Democratic World Parliament through a global referendum
Below are some frequently asked questions about the democratic world parliament (sometimes referred to by the acronym “DWP”) that we are trying to establish, as well as questions about Vote World Parliament (VWP), the non-profit organization. Not all questions about the democratic world parliament (DWP) can be answered at this time, because it doesn’t exist yet, and people will have different ideas on how it should be structured or how it should work.
All answers below are short, but some of them have other links within them, and clicking on these links will bring you to more details. Answers to these questions can also be found in the book Rescue Plan for Planet Earth, which is available as a free download on the front page of the VWP site.
Q#1. Is Vote World Parliament (VWP) merely a launch vehicle that has been set up to manage events until the actual world parliament exists?
A: Yes. It is a non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Canada and registered in the province of Québec as VWG.org. Later, if it succeeds in launching a global referendum on a democratic world parliament, VWP (the NGO) can be dissolved, transferred to the control of the democratic world parliament (DWP), or handed off to an established organization. The NGO VWP is non-sectarian and non-partisan, meaning it is not connected to any religion, economic system, political party, political philosophy or ideology. Our mailing address is Vote World Parliament, Box 1102, Shawville, Québec, Canada J0X 2Y0
Q#2. Does it take a world referendum to obtain a mandate to establish the democratic world parliament (DWP)? What level of support would it take to assure success?
A: Democracy is defined as “governance with the consent of the governed,” so yes, a world referendum is necessary. Any democratic governmental institution must arise from and be based upon the will of the people. We are starting with Internet voting because this is what is possible at this stage. Later, once momentum is established, we intend to get a resolution through the UN calling on each national government to conduct a formal national referendum (in tandem with its national elections) as a component part of the global referendum. If a majority of adults on the planet participate in the referendum, and a strong majority of those who vote cast their ballots in the ”yes” column, that is surely powerful enough to make it politically necessary for the DWP to be created and empowered to do its job. Indeed, as explained in the book Rescue Plan for Planet Earth, a global mandate of 67% “yes” votes from ballots cast by at least 50% of all human adults would be accepted by most people as legally binding under international law, and as politically compelling no matter what its legal status.
Q#3. How do I vote on whether I support the creation of a democratic world parliament (DWP)?
A: You can vote in this global referendum on your own computer if you have Internet access, or you can use a smartphone, or you can use a computer at a library or an Internet café. Go to the VWP site, check “yes” or “no” on the ballot, fill in the voter registration sheet and click on “submit.” If you don’t have the Internet, you can mail your ballot to us at Vote World Parliament, Box 1102, Shawville Québec, Canada J0X 2Y0. Please note that only your first name, country and vote (“yes” or “no”) will appear on our site, not your e-mail address or your family name or any other bits of information. (Well, the date of your vote is also listed, but that’s so you can find it if you want to look at it or show it to someone.)
Q#4. How old must I be to vote?
In order to vote, a person is required to be at least 16 years old. Naturally, people should only vote one time.
Q#5. Is this first worldwide referendum being done with a secret ballot?
A: No, and it is important to realize why there is no secret ballot in this referendum. Using a secret ballot would require an independent worldwide enumeration prior to the referendum, and not only would that not be allowed by most national governments, it would cost billions of dollars that we don’t have. If we get our resolution through the UN, and formal national referendums are piggybacked onto national elections, official voters’ lists will then be used and a secret ballot can and must be used.
Q#6. Will my vote be “certified”?
A: Some people want something in writing to certify that their vote has been received and included in the vote count. Each vote is numbered on our “Public Record” link, and the “ID” number of your vote will tell you (approximately) how many people voted ahead of you, so it’s a very nice keepsake to have. You can create a proof of your vote by printing the public record page where your vote is listed and numbered.
Q#7. Can I be a volunteer vote-collector?
A: To succeed, this initiative will need millions of vote collectors, meaning people who have computers with Internet access or smartphones and will let other people use their computer or smartphone to vote, or who will bring the printed referendum ballot to people on the planet who do not have access to a computer or the Internet. Those who don’t own or have the use of a computer or smartphone can team up with someone who does, and together they will get a lot more votes collected, and do it faster, and sooner. See the volunteer page for more on this.
Q#8. Why do we need a democratic world parliament anyway? What is it authorized to do? How would it fit in with the United Nations?
A: With increasingly powerful and “available” WMD (“weapons of mass destruction,” a term for chemical, biological or nuclear weapons), war has become potentially omnicidal, meaning that all people on Earth could die from the large-scale use of such weapons. The rule of law is the only way to guarantee peace permanently, and making fair world law (that’s not the same as “international law”) requires the existence of a world parliament. The democratic world parliament (DWP) is not supposed to meddle in the jurisdictions of nations, any more than national parliaments should meddle in areas that are the proper jurisdiction of provinces or municipalities. The democratic world parliament (DWP) is there mainly to criminalize war just as our national governments criminalize murder. It must permanently prevent all war, by whatever means are necessary. It can also legislate on other issues such as global justice and the environment. However, establishing and maintaining world peace will be its main job, and that job becomes a military operation only when peaceful efforts have produced failure, just like the peace of your community is kept far more by the acceptance of the legitimacy of your local and national authorities and by a general respect for the law than it is by the police in an armed shootout.
As Albert Einstein said: “As long as there are sovereign nations possessing great power, war is inevitable. There is no salvation for civilization, or even the human race, other than the creation of a world government.” Of course we already have world government in the form of bodies and agencies such as the UN, the WTO, the World Bank, the IMF and so on. What we don’t have is world democracy, an accountable world government, and the missing ingredient is of course a directly elected and democratic world parliament.
The fact is that some national governments are not democratic and will oppose the creation of a world parliament. And even national governments that are democratic will be reluctant to surrender any amount of sovereignty to the democratic world parliament (DWP), but that is what must happen. To make things a little easier, it would be best if the DWP associated itself with the United Nations, to become a “third house” of the UN structure, the house of the people (the UN General Assembly is a house of national governments, and the Security Council is a house of privileged national governments). In the end, national governments must yield a certain amount of sovereignty to the DWP, and the DWP must work closely with national governments, just as national governments have to work in cooperation with their provincial (or “state” in the USA) and municipal governments. If the UN isn’t interested in such an association, the new DWP will have to proceed without that attachment until the member states of the United Nations General Assembly change their minds. The fact is that the UN as now structured isn’t democratic in the least, and the fact is that democracy is the predominant ideology in the world today, and fully deserves to be in that position for the rest of time. Our movement is called the “global democracy movement” by its members, and winning the rights that are associated with democratic governance has never been easy. However, it is not possible to win these rights by force on a global scale, so the struggle must remain political, and demanding direct political representation on a global scale through a world referendum is the natural starting place, since democracy is defined as governance with the consent of the governed.
Q#9. Wouldn’t the establishment of a world parliament invite corruption on a grander scale?
A: The cure for corruption is transparency, and since humanity cannot afford any corruption on a global scale, the democratic world parliament (DWP) must be made 100% free of corruption using “total transparency” techniques and technologies. All elected representatives and all senior civil servants in the DWP must lead “recorded lives.” They must be wired whenever they are on duty, meaning they have to wear a voice-activated audio recorder. They do not need to wear it during private hours, but they are also forbidden from discussing politics or DWP business when not “on duty.” These recordings would be transcribed daily, and posted verbatim on the Internet. There will be many interested parties and “watchdog” organizations who will study these transcripts carefully. There is virtually no way any DWP elected representative can be corrupt and get away with it under such a regime. There is no valid reason to keep anything secret from “the boss,” which in the case of the DWP is the entire human race. And people who don’t like the idea of acting completely in the open for all to see don’t have to run for elected office in the DWP or seek employment there.
We have to be sure the DWP is absolutely clean, and a total transparency law will lead to the dismissal of any DWP elected representative or official caught abusing the trust of the people of Earth. In short, there will either be a corruption-free DWP, or none at all. In fact, we suspect the worldwide referendum for the DWP might even fail if it is not made clear that we are interested only in a DWP in which there is absolutely no corruption—ever. [More on this in Chapter 5 of Rescue Plan for Planet Earth, and this is available as a free download on the VWP site. NOTE: The costs of the verification process will be an issue, but it can be dealt with fairly, similar to the NFL system to review videos of football plays; anyone suspecting a “foul” or incorrect call can ask for a review, but there would have to be provisions to discourage a flood of frivolous challenges.
Q#10. Who defines the borders of each democratic world parliament constituency that would elect a representative to the (DWP)?
A: The size of the democratic world parliament (DWP) will depend on the size of the human race. There are about seven billion people on Earth, so if one constituency were one billion people, there would only be seven elected representatives … clearly too few. If one constituency were a million people, there would be 7,000 elected representatives … surely too many. It has been proposed by author/activist George Monbiot (among others) that 700 constituencies of about 10 million persons each would be about right for the DWP. Deciding on the borders of these constituencies poses some problems, so people and organizations will have to get involved in defining borders before the first global election takes place, so that the first global election can take place. [There is much more on this in Rescue Plan for Planet Earth.]
If this arrangement is the final system (700 constituencies, and each constituency having about 10 million people in it), then obviously, the large nations would have two or more constituencies within their national borders—Canada would have three, the USA would have 30—and special accommodation would have to be made for small nations. It is not up to us to figure out the most acceptable compromises. [There is much more on this in Rescue Plan for Planet Earth.] It is surely premature to worry about this in any event.
Q#11. Will there be political parties in the democratic world parliament (DWP)?
A: There is no way to stop anyone from running for an elected position at the democratic world parliament (DWP), so there will likely be members of political parties who seek these jobs. However, the odds of any political party attaining a majority in the DWP is vanishingly low (virtually zero). Indeed, it would be all but impossible for any single political party to gain control of the DWP, because the real views of every elected representative in the DWP will be right out in the open for all to see, under the regime of total transparency. Belonging to a political party would seem like a fairly irrelevant detail of an elected representative’s life, since his or her job is to represent the interests of the people in his or her constituency as well as the interests of the human race at large. The DWP must mostly deal with practical problems, in practical ways, and party politics is likely best left to the governments of nations, provinces (states) and perhaps cities.
Q#12. Will there have to be global taxes to finance the democratic world parliament (DWP)?
A: Yes, of course. All parliaments and governments are financed by taxes, and that is as it should be, and must be. However, the democratic world parliament (DWP) taxes would almost certainly be at a very low rate, and that should likely never change. Our best guess at this time is a tax rate of 0.5% of the net income for individuals … half of 1%, or $5 for every $1,000 of net income. And because “he who pays the piper calls the tune,” the required tax base of the DWP must be adult human beings, not corporations or lobby groups or religions or anything else.
Also, it is thought that a different system of paying taxes should exist for the DWP. First, no one whose income is below a defined “poverty line” should be expected to pay any taxes at all. For the rest, meaning those with personal incomes above that poverty line, paying taxes to the DWP would be a matter of submitting that 0.5% of your net income along with your national tax bill. The money earmarked for the DWP would be “collected by” your national government, but would “never belong to” your national government, and those monies must be sent on to the DWP in a timely manner.
In the final analysis, the overall tax burden on those who pay taxes should go down considerably, not up, as a result of the advent of the DWP. It would cost a lot more if each city or town had to maintain a standing army to defend itself against all neighboring cities and towns. The overall domestic tax burden goes down by virtue of having a national government providing security, assuring that cities and towns don’t go to war against each other. Many national governments spend more money on “national defense” than they do on any other sector of government activity, sadly including health care, education, etc.
So if the DWP provides security to nations in the same ways that national governments provide for the security for provinces, cities and towns, all national governments will be able to save huge amounts by being largely relieved of that burden. The national taxes of its citizens can go down very significantly once the DWP is in place, routinely doing its job. As well, the actual security provided to each nation’s citizens should go up, a lot. That’s a worthwhile bargain all around, a gargantuan “win-win” situation. (Of course the anticipated multi-trillion-dollar “peace dividend” will be argued over, and some national governments will prefer more national programs instead of reduced taxes, but that’s up to each nation to decide.)
Q#13. What is the operational language of Vote World Parliament?
A: Vote World Parliament is able to carry on its detailed activities only in English, but on the front page of our website, on the ballot under the moving faces, you will see a machine-translation service (Google Translate). If you click on the drop-down menu, you will see 66 languages available to you. Machine translations are never perfect, but they are extremely useful in any event.
Q#14. Will every constituency (of 10 million people) have an office of Vote World Parliament, the NGO?
A: This is hard to even imagine at such an early stage, but the answer is probably yes, eventually, as finances permit. Better yet would be to have most national governments take over the fair administration of the global referendum on world democracy.
Q#15. Will there be local Vote World Parliament offices?
A: Using a computer in their own home, some volunteer vote collectors will establish their homes as a local office for Vote World Parliament. Usually, it will take a small group to agree to have a local office.
Q#16. Will there be voluntary DWP elected representatives in advance of the 1st official DWP election?
A: The idea of a provisional DWP sounds inviting, but is likely impossible to organize. In his book Rescue Plan for Planet Earth, VWP founder Jim Stark recommends an “electoral commission” to determine how many constituencies there should be and for the articulation and confirmation of the borders of those constituencies before the first DWP election.
Q#17. Would there have to be a Constitution of Earth?
A: A founding document like a Constitution of Earth is 100% necessary eventually, but the best way of doing this is not yet clear. Any democratic government, including a democratic world government, must be based on an accepted constitution. Chapter 12 of Rescue Plan for Planet Earth deals with this issue. But first we need a mandate to form a world parliament, after which we can address the need to construct a world constitution and present it for ratification to the human race at large.
Q#18. Would a 2nd global referendum be needed to ratify a Constitution of Earth?
A: Yes, a 2nd world referendum will be needed to ratify a proposed world constitution, and a secret ballot would be needed for this process (again, if national governments try to prevent us from proceeding in the ideal manner, we will resort to Internet voting, as we are doing now for the global mandate to create the DWP). As well, there will surely be a provision in the Constitution of Earth for holding other citizen-initiated referendums, although the costs in terms of money and time required to mount such a global voting exercise likely means that for the foreseeable future, only the absolutely most critical issues will warrant such action. (Technological developments may well dramatically reduce the cost of a global referendum in the future.)
Q#19. When we get to actually electing representatives to the democratic world parliament (DWP), will we need to use a secret ballot?
A: Yes, for democratic world parliament (DWP) elections, a secret ballot must be used, because that is one of the pillars of any democracy. It is possible that by the time that first real global election rolls around, there will be ironclad ways to prevent multiple voting without the expense and trouble of a global enumeration. As VWP President Ted Stalets has said in Rescue Plan (published in 2008): “We will have the required technologies to identify the uniqueness of individuals and authenticate unique votes well within the next ten years.”
Q#20. Would we need a physical headquarters for the democratic world parliament (DWP)?
A: It is expected that the DWP will not need a physical headquarters for most purposes, since representatives elected to the DWP can meet in the open on the Internet. After all, their meetings and deliberations are supposed to be completely transparent, and holding a meeting in the open on the Internet is surely one way to accomplish this. There may be other reasons why a physical headquarters is desirable and/or necessary, but it is surely premature to worry about this issue at this time.
Q#21. Can the democratic world parliament (DWP) make laws in any area of life at all?
A: The democratic world parliament (DWP) will have a specific, defined jurisdiction, like any parliament. Its main purpose is to provide security for all people, mostly against war, but also against those who would harm the shared environment, against those who would deny our human rights or those who would oppose or block efforts at establishing global justice. There will be many jurisdictional conflicts with national governments, but such is the messiness of democracy. And it may take a century to reach a “comfort level” where most people agree on what issues are properly and best handled by which level of government. The principle of “subsidiarity” must be in play, meaning that all political issues should be handled by the lowest competent level of governance. In other words, the DWP must not interfere with lower levels of government that are coping with matters within their jurisdictions.
Q#22. How do human rights fit into all this?
A: The UN has made progress on paper, with its Universal Declaration of Human Rights and many other covenants, but these rights are often not enforced. The first human right is our right to life, as individuals and as a species. This right must be protected by the democratic world parliament, and war (especially with weapons of mass destruction) is the main threat to our species’ right to life. Clearly, if we have no right to be alive, then all other rights are meaningless. It is on this analysis that war must be criminalized by the DWP, just as murder and assault are criminalized by national governments.
Q#23. How can a democratic world parliament (DWP) enforce any world law?
A: Most of the usefulness of world law will come from the respect it earns in the minds of the people, but this would not exist if there were no possibility of punishment for those breaking the law. For deliberate offenses, and when all else fails, enforcement (as the word implies) can involve the use of “force,” but the DWP must use the strictest possible definition of “reasonable force,” and with an eye out at all times for false claims of self-defense, which has proven to be a very common ruse in human history. A small global military establishment must be set up and the armed forces of nations will have to defer to DWP armed forces, or be compelled to do so politically. And of course the likelihood is that for the foreseeable future, much if not most of the DWP military force will be made up of components of the military establishments of nation states, the same way UN peacekeeping missions are now constituted.
Q#24. Would religious freedom be protected by the DWP?
A: Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his [or her] religion or belief, and [a] freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” Within the democratic world parliament (DWP), upon ratification of an Earth Constitution, rights such as these would have the force of world law, the supreme law of the planet. However, no religious beliefs can be used to condone killing and torture, nor can such religious beliefs be used to deny or infringe upon the human rights of others.
Q#25. What would be the main thrust of world law?
A: Our power to do harm is growing so fast that soon almost anyone will be able to do a great harm (witness 9/11, or the more recent assault on Mumbai, in India). It is possible that a general instruction to “do no harm” will anchor world law. The main elements of world law will probably, at least in the beginning, amount to “no war” and “no trashing of the planet or its environment.”
Q#26. How does terrorism get eliminated in all this?
A: As the old saying goes, “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” We human beings are very clever when it comes to rationalizing the use of force, and it is extremely regrettable that so many people accept the rationalizations that are made on their behalf. As with domestic law in virtually all countries, resolving disputes through violence is going to be against world law, and to enforce this, legal and non-violent methods must be put in place and made to work for the kinds of problems that previously would give rise to war or terrorism. There is another powerful saying that no one seems able to trace back to a source: “There is enough bad in people to make law necessary, and enough good in people to make law workable.” If the problems that give rise to terrorism are not resolved by legal means, that would prompt continuing violence. If violence is allowed to succeed anywhere and there arise situations where reason and negotiation are rejected as the path to conflict resolution, those who just want what they want and care nothing for the rest of humanity will simply have to be brought under control by police means, with some controlled use of force. Needless to say, this must be done in the name of the democratic world parliament (DWP) and of the human race, and only reasonable force will be tolerated in pursuit of DWP goals. That’s how it is supposed to work at the local level in a democracy, with local police, but at the global or international level, the complete openness policy (the total transparency regime) that should always make very sure that military power is not ever abused, or overused, or used prematurely, etc.
Q#27. Who supports this democratic world parliament (DWP) project?
A: We have no doubt that eventually, this project will be supported by individuals and organizations of every kind, throughout the world, by governments (nations, provinces, city councils, etc.), non-governmental organizations, Nobel Laureates, religions (and their churches, mosques, synagogues, etc.), unions (locals, regional councils, national unions, etc.), political parties (local, regional and national), service clubs, individual politicians at all levels, entertainers, sports stars, student organizations (local, regional or national), media organizations (local, regional or national), companies, individuals, families, sports teams, etc. The only thing is, most of these individuals and organizations haven’t heard of this initiative yet because our concept is new. Individuals and institutions haven’t been asked to declare themselves in support of this urgent goal and this reasonable approach, so volunteers should get busy and collect motions of support or letters of support from such individuals and organizations. Additionally, there are more than 120 published authors of books in this area who have endorsed the global referendum initiative.
Q#28. Why bother with a global referendum when there are countries with repressive governments that will not allow their citizens to participate?
A: Repressive national governments will refuse to conduct a formal national referendum as their part of the global referendum on the creation of a democratic world parliament, but Internet-based voting using computers or smartphones can proceed among citizens of such countries unless the government bans Internet use (which in most cases is unlikely or even impossible). However, the fact that some undemocratic governments will oppose us makes it all the more important for residents of open societies to vote “Yes” for the creation of a democratic world parliament. The greater the weight of public support for a DWP that is expressed, the more difficult it will be for repressive governments to block such aspirations among their own people.