SUPRANATIONAL DEMOCRACY DIALOGUE A dialogue among scholars, civil society, and creative thinkers about global democratic solutions to global challenges. V Edition “FOCUS ON TOOLS” Brindisi May 18-19, 2023
The University of Salento will host the new edition of the two days event – the only one of its kind aimed at bringing together scholars from any background, NGO leaders and political activists, businessmen and innovative thinkers to discuss together the big challenges facing humanity.
Those willing to contribute are invited to send an abstract by February 28, 2023, addressing one of the following topics:
I. The Building of a Political Public Sphere beyond Borders. II. Civic Participation and Citizens’ Activism. III. Digital Democracy & AI IV. Litigation for the Advancement of Collective Rights. V. Regional Integrations and Multilateralism. VI. Balancing Conflicting Interests: a Task for Politics and Jurisdictions
Contributions are also welcome if they lay at the intersection of two or more topics (cross-cutting themes such as governance, inequality, transparency…) or if they have a wider focus and include a case study falling within one of the four topics listed above. The ideal contribution is not just an analysis of the problem, but a proposal for addressing it democratically in some original or unconventional way, yet feasible. The abstract (max 500 words), together with a short bio (max 300 words), may be sent to the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org. The authors of the selected abstracts will receive two-night accommodation.
With the support of
UNGSC, Maison Jean Monnet, Democracy and Culture Foundation, Atlas, Democracy Without Borders, The Streit Council for a Union of Democracies, CesUE, Euractiv.it, The Democracy School, Italian Association of International Law Professors (SIDI)- Interest Groups on International Economic Law (SIDI DIEcon) and on Humar Rights (DIEDU); Association of Italian Experts of European Law (AISDUE)- Forum on International Projection of European Union (PIUE); Jean Monnait Chair and modules at Università del Salento.
A Few weeks ago, in Brindisi, Italy, the Università del Salento – actually my wonderful little team and myself – hosted the fourth edition of the Supranational Democracy Dialogue. It is a two-days recurring event, one of its kind, aimed at bringing together scholars from any background, NGO leaders and political activists, businessmen and innovative thinkers to discuss together the big challenges facing humanity. Since 2019, this event is supported by the Jean Monnet Chair “Legal Theory of European Integration: a Supranational Democracy Model?”.
The formula is very simple: we publish yearly a call for papers, some months in advance, to invite all those willing to contribute, listing a few topics which are hot or which can be considered a permanent challenge humanity is facing. What we ask to our potential panelists is to be positive, to offer solutions instead of analyses of current problems.
It is easy to see how this kind of conversation cannot but be fruitful for everybody: as creativity is a requirement and speakers come from different paths in life, everybody has something to offer and much to learn from others.
Another interesting quality of the event is that it is quite serendipitous. The special random combination of people and content is different every time, so both their contributions and the interactions among them are always a discovery. As a result, we do not know in advance what will be the real focus of the conversation when people meet.
This year it did not start under the better auspices.The event was in person after two on-line editions and still resenting the effect of the pandemic which took us in physical isolation for nearly two weeks. Yet, the enthusiasm at having again real people meeting under the same roof was hindered by the shadow cast by the war in Ukraine.
Talking of global democracy while we face a reality of war, after several years of regression of democracy in many countries – according to all the renowned democracy indexes- after a pandemic which for safety reasons limited significantly personal freedom, after a global financial crisis, after wave after wave of migrants and refugees…. well, it takes unshakable optimism and strong determination, or – and this is something many panelists since 2018 shared with us – the certainty that no other choice is left.
As counter-intuitive as it may appear, we need vision more than ever. Not by chance, the first topic listed on this years’ call for papers was “The Seeds of Supranationality. From Jean Monnet to Global Governance”. We cannot forget that the seeds of European integration as well those of global multilateralism (UN, IMF, World Bank, WTO- back than ITO- and so many international organizations) were planted during the Second World War. Those who had witnessed the war, who had even fought in it, were the leaders and front-runners in building what they hoped would be lasting peace.
Some of them were political leaders but others were just citizens like you and me, sharing innovative ideas. The Ventotene Manifesto – written by Altiero Spinelli, Ernesto Rossi and Eugenio Colorni in 1941 – while in confinement accused of anti-fascism – is a brilliant example. The road open by these few pages smuggled into Switzerland is history. Not less known is the recognized influence of Jean Monnet, another private citizen, in shaping with his ideas the European Coal and Steal Community, as testified by the 9 May 1950 declaration, which, after, expanded and flourished into the European integration process. It was, nonetheless, essential to this aim the fervent support of the French minister Schumann and, immediately after, that of the political leaders of the six founding member countries.
Addressing this topic during the awful war in Ukraine, we could sense some similarities in trying to imagine a better world when the current order is showing devastating flaws. Yet we could also take stock of what worked and what didn’t in the institutional formulas imagined more than 70 years ago.
Clearly the UN Security Council is to be placed among the tools which did not work. In more general terms, the UN allowed the countries of the world to collaborate on many significant issues. Yet collaboration is maybe not enough and when it comes to peace and war, it happens that collaboration is totally suspended. It is even too easy to consider hopeless an international body where the US, Russia or China enjoy a veto power, and for sure it cannot be considered a bulwark against wars. Needless to say, any war started or supported by a permanent member of the UN Security Council will never be addressed, even less sanctioned.
Yet the discourse is larger than that. The reason for addressing supranationality and not international multilateralism as a topic for our conference is that traditional international organizations like the UN may prove effective and even successful in bringing many states around a table or even having them voting on something, but they do not address the very roots of pacific coexistence. Being international, which means intergovernmental, they bring around that table states’ representatives focused on their national interest, and it is starting from there that they try to compromise. An addition of national interests is not the same as a genuine common interest.
The EU proved a bit more effective in dealing with the emergency as it decided immediate sanctions, supported in several ways Ukraine and allowed protection to refugees. Even there, though, when it comes to foreign and security policy the model is international and the veto power of all the member states is there. It is much easier to adopt a decision on asylum seekers, as we have seen, than to move in the direction of a single voice in negotiating a truce and a humanitarian corridor. Yet, an organization which is mostly supranational, i.e. with its own legitimacy and accountability – an elected Parliament, a Court of Justice an executive body, the Commission, independent from member states but accountable to the Parliament- exerts a force of attraction far more effective than the international ones and allows States to coalesce around a core of common values by offering a predefined path.
Our conversation in Brindisi, in its first session, focused on the seeds of supranationality and explored it from an original perspective, that of individuals – an essential ingredient in any democratic formula, yet totally absent in the intergovernmental and diplomatic formulas. So, it was a talk about what it takes to make the Union a real Republic, about the role of individuals in pushing for its evolution since its very beginning, not only in the political arena but even in courts, through litigation. And, also, enlarging the perspective to the top and to the bottom, about how one could imagine a multilevel governance from the local to the global dimension. In this big picture, the role of individuals appears relevant not only in their personal capacity, but also as members of social bodies and as economic actors.
Particularly fascinating has been, in this framework, the contribution by dr. Wolfgang Pape on omnilateralism, a term used by him to define a model, beyond multilateralism, both multilevel and multistakeholder.
Two following topics have been at the core of further discussions, both addressing the increasing interconnection in the human family from different perspectives: The first one has been the environmental perspective, the second the technological one. Both address a core necessity of our times, the need to take responsibility for global commons in terms of management/governance as well as in terms of awareness and personal responsibility. The biosphere has no borders and ecosystems do have borders different from the national ones, their fragile balance when altered may result in a permanent damage endangering all the species, humans included.
Internet too has no borders and is similarly a global public good which needs to be managed with care. Rights and threats come from the same infrastructure, civic participation may depend on it and misinformation may spread on it significantly impacting democracies and legal orders.
The two conversations had different focuses and if the first one was centered on sustainability, future generations, and rights of nature, the second turned on a spotlight on the big divide among more and less advanced economies and more and less democratic and open societies. Yet both benefited of a true open interdisciplinary dialogue, made up not only of presentations, but also of questions and answers, comments and doubts. It is certainly not possible to solve the problems of the world in two days, but it is at least possible to open the mind to the diversity of perspectives and consider the point of view of the other.
The challenge of inclusion and participation has never been so acutely perceived as in the era of interdependence we live in, in which everyone is connected and interconnected, not only by technology, but also by cause-and-effect phenomena as the environmental and atmospheric ones, or as recently the pandemic. The last and all-encompassing topic has been the one of civic engagement and, in the current situation, it seemed relevant to assess that it is a tool for peace in the broadest sense as it is a tool for coexistence and collaboration and as a way to practice awareness and compassion.
It has been interesting to discuss the role of citizens in the perspective of the participatory and deliberative democracy, as recently in the process called Conference on the future of Europe, but also in the challenge of inclusion, which could be effectively pursued through very practical projects and, in the end. also in daily life of citizens who chose to engage in worthy causes.
It may be interesting to notice that supranational and transnational models, those involving directly citizens, support a smooth process leading to pacification i.e. reconciliation, which is more than peace, or, maybe, it is the real peace. Only when people are involved, work together, participate to common decisions, former enemies may overcome hatred and distrust and – as pointed out in the Schumann Declaration “create a de facto solidarity”. Young Europeans from Germany, France, Italy and all the other EU countries do not hate each other and make easy friendships through their free circulation and the exchange programs among their universities.
Unfortunately, hatred and distrust are not only heritage of wars, but also of other past wounds. In several former member countries of the Soviet Union and of the Warsaw pact, the feelings towards Russia are not exactly friendly, they span from detestation to suspicion to fear. Even more now after the brutal aggression to Ukraine. Nevertheless, it is good to remember that the choices of the Russian government do not reflect those of a people who has inside it divergent positions – brutally repressed – and non-irrelevant manipulations. Even if, apparently, it was non needed, a pacification among former controlling and controlled countries would have been most useful for pacific coexistence, even if we cannot say it would have prevented war. It will be the next challenge on the European continent once the most urgent one, that of peace as the end of war, will be accomplished.
The full recording of the conference is online here, as are online the previous editions. Hope to meet you at the next one!
The Conference on the Future of Europe is at the moment, the most advanced and innovative experiment in both participatory and deliberative democracy and an EU flagship initiative
There is a web platform which offers to all European citizens a unique opportunity to contribute to the conversation on Europe’s challenges and priorities and to sketch the future they want for the European Union. If you are European or you live in Europe, you may be interested in registering at https://futureu.europa.eu/, getting involved, sharing your ideas or even organizing an event and making it known to everybody on the net. If you are not European you could do just the same, if you are curious and open to experimenting with democracy.
The experiment becomes even more interesting if you are one of the 800 citizens randomly selected. Four European Citizens’ Panels are organized to allow citizens to jointly think about the future they want for the European Union. Each of them is composed of 200 European citizens selected by an algorithm, from the 27 Member States (one third under 25), reflecting the EU’s diversity: geographic origin, gender, age, socioeconomic background and level of education. Each panel meet three times in total and appoints 20 representatives who shall take part in the Plenary, present the outcome of their discussions and debate them with other participants. Never such a trans-national multi-lingual exercise in deliberative democracy has been experimented until now.
The two streams of discussion are going to meet as panels shall take on board contributions gathered in the framework of the Conference through the digital platform. The European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission have committed to listen to Europeans and to follow up, within their sphere of action.
By spring 2022, the Conference is expected to reach conclusions and provide guidance on the future of Europe.
Does this make the Union the most advanced democracy ever? An out-and-outer, a non-plus-ultra of democracy? Nobody would believe it, neither we do.
Yet it proves, once again that Europe is a work in progress open to very interesting experimentations on democracy beyond the borders, the most advanced lab we have on such a big scale (on the small scale of communities the experiments are many and very interesting).
Will it be a success? Will it produce interesting outcomes? Will EP members, national governments and commissioners draw on this reservoir of ideas for a real Treaty revision or at least some innovative policies? Will some NGOs succeed in making these deliberative and participatory democracy tools permanent as they wish?
We can just wait and see.
What I will never be tired to suggest is that the European brave experiments are not just for Europe. Whatever proves successful in sharing decisions and policies, in a continent that has been for centuries a cradle for wars deserves attention.
The lessons learned can be transferred – with all the necessary adjustments – in other regions of the world or even on the global scale, to manage some issues which are just too big for the national and even for the continental dimension.
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.
Most of the experiences I had in my life (in researching, teaching, advocacy) point to this specific direction: governance beyond the State.
Advocacy came first. Since I was a teenager, I played a leading role in the Young European Federalists (JEF).
It was only after I was awarded a Ph.D. grant from the University of Bologna that I had to put aside that experience (apparently to prove to be a “serious” researcher) according to the suggestion of my mentor prof. Paolo Mengozzi. My Ph.D. thesis, which became my first book was dedicated to the economic and monetary union, a brand new topic after the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty. The focus of my whole work (in the Nineties) was the lack of economic governance in Europe or, to be precise, the need for a common fiscal policy, a topic still relevant nowadays (and the topic for another book later on).
From there I moved to research on the ways and tools for Europe and the Eurozone to speak with one voice in the international fora, so I came to study the IMF and the World Bank (and to the governance of the two was dedicated my second book). The external relations of the EU are a recurrent topic in my record of publications, with two specific focuses: representation in international organizations and euro-Mediterranean relations, between bilateral and multilateral options.
Only later on I realized how my federalist starting point was influencing my research path: wherever I see a governance problem I start to investigate representation, legitimacy, accountability, budget. And I’m drawn to governance issues like a moth to a flame!
Once realized that, I went straight to the
point, publishing on democracy in international organizations, on
accountability, on citizenship in the European democratic formula.
I think that not less interesting and diverse has been my experience in advocacy.
In 2009, with a group of colleagues, I founded the think tank The Group of Lecce which, on the long wave of the global financial crisis, started releasing communiques on how to improve the governance of financial institutions.
In the same period, I started attending the Civil society policy forum convened twice a year by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on the occasion of their annual and spring meetings and I was invited to join the Bretton Woods Committee.
Starting a blog on “Supranational Democracy” in
2015 was the next step.
It seemed quite natural, two years later, to make the research line converge with the advocacy path and I convened a big international conference to invite scholars and people from academia and institutions to discuss with civil society leaders. All the networks I had previously attended mixed up in this new adventure.
So, in 2018 I have been the organizer – with a great supporting team- of the Supranational Democracy Dialogue (SDD), a dialogue among scholars, civil society and creative thinkers on democratic solutions to global challenges. the story of that experience is in a little documentary film.
As the first edition of the dialogue was a big success and created a platform of like-minded scholars and activists, I am now working on the second edition. I can count on an interesting and diverse network collected around this idea that the world needs some kind of democratic global governance.
Eventually, this year, I was awarded a Jean Monnet Chair whose title is “Legal Theory of European Integration: a Supranational Democracy Model”. A sort of blessing, for me, after so many years of dedication to an idea which was, for many, plain crazy.
I think that building governance beyond the state and reinventing democracy for the human family is the big challenge of the XXI century, or maybe of the second millennium.
Spiritual people call it oneness: realizing that we are all one, connected and interdependent.
Pragmatical scholars move from different premises: issues are nowadays global (global warming, sea pollution, water scarcity, migration waves, trade wars, threats to peace and security); global institutions are imperfect, as they were created many decades ago for a world of sovereign nations which look nowadays inadequate (both the nations and the global institutions). Globalization of finance, markets, social media calls forth globalization of rights.
No matter which position you move from, you can get to this awareness moved by the mind or the heart. You can come from international law, economics or maybe philosophy, anthropology, a religious belief, or a psychological search… the supranational democracy dialogue could be the place for you.
The panelists come from so many different experiences that nobody expects to teach or to hold the truth, and everybody has for sure something to learn. What is expected is a phenomenon of cross-pollination among ideas, cultures, and paths.
The next edition of the SDD will be in Brindisi, on April 16-17. The program is still a work in progress, it will be posted shortly. If you want to attend or to receive the network newsletter please send an email to email@example.com.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We are all shocked because of the floods in Paris and across most of central Europe: from Germany to Belgium to Romania. We are scared for the increased frequency and violence of such exceptional climate events, we are worried for our future and the future of our sons.
Yes, some commentators pointed correctly out that this kind of events – as exceptional as they are – already happened in the past, but everybody agrees that global aggregated data on temperature rise are unprecedented, at least as far as we humans can record.
And no events like natural disasters make us feel more powerless, just victims or scared observers.
Still, an attempt has been done – if not to restore the previous climate conditions – at least to slow down this crazy growth of temperature by limiting the impact of our species on the Earth’s ecosystems, to make it finally sustainable. This is the Paris Agreement on climate change, adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015 by 196 delegations, signed by 177 states and already ratified by 17 of them.
Unfortunately, as ambitious as it is, the Paris Agreement is not enough.
In the text, which is the result of the twenty-first meeting of the Parties (COP21) of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the member states “…Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind”, commit to hold “ the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C”.
The goal, so, it is not a correction of the current situation, but just the effort to stop further worsening.
While the convention offers some interesting guidelines to help to reach the goal –subsidiarity, transparency, responsibility – unfortunately it does not provide any real enforcement mechanism nor sanctions in case of infringement. The respect of so important commitments depends solely on the good will of the signatories and on the peer- review mechanism every 5 years.
We know that this isn’t enough, but how could we – the citizens – do something about that?
And I have to thank Joseph Robertson, global strategy director at Citizens’ Climate Lobby for starting this wonderful lab for the empowerment of citizens across the world.
He was right when he wrote to me some days ago: “supranationaldemocracy is underway!”
CCEN could be defined as a new global framework to support and expand direct citizens’ and stakeholders’ engagement in the intergovernmental process, in the surveillance over the States and the way they keep their commitments, in promoting new ideas and ways to stop climate change.
In practice, anybody can host a local working session, to contribute local insights and experiences to the global climate policy process. A toolkit for local sessions is on-line, ready to use. A platform will provide exchanges of views inside this community of engaged citizens. Finally, an Advisory Coalition meets once a month to share insights, think through challenges to meeting the mission of the CCEN, which is to ensure any voice from anywhere with an idea worth sharing can be heard in the global conversation.
The governance is completed by a secretariat and a global team of local networks of leaders, stakeholders and collaborators. The mission is to build a global base of local knowledge, relating to the Paris Agreement, and to bring all the local insight into the COP22 negotiations, making all voices heard. So increasing the legitimacy and the accountability of and the inclusion into the Paris Convention framework.
Representatives from several UN agencies and dedicated NGOs joined the advisory coalition in their personal capacity, and I’m very glad to be part of it. And the UNFCCC secretariat hosted the initiative in its newsroom. It’s getting big!
What is most relevant in this bottom-up exercise, we learned the lesson that organized citizens may take a stance for global goals, so filling the gaps of global governance. The CCEN is a precious lab. It shows how active global citizenship is possible, as a path towards a more democratic world.
The effort behind this accomplishment could be replicated for other goals, empowering communities of committed people to work together as active global citizens: I think of associations and NGOs promoting human rights, fighting poverty, claiming for women and children’s rights. And these are just examples.
If there is a lesson we can learn from the climate change challenge, it is this sense of belonging to the human family, sharing a “common concern” as humankind.
In many mythologies, order is born out of chaos. Well… there is hope, at least !
What we see around us is quite a chaotic world: magmatic and unstable, full of emergencies, slipping out of the control of inadequate social and political structures.
Some of us have the impression that time is ripe for a big leap, a cultural revolution as the only possible alternative to sinking into the anarchic collapse of our societies or, even worse, a new fall into the hell of nationalism and war.
Some philosophers or mathematicians could object that we are used to live on the edge of chaos, being the world a complex system whose balance is intrinsecally unstable. Hence, the chaos theory seems to ignore – at least in the social science – the important variable that I would call human evolution.
The choice is not simply between chaos and complexity, on one side, and stability and order, on the other (an illusion sold by many populist politicians). The third way is the most realistic one, even if difficult to walk: ethically navigating the complexity to promote the emergence of new models and solutions.
How could that be possible?
I think many of us have have had insights about it, different but all convergent. I’ll offer a number of inspiring examples.
First of all, I see a rise in awareness. Many people started to feel global citizens and experience this awareness. For instance, the huge community of global citizens has an impact on addressing extreme poverty; everybody, supporting Movements, can help an activist for human rights in need; people signing petitions on Avaaz take a stance on causes which are perceived as global. Interestingly enough, active global citizenship is being born bottom-up.
There is also a way to express this awareness as economic players. Many years have passed since Klaus Schwab had the brilliant intuition that modern enterprises must serve all stakeholders to achieve long-term growth and prosperity. Since then, his creature, the World Economic Forum, grew exponentially, still committed to improving the state of the world.
Even if the concept of social responsibility of enterprises is not new, it is getting more and more popular: together with the narrative of disruptive change, the narrative of positively impacting the world has gained traction in the entrepreneurial environment. Beautiful initiatives as XPrize or Hive are thriving. A powerful example of this new way of being economic players is offered by Business Fights Poverty, a network of over 15,000 professionals harnessing business for social impact.
Private foundations are now big players in financing development, education, health care, social justice: One, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Clinton Foundation, Open Society Foundations and many more… Philantropists appear animated by the desire of giving back to humanity, by the deep consciousness of their impact on millions of lives and by the side effect of living more fulfilling lives.
The newborn Citizens Climate Engagement Network deserves a special mention as a powerful example of what individuals can do even in the apparently out of reach challenge of stopping climate change.
In this changing climate, States are somehow hanging back, as bulwarks of the status quo, a problem that Simon Anholt is addressing with the Good Country project. He deserves all our support.
Finally which institutional shape would better fit this changing world? Which model would sort us out of this “competitive mode” and organise humanity as a single species sharing a single planet? This is my issue and this blog is my thinking aloud about it. You can read here and there insights and bits of a solution. Something to work on for decades!
I apologize if I forgot to mention many worthy individuals and beautiful initiatives, I know many of you are on this path of progress and evolution and, if you want to add some information posting a comment, I really appreciate.
It seems to me important – in a world focused on bad news – turn on a light beam on the emerging tiles of a different reality.
How long it will take for the puzzle pieces to get together?