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Democracy Without Borders: A new approach towards world federalism (December 2017)

by Andreas Bummel, International Secretary-General, Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly

For many decades, world federalists have been exploring paths and instruments to achieve their dream of a peaceful, democratic and sustainable world that is united in all its diversity. There is agreement that there are many different and complementary approaches. Under the name of Democracy Without Borders a new effort is now underway.

As a step toward the rule of law, the entry into force of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2002 was a tremendous success for the World Federalist Movement (WFM). Using its pivotal role as secretariat of the NGO coalition for the ICC, WFM and its director Bill Pace in no small part contributed to the creation of the court.

Now that the ICC exists, a group of like-minded world federalists in Germany deliberated on what they believed would have to be the next milestone from a federalist point of view. The group considered longtime
proposals such as a standing UN Peacekeeping Force or Security Council reform but finally settled on the creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA). Following a rationale that was developed by world
federalists at around 1990, a UNPA was perceived not as a final goal but as a first step – and a tool – in a longterm process of global integration and democratization. At the same time, the group recognized that although the proposal was supported here and there, there was no sustained effort to push it forward.

Thus, in 2003, the Committee for a Democratic UN, in short KDUN for its German name, was established as a single-issue organization that would focus entirely on advocating a UNPA. Four years later,
following intensive preparation and coalition-building, KDUN and its partners worldwide, many from within the WFM family, launched the international Campaign for a UNPA. Today, the campaign is the world’s leading network that advocates a parliamentary body at the UN.

In the course of our work we increasingly felt that there is a connection between national and global democratization that cannot be ignored. How will it ever be possible to achieve a democratic world parliament – and world federalism – if some of the largest countries in the world remain autocracies or one-party dictatorships? On the other hand, how can national democracy – where it exists – remain stable and vivid if it is being undermined by opaque international institutions and decision-making? Recent waves of nationalist populism in many parts of the world constitute a threat to democracy – one that is fed in part by popular resentment and opposition towards a global order that is dominated by a tiny kleptocratic elite. At the same time, we believe that the rise of autocratic governments in some countries is also a reaction to an increasing demand for more freedom and democracy – but one that is being suppressed.

We concluded that the overarching issue that we are actually dealing with is democracy promotion. What is needed, however, is a holistic perspective that spans from the local to the global levels and at the same time embraces the dimensions of representation, participation, deliberation and co-decision. In February 2017 KDUN, the German member organization of the World Federalist Movement, decided to continue its work under this new perspective and changed its name to Democracy Without Borders (DWB).

Democracy Without Borders can be read in two ways: in terms of developing democracy beyond the nation-state, and in terms of exploring how democracy as such can be strengthened, innovated and revived at all levels. While a UNPA remains a key objective of DWB as an organization, we now see it as part of a broader agenda centered around democracy.

DWB’s mandate includes a commitment to promoting “a strong collaboration of all forces that support the establishment and strengthening of democratic principles at the national, regional, and international levels.”

We think that for world federalists it is a key task to ally with democratic forces all over the world and promote an understanding that fighting for democracy at the national level is only part of the struggle. A democratization of global institutions needs to be part of the equation.

In this sense, DWB will try to engage with existing initiatives such as the international Coalition for Democratic Renewal that was launched in October 2017 in Prague, and many others.

It is our hope that over time the name and perspective of Democracy Without Borders will enable us to reach new audiences, to develop new projects, to collaborate with new funders, and to win a critical level of supporters and members. We are already in discussion with groups and activists in several countries who are interested in establishing national DWB organizations.

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