Democracy Without Borders

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Democratic global governance advocated at events in London

Panoramic view of London. Source: kloniwotski/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Representatives of Democracy Without Borders (DWB) recently participated in two events in London and used the opportunity to advocate democratic global governance.

Battle of Ideas

On 2 November 2019 Andreas Bummel, DWB’s Executive Director, spoke at the Battle of Ideas which, in their words, provides “a unique forum to discuss the big issues of our time”. The topic, “Does the world need a government?”, was originally proposed by Ian Crawford, a professor of planetary science and astrobiology at Birkbeck College. Andreas shared the platform with Ian Crawford, Mary Kaldor, an emeritus professor of global governance at London School of Economics, and Tara McCormack, a lecturer on international politics at University of Leicester. The panel was moderated by Rob Lyons, Academy of Ideas.

From left to right: Ian Crawford, Mary Kaldor, Andreas Bummel and Tara McCormack

Andreas argued that the world does indeed need a government to tackle global threats and challenges. He pointed out that in his view this means “a system of multilevel government” from the local to the global level that is based on the principles of subsidiarity and federalism. “At all levels democratic participation and representation of citizens as well as the rule of law, separation of powers, checks and balances and the protection of minority rights would have to be implemented”, he went on to explain. In terms of the global level this would imply a world parliament. As a first step he introduced the proposal of a UN Parliamentary Assembly, DWB’s main program.

With the exception of Tara McCormack, the other panelists expressed support for a federal system of global governance as well. Ian Crawford argued for a world government from the perspective of a cosmic world view and big history. Mary Kaldor emphasised the requirement for global governance to reinvigorate substantive local democracy as well as the rule of law and human rights. Tara instead argued that democracy was under pressure in nation-states and that this should be the focus instead of global institutions.

Many comments and questions in the discussion indicated a fear that nation-states would cease to exist in a system of global government. However, the panelists made it clear that nobody advocates a “unified global state.”

The Fourth Group’s Politics Summit

At The Fourth Group’s Politics Summit 2019 on 19 November 2019 John Vlasto, DWB’s representative in the United Kingdom, debated whether “Globalism is outdated for the 21st century” with Ben Habib, Member of the European Parliament for the Brexit Party. John was joined by James Sancto, CEO of We Make Change; Ella Whelan, a Co-Convenor of the Battle of Ideas; and the debate was moderated by Lewis Iwu, a former world debating champion.

From left to right: John Vlasto, Ella Whelan, Ben Habib and Lewis Iwu

Ben opened the debate by describing a spectrum from extreme globalism at one end, with no nation states, to extreme nationalism at the other, with no global governance, and argued that we should aim for somewhere in between. He then gave a reasoned criticism of the European Union from a financial perspective, including its protectionist tendencies, and the way in which the euro has been introduced and managed, and concluded that Brexit would be good for Britain.

Apart from the conclusion, which ignores the benefits of the European Union, John had little to disagree with. John argued, as Andreas had at the Battle of Ideas, that more effective and accountable global governance is needed to tackle global challenges, such as the sustainability crisis, the urgency of which is beginning to make such political change possible. Ella argued that globalism is inherently undemocratic as democracy operates at the national level. John countered that this surely calls for expanding democracy to the global level to manage our globalised economy. He introduced DWB’s core proposal of a UN Parliamentary Assembly as a realistic first step towards this. James pointed out that nationalism and globalism do not have to be seen as being in tension, since effective global governance rests on effective national governance – we need both.

Votes were taken at the beginning and end of the debate. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the vast majority at this progressive event started in favour of globalism, and remained in favour of globalism.


At both events the core argument against democratising global governance was that national democracy needs reinvigorating first. But this is back to front. Many decisions that affect people are now made at the global level, beyond the reach of national democracy, which disenfranchises national electorates and leads to a feeling of powerlessness and being ‘out of control’. This cannot be addressed at the national level. The only solution is to democratise global governance, putting the people back in control of the global decisions that affect them. Once we have global democracy, national democracy will be reinvigorated, as it will be able to focus on the national issues within its control. To reinvigorate national democracy, first we must democratise global governance.

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