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Interview about federalism, a world constitution, the EU, nuclear abolition, a UN People's Assembly, and more - with references to Dag Hammarskjöld and Albert Einstein. The interview marks the 100th anniversary of Hammarskjölds birthday on July 29, 1905
Vicky Rossi, TFF Peace Antenna
July 28, 2005
TFF's Vicky Rossi interviews Mr James Ranney who is chair of the Philadelphia Chapter of Citizens for Global Solutions. It is organizing a four-day Global Constitution Forum to be held in Philadelphia on 14-17 September 2006 (with a preliminary, preparatory session in September 2005).
Participants at this conference will focus on issues surrounding the creation of a Constitution for Earth. Given the current controversy surrounding ratification of the European Constitution, I thought it would be a timely opportunity to request an interview with Mr Ranney.*
Vicky Rossi: There is currently a great deal of controversy in the European Union with regards the proposed European Constitution. What similarities and differences do you see between what is being proposed by the EU and the concepts underlying the idea of a global constitution?
James Ranney: The EU has been very successful in setting up a common European market and it is a great model despite its current problems. According to my understanding, those voters who are against the EU Constitution in the Netherlands and France, for example, are expressing their "hostility to a remote, bureaucratic and intrusive EU" to quote "The Economist" [June 9th edition]. Those of us who aspire to the creation of a global constitution can learn a great deal from what is going on right now within the EU. The rejection by European citizens of the EU Constitution is a good reminder that any regional or global initiatives must take great care not to be too intrusive and to allow individual countries to make their own decisions where that is appropriate. Of course, the difficulty is then to know where to draw the line e.g. with regards the creation of a level playing field in the realms of economics. In short, a balance needs to be found in the distribution of decision-making capacities. A global constitution would be in favour of fewer monolithic structures, less bureaucracy and a move away from the military security state through a redistribution of related taxation and military expenditure.
Vicky Rossi: Could you clarify which main areas would be governed by a Constitution for Earth? Is it just security policy and disarmament?
James Ranney: There has always been a great deal of debate on that question between world federalists. Some are in favour of a minimalist approach i.e. they would like to focus solely on security issues and aspire to put an end to the $1 trillion spent each year on military activities. Others, however, would like to see a broader maximalist approach adopted; one of their main arguments being that the environment could end up becoming a more urgent priority than disarmament. I myself am of the opinion that if we succeed in putting an end to the $1 trillion spend on military expenditure, we could free up ample funds for social and environmental needs. A famous proposal for a global constitution, which advocates a mid-way position between the minimalists and the maximalists, came in the 1920s from Grenville Clark and Louis Sohn. They pinpointed 3 main areas which should be governed by a global constitution, namely, security, global poverty and anything else that all countries could agree on!
Vicky Rossi: What is your definition of world federalism?
James Ranney: I do not have a "scholarly" definition of world federalism; however, I see it to mean replacing the use of force to resolve international conflicts with the rule of law. In my mind this would imply the elimination of "separate" armed forces for the resolution of international conflicts, although each country would retain its own police force for the regulation of internal law and order. "Global Action to Prevent War" has a good proposal on this issue. [P.A. It can be downloaded at www.globalactionpw.org] Although it makes no reference to the term world federalism, the aims are the same.
With regard the elimination of nuclear weapons, the much maligned treaty system could be used in a similar way to the Convention on the Law of the Sea. Nuclear disarmament could be achieved through the signing of a treaty plus the creation of an international peacekeeping force. The international community could move in small steps towards this goal. Currently in the U.S. for example there are discussions on the setting up of an "emergency rapid deployment force". If created, this could be the fore-runner to such an international peacekeeping force. [Vicky Rossi note: In a similar direction, the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, appointed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, has recommended the creation of a "strategic reserve capacity", which could be called up on short notice to provide support to a peacekeeping mission that is facing an unexpected crisis.]
Vicky Rossi: Which body would be responsible for overseeing such an international peacekeeping force? Would it be the United Nations?
James Ranney: The United Nations Security Council is currently seriously handicapped because of the veto power of its five permanent members. As such a new or modified global governance mechanism is needed to oversee this international peacekeeping force.
Vicky Rossi: Where does global citizenship fit into this idea of world federalism i.e. how would you define global citizenship?
James Ranney: World federalism is not likely to be a millennial moment i.e. it is more likely to be a plodding thing which evolves slowly and with it too the idea of global citizenship. To become a global citizen does not mean loosing your cultural identity. We have seen this in the EU where, for example, countries like France and Great Britain are no longer fighting on the battlefield, but nevertheless they are still not talking the same language. In order to understand these concepts properly, education is the answer. There will not be a peace revolution unless each one of us makes a contribution. World peace requires an attitudinal change and this can only come about through education.
Vicky Rossi: Do you think it is more difficult for US citizens to contemplate concepts such as world federalism and a global constitution given the USA's current position as the world's sole super power?
James Ranney: According to a survey carried out in 1946, 50-70% of US citizens believed that world federalism would lead to world peace. Unfortunately, now that may be as low as 1%. [Rossi: The polls mentioned were run by Roper & Gallup and the results were reported in the August and September, 1946, editions of "World Government News".]
Vicky Rossi: Earlier we touched briefly on the topic of the Security Council, but where exactly does the United Nations fit into this whole discussion?
James Ranney: There has been much debate over the years amongst world federalists with regard to the role of the UN. On the one hand, some world federalists would like to see an amended UN Charter; others, however, are of the opinion that the UN is the creation of individual nation states and that change will, therefore, have to come from the outside. I myself am in favour of both these approaches i.e. an amended UN Charter and a People's Parliament. Senator Douglas Roche has posted an interesting document on the Global Security Institute website discussing the idea also proposed by Prof. Andrew Strauss and Prof. Richard Falk - who is a TFF Associate - for a People's Assembly, which would be "independent and parallel" to the UN and which, perhaps, over time, could be incorporated as a 2nd Assembly.
Vicky Rossi: How would a global constitution be ratified? By public referendum? By UN Member States? By individual national governments?
James Ranney: A global constitution could be ratified in various ways, but unless there is serious reform within the UN, it could not be ratified there. UN reform needs to be carried out in a step-wise fashion i.e. progress is needed on numerous fronts simultaneously. Although many established thinkers despair at ever getting veto reform in the UN Security Council, some people like Benjamin Freeman firmly believe that although prior efforts in this direction were not acceptable to the Big 5, a series of proposals does exist which could prove successful. Benjamin Freeman's proposals for UN reform can be found here.
Vicky Rossi: Why do we need a global constitution at this point in human history i.e. why did we not need it before and why can we not do without it all together?
James Ranney: The question is how can we reach "absolute, general and complete" disarmament of nuclear weapons? World federalists are of the opinion that nuclear disarmament isn't likely without some global political solution to the problem of peace because individual nuclear arms possessing countries are not prepared to give up their weapons until an alternative security system is in place. If, however, world federalists are wrong in their predictions as to how people and nations act and it is possible to secure some kind of lasting peace without world federalism, we should not get our noses out of joint but rather be overjoyed. In other words, whatever it takes.
Vicky Rossi: You intend to hold a Global Constitution Forum on 14-17 September 2006 in Philadelphia to consider all these issues we are discussing here. Could you briefly explain how this conference will be run, who will be invited and what you expect to be the outcome of this event?
James Ranney: I think it is important to say from the start that we are not trying to draft a document. There have already been 4-5 dozen drafts and nothing came of any of them. It is our aim, firstly, to educate ourselves by meeting face to face - with top flight speakers and in-depth analysis sessions; and secondly, to raise public awareness of the concept of a global constitution through the publicity engendered by the participation in this conference of high profile celebrities.
Vicky Rossi: Beyond formal education and the holding of the Global Constitution Forum, do you see any other key players in this process of raising public awareness on world federalism?
James Ranney: Our goals require that we collaborate and network with other peace groups. Currently we have strong links with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, the United Nations Associations and Global Education Motivators, but we hope to strengthen our links with many other such peace organisations in the future.
For more information on the Global Constitution Forum please contact:
James T. Ranney, 1018 West Cliveden Street, Philadelphia, PA 19119, USA.
Tel: 00-1-215-849-9165 firstname.lastname@example.org
*This transcript represents an accurate but non-verbatim representation of the original interview.
July 29 2005 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of former UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold, who also believed in an empowered civil society and the concept of a world federation - in the form of a strengthened United Nations with a strong legislative and executive capability.
On 30 October 1954 Dag Hammarskjold in a speech at Columbia University in New York declared,
"We also hear of mutual dependencies and interdependencies, that make our world into one, whether we like it or not. In the light of this new situation many would plead for a world organisation headed by a world government. We may sympathise with their idealism, but the main issue is being avoided with that sort of constitutional magic. The variety of nations and systems makes it impossible to establish a world government, whilst our inter-dependence by necessity demands an organisation for the world. Our knowledge of the past urges us to adopt a middle course on which slowly but surely we move towards a world community which constitutes the only alternative to self-destruction." ("Dag Hammarskjold - Visionary for the Future of Humanity", Stephan Mogle-Stadel, Novalis Press, Cape Town, July 2002, p.144.)
The year 2005 also marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Albert Einstein, who died on 18 April 1955. Einstein, who was as well known for his political activism as for his scientific discoveries, declared in an "Open Letter to the General Assembly of the United Nations" in 1947:
"If (…) every citizen realizes that the only guarantee for security and peace in this atomic age is the constant development of a supranational government, then he will do everything in his power to strengthen the United Nations.
But Einstein goes on to warn that
"(…) the method of representation at the United Nations should be considerably modified. The present method of selection by government appointment does not leave any real freedom to the appointee. Furthermore, selection by governments cannot give the peoples of the world the feeling of being fairly and proportionately represented. The moral authority of the United Nations would be considerably enhanced if the delegates were elected by the people. Were they responsible to an electorate, they would have much more freedom to follow their consciences." ("Albert Einstein - Rebel Lives", Ocean Press, Melbourne/New York, 2003, p.39-40.)
Some additional Internet Links on the Topic of a "People's Assembly":
TFF Mini Forum: World Order Reforms - July 29, 2005
Club of Budapest
Club of Budapest World Wisdom Council
The Global Community
Empower the UN
The Club of Rome
"A Practical Proposal for a Creating a Global Parliament", paper prepared by Andrew Strauss
Citizens for a United Nations Peoples Assembly
United Nations Association Orange County Chapter Get free articles & updates *