As technology allows us to take advantage of ever-greater global integration, the resulting social changes are amazing, unprecedented, disruptive, and often painful.
Despite the daily dose of bad news, a longer view reveals enormous advances in virtually every area of human endeavor, such as poverty reduction, technology, health, and education.
On the other hand, our present national and international institutions were never designed to handle environmental devastation, stateless refugees, political instability and a plague of other cross-border conundrums. Whether through war, drought or economic collapse, the most vulnerable already bear the greatest burden of our confused politics.
We need to balance the benefits and harsh realities of economic integration with a system that’s more humane. Our own small piece of paradise, however, can’t survive within a larger hell. It’s going to require working together in a global democracy.
Surprisingly, populism and isolationism may provide the impetus needed to create a more effective international order. There is some evidence of impending change. As the European Union’s Federica Mogherini said in September 2018, “Today, all global powers are rethinking their place in the world…. From Canada to Australia, from South America to East Asia, from the African Union to ASEAN – there is a whole world calling for effective multilateralism and for partners to build it.”
The question remains, what changes are needed internationally to create a democratic, sustainable, humane world? A good reference point for that conversation is the visionary plan put forward by the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, Bahá’u’lláh, articulated here by his great-grandson Shoghi Effendi:
“The unity of the human race, as envisaged by Baha’u’llah, implies the establishment of a world commonwealth in which all nations, races, creeds and classes are closely and permanently united, and in which the autonomy of its state members and the personal freedom and initiative of the individuals that compose them are definitely and completely safeguarded.”
This plan includes a democratically elected world legislature composed of representatives, the best and brightest of each nation, conversant in international law and the inter-governmental relations and aware of the most pressing needs of the world.Most importantly, it’s based on a solid foundation of principles shared by the majority of humanity, such as fairness and respect, rather than the power and glory of a relative few individuals and nations.
Equally worth consideration is the down-to-earth realism of the proposal. Its structure is designed to safely contain the never too distant forces of tyranny. A world executive, backed by an international armed force, would carry out the decisions of the legislature and apply its laws. A judicial arm, or world tribunal, is also needed, as a means of recourse and adjudication “in all and any disputes that may arise between the various elements constituting this universal system.”
There is no doubt that world leaders recognize the need to stabilize the present international order. As terrifying as change may be, effective global governance, if done well, could be the linchpin solution for many of humanity’s ills as noted by Shoghi Effendi:
“The enormous energy dissipated and wasted on war, whether economic or political, will be consecrated to such ends as will extend the range of human inventions and technical development, to the increase of the productivity of mankind, to the extermination of disease, to the extension of scientific research, to the raising of the standard of physical health …and to the furtherance of any other agency that can stimulate the intellectual, the moral, and spiritual life of the entire human race.”
Part 2 of the Global Democracy article will appear in the online version of Faith Forum, the Times-Colonist Spiritually Speaking blog, on Wednesday, 6 March
Sheila Flood is a member of the Bahá’í community of Saanich and Chair of the Victoria Multifaith Society.
You can read more articles on our interfasith blog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE
* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, March 2nd 2019