A Retired Internationalist: After 50 Years
I have entitled this piece "A Retired Internationalist: After 50 Years" because after 50 years of seeing the world's problems as quintessentially global, I find the world is all of sudden joining me--and global warming seems to be the vehicle for this global push. I post the introductory paragraphs of a 38 page paper presented by the Baha'i International Community at the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UN because I think this paper presented back in 1995 perspectives that are more relevant today that they were then:
A Retired Internationalist: After 50 Years
If you want the full paper go to:
The United Nations Decade for Human Rights EducationBaha'i Statement Library is a service of the Baha'i International Community. ... In Turning Point for All Nations, a statement issued on the occasion of the ...
Unification of the whole of mankind is the hall-mark of the stage which human society is now approaching. Unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is striving. Nation-building has come to an end. The anarchy inherent in state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A world, growing to maturity, must abandon this fetish, recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships, and establish once for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental principle of its life.
-Shoghi Effendi, 1936
The Bah?'? International Community regards the current world confusion and the calamitous condition of human affairs as a natural phase in an organic process leading ultimately and irresistibly to the unification of the human race in a single social order whose boundaries are those of the planet.
The human race, as a distinct, organic unit, has passed through evolutionary stages analogous to the stages of infancy and childhood in the lives of its individual members, and is now in the culminating period of its turbulent adolescence approaching its long-awaited coming of age. 7 The process of global integration, already a reality in the realms of business, finance, and communications, is beginning to materialize in the political arena.
Historically, this process has been accelerated by sudden and catastrophic events. It was the devastation of World Wars I and II that gave birth to the League of Nations and the United Nations, respectively. Whether future accomplishments are also to be reached after similarly unimaginable horrors or embraced through an act of consultative will, is the choice before all who inhabit the earth. Failure to take decisive action would be unconscionably irresponsible.
Since sovereignty currently resides with the nation-state, the task of determining the exact architecture of the emerging international order is an obligation that rests with heads of state and with governments. We urge leaders at all levels to take a deliberate role in supporting a convocation of world leaders before the turn of this century to consider how the international order might be redefined and restructured to meet the challenges facing the world. As some have suggested, this gathering might be called the World Summit on Global Governance.8
This proposed Summit might build on the experience gained from the series of highly successful United Nations conferences in the early 1990s. These conferences, which have included the World Summit for Children in 1990, the Earth Summit in 1992, the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993, the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, the World Summit for Social Development in 1995 and the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, have established a new methodology for global deliberations on critical issues.
A key to the success of these deliberations has been the substantive participation by organizations of civil society. Painstaking negotiations among government delegations about changes in the world's political, social and economic structures have been informed and shaped by the vigorous involvement of these organizations, which tend to reflect the needs and concerns of people at the grass roots. It is also significant that in each case, the gathering of world leaders, in the presence of civil society and the global media, gave the stamp of legitimacy and consensus to the processes of the conference.
In preparing for the proposed Summit, world leaders would be wise to heed these lessons, to reach out to as wide a circle as possible and to secure the goodwill and support of the world's peoples.
Some fear that international political institutions inevitably evolve toward excessive centralization and constitute an unwarranted layer of bureaucracy. It needs to be explicitly and forcefully stated that any new structures for global governance must, as a matter of both principle and practicality, ensure that the responsibility for decision-making remains at appropriate levels.9
Striking the right balance may not always be easy. On the one hand, genuine development and real progress can be achieved only by people themselves, acting individually and collectively, in response to the specific concerns and needs of their time and place. It can be argued that the decentralization of governance is the sine qua non of development.10 On the other hand, the international order clearly requires a degree of global direction and coordination.
Therefore, in accordance with the principles of decentralization outlined above, international institutions should be given the authority to act only on issues of international concern where states cannot act on their own or to intervene for the preservation of the rights of peoples and member states. All other matters should be relegated to national and local institutions.11
Furthermore, in devising a specific framework for the future international order, leaders should survey a broad range of approaches to governance. Rather than being modeled after any single one of the recognized systems of government, the solution may embody, reconcile and assimilate within its framework such wholesome elements as are to be found in each one of them.
For example, one of the time-tested models of governance that may accommodate the world's diversity within a unified framework is the federal system. Federalism has proved effective in decentralizing authority and decision-making in large, complex, and heterogeneous states, while maintaining a degree of overall unity and stability. Another model worth examining is the commonwealth, which at the global level would place the interest of the whole ahead of the interest of any individual nation.
Extraordinary care must be taken in designing the architecture of the international order so that it does not over time degenerate into any form of despotism, of oligarchy, or of demagogy corrupting the life and machinery of the constituent political institutions.