United Nations Reform: Fast Track to Good Global Governance*

Well governed societies enjoy internal peace. Historically, the size of governed entities has increased from tribes to nations to continental/regional unions. Today, communication and transportation technology make good governance on a global scale feasible. Furthermore, the possibility of mutually assured destruction by use of nuclear weapons and the increasing ecological footprint of humanity make global governance even necessary. A globalized world needs a global authority to prevent chaos created by sovereignty illusions of  nations. A World Federation, if achievable in time, would be desirable. Building on the achievements of the United Nations, an effectively reformed UN may be a timely step in the right direction.

At the end of World War 2 in 1945 the United Nations system was created. Peace and Security was chosen as its mandate, which was an appropriate mandate for sustainability of human civilization at that time. Today, the world has changed and for a sustainable human civilization the mandate of the United Nations needs to be expanded by explicitly stating environmental protection. Therefore, the updated mandate of the United Nations must be: Peace, Security and the Protection of the Global Commons.

For enabling effective global governance, the United Nations System must have global legislative, juridical and executive powers. The UN must focus on global problems only; it must leave the solution of local problems to the nations as required by the subsidiarity principle. The mandate of a good global governance is to end ecocide and war by protecting the global commons, and by harmonizing international relations. Governments should mainly interact with the level above and the level below. Therefore, the UN’s principle of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ individuals is dangerous. It may be abused by outsiders to interfere in local affairs; – it gave USA President Bush Jr. another phoney excuse to attack Iraq.   Obviously, it must be transparent, just and trustworthy.  How can the United Nations deliver effective global governance?  Three major steps are required.

Step one: accept the United Nations General Assembly as the Nations’ chamber of world legislative body. As each nation represents its people, everyone is indirectly represented in global legislation. But for being doubly safe, add a People’s Chamber to the world legislature. The proposed UN Parliamentary Assembly could be the seed for the People’s Chamber. Approval of the second chamber is required before world laws are declared.

Step two: accept the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court as World Courts. This is almost reality. However, a few nations still resist global jurisdiction even though global justice is one of the highest human values. Any civilized nation must accept a global justice system. Only rogue nations and terrorists will act outside of global Law.

Step three: create a functional world executive. This requires a major overhaul of the existing United Nations Security Council. Permanent membership must be given to representatives of the regional/continental Unions such as the African Union, the European Union, The Union of South American Nations, and other unions of comparable size. The veto power must be abolished. Furthermore, a good world executive needs a world police, which protects nations by enforcing international law and brings rogue nations and terrorists to justice.

The implementation of good global governance, be it through a world Federation or an effectively reformed UN, is urgent, as it is needed for coordinating the efforts to solve existential global problems of our time. It is needed for the abolition of nuclear weapons and of costly national military forces. It is needed for global environmental protection, for preventing global warming and loss of biodiversity. It is needed for moderating the formation of new nations, for regulating the financial markets and fair world trade. Last but not least good global governance is needed for implementing full spectrum global justice, i.e. individual, social, ethnic, and ecological justice. A Global Senate is also desirable for checking on the actions of the global government. Representatives of the states or provinces of each nation could be members of the World Senate.

Helmut Burkhardt

Coordinator, Science for Peace Working Group on

Good Global Governance for a Just and Sustainable World

Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 2015-08-22, updated 2016-05-23



*This note summarizes a presentation scheduled for a workshop on UN Reform at the World Federation of Scientific Workers Meeting in Barcelona, Spain, May 12-16, 2015. At this workshop Roger Dittmann of the University of California suggested to make the world legislative bi-cameral by adding a People’s Assembly to the United Nations General Assembly.