Shifting the Paradigm II: New Rules in the World Order

29maggio final

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

WKSHP_SDD_1505020_SLIDE

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

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

Connecting the dots: how a “supranational” path led me to the Supranational Democracy Dialogue.

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 info@supranationaldemocracy.net.

See you there xxx

Susanna

Identifying and Solving World Problems: the SIMPOL Solution.

SIMPOL is not a typo. It means Simultaneous Policy.

And this is the solution to the world problems offered by two brilliant minds: John Bunzle and Nick Duffell.

SIMPOL

If you read their original and provocative book “Our world is in a mess. Here is the SIMPOL solution“, then come to discuss it with me, we are going to have epic conversations!

I will tell you two of the reasons which made me love this book and read it in one breath.

The first reason is the clarity in identifìying the n.1 public enemy we face when it comes to managing world economy – how useless it appears nowadays targeting growth, shared prosperity and equality when everything seems to push us in the opposite direction.

This enemy is competition. Not the (almost) healthy competition we can see inside a legal order, among competitors who respect the same sets of rules – tax rules, labor rules, bureaucracy and foremost antitrust rules – but in the global arena, outside any rule.

Where nobody can be punished for unfair competition.

Where it is pretty normal that big multinational company move towards tax havens or countries who become tax havens just for them.

Where it is considered acceptable to invest in countries where labor standards are incredibly low and poverty will push people of any age – even children – to work in terrible conditions and to work for almost nothing.

Where these big competitors can easily wipe out the small ones, who cannot move so easily, don’t get special tax deals and struggle while states complacently behave like reverse Robin Hoods: taking from the poor to benefit the rich.

Why so? Because they have to remain competitive or they will lose in the big game of world economy and – if the big ones go away – they will face even more unemployment and even fewer tax revenues.

Because this is the paradox of destructive global competition: states are the victims, they are in a trap and do not know how to get out of it. This trap made them weaken the welfare systems, struggle with public debt and here and there get close to failure. Simply put, states are just too small to manage this alone.

Before we jump to the conclusions – and I don’t want to spoil too much – I will tell you the second reason which made me love this book: psychology. It doesn’t happen often that a psychotherapist and a businessman join forces to explain us the problems of the world.

As I feel and know for sure – and if you have read some of my posts you know that too – the solutions have to be bigger than states, possibly matching the dimension of problems.

There is an entire cultural shift needed, from the nation-centric to the world-centric approach. This wouldn’t be the first time in history that we, the humanity, move from a political and dimensional paradigm to another: from the tribes to the Westphalian order we took a step or two.  Still, we are stuck in the mourning of a system which doesn’t work anymore. We just cannot let go the myth of sovereign nation.

And here comes the psychotherapist, explaining to us that this is just normal: most of the humanity can be observed living – collectively – in one of the 5 stages of the mourning process: 1. denial and isolation; 2. anger; 3. bargaining; 4. depression; 5. acceptance. 

Reading what happens nowadays through these lenses make it easier to understand current politics. Even the worst of it. It makes us even feel compassion for those grieving the loss of a myth.

The book doesn’t stop here, it offers practical steps to get out of this trap.

What is even better, it encourages us to feel responsible for the state of the world and take a personal stance to push politicians to bring our states out of the game of competition at any price, adopting simultaneous political choices agreed with other states when it comes to facing global issues.

The book is filled with brilliant insights and provided me the definition of what I am: a “late world-centric”, meaning a person who sees the whole world as a dynamic organism, looks for global solutions with a holistic approach, accepting and respecting all cultures in their own context.

This envisaged cultural shift made me think of the integral theory by Ken Wilber and of the “human colossus” represented in a sketch of Tim Urban’s brilliant post “Neuralink and the Brain’s Magical Future.

We can’t walk this path alone, we – the early world-centric – need to spread the word because only a critical mass and an active one, pushing political elites, can help humanity move to the final stage of grievance: acceptance. Then, the cultural shift will occur: embracing a new model.

Thank you, John and Nick, for your clarity, your explanations and to make me feel that I’m in good company.

 

 

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.

 

Active Global Citizenship: Making the Climate Convention Work

First published on Vocal Europe

 

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?

Well, actually, we can do something.

Through an initiative called “citizens’ climate engagement network” we can all do something.

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: “supranational democracy 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.

COP21_participants_-_30_Nov_2015_23430273715-897x494

 

Einstein’s Supranational Government

During World War II, just like Altiero Spinelli wrote the Ventotene Manifesto, Albert Einstein endorsed the idea of a supranational world government, which would have guaranteed global peace  without interfering in culture, economy and national politics.

They where not the only ones to think that supranational laws and institutions could promise a new era of peace and prosperity. The United Nations and other multilateral institutions set up in the Forties of the previous century are nothing but a resized realization of more ambitious visions.

But let’s go back to Einstein and his personal path which brought him to use – one of the few – the word “supranational“.

Of course, he was Influenced by his life experience as a citizen of several nations as well as by his international  career as a scientist, he couldn’t but be a cosmopolitan. His spiritual openness informed his universalist perspective. His vision for world government, inherently pacifist, was not far from Kant’s Perpetual Peace.

Distaste for nationalism and militarism pushed Einstein to revoke his German citizenship in 1896 and, until 1901, he lived without citizenship at all. Then he got the Swiss citizenship and kept it until his death (adding Austrian and American citizenship, and again the German one in different periods).

Knowing first hand that citizenship may be relative or temporary, but humanity remains the core of what we are, Albert Einstein offers a powerful example of how personal experience and beliefs  also forge a personal political vision.

einstein

 

“It is the duty of every citizen according to his best capacities to give validity to his convictions in political affairs.” – A. Einstein

From the Chaos, the Tiles of a New World Order

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 civil society  -after a long season of demonstrations in the Nineties (against  G7, WTO, globalization) – started building bridges to make their voice heard by international actors. NGOs are more and more global actors, starting original initiatives to make international organizations more legitimate, accountable and inclusive.

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?

Ubuntu and International Law

Ubuntu is an ancient African word and it is difficult to translate it in a language that doesn’t hold the same concept.

It basically means: ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’ or: my humanity is inextrically connected to the group I belong; my happiness is their happiness; their sorrow is my sorrow.

The word became popular thanks to two African Nobel laurates, Nelson Mandela and the archbishop Desmond Tutu, and even more thanks to the Linux desktop bearing this name.

It recalls me a famous Latin quote by the poet Terentius “Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto” (I am a man, nothing human is alien to me), but ubuntu goes much further: not only everything human is not alien to me, it even affects me deeply. It tells us about belonging, interconnectedness, wholeness, even empathy and compassion.

It is not a legal concept, but for sure it is an ethical concept which inspired some legal statements about common concerns of humankind.

It is close to a legal concept which is around (and debated) since long time: the common heritage principle, which establishes that some resources or sites belong to all humanity and have to be available for everyone’s use and benefit. It is established as a guarantee for the future generations and the needs of developing countries.

The principle surfaces in many international legal texts, even if its most known application remains the UNESCO World Heritage Convention (1975) which gives UNESCO the competence to designate the sites being of special cultural or physical significance. These, due to their outstanding cultural or natural importance belong to the common heritage of humanity and have to be preserved for the future generations. While each World Heritage Site remains part of the legal territory of the state wherein the site is located, they have to be protected  in the interest of the international community.

The idea was not new, one of the oldest appearences is in the Antarctic Treaty (1959). It is stated in its preamble that its primary purpose is to ensure “in the interest of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord”.

A clear affirmation of the Common heritage of the mankind, not just  as a principle but as a rule, is in the U.N. Outer Space Treaty (1967):

Art.1: “The exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind. Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be free for exploration and use by all States without discrimination of any kind, on a basis of equality and in accordance with international law, and there shall be free access to all areas of celestial bodies. There shall be freedom of scientific investigation in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, and States shall facilitate and encourage international co-operation in such investigation.”

Art.2: “Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means”.

In the Moon Treaty, which came after (1979) we read that “[t]he Moon and its natural resources are the common heritage of mankind” (art. 11).

Then we had the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982), where we read that “the Area and its resources are the common heritage of mankind” (art. 136). This means that the Area and its resources cannot be claimed, appropriated, or owned by any state or person (art. 137). All rights to resources belong to mankind as a whole, with the International Seabed Authority (ISA) acting on mankind’s behalf (Article 140). Here we can see a step forward: an authority in charge to guarantee the interests of mankind.

Finally, we can read in the preamble of the Paris Convention on Climate Change:

“Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity.”

To date, the principle is still waiting for application in other important fields:

The UNESCO adopted two declarations inspired to it (which are just declarations, not binding treaties): the  Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights and the Declaration on the Responsibilities of the Present Generations Towards Future Generations, both in 1997They are potentially part of international customary law, if international or national judges can verify that they match the general practice of states and what states have accepted as law.

What about other resources which are at the core of our interdependence? Internet? Big data? Or, more trivially, the air we breath?

This application of the oneness principle to the difficult field of international law was first an intuition by Immanuel Kant in his essay Perpetual peace (1795), it is nowadays supported by cosmopolitanist theories and by the doctrine of global public goods. To be properly enforced, nonetheless, it requires a shift in legal paradigms that is really controversial (challenging traditional international law concepts such as acquisition of territory, sovereignty, sovereign equality, and international personality).

And it requires a shift in consciousness towards  Ubuntu.