January 25, 2009 by cgsstlouischapter
Joe Schwartzberg, Professor Emeritus, Univ. of Minnesota; CGS National Board Member
(The following article was first published in the January 2009 newsletter of CGS of Minnesota.)
For many years I have been an advocate of creating an elected Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) within the United Nations system to represent people, rather than nations. But I despaired of seeing such a development within my lifetime. Now, thanks to my participation on November 4-5, 2008 in a conference at the European Parliament in Brussels, I believe there is actually a chance that I might live to see my hopes realized; and, if not, that many of you reading this essay will do so. The Brussels conference that I attended was that of the Steering Committee of the UNPA campaign launched in May 2007. Since its inception, the campaign has been directed by a remarkably able and energetic South African-born German, Andreas Bummel, formerly employed by an NGO promoting the rights of oppressed peoples. He is assisted by Dr. Claudia Kissling, an international lawyer. Both work full-time without pay. The thirty or so members of the steering Committee in attendance came from 17 countries on five continents, Europe, North and South America, Asia and Africa. Most were middle-aged professionals, but one, Ed Rawson, a long-time World Federalist, was 94!
The conference was addressed by several members of the EP, including our official host, Jo Leinen, the representative from the German state of Saarland. http://www.kdun.org/ or http://www.unpacampaign.org/. At the December 4 Board meeting of the Minnesota Chapter of CGS, we made two important decisions. First, we voted to add our name to the list of UNPA endorsers. Second, we agreed to form, in cooperation with other local like-minded groups (list to be determined), a delegation to visit one or more of our representatives in Congress to urge him/her/them to become the first member(s) of Congress to endorse the UNPA concept. Given the reluctance of most elected officials to go out on a political limb, our task may prove to be difficult; but it’s worth trying. We do not yet know the extent to which President Obama will set a tone in his inaugural address that will facilitate our effort, but we are optimistic. So, stay tuned and we’ll let you know how we’re doing in our March Newsletter. We can help make history. This is truly exciting.
The proposed UNPA would be analogous to the US House of Representatives, and would function alongside the UN General Assembly, which represents nations and may be seen (within limits) as analogous to the US Senate. A model for its creation is provided by the European Union. Initially, European Parliament (EP) members were elected by the Parliaments of the EU member nations and the body had only advisory powers; but since 1979 direct popular elections have been held every five years and the EP functions as a genuine legislative body for the 27 EU member nations. Its 785 current members sit not by country of origin, but by party affiliation: Conservatives, Christian Democrats, Liberals, Social Democrats, Greens, etc. Curiously, while it would require a Charter amendment for the UN to increase the size of the Security Council by even one seat, a UNPA could be established without such a step in that Article 22 enables the General Assembly to “establish such subsidiary organs as it deems necessary for the performance of its functions.” What better way to democratize the UN?
To date roughly 600 members of parliaments from nearly 100 countries around the world have endorsed the idea of a UNPA, as have former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and the European Parliament President Hand-Gert Pöttering, and more than 2,300 other prominent individuals, including several Nobel laureates. Additionally, the Argentine Senate and more than 150 NGOs and INGOs have endorsed the idea. The number of endorsements is growing by leaps and bounds. As of early November, each of the following countries had more than ten parliamentary endorsers of the UNPA idea: Canada (15), Mexico (13). Argentina (38), Germany (59), Switzerland (49), Belgium (45), Spain (22), France (17), UK (16), Italy (12), South Africa (32) and Tanzania (18). Although more than 100 prominent US citizens have also endorsed the idea, not a single member of the US Congress has done so. To learn more please go to the following websites: