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Global democracy – a realistic dream

Folke Tersman wants to help in the climate debate by testing different arguments and determining what consequences they would have.

If we are in favour of national democracy, we should also support the idea of global democracy. Today’s challenges require better institutions on the global level that can help us work together for peace and effective action on climate issues. Folke Tersman, Professor of Practical Philosophy, wants to help make this happen.

Folke Tersman’s book Tillsammans – en filosofisk debattbok om hur vi kan rädda vårt klimat (“Together – A Philosophical Debate Book on How We Can Save Our Climate”) was published in 2009. The book attracted some attention and the seminar invites continue to pour in.
“When I wrote the book,” says Tersman, “there was a lot of talk about global warming and the various technologies that could be used to stop it. But I wasn’t seeing a social science perspective. How successful we are with climate issues is largely dependent on how we think about developments on a psychological level.”
Here, philosophers can help by testing different arguments and seeing what consequences they have. Are we egoists who can only act altruistically if given the right reward? Or is there also a selfless gene that can be of use now, when the foundation of our existence is at stake?
“Philosophers seek precision and can streamline chains of thought to see if we can apply our previously held principles and values to new situations. The climate issue is one such situation and it needs new solutions. If we believe in the arguments that lead us to want democracy at the national level, we must also accept that these arguments apply on a higher, supranational level as well.”

Perhaps the time is ripe. After the 2015 UN Climate Conference in Paris, the issue is once again on the political agenda. Those who deny the climate threat have a limited influence in the debate.
“At any rate, as long as Donald Trump doesn’t come to power,” says Tersman. “What is important now is to understand that the Paris Agreement is only the beginning. Most of the work is still ahead of us and the developments will lead to major changes in our society.”
So, what would a world parliament look like and how would it be governed? Folke Tersman’s solution is based on an increased mandate for the UN. Perhaps with an advisory parliament that is democratically elected alongside the General Assembly. The parliament could then gradually be given more to decide on in relation to the environment, peacekeeping and principles of law.
“When parliaments emerged in the nation states, they had very little say. But their recommendations became more and more a source of legitimacy for the decisions of those governing. Their power ultimately became undisputed.”

To contribute to a more detailed plan for global democracy, Folke Tersman is on the board of directors for the Global Challenges Foundation. With generous donations from billionaire founder László Szombatfalvy, the foundation will announce a worldwide competition on 15 November 2016. The mission is to develop a solution for realising a global democratic governance model. The prize money will be substantial, in the range of USD 1 million. The hope is that the jury will include influential persons such as Kofi Annan.
Folke Tersman looks forward to reviewing the contributions and hopes for broad interest.
“We’re inviting institutions from across the globe, but anyone can take part – a bus driver in Tibet, a midwife in Chile. All contributions are welcome.”

In his book, the author expected that it would be difficult to convince people to switch over to a sustainable way of living. But after many discussions with people at various lectures and seminars, he has changed his mind.
“We’re not as afraid of sacrifice as I had thought. Many people recognise that a change is better for our health, freedom and sense of purpose. A common effort like this for our children and our future also has positive effects for us as individuals.”

Henrik Möller

30 October 2016