A Global Contract: The Case for World Citizenship

By Garry
Davis and Greg Guma
Bold proposals to prevent war and enlarge the scope of human freedom have been advanced
for centuries. Even before the industrial revolution transformed aggression from
a regional tragedy into a global threat, philosophers and politicians began to
look and think beyond the borders of their nations.
For the
French revolutionist Jean Baptiste du Val-De-Grace, the answer, in 1792, was a
World Republic that would place human rights above the rights of individual
states. All peoples would have cultural autonomy, he imagined. Three years
later, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant proposed a more modest plan: a
confederation of nations. Urging world citizenship and freedom of movement,
Kant hoped that a “covenant of peace” would ultimately make national conflict
the next hundred years, diplomats and statesmen struggled with formulas for
transnational order. Finally, in 1899, on the initiative of Czar Nicholas, an agreement
— The Hague Treaty — was reached between 24 states. Recognizing that modern
warfare and weapons posed a threat to all humanity, these nation-states pledged
at least to attempt settling their differences through “pacific methods” rather
than force and violence.
Ten million
people died during World War I anyway.
The massive
violence of that conflict was a sign that few nations could ignore. In the
aftermath, treaties outlawing war were signed, and the League of Nations was
established. Like confederal plans before it, however, the League was complex
and largely ineffective, both burdened with responsibilities and deprived on
real authority. Despite human rights declarations dating from 1789 in France,
the League still represented only states, with no allusion in its charter to
the sovereignty of ordinary people much less humanity. Within four years after
its creation, it inevitably began to split into hostile alliances.
During the
next World War, at least 60 million people died, more than half of them civilians, and
in 1945 the “nuclear age” crashed into existence when atomic bombs were dropped
on two Japanese cities. The very nature of war had become global. The survival
of humanity was now at stake. The nation-state war game, however, continued
unabated. By this time, the concept of world government could no longer be
shrugged off as some utopian novelty. The possibility of nuclear warfare made
the choice all too clear: global order or oblivion. But what kind of order?
The United
Nations, launched within that same fateful year, 1945, was more like a forum
than a government. It could not legislate on worldwide problems, nor enforce
its views through any means but military action. Its members, all
nation-states, still remained absolutely sovereign, free to make treaties or
declare war without a nod to the UN.
citizenship had become a collective suicide pact.
Over the
next four decades, whenever UN decisions or Charter provisions stood in the way
of some “national” desire, they were routinely ignored. As the Cold War gave
birth to the nuclear arms race, as more than 50 armed conflicts between nations
“great” and “small” created millions more victims, it became all too clear that
this latest attempt to create peace through a confederation of nation-states
was no more than a sterile exercise in futility. War, deprivation and torture
gave grim daily testimony to the fact that the UN was virtually powerless to
protect and promote peace or human rights. Could it be any other way? Was it
even possible for sovereign nations to surrender the right to “defend”
themselves through war?
Writing as
the United National Charter was being designed in 1945, Emory Reves provided an
answer: war was avoidable only if some “higher” legal order was imposed. In Anatomy of Peace, he explained:
“The real
cause of war has always been the same. They have occurred with a mathematical
regularity of a natural law at clearly determined moments as a result of
clearly definable conditions… 1. Wars between groups of men forming social
units always take place when these units — tribes, dynasties, churches, cities,
nations — exercise unrestricted sovereign power. 2. Wars between social units
cease the moment sovereign power is transferred from them to a larger or higher
unit…In other words, wars always ceased when a higher unit established its own
sovereignty, absorbing the sovereignty of the conflicting smaller social units.”
So long as
the nation-state’s self-imposed amnesia persists, wars are inevitable. Like
previous attempts to “rationalize” conflict without a fundamental transfer of
sovereign power, the UN can only succeed in isolated cases, when armed conflict
no longer serves the selfish interest of the belligerents. Mainly, it is a hostage,
politically and financially, of the system it is expected to transform.
But if the
confederal approach is not the form of “higher authority” that can break
nationalism’s spell, moving us to a workable and democratic world order, what
Responsible Global Citizenship
We live in a
geocentric world of nation-states, preoccupied mainly by “national” problems of
the economy, society and politics. No matter where we live, for most of us the “nation”
is the center of our political universe — the immovable point around which
revolve other nations and, supposedly, the rest of the world.
attachment to our nation is not merely legal; it is profoundly emotional. Yet
when nations deal with other nations, these attachments are given no weight. In
the usual “international” context, the individual is nowhere to be found.
Still, all nations claim to represent the very people they so often ignore.
Ironically, most nations actually claim to derive their very legitimacy from
their citizens. But if individuals, the people themselves, are truly the source
of each nation’s authority, it follows that humanity as a whole rather than any
nation is the highest source of authority.
accumulated power of nation-states does not make them the only legitimate
participants in global decision-making. In a world threatened by war and
injustice, “responsible citizenship” can only mean a powerful assertion of
humanity’s ultimate sovereignty. As Thomas Paine explained it, “individual
human beings, each in his or her own personal and sovereign right, enter into a
compact with each other to produce any government.”
For a higher
authority to come into being, therefore, a new compact is needed, a global
civic contract that transcends the national paradigm. The good news is that
such a contract already exists, both naturally and legally.
The World
Government of World Citizens, which was established in 1953, is both an
extension of the individual and an expression of humanity as a whole. It grows
from your sovereignty and mine as world citizens, and from our commitment to
each other’s protection and survival. It is a horizontal network based on
natural rights and the human rights affirmed by both national constitutions and
international agreements like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is
also “vertical” as the political expression of a world community by those who
recognize only the geographic limits of the planet itself.
In 1945,
while observing delegates at the founding of the UN in San Francisco, E.B.
White wrote: “Whether we wish it or not, we may soon have to make a clear
choice between the special nation to which we pledge our allegiance and the
broad humanity of which we are born a part.” World Citizens are those who make
the latter choice.
In a more
practical sense, World Government is an outgrowth of the world citizenship
movement that began in the late 1940s. As the start, it was simply a tool, a
way to embody the transnational civic identity that was being adopted by the
many people who registered as world citizens beginning in 1949. Gradually,
however, it became more: an embryonic structure for the evolution of a global
civism. Once its administrative arm, the World Service Authority, was
established in 1954, the first full phase of work began. The WSA began identifying
people from all corners of the planetary community, issuing documents to those
who pledged allegiance to this global government.
In the years
since that beginning, WSA and World Government have aimed to overcome the
psychological barriers imposed by the polarized, dualistic nation-state system.
In one sense, its very existence and the documents used by its citizens expose
the anti-democratic core of most nation-states. But for many people — refugees
and other outcasts of the system — its value is more basic. For them, World Government
means global political asylum.
Elements of various
religious teachings and democratic theories converge in the conceptual
framework of World Government. It represents a holistic way of thinking about
oneself and the planet. The deeper one goes, the more profound the potential
transformation can be.
Today our
world remains deafened by the roar of chaos and conflicting loyalties. But once
the possibility of an alternative can be envisioned, it becomes clear that the
primary causes of the chaos are the nation-states themselves. National
governments cannot solve our problems. They are the problem.
How World Citizenship Works
It does not
demand the surrender of any freedom, the renouncing of “national” citizenship,
or any disloyalty whatsoever to the nation of one’s birth. Rather, world
citizenship replaces the anachronistic political system that emerged in the 18th
century with a global contract that recognizes the dynamic interdependence of
our time.
We are already
linked across artificial frontiers; neither mass communication, science,
commerce nor ecology recognizes national borders. In these areas and more, we
already have one world. All types of barriers are crumbling. World Government
makes our politics more consistent with reality.
As it has
evolved, the World Government of World Citizens has responded to the needs of
its citizens not only by issuing documents such as birth and marriage
certificates, visas and passports. It has also begun to establish other basic
organs of government: study commissions, a court, political party, police force
and monetary system. The World Court of Human Rights, for example, was
established in France by a General assembly of World Citizen in 1972. A
provisional statute for the court was subsequently drafted, and still later the
World Judicial Commission was set up to handle preliminary complaints filed by
world citizens. The International Court of the Hague, we discovered, only handled
cases between sovereign states, and only if both parties agree to the
litigation. The UN Commission on Human Rights is powerless to help individuals
when their freedom and the arbitrary will of a nation-state collide.
citizens, whose exercise of human rights can contravene “national laws,” need a
new kind of court, one both grounded on the legal defense of global rights and
accessible to all. As the first Chief Justice of the World Court, Dr. Luis
Kutner explained upon accepting the post, “The international community has come
to realize that human rights are not an issue to be left solely to the national
jurisdiction of individual states. These rights obviously need protection at a
higher level within the framework of international law.”
Over the
years, a variety of study commissions have also been formed to deal with
specific global problems. Experts, all advocates of a just and democratic world
order, have been recruited to pursue research in areas such as health, space,
culture, economics, women, education, forestry, political asylum, communication
and cybernetics.
Unlike most
governments, which are heavily in debt, World Government is self-financing.
Citizens who request services pay modest fees to cover the operating expenses.
The World Refugee Fund and World Citizens Legal Fund have assisted many
refugees, displaced persons and political prisoners, and helped to finance
legal cases for world citizens whose rights have been violated, or who face
prosecution under national laws.
The World
Passport remains the most widely used document, a practical symbol and a useful
tool for travelers. Contributors to the Refugee Fund have made it possible to
issue passports for free to many refugees and war victims, half of them women
and children.
In essence,
world government is a sustainable and self-sufficient community of sovereign
individuals who have given their prime allegiance to an emerging body of “common
world law,” including various human rights covenants, the Stockholm
Environmental Declaration and the Nuremberg Principles. It is neither a
parallel government nor a supra-national federation. It is a meta-government of individual human beings.