By Kym Beeston
Between the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, the Olympics, and the London 2012 cultural festival, London has been host to a bewildering array of exciting events this summer.
One could therefore be forgiven for overlooking a much smaller event that took place in the early days of summer, in a small classroom at the London School of Economics.
Yet on 27 June, an impressive collection of leading democracy and globalization intellectuals including Richard Falk, Saskia Sassen, Noam Chomsky, David Held, Daniele Archibugi, Mary Kaldor, and Vandana Shiva, launched the Manifesto for A Global Democracy.
Working from the premise that “Politics lags behind the facts. We live in an era of deep technological and economic change that has not been matched by a similar development of public institutions responsible for its regulation,” the Manifesto marks a significant development in the burgeoning global democracy movement.
In short, global democracy is creating new, more extensive, and deeper forms of democracy, in order to enhance democracy in a global world – a world in which the significance of elections and party politics is significantly diminished as state based governments become powerless over forces such as global markets, climate change and social media.
It is not necessarily about replacing national governments with a world parliament, but about re-conceptualising democracy to bring it up to speed with the globalized times we live in. It’s about exploring ways to give the communities affected by the forces of globalisation a voice in the decision making that really affects them – the decisions of non state actors such as multinational corporations and global institutions.
Whilst the Manifesto calls for the “urgent creation of new global agencies specialized in sustainable, fair and stable development, disarmament and environmental protection, and the rapid implementation of forms of democratic global governance on all the issues that current intergovernmental summits are evidently incapable of solving,” different advocates of global democracy focus on different strategies.
For his part, Richard Sennett urges us to focus on cities rather than governments. He maintains that in an urbanised world, the fractured nature of megacities like Mumbai, Moscow, Mexico City and Sao Paulo – plagued with striking levels of inequality – makes cities the best space to develop a dialogue about global democracy.
On the other hand, Fernando Iglesias calls for increased citizen participation in social movements, particularly on issues like the campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly.
Similarly, Daniele Archibugi’s work focuses on ‘cosmopolitan democracy’ in which a new world order is built by promoting democracy between states and globally, as well as at the traditional nation state level.
But, if there is one consistent theme of the global democracy movement, it is that citizens are the nominated agents of global change. As Saskia Sassen pointed out, history has repeatedly shown us that systems of power will only fall if masses of people power were involved. The success of the movement thus depends on educating a wide range of global citizens about the fact that global decision making will never be democratic or accountable whilst democracy remains trapped in an anachronistic state based model, to attract supporters beyond academic and activist circles.
Naturally, bringing together different strands of work, and consolidating the competing arguments made by various academics and practitioners that form the global democracy movement is a large and complex task.
But it is really important to not give up on this challenge. Globalisation is here to stay, so it is time to accept that democracy as we know it has reached the end of its innocent childhood. It’s now up to us, the global demos, to nurture it, educate it, instil wisdom upon it, to help it grow and mature into an adult, fully equipped to thrive in a globalised world. It’s time to start discovering Democracy 2.0.