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A Principle-Driven Three-Step Action Plan for Building a World Federation

By: Sovaida Maani Ewing

Sovaida Ma’ani Ewing is a prolific author, speaker, and international lawyer with 20 years of experience in public and private legal practice. She is the founding director of The Center for Peace and Global Governance (cpgg.org), a virtual think tank and online forum that pools and proposes principled solutions to pressing global challenges.

We live in a world that has become inextricably interconnected and interdependent: The world has de facto become a single organism. This reality has, however, made us susceptible to systemic risks. The global upheavals of the last three years should have driven this point home: a virus emanating in one part of the world can trigger a global pandemic threatening the safety and well-being of those everywhere. A slowdown in production of goods or the lockdown of ports in one part of the world can choke off critical supply chains and wreak havoc with the world’s economy. A war in Ukraine that might in the past have remained a regional affair has precipitated a global energy crisis, a global food crisis, and threatens to destabilize the peace of the planet, potentially trigger a nuclear conflict. Irresponsible burning of fossil fuels in one country threatens to sink the ship of humanity by exacerbating climate change everywhere.

Yet, despite all the evidence of our common destiny, humanity has yet to take the next inevitable step in its collective evolution and make allegiance to the human race its primary one. Such recognition must find practical expression in the crafting of supranational institutions and collective decision-making processes fit to meet the collective needs and tackle the collective challenge of the 21st century and beyond. As in our personal lives, so too in our collective lives: We need to have a very clear vision of the kind of world we want to live in. A growing number of us have come to believe that the only viable long-term solution to our global challenges is the establishment of a world federation in which each nation cedes a modicum of its sovereignty to supranational decision-making and enforcement institutions in narrow spheres where the collective interests of all nations can only be addressed collectively.

Such a world federation must include a democratically elected world parliament with the requisite authority to pass binding legislation in these spheres, for example, by regulating the types and amounts of energy that nations can use to meet their legitimate needs. It would also include an International Executive backed by a permanent standing force capable of enforcing the laws passed by the Parliament and of maintaining international peace. A World Court with compulsory jurisdiction to rule on all disputes that threaten the world peace and capable of enforcing its decisions is another key component of a world federation.

Our dilemma lies in how to get from where we are to this vision of a world federation. On the one hand, it is unlikely that we can achieve it in one fell swoop; the leap is likely too big for most as it understandably triggers too many visceral fears. On the other hand, we cannot afford the luxury of waiting for the slow-moving process of UN reform to render the institution fit for purpose and capable of meeting the challenges of our time. The cost in human suffering is just too high to pay. It is to resolve this dilemma that I propose that we adopt an Interim Model of global governance that would act as a bridge between where we are and the Ultimate Model of a world federation.

This Interim Model involves the creation of a supranational Global Energy Authority that is granted the exclusive authority to control and manage all pooled key sources of energy such as oil, gas, and nuclear energy and the facilities that produce them, for the collective benefit of humanity. This Authority would be key to tackling a triad of seemingly intractable global challenges: nuclear proliferation, the equitable distribution of energy, and climate change. It would ensure that all nations had equitable access to energy on reasonable terms to meet their legitimate needs. It would also have the authority to regulate in the kinds and amounts of energy each nation could use in a manner that ensured that humanity would be spared the worst ravages of climate change. There would also be complete transparency regarding, and control over, the production of nuclear material thereby ensuring that all such production was made for peaceful generation of much-needed electricity and that none of it was diverted to make illicit nuclear weapons.

The Interim Model has many benefits. By achieving success in a narrow sphere of international endeavor it will inspire confidence and engender hope that the methodology works. We can then build it outward, gradually and methodically expanding its authority into everwidening areas of collective need. Fortunately, we know that such an elegant yet practicable model has worked in the past in the form of the European Coal and Steel Community that was used to help rebuild and restore Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War. Lastly, an essential ingredient in the success of both the Interim and Ultimate Models is for all nations to identify, agree upon, and weave in uncompromising fashion a set of “First Principles” or “Global Ethics” into the very structures and processes of these new supranational institutions. The most important of these principles is the oneness of nations which means that the advantage of the part (any one nation) can only be guaranteed by ensuring the advantage of the whole (all nations). There is much we can learn about the operationalization of this principle from the ECSC. 

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