting and promoting a political agenda legitimated through elections. European parties should present their candidates to the Presidency at the European election. The alternative is a directly elected President of the EU merging the Presidencies of the Commission and the European Council.

On 14 February 1984 the European Parliament adopted the Draft Treaty establishing the European Union, the so-called Spinelli Project, pointing towards a political union, which Member states disregarded. On 14 February 2017 we call upon the European Parliament, the only directly elected body of the EU, to take a new initiative to kick-start the EU on strengthened democratic basis. Talking about banking, fiscal, economic, energy, security, defence and political unions makes sense only within a genuine democratic European Union, with all those policies under a European government.

On 25 March 2017 the Heads of state and government will celebrate the Treaties of Rome establishing the European Economic Community and Euratom in 1957. We call upon them to match the vision of the Founders. They should open the way to the re-foundation of the EU on the basis of the European Parliament proposal, and immediately exploit all the Lisbon Treaties’ instruments to strengthen EU institutions and policies, especially on foreign and security, economic and social policies. We call upon the Europe’s youth, its civil society, workers, entrepreneurs, academia, local governments and European citizens to participate in the March for Europe in Rome on March 25. Together we shall give the political leaders the strength and courage to push forward the EU to a new beginning. European unity is key to solve our common problems, safeguard our values and ensure our welfare, security and democracy.

If you agree, please consider adding your signature to the ones by over 300 European intellectuals and academics. You can easily do it here.

You can also join us in Rome on March 25, the programme is here.

Certain urges…

Who, among you, remembers Woody Allen in Manhattan Murder Mistery stating – “I can’t listen to that much Wagner. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland” ?

There are certain speeches, attitudes, states that simply trigger urges, fears, anxieties.

For me, simply, listening to Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen (or even the Italian Salvini, much less famous) lights up the urge to quote Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela or Bertolt Brecht… I can’t help, it’s just that I start getting the urge….

So here it is, some Bertolt Brecht I want to share with you all …

 

“First of all, they came to take the gypsies
and I was happy because they pilfered.
Then they came to take the Jews and I said nothing,
because they were unpleasant to me.
Then they came to take homosexuals,
and I was relieved, because they were annoying me.
Then they came to take the Communists,
and I said nothing because I was not a Communist.
One day they came to take me,
and there was nobody left to protest.”

― Bertolt Brecht

 

Refugees as Global Actors

 

Image: UNHCR

Image: UNHCR

Some days ago I came across this beautiful petition (thanks Twitter!), which resonates with my assumption that individuals should have a say about issues and policies which impact on their life, even when they are managed at global level.

I copy/paste it here for you to read and possibly sign:

Internally displaced persons, refugees and people living in exile unite!

Europe is presently facing its biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. Millions of people are being displaced in Syria and Iraq, as well as in other parts of the world, and many are trying to reach Europe, not only because they hope to be safe there, but also because of the political rights Europeans enjoy and take for granted: the right to free expression, the right to vote and so forth.

Yet, those few who do make it to Europe find themselves excluded from public life, without political rights and without a voice. To challenge that, we, people displaced by force, together with some NGOs and other stakeholders, are starting to organise ourselves with a view to creating new democratic structures both locally and internationally, so that in future internally displaced persons, refugees and people living in exile can offer themselves as dialogue partners to local councils, national parliaments, the European Parliament and the UN.

If you would like to support this initiative, please sign this petition now. We look forward to hearing from you.

If you agree, you can sign it here.

After a Skype conversation with Nico Andreas Heller, promoter of the initiative and founding director of the Democracy School, I found out that this petition is the tip of the iceberg of a wider process, aimed at creating an International Committee of Refugees (ICR), a directly elected, democratically accountable, representative body for internally displaced persons, refugees and people living in exile.

The challenge is tremendous: refugee camps host people from different cultures, religions, life experiences and many of them could have no experience of democracy at all (or don’t buy my or your idea of democracy).

They escape from different realities and for different reasons. They are over 65 millions nowadays and this number could increase over time as it is very possible to imagine climate refugees in the next future, fleeing from extreme climate events.

How the population of a camp could be represented? How the camp could have some kind of self-government to manage its specific needs and solve its internal problems? How the global population of refugees could dialogue with states and international fora – the UN in the first place – about their future?

From a strictly legal point of view, we need to consider that individuals are not unanimously considered subjects of international law, they cannot create an international organization, but just a non-governmental organization (NGO). They cannot dialogue on equal footing with states and international organizations but just enjoy – here and there – a limited observer status.

Nonetheless, an International Committee of Refugees would give them the rights to be aknowledged and to be heard. Which seems to me the minimum threshold for global civic rights. The mobilisation to explore innovative solution is on its way, and we are all invited, you can join it here.

I want to mention another beautiful project, the Project Love  – promoted by the architect and life coach Gregorio Avanzini -intended to create a holistic and scalable solution for refugee camps which includes everything from meeting basic human needs ( nutritious food; clean water; shelter; health care; education; emotional support). This too is an open initiative and everybody could offer his/her own expertise to make a difference.

We cannot ignore that we are facing  “the worst refugee and humanitarian crisis since World War II”( quoting UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon) and one of the biggest issues in the XXI Century. Denial will just make it bigger.

It’s time to consider people not just as part of the problem, but as part of the solution.

SUPRANATIONALITY IN PRACTICE: THE EUROPEAN CITIZENSHIP

The European Union’s founding Treaty (TEU) recalls and reaffirms the role of citizens in articles 9, 10 and 11 – provisions dedicated to its “democratic principles” – with the intent to establish a direct link between EU citizenship and democracy in the Union.

european-peopleThis need to look for (and find) legitimacy in citizenship – the dual legitimacy of the Union and of its member states – deserves to be analyzed as it is a peculiar expression of this supranational system. Although we find its most effective expression in the last edition of the EU Treaty, this quest for legitimacy is not new in the European integration process.

This is even more interesting as we consider that the lack of citizens’ ownership is often considered a cardinal sin in the process of European integration, whose elitist nature is often blamed.

We may find, instead, that citizens – as beneficiaries of rights as well as actors in democratic processes have always been important.

We can read in the article 2 of the Treaty establishing the European Union that:

“The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.”

Even if the significance of the word “democracy” remains unspecified, we could give a first and provisional definition referring to the values listed in art.2 itself, to the constitutional principles common to the member states and to the content of the European Charter of fundamental rights.

In terms of political participation, the European notion of democracy gained significance through the direct election of the European Parliament since 1979. Then, with the creation of a European citizenship by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 and, eventually, thanks to the inclusion in the latest version of the Treaty of a title entitled to the Union’s democratic principles: the art. 9-11.

“Article 9

In all its activities, the Union shall observe the principle of the equality of its citizens, who shall receive equal attention from its institutions, bodies, offices and agencies. Every national of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union. Citizenship of the Union shall be additional to and not replace national citizenship.

Article 10

  1. The functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy.
  2. Citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament. Member States are represented in the European Council by their Heads of State or Government and in the Council by their governments, themselves democratically accountable either to their national Parliaments, or to their citizens.
  3. Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen.
  4. Political parties at European level contribute to forming European political awareness and to expressing the will of citizens of the Union.

Article 11

  1. The institutions shall, by appropriate means, give citizens and representative associations the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views in all areas of Union action.

  2. The institutions shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society.

  3. The European Commission shall carry out broad consultations with parties concerned in order to ensure that the Union’s actions are coherent and transparent.

  4. Not less than one million citizens who are nationals of a significant number of Member States may take the initiative of inviting the European Commission, within the framework of its powers, to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Treaties. (…)”

This trail was actually prepared by the ECJ case law.  The  starting point was the Van Gend en Loos case (1963). In it the European Courts defines – for the first time – the Community as “a new legal order of international law for the benefit of which the states have limited their sovereign rights, albeit within limited fields and the subjects of which comprise not only member states but also their nationals”. The Court quoted itself, using the same statement in other famous decisions such as Costa vs. ENEL (case 6/64), Simmenthal (case 106/77), Francovich (cases C-6/90 and C-9/90), opinions 1/91 (December 14th 1991) and 1/2009 (March 8th 2011).

After this first step came, one year later, the Costa vs ENEL case, where we read that “the member states have limited their sovereign rights, albeit within limited fields, and have thus created a body of law which binds both their nationals and themselves”. In this case the Court clarifies two cardinal principles – the direct application and the prevalence of European law over national law – both are grounded on this direct relation between the European legal order and the citizens which are direct beneficiaries of its norms

This direct relationship between the citizens and the supranational organization is not immediately qualified as a supranational citizenship – which will appear only in 1992 – and it never became a “supranational nationality”.

Since 1992, in fact, the European citizenship is nothing but a set of additional rights, a status added to national citizenships, barely visible if not in the passport format. Keystone of this status is the principle of non-discrimination, walkway between many European peoples and a common citizenship.

Splitting the two concepts of citizenship and nationality – the first existing at two different levels (national and European) the second limited to the national level –  is therefore a basic element of a clear political project.

The strictly legal content of the European citizenship is indisputable, comparable to that which characterized the notion of the Roman civitas.

The abstractness of a citizenship that is pure legal concept becomes a strong choice where it appears to be an alternative to the notion of nationality or people, terms which instead bring with them a rich substratum of history, culture, religion, language, identity and belonging.

And, in fact, the Union’s objective is not to eliminate the nationality or  the peoples of the member states. Article 1 TEU refers to an “ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”, article 3 specifies that the Union’s aim is promoting “peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples“, the same provision recalls the richness of its cultural and linguistic diversity.

So, we have a clear separation between the two notions: a European politeia/citizenship and national demos/people, the first including a number of different national demoi living together in peace, under a roof of common values, principles and rules.

The same distinction is very clear in the preamble of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, where we read:

“Conscious of its spiritual and moral heritage, the Union is founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. It places the individual at the heart of its activities, by establishing the citizenship of the Union and by creating an area of freedom, security and justice.”

And

“The Union contributes to the preservation and to the development of these common values while respecting the diversity of the cultures and traditions of the peoples of Europe as well as the national identities of the Member States”. (Emphasis added)

Therefore, this European integration as a legal process – which coexists with strong national identities – is not necessarily a weakness of the system or the mark of an unfinished process, but it seems rather a choice.

Among the European countries there are strong elements of cultural commonality, especially when viewed in perspective, in the context of a globalized world. Europe’s common “spiritual and moral heritage” is not a rhetoric invention, but it was a clear choice to ground its legal order on a “citizenship without a people.”

This choice has some advantages: first, it does not conflict with the national identity recalled and guaranteed by the Treaty and it promotes an integration model based on the coexistence of diversities; second, it should respond better to the need to reassure the defenders of national sovereignty, reducing the risks of nationalist reactions or to the fear -even irrational- of losing national identities (even if, as Brexit is there to prove, it wasn’t enough). Finally, it prevents a possible European nationalism, a typical degenerative disease of nationality.

As we can see, it is a quite different model from the American melting pot.

This belonging to a polity, expressed in purely legal terms, is the real novelty of the European model, replicable in other geographical areas or global organizations – which could generate – one day – their one partial citizenships – and it opens the door to multiple and cumulative citizenships, not conflicting among each other, to communities partially overlapping.

Alongside this European polity – that performs the dual function of building an area of justice and rights and to legitimize the EU supranational institutions, there is another peculiarity of the European democracy: the absence of an explicit reference to collective self-government.

“Sovereignty belongs to the people” is a recurring formula in the states’ constitution and funding acts, so…how can possibly exist a democracy without a people? This requisite appears to be an essential and indispensable element of democracy – as also pointed out by the General Assembly of the United Nations (resolution no. 55/96 of 4 December 2000).

And here we see why this reference to the peoples of the Member States – alongside with national democracy – is also important: it becomes an implicit reference to national constitutions that recognize and codify these collective sovereignties.

The European polity thus integrates a second democratic level on top of the national one, the two being mutually invigorating. It’s no accident that democracy is an essential requirement for the accession to the Union (art.49TUE).

And yet, some people and some political figures still blame the Union for the persistence of a democratic deficit. We believe that this deficit is not in the EU institutional system but in some essential transmission belts required for a genuine democracy: European parties, a European political debate and – even more – a press reporting to citizens what happens in the European Parliament and the other bodies at work over the national level.

Another real gap is in the absence of awareness of many European citizens about their rights and their status in Europe, even if, once the mentioned tools in place, that would be maybe filled up.

So far, in vain  the European Commission launched communication campaigns designed to fill these gaps. The system is formally democratic, but essentially perceived as distant from its citizens.

Its democratic formula – being so disconnected from a sense of identity and belonging – is especially difficult to communicate. Even more difficult if press and political elites don’t give it a try.

The Politics of Fear

We live in the age of fear.

If we turn on the television we hear awful news about terrorism, heinous crimes and terrible catastrophes.

If we turn on on any political discourse we hear the same awful news plus – often – a clear message of warning, which is translated into racism, xenophobia, violence. Closing doors and rising walls.

No words of hope, openess, oneness.

I don’t think that everybody in this world is affected by this contagion of fear, but the polarization is evident and fear wins, at least on the media.

This is easy to explain: every message which has an impact on sales wins on the media. And fear sales very well. People get anxious, want to hear more and know more, watch more TV and buy more news magazines, have more details… in the hope to get reassured. Unfortunately, what they get is just more fear.and fear gets addicting.

The same holds true for politics: those who sell fear earn votes in exchange of a fallacious promise of security.

How can national politicians only think to stop terrorism or migration waves closing the doors to what happens outside?

The solution resides outside just as the problem: it may only be a collective one, one which comes from a political discourse grounded on the interdependence of countries as well as on the interconnectedness of human beings.

What really strikes me is the fact that, according to many databases, the war deaths have been declining since 1946 and, as reported by Our World in Data “although wars are still fought, the world is now more peaceful than ever”.

From the perspective of the Human Security Report  “since 1900 far more people have been killed by their own governments than by foreign armies”.

True that the number of victims of terrorism has increased and, being this a random threat we feel more insecure, but the aggregated data show that over 78 per cent, occurred in just five countries: Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria and half of the terrorist deaths are attributed to Boko Haram and ISIS. (source Global Terrorism Index) As sad as it is, it appears to me as a new kind of war, which affects these five unfortunate countries.

So, why the impact on political discourse and the polarization of politics has been so impressive in the US, Britain, France, Italy, Hungary, Poland where the first cause of death are, still, diseases of the circulatory system and cancer?

Just a matter of selling fear in exchange of votes?

Nonetheless, we need to stay positive and spread our message of peace, and awareness. If you need a boost of hope, I invite you to read this previous post.

 

“EUROPEANS FOR EUROPE”. RECOVERY IN THE AGE OF INTERDEPENDENCE

Europe is going through multiple crises: an economic crisis, a political and institutional crisis, a confidence and trust crisis. They are mutually reinforcing themselves.

The difficulty to face both the migrant crisis and the inner economic crisis fostered narratives grounded on nationalism: the apology of good old times or the ” we can do better by ourselves ” encouraged debates à la Brexit in several countries, moreover some political parties didn’t resist the temptation to blame foreigners or Europe for events which are really outside national and European control or which involve in various degrees the responsibility of local, national and European politics. The raise of anti-European parties, the walls under construction between countries and the step back on the Schengen commitments are all symptoms of a deeper problem.

The main road to restore confidence in the European institutions is a bold reform of the European treaties, improving the democratic side of the economic and monetary union through an increased involvement of the European Parliament and the establishment of a fiscal union.

The Eurozone still needs many elements which would make it a real optimal currency area, such as a bigger budget, real own resources (as some common taxes) and few elements of common welfare as would be an unemployment benefit. These would introduce automatic adjustments in case of crisis. Moreover, the discretion lost by national governments in the field of economic policy would finally be gained by the European level of government, which is now blocked by intergovernmental procedures and inadequate tools.

Unfortunately (i) all this requires time, as a new treaty needs a minimum of two years to be negotiated and ratified, even more to be implemented; (ii) all this postulates a strong and shared political will across Europe as treaty reforms require unanimous consent by member states. There is, vice-versa a need to act now, to restore the confidence in the Union and the credibility of the European integration project in order to prepare the ground for the so needed reforms. The best interventions are those able to answer to the immediate needs of the population and counter the narrative that Europe is damaging its own citizens. Only so, the raise of anti-European parties would be stopped.

What is needed is something similar to the Marshall plan for Europe, or to the New Deal for the United States: a big and bold recovery program.
What if money could be found almost for free, out of generosity, for a good cause?
For this reason I imagined a dedicated European Agency: the “Europeans for Europe Investment Fund”, for crowdfunding and investing on the basis of two basic assumptions:

  1. Citizens are willing to contribute to Europe’s Recovery ;
  2. European States are heavily indebted and the European budget is just too small for an ambitious investment plan, BUT private assets and savings are definitely relevant in Europe, making it (still!) one of the richest regions in the world

The “Europeans for Europe” recovery plan is not just intended to foster economic growth, but to address the multiple crises affecting Europe. Together with a financial crisis we are living a confidence crisis in Europe together with an identity crisis and a leadership crisis. There is a urge to bring back citizens to the public sphere, to make them feel fully involved in the choices, to counter the lowering level of participation to the electoral consultations, to give them pride in being Europeans, pride for what they have accomplished in the past, for their heritage of values and most of all for what they still can do for themselves and for the world.

The proposed plan is not intended to replace the necessary institutional reforms in Europe. Conversely, the necessary debates and negotiations have to start right now. It has nonetheless the aim to act in parallel and to prepare the ground for the political and popular approval of them, restoring a climate of confidence together with economic growth.

My project was submitted to the MGI Essay Prize: “Crowdsourcing ideas for revitalizing growth in Europe” as well as other 400 others. Unfortunately it was not among the three winners. Nonetheless, it was shortlisted among the 20 most innovative ideas submitted, as you can read in a booklet free to download on the prize page.

The full text of my paper is available on Academia. Feel free to comment, share and have a say!

 

 

To Brexit or Not To Brexit

The nowadays famous article 50 of the EU Treaty didn’t exist before the 2009 Lisbon reform.

The founding fathers’ vision of an ever closer union didn’t contemplate a way back … or a way out. The marriage had to be for life. But then, after the big enlargments in 2004 and 2007, some practical minds decided to foresee the possibility of a divorce.

And here we are, with a divorce we didn’t expect to see.
As a British colleague made me notice, the 48% of the voters who expressed the will to remain are not parties in this divorce process, they are the victims: the children.

And the divorce is not formalized yet and this doesn’t seem to happen anytime soon.

Those who say that enacting art.50 is a competence of the British parliament are certainly right, as the  parliament ratified and enforced the European treaties in the British legal order and cannot be bypassed by the goverment, repealing these acts. By the way, both the parliament and the government  look reluctant as they didn’t really want this outcome.

Those who say that the will of the citizens cannot be ignored are right too. It is absolutely reasonable that such an important decision should require a larger majority, but there wasn’t any rule about it and a majority won.

Both the fields -the Brexit supporters and the remain supporters – have solid arguments on their side.

But there isn’t only the British membership of the European Union at stake. That would be too simple an assumption.

The remain voters are not necessarily supporters of this Union, which has its own undeniable flaws. Most of them stand for an idea: being united with our  diversities, being  stronger together, being peaceful as a family which solves its own divergences discussing at a common table.
Most of them know that the Union is a work in progress which can be improved only from the inside. And they know there is much to gain from the EU’s open borders and European citizenships’ rights if you are willing to move, explore and challenge yourself and your national limiting beliefs. They reasonably don’t want to lose these rights.

The Brexit  voters come from a range of different experiences:

  • Some of them  have suffered and still suffer austerity;
  • Some identify Europe with a suffocating bureaucracy and  a political failure, which is how Europe as been sold to British people for decades: as a useful scapegoat.
  • Some expressed a feeling of antipolitics, they would probably have rejected any political establishment and just prove the  crisis of democracy we all see around us.
  • Then there are the champions of national sovereignty, and all sorts of nationalism.
    This feeling has been fueled by the huge migrations from the southern shore of the Mediterranean. It is a real emergency and nationalist attitudes won’t help to find a solution whatsoever. But still we can understand where this feeling comes from: fear. Fear of invasion, fear of sharing already meager work opportunities and national resources.
  • Finally, some think that a free rider state will thrive on the global market, possibly a more and more deregulated global market. This is a completely different attitude, but still anti-EU. And more than the other views it looks anti-historical as the world goes in the opposite direction: solving problems which become more and more global will require more integration, not less. Even little tax heavens are (finally!) under threat of extinction.

    I am totally empathetic with the “remain” voters and still, while I wish the best outcome for them, I wonder if a Brexit is politically avoidable.

    However the dilemma will be solved, some lessons need to be driven:

    ⁃       austerity has not been the solution to the financial crisis. In some countries it even worsened the economic situation. In many states unemployment is still at record level. The price was especially paid by the weaker part of the population, poverty and inequality provided a good soil for populism and nationalism. Moreover, it has been errouneously attributed to Europe, while it was a national solution (as I already explained).
    ⁃       There is a crisis of democracy and a rise of antipolitics almost everywhere. I have my theory about that: the nation states are not anymore the right institutional framework for tackling most of our problems, we need to go more local and more global at the same time. But – be right or wrong my explanation – we need a serious reflection on our contemporary democracies.
    ⁃       Finally, we need to work for a better Europe, we owe this to those who voted against it as to those who voted in favour. I have written about this and for sure I will write more extensively in the future. I’ve already been too long!

    For those who arrived to the end of my reflections: these are challenges not just for polical elites, not just for governments and states, but for all of us. And this is a call of duty for new brave political leaders at all levels.

Sustainable Development = Intergenerational Equity

From the Development Education Program of the World Bank Group:

What is Sustainable Development?

There are many definitions of sustainable development, including this landmark one which first appeared in 1987:

Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

— from the World Commission on Environment and Development’s
(the Brundtland Commission) report Our Common Future
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).

But what does this mean? What are the needs of the present? Take a minute and jot down five to ten needs that you have in your own life.

Have you listed any needs that conflict with one another? For example, if you listed clean air to breathe, but also listed a car for transportation, your needs might conflict. Which would you choose, and how would you make your decision? If within ourselves, we have conflicting needs, how much is that multiplied when we look at a whole community, city, country, world? For example, what happens when a company’s need for cheap labor conflicts with workers’ needs for livable wages? Or when individual families’ needs for firewood conflict with the need to prevent erosion and conserve topsoil? Or when one country’s need for electricity results in acid rain that damages another country’s lakes and rivers?

How do we decide whose needs are met? Poor or rich people? Citizens or immigrants? People living in cities or in the countryside? People in one country or another? You or your neighbor? The environment or the corporation? This generation or the next generation? When there has to be a trade off, whose needs should go first?

The Long and the Short of It

People concerned about sustainable development suggest that meeting the needs of the future depends on how well we balance social, economic, and environmental objectives–or needs–when making decisions today. Some of these needs are itemized around the puzzle diagram.

What social, economic, or environmental needs would you add to the puzzle?

Many of these objectives may seem to conflict with each other in the short term. For example, industrial growth might conflict with preserving natural resources. Yet, in the long term, responsible use of natural resources now will help ensure that there are resources available for sustained industrial growth far into the future.

Studying the puzzle raises a number of difficult questions. For example, can the long term economic objective of sustained agricultural growth be met if the ecological objective of preserving biodiversity is not? What happens to the environment in the long term if a large number of people cannot afford to meet their basic household needs today? If you did not have access to safe water, and therefore needed wood to boil drinking water so that you and your children would not get sick, would you worry about causing deforestation? Or, if you had to drive a long distance to get to work each day, would you be willing to move or get a new job to avoid polluting the air with your car exhaust? If we don’t balance our social, economic, and environmental objectives in the short term, how can we expect to sustain our development in the long term?”

The notion of sustainable development highlights two different dilemmas:

I. How do we  balance  conflicting interests which can be equally important, ethically legitimate, both compelling? Admitting that evolution in technology, governance, infrastractures, investment flows may change the scenario in every moment: how can we adjust decisions over time? How will we avoid new imbalances?

II. How can we integrate in our evaluations the interests of future generations? How do we guarantee the rights of our children and grandchildren?

The answer are not simple ones, I even wonder if you or me or anybody else has such answers…

But, before working on the answers, we need to work on “how” we could arrive to such answers!

Mine may be the typical legal mind approach, but – follow me-  it has some merit:

I. We need to integrate in this evaluation all the possible perspectives. No matter how good a political decisor may be, the authority in charge cannot know everything. The largest the number of people having a say, the better. And we need to know who these stakeholders are: NGOs, civil society at large, lobbies, experts…. Whoever bears an interest should be invited to intervene, admitting that they declare who they are and what they stand for.

II We need the best data available at the moment of the decisions, and in case of conflicting or uncertain data a precautionary principle should stop doubtful decisions.

III Then, once the perspectives and the data are collected, the authority in charge – governments, parliaments, international organizations, agencies, technical authorities – should decide and take full responsability for their decisions. Systems of checks and balances should ensure proper accountability mechanisms. Procedures for claims are necessary. Affected individuals, at least through collective organizations, should be granted a right to dispute the decisions, and impartial courts and bodies should be in charge of these evaluations.

IV Finally, decisions affecting sustainable development should be revised if new data, new technologies or other relevant elements affecting the previous evaluations change.

How can we be sure that interests of future generations will be granted ? We just cannot.

It would be great to have an advocate for future generation in the main international fora, just imagine the representative of future generations as a member of the G20 (+1)!

As we are maybe not ready for that,  we can only hope that our grandsons and grandaughters, looking back at the way we managed their planet, will concede us that we did our best with what we had and using our current knowledge. Setting a good procedure.

 

The Global Vote

If you go to The Global Vote, you can pick an election, wherever in the world, and express your vote.

For sure, I will vote on Brexit and on American presidential elections and next year for the French ones…  Why? Because they affect me deeply, even if I live in Italy!

Why should we care about who runs the other countries?

Because to make the world work, we need a world of good leaders. Leaders who consider the needs of every man, woman, child and animal on the planet, not just their own voters.

We, the rest of the world, will achieve this aim by reminding each candidate that we’re here, we care, and we’re watching. We need them to do the right thing for their own country and for the whole of humanity, if they are elected.

By asking each candidate about their international intentions, election after election, that question will eventually become accepted as part of the normal election process for any Head of State or Head of Government. No leader will be able to stand for election unless they have a clear policy for their country’s role in the world and a vision of how they will co-operate and collaborate with other leaders and other populations.

Letting leaders know that we are watching them and evaluating them, we’ll make them pay more attention to the impact they have not just on their country, but on the world.

 The more people vote, the more impact this project will have. Can I ask you to spread the www.globalvote.org link around your own friends, family and networks?

With your help, one country at a time, we can build a world of good leaders. 

This is another great initiative by Simon Anholt, creator of the Good Country Project.

No Man is an Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.