A Memorandum to the Participants of the 2012 Guadalajara Model UN Charter Review Conference

On April 26-27, 2012, more than 500 students gather in Guadalajara Mexico for a “Model UN Charter Review Conference.” Unlike traditional “Model UN’s,” which simulate the operations of today’s United Nations (which was invented in 1945 to address the challenges of the immediate post WWII era), these students instead simulate reinventing the United Nations for the challenges of the 21st Century. Tad Daley was invited to serve as a keynote speaker but was unable to attend. So he dispatched to the participants this call to arms.

“The world’s present system of sovereign nations can lead only to barbarism, war and inhumanity. There is no salvation for civilization, or even the human race, other than the creation of a world government.”– Albert Einstein, TIME magazine’s “Person of the Century” in December 1999.

April 22, 2012
Washington, DC

Dear Young Zealots, Young Dreamers, and Young Architects of a New World:

I am very sorry that I cannot be with you for your visionary undertaking this weekend. I wanted to offer you a few reflections perhaps to guide you regarding the ultimate purposes of your endeavors, and our ultimate aspirations for the human race.

I have just begun to write my second book, one that I hope will awaken a broad general audience to one of history’s Great Ideas — that the establishment of something like a Federal Republic of the World could bring about a world without war, a world without armies, and a future of sustainability and justice and hope for all the members of the one great family of humankind.

The idea of something like a world republic is very old — it is hard to say when it first appeared on the human stage. Many of the most brilliant minds ever to spring from the tree of humanity have advanced, elaborated, and endorsed the concept. This group includes St. Augustine, Dante Alighieri, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Alfred Lord Tennyson, the founder of the Baha’i Faith Baha’u’llah, Winston Churchill, Clare Booth Luce, Jean-Paul Sartre, Dorothy Thompson, Carl Sandburg, Albert Camus, and many others.

Oh, and three bright young men who went on to play somewhat significant roles in the world history of the 20th century – John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan.

For a few short years during and after the Second World War, as the world trembled in the wake of the invention of the atomic bomb and its immediate use, a genuine full-blooded worldwide political and social movement arose — albeit short-lived — that proclaimed that a democratic federal world government was the only possible solution to the new problem of nuclear weapons, and the ancient problem of war itself. In the late 1940s, this movement was every bit as much a social and political force as, oh, the environmental movement or the Occupy Wall Street movement today, or the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements in the 1960s, or the labor movement and women’s suffrage movements in the first few decades of the 20th Century.

The time has come again to challenge the assumption that war must be perpetually part of the human condition. Does “human nature” condemn us never to surmount our own worst tendencies? Must groups of humans arm themselves against other groups of humans forever until the end of time? Must each one of our countries, on and on into the farthest mists of the human future, devote vast amounts of our finite toil and treasure to inconceivably destructive military forces to “defend ourselves” against other countries, which devote vast amounts of their toil and treasure to the same kinds of military forces to “defend themselves” against us?

Or might we imagine some distant day when permanent military establishments, and the political division of our one human race, have instead — like legalized slavery, like cannibalism, like the exclusion from full participation in society because of race or gender or sexual preference — become forever part of humanity’s past?

I submit that your most important mission during your conference in Guadalajara, and beyond, is to think about how we can reintroduce this glorious vision of the human future into the affairs of the world.

” Our true nationality is humankind … A federation of all humanity, together with a sufficient measure of social justice to ensure health, education, and a rough equality of opportunity to most of the children born into the world, would mean such a release and increase of human energy as to open a new phase in human history.” –H.G. Wells

So what exactly is this Big Idea that is so completely undiscussed, unexplored, and unknown today?

It is the idea that the rampant “economic globalization” now taking place almost everywhere must eventually be accompanied by a political globalization.

It is the idea that just like on every other level of governance – local, regional, national — someday the global level of human governance can be organized according to the same principles. An executive. A legislature. A judiciary. And police to enforce the laws.

It is the idea that just as we elect particular individuals to represent us on the local, regional, and national levels, someday we might elect particular individuals to represent us at the global level as well. In a Parliament of Humanity.

It is the idea that “Thou Shalt Not Kill” cannot really mean that if you kill a single citizen of your own country you are called a murderer, but that if you kill 100 citizens of some other country on something someone decides to call a “battlefield,” you are called not a murderer, but a war hero.

It is the idea that someday, there can be a next step in the social evolution of the human species.

“A day will come when the cannon will be a museum piece.” — Victor Hugo

If the notion of a world without war is almost completely unknown today, even less contemplated is the vision of a world without armies. Nevertheless, that is at the very core of what the idea of a world republic is about. (Indeed, one of the “preliminary articles” of Immanuel Kant’s 1795 book Perpetual Peace reads: “Standing Armies Shall in Time be Totally Abolished.”) No armies. No navies. No air forces. Only police.

The biggest component of the Big Idea is that at some point in the human future there will be no Chinese army, no Russian navy, no American military establishment of any kind. We refuse to concede that permanent military forces must be a permanent feature of human history. We aspire to a world where the notion that nations must maintain military power to protect themselves from other nations will be as preposterous as the notion today that the states inside Mexico or Germany or the USA must “defend themselves” against the other states inside Mexico or Germany or the USA. We intend to make the cannon purely a museum piece. Then we can devote our talents and our treasures, our sweat and our genius and our hopes, not to the capacity to inflict violence on our fellow women and men, but to the fulfillment of our dreams for all of humankind.

My good friend and longtime colleague David Lionel emphasizes, over and over again in his work, that that is where the money is … to solve virtually all of the transnational challenges facing the human race in the 21st century. It is NOT the case that “we cannot afford it.” It is that we choose not to spend money on it, and divert trillions of dollars every single year instead to “defending our national security” – against all the various cataclysmic scenarios that loom precisely BECAUSE we choose not to spend money on it! I very much hope that you will pay close and careful attention to the videos that David has produced about these matters, which I trust will screen as part of your proceedings. They vividly convey just how much human possibility can be unleashed by a transformation of the United Nations system, and beginning to march down the road to a world republic.

“The moral development of a civilization is measured by the breadth of its sense of community.” –Anatol Rapoport

It seems to me that you all have no less than four tasks before you during your proceedings.

The first task is for you to consider reinventing the United Nations, not for the world of 1945 but for the world of the 21st Century. You must envision creating new and improved global policymaking tools for addressing climate change, other environmental degradations, migration, crimes against humanity within the boundaries of a single country, outer space (and space warfare), cyberspace (and cyberwarfare), resource management in newly emerging transnational regions like the melting Arctic, the chasm both within and among states between the rich and the poor, transnational regulation of both borderless flows of finance and transnational corporations, and failed states where national governments essentially disintegrate and disappear.

This exercise could do a great deal, right now, to expand the contemporary political debate. Many fine minds, for example, have devoted a great deal of brainpower in recent years to the challenge of global climate change. But how many have spent any time at all considering the question, “How might we better address global climate change if we had something like a Parliament of Humanity, that could enact universal and enforceable world law?”

I know you are all well familiar with many of the longstanding proposals in these arenas.

# Like reforming both the permanent membership of the UNSC and the great power veto, so that collective global policymaking for the 21st Century will not forever be dominated by the five winners of a war that ended before the halfway point of the 20th Century.

# Like converting the UNGA to some kind of a weighted voting system similar to that already used in the EU and the IMF – and giving it the same kind of formal international lawmaking authority the UNSC now possesses.

# Like the idea that former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and many others have advocated, of creating a directly elected “People’s Assembly” to stand alongside the General Assembly. (A much-discussed variant might be a “Parliamentary Assembly,” consisting of individuals already elected to, e.g., the British parliament or the Japanese Diet or the Mexican Congresso de la Union.) Some have suggested that developments like these could lead to the emergence of transnational political parties, and truly collaborative transnational political action.

# Like the proposal to create some kind of “House of Councilors,” whose members would not represent any country, but would instead be formally tasked with discerning our common human security, our transnational vital interests, and the global public good.

# Like the broad body of proposals regarding alternative schemes for financing the UN system and other worthy transnational activities. The most well known of these is the “Tobin Tax,” that would impose a trivial levy on large international currency speculations. Other proposals include similar levies on national defense expenditures, international arms sales, or national carbon emissions.

I urge you to think hard about which of these might be both most optimal and most politically achievable (those are probably two separate questions, of course). Moreover, I urge you to contemplate which of these might best actually alleviate real human suffering, and promote genuine human possibility.

“I am not a citizen of Athens. I am not a citizen of Greece. I am a citizen of the world.” – Socrates, circa 400 BCE

The second task is for you to remember – and for you to teach others — that our aspirations involve more than concrete proposals regarding our structures of global governance. Our Big Idea is about not only tangible ideas, but also intangible ideals.

We believe – and I count every single one of you in attendance in Guadalajara in that “we” – we believe that the 21st Century may just see our national citizenship transcended by our global citizenship, our allegiance to our nations transcended by our allegiance to humanity, our national patriotism transcended by our planetary patriotism.

We perceive the reality of our shared destiny. We insist that the pursuit of national interests must be accompanied by some conception of common human interests. We possess an intuition that we are all in the same boat here on Spaceship Earth. And we want all the citizens of the world to recognize, with us, that the Whole Earth – first seen by the Apollo 8 astronauts on Christmas Eve 1968, and captured in their immortal photograph – is something greater than the sum of its parts.

These intangible ideals — just like the tangible idea of a world republic — have been promulgated and endorsed by some of the greatest minds the human race has ever produced. We march in the tradition of what the great psychologist Erik Erikson called “all-human solidarity.” We see the first glimmerings of what the great political scientist Robert C. Tucker called an “ethic of specieshood.” We intend to serve as the vanguard of what the great philosopher Voltaire called “the party of humanity.” And we stand in solidarity with the great astronomer Carl Sagan, who said, “Human history can be viewed as a slowly dawning awareness that we are members of a larger group. Initially our loyalties were to … bands of wandering hunter-gatherers, then to tribes, small settlements, city-states, and nations. … If we are to survive, our loyalties must be broadened further, to include the whole of the human community … We speak for Earth.”

“Civilization is a process … whose purpose is to combine single human individuals, and after that families, then races, peoples and nations, into one great unity, the unity of humankind.” –Sigmund Freud

The third task for you to undertake is to consider plausible future pathways to our future goals. Most especially, the provisions that already exist for amending and indeed for completely rewriting the UN Charter itself. The framers in San Francisco in 1945 did not intend for their Charter to be the end of history. That is why they included Article 108, a provision for making specific amendments to the Charter, and Article 109, a provision for calling a world conference to review and rewrite the whole of what they called “the present Charter.”

In addition, Article 109(3) indicates that the framers hoped that such a comprehensive review conference would be called no later than “the tenth annual session” — 1955! A full 2/3 of a century later, such a comprehensive review conference still has yet to be convened. It is difficult not to conclude that the San Francisco framers would enthusiastically agree that an organization invented before the Second World War had even come to an end (and before the atomic bomb had even been revealed to the world) might not today be optimally constituted for the challenges of the 21st Century.

The most promising route for at least moving in the direction of our ultimate destination may well be Article 109. Indeed, this was the central call to action of a small but determined NGO called “The Campaign for a New United Nations Charter” (CNUNC), which I led between 1994 and 1999. (David Lionel was one of my closest collaborators in CNUNC – ask him to tell you about our many misadventures!) Our singular activist idea was not to put forward any particular “new UN Charter” of our own, but instead to advocate that the governments of the world “Activate Article 109.”

We believed that singular call to action could bring together a broad, diverse, and potentially enormous coalition of supporters, who might possess a wide variety of world order visions, but who could all come together behind a focused initiative to launch an official UN process to discern the most appropriate vision for the world we live in today, and the world we anticipate tomorrow.

This is why it is so wonderful that my compadre Francisco Plancarte decided to launch not just another, dull, been-there-done-that Model UN (which simulates the operations of the United Nations of today), but instead a Model UN Charter Review Conference (which simulates you all inventing a new United Nations for tomorrow). The latter strikes me as both immensely more interesting, and infinitely more likely to capture the imagination of the kind of young people who believe that the burdens of today do not have to define the promise of tomorrow.

So I will confess to you my hope that many of you will consider BOTH convening other Model UN Charter Review Conferences to engage and mobilize other young people just like you, AND building a real civil society movement that advocates that governments soon convene a REAL Charter Review Conference – under Article 109.

I still believe that to be an activist idea with immense potential. Perhaps some of you will consider picking up that ball, and continue marching down the field toward that goal line. And begin to grow a movement that politicians, all around the world, will find impossible to ignore.

“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth looking at.” – Oscar Wilde

Therefore, I will end this missive by returning to the beginning of this missive. Because the fourth task for you to undertake is to keep your eye on the ball. (For this American that’s a beisbol, but for you perhaps a futbol!)

I urge you all, throughout your weekend together and thereafter, to free your minds from the chains of considering only what might be “politically realistic” at the present hour. Ask instead, what might be humanity’s optimal structures of global governance? How might a hypothetical Federal Republic of the World actually be constituted, and organized, and operate? What tools would we like ideally to employ to tackle challenges like global climate change and nuclear terror and economic globalization? What kind of world political order would we most like to see at, oh, the very end of the present century?

Such ideal states may well be wildly politically unrealistic in the short-term, perhaps even ever. But does that mean we should not even aspire to them, should not even define them, should not even talk about the world as we want it to be? Surely, the only way to offer our ideals at least the opportunity, someday, to begin to blossom, is to tell the world what those ideals might be. If politics, as every undergraduate knows, is the art of the possible, then our work can serve as the catalyst for expanding the parameters of political possibility.

I believe it is just possible that in the year 2099, the historians of the day will look back, and conclude that the Great Story of the 21st Century was first, the fusion of our many national patriotisms into a single planetary patriotism; second, the permanent disbanding of all national military forces and the abolition of war through the world rule of law; and third, the dawn for the first time of a politically unified human race, and the birth of a Federal Republic of the World.

Share that vision, with consistency and conviction, to anyone who will listen. Tell them that there is a destination to our upward journey, different from the desolate canyons in which the human race now dwells, a high peak, glorious and radiant and wonderful, a summit of infinite possibility. Tell them, as Victor Hugo would tell them, that “no army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come.”

I look forward to marching with you on the road to that mountaintop, my sister and brother Ciudadanos del Mundo.

Come see me in Washington, DC!

Posted in Abolishing War