Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Global Government


 Maman by Louise Bourgeois in the collection of National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa
 Maman by Louise Bourgeois in the collection of National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa

By Maura R. O'Connor

In an era when the problems facing humanity, such as terrorism, AIDS, global warming, and weapons proliferation, defy the borders of nation-states, the hot topic in academia and international affairs is global governance. How can nations cooperate with one another to handle these catastrophes? What models of governance will be able to encompass the unprecedented complexity that defines international affairs in the twenty-first century? The United Nations’ inability to implement effective policies in a timely manner and the Security Council’s breakdown around the Iraq War have created a vacuum in which more and more scholars, political scientists, and leaders are attempting to plant their own models of a sustainable future. 

One such model is that of Brookings Institute scholars Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay. Unveiled last year in The American Interest, Daalder and Lindsay’s proposal is called a “concert of democracies” and would entail the world’s sixty democratic nations pooling their common interests to create a voting bloc in the UN and the World Trade Organization. Together, the “D-60” would work for human rights and issues of global security and would be overseen by a secretariat and advisory board of “elder statesmen” who can “deepen cooperation.” The board would include such leaders as Nelson Mandela, Václav Havel, Carlos Menem, Bill Clinton, Junichiro Koizumi, and Manmohan Singh.

Daalder and Lindsay’s proposal of an international advisory board strongly echoes Jakob von Uexkull’s concept of a World Future Council. Launched in 2004, the WFC is designed to fix what von Uexkull sees as a crucial flaw in international institutions: a lack of trust between their leaders and the general public. It will be made up of one hundred outstanding leaders in human rights, science, the environment, economics, and religion so as to create a trusted moral authority that can weigh in on international issues and come together in support of specific policies. Recently, von Uexkull reported that the first fifty members have been chosen, and the city of Hamburg has agreed to fund the launch and initial phase of the council. Indeed, over the next three years, the city will donate 2.5 million euros to the project as well as permanently host its secretariat. 

Yet another new model of global governance is that of the International Simultaneous Policy Organization (SP), created by British businessman John M. Bunzl. Bunzl has been inspired by his readings of integral philosophy and is using its principles to create a system that he believes could “transform the international economy such that it operates in harmony with the global natural environment.” Bunzl’s ambitious model hinges on the theory that if international leaders implement policies at the same exact time, fears of putting their respective countries at a competitive disadvantage will dissipate and nations could begin to cooperate with one another as a genuine community. Bunzl’s proposed policy changes for the first year of SP implementation would include increasing the regulation of international financial markets, canceling Third-World debt, banning and dismantling all nuclear weapons, and halting genetic engineering and its application in agriculture, industry, and medicine. Bunzl himself recognizes that “persuading all countries to adopt SP sounds like an incredibly tall order, and indeed it is.”

Can such a tall order realistically be fulfilled? One argument against SP is that just because policies are implemented simultaneously doesn’t necessarily mean competitive disadvantages disappear. In 2002, for example, the Bush administration proposed a policy similar to SP in regard to trade tariffs. The United States would agree to eliminate all U.S. tariffs on manufactured goods by 2015, thereby opening American markets to unprecedented levels of foreign imports, provided that other WTO members would also eliminate theirs in the same time frame. The proposal stalled almost immediately, mostly because other countries, especially in Europe, generally have higher tariffs than the United States does and would experience greater disadvantages. So, despite widespread agreement that tariffs, especially agricultural tariffs, are keeping Third-World countries in poverty, the initial competitive disadvantage proved too great, even though it would have helped millions of people.

Perhaps one of the largest obstacles in the way of global governance is that people tend to see such ideas as idealistic and accused advocates of neglecting to consider the legitimate self-interest nations naturally seek to protect. Other opponents believe that less government should be the goal of the future, not more in the form of an all-encompassing super-government. In his forthcoming book Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution, Steve McIntosh addresses these two concerns by pointing out that even if the world doesn’t like the idea of global governance, increasing globalization is demanding it. According to him, it can actually happen once the levels of “integral consciousness” among the most developed peoples of the world evolve to higher levels. What is integral consciousness? McIntosh defines it as a worldview beyond postmodernism that recognizes the legitimacy and “evolutionary necessity” of the many different stages of development in consciousness, cultures, and individuals around the world today.

When enough people begin to adopt this worldview, McIntosh sees the possibility of a “world federation” emerging whose objective is to “harmonize the needs of the modern and postmodern developed world with the needs of the traditional third world.” The constitution of this federation would be modeled on the American form of democracy, with legislative, judicial, and executive branches. However, each branch would have a three-part structure representing populations, economic interests, and nations, respectively. McIntosh’s vision of how these branches would operate is at times quite creative. For instance, he proposes that each of the three executive branches could have its own “cabinet of consciousness,” a committee of advisors that would represent different stages of development in the world. These cabinet members would lobby for their constituents’ rights and seek to protect their livelihoods and environment. Membership in the federation would be determined according to the mean levels of consciousness of the individuals in a nation-state. Traditional cultures that were not democratized would be probationary members, able to receive the protection and privileges of the federation but not full membership until they became more democratized. If the system sounds inequitable, keep in mind that the UN Security Council is structured with similar imbalances of power.

Opponents of global governance might say that McIntosh is a naïve idealist. It’s a common criticism of those who believe there is a possibility of a community of nations working together as a global democratic authority. McIntosh, on the other hand, sees himself as a practical realist and his world federation model as merely the natural outcome of evolutionary pressures such as terrorism and AIDS, which are demanding that the world move forward to the next stage of development in consciousness. It’s an inspiring vision and one it seems the world needs more than ever before.

About the author:
Maura O'Connor was an associate editor for What Is Enlightenment? from 2003 to 2007 and authored several dozen articles and reviews for the magazine on topics that include everything from politics to modern design to the esoteric teachings of Kabbalah. Her writing has highlighted the social and spiritual work of her contemporaries, such as Buddhist teacher Noah Levine, environmental visionary Ocean Robbins, and business entrepreneur Brian Johnson. She has also interviewed a variety of religious scholars and leaders, including Daniel Matt, Ph.D., Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault, and Mother Antonia.

She attended Simon's Rock College of Bard in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where she studied the liberal arts before earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Art History from Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. Her senior thesis drew on Ken Wilber's integral philosophy and the social evolutionary theories of Spiral Dynamics to critique the postmodern milieu, making a case for the need to reinstate a hierarchy of values into art and art criticism. In May 2008, she received a Master of Science degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, where she focused on newspaper reporting and international affairs. She is currently an intern with Agence-France Presse at their United Nations bureau in New York City.

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