Sunday, January 17, 2010

Global Democracy: Beginning of a New Era?

As a new decade dawns, many people are asking whether this is all there is. The notion that the world will always progress has been called into question by the latest world economic downturn. Stalled progress on a variety of health, security, and humanitarian measures highlights that our future is far from predetermined. The vacuum of democratic power at the international level has been recognized as a possible reason for this and other problems. National interests dominate at bodies like the United Nations, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund. There is little sustained international collaboration, as each country seeks to protect its interests foremost, often at the expense of a global good. Conferences and international meetings can only do so much to highlight current problems. Most governments regard the reports generated by these meetings as merely information. They rarely are implemented into workable public policies.

There are currently efforts to create a more democratic and participatory United Nations. I applaud these efforts, though I fear they lack broad enough appeal to be implemented any time soon. It is certainly hard to imagine that countries would be willing to give up any substantive powers to these bodies. However, a more democratic international community would allow low- to middle-income countries to finally be able to apply the necessary pressure to get high-income countries to sufficiently open their markets to their goods. It would also allow the world to move toward an economic system where environmental, humanitarian, and social well-being can be included in the price of goods. Those goods made under regimes with lax environmental regulations, poor worker protections, and oppression would reflect these social negatives in their price. Only then would places like China be forced to interrupt the "race to the bottom" in terms of workers rights and environmental protections.

While I recognize that such substantive reforms are unlikely, at least in the short term, they are necessary for social justice. A socially just world is only possible when the people of the world can hold nations, international bodies, and corporations accountable for their actions.

You may say I'm a dreamer...

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