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The United Nations Evolving Into a One-World Government: The Human-Rights Implications

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Democracy is a core value of the United Nations. The UN supports democracy by promoting human rights, development, and peace and security

In the 75 years since the UN Charter was signed, the UN has done more to support democracy around the world than any other global organization. The UN promotes good governance, monitors elections, supports the civil society to strengthen democratic institutions and accountability, ensures self-determination in decolonized countries, and assists in the drafting of new constitutions in post-conflict nations.

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One can imagine nods of affirmation from Farage’s mostly far-right, avowedly Euroskeptic supporters, and weary head-shaking from those more in the political mainstream

But actually, he’s not so far off. As a longtime student of the world government ideal, I have given the EU close scrutiny. I don’t necessarily see it as a prototype or ‘baby world government’, but as an immensely valuable living laboratory for studying the challenges and potential of deep integration between nation-states. Mine is just one of many voices in what has become a remarkable resurgence of academic thought on the world government ideal, including many who look to Europe for a partial model. Not since the world government ‘heyday’ of 1945-50 have we seen so many political scientists, economists, and philosophers giving serious attention to a global government. In 1945, it was the virtually instantaneous atomic annihilation of two major Japanese cities by the United States that led academics, prominent politicians, and social activists to call for a strong world government. The choice was clear, Albert Einstein said, as part of his consistent advocacy on the issue: create one world, or face the prospect of having no world at all. Social movements advocating for global integration soon claimed membership in the hundreds of thousands and, by the end of the decade, both houses of the US Congress had held hearings on whether the United Nations should be transformed into a world government. The heyday ended abruptly, however. With the onset of the Cold War and ensuing popular anti-communist hysteria, world government became linked to presumed Soviet designs for global domination. Few political figures then dared breathe a word about it, and through the 1990s it was pushed mostly to the fringes of serious academia. The renaissance in thinking about world governments can be traced in part to the acceleration of economic globalisation. The 1999 World Trade Organisation protests in Seattle were a watershed moment. More than 50,000 activists converged from around the world, shutting down the city’s central business district and locking the WTO delegates out of their own opening ceremonies. Many in the streets saw the WTO as a shadow global economic government, setting the rules of international trade for most of the world’s countries, but with little direct input from their peoples.

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A similar situation has occurred among the community of persons with disabilities. The United Nations has begun the process of developing a human rights convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. Groups and organizations of persons with disabilities, who have difficulties traveling, have used the Internet to organize themselves and provide input to governments. This has been facilitated by the United Nations secretariat through a series of seminars that have been organized to enlist NGO participation (Caparaso, James A., 1997). In so doing, a significant population group has begun to develop their sense of civic competence in a way that may even be more effective than at the national level

The influential Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a remarkable multistakeholder institution made up of governments, epistemic communities of scientists and civil society organizations, seeking a consensus on the nature of the problems to be addressed on climate change. It is a forerunner to similar organizations where a publicprivate consensus needs to be reached to address problems. When events and structural changes seem to overwhelm existing concepts and paradigms, it is often useful to go back to first principles (Held, David, 1987). Aristotle in his Politics and Almond and Verba in their Civic Culture went back to the individual to build their paradigms. It is perhaps opportune to do this now in the context of global governance and begin a discourse on the meaning of world citizenship.

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For the most part, responsible sovereignty is, no doubt, a necessary condition for States to cooperate in creating the conditions for the realization of internationally recognized rights and freedoms and to act according to the other key principles of global governance put forward in this report: common but differentiated responsibilities, inclusiveness, transparency, accountability and coherence. Likewise, the relevance of the United Nations in global economic governance largely depends on how much Member States are willing to strengthen the Organization, so that it may become a more effective factor in global economic governance for implementing a post-2015 development agenda for the benefit of all.

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Caparaso, James A. (1997) "Across the Great Divide: Integrating Comparative and International Politics," International Studies Quarterly, 41.

Held, David, (1987) Models of Democracy, Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Johnson, Lyndon , (1958) "My Political Philosophy," The Texas Quarterly, Vo. I, No. 4,

Winter 1958, quoted in Doris Kearns, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, New York: Harper and Row, 1976, p. 156.

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