Joe Mitchell                       Reimagining global democracy                     Summer 2012   Reimagining global democ...
Joe Mitchell                                           Reimagining global democracy                                       ...
Joe Mitchell                            Reimagining global democracy                           Summer 2012If you want to s...
Joe Mitchell                              Reimagining global democracy                              Summer 20122. The hist...
Joe Mitchell                           Reimagining global democracy                 Summer 2012    2.2. Democracy in the i...
Joe Mitchell                              Reimagining global democracy                             Summer 2012works on wor...
Joe Mitchell                           Reimagining global democracy                   Summer 2012around the world. New glo...
Joe Mitchell                        Reimagining global democracy                      Summer 2012       2.4. SummaryThis s...
Joe Mitchell                        Reimagining global democracy                    Summer 20123. Global representative de...
Joe Mitchell                             Reimagining global democracy                 Summer 2012Scholars have also discus...
Joe Mitchell                              Reimagining global democracy                              Summer 2012coordinatio...
Joe Mitchell                              Reimagining global democracy                             Summer 2012from their p...
Joe Mitchell                              Reimagining global democracy                               Summer 2012the societ...
Joe Mitchell                            Reimagining global democracy                             Summer 20124. Towards a g...
Joe Mitchell                            Reimagining global democracy                   Summer 2012inclusive, tolerant, res...
Joe Mitchell                        Reimagining global democracy                     Summer 2012governance are challenged ...
Joe Mitchell                              Reimagining global democracy                          Summer 2012Even in undemoc...
Joe Mitchell                              Reimagining global democracy                             Summer 2012monopoly on ...
Joe Mitchell                               Reimagining global democracy                                Summer 2012     4.3...
Joe Mitchell                               Reimagining global democracy                               Summer 2012least in ...
Joe Mitchell                        Reimagining global democracy                      Summer 2012categorised as part of a ...
Joe Mitchell                               Reimagining global democracy                                Summer 20125. Democ...
Joe Mitchell                              Reimagining global democracy                             Summer 2012Digital comm...
Joe Mitchell                           Reimagining global democracy                   Summer 2012transnational corporation...
Joe Mitchell                               Reimagining global democracy                                Summer 2012impossib...
Joe Mitchell                             Reimagining global democracy                             Summer 2012languages.101...
Joe Mitchell                            Reimagining global democracy                            Summer 2012global example ...
Joe Mitchell                               Reimagining global democracy                               Summer 2012those who...
Joe Mitchell                               Reimagining global democracy                               Summer 20126. Limita...
Reimagining global democracy   from world parliament to global digital deliberation and participation
Reimagining global democracy   from world parliament to global digital deliberation and participation
Reimagining global democracy   from world parliament to global digital deliberation and participation
Reimagining global democracy   from world parliament to global digital deliberation and participation
Reimagining global democracy   from world parliament to global digital deliberation and participation
Reimagining global democracy   from world parliament to global digital deliberation and participation
Reimagining global democracy   from world parliament to global digital deliberation and participation
Reimagining global democracy   from world parliament to global digital deliberation and participation
Reimagining global democracy   from world parliament to global digital deliberation and participation
Reimagining global democracy   from world parliament to global digital deliberation and participation
Reimagining global democracy   from world parliament to global digital deliberation and participation
Reimagining global democracy   from world parliament to global digital deliberation and participation
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Reimagining global democracy from world parliament to global digital deliberation and participation


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Globalisation presents the latest challenge to democracy, as rules made at the global level lack the consent of the world’s people. As a solution to this, several scholars propose a world parliament, but such an institution would struggle to be effective and legitimate. Instead, global democracy should be reimagined as a decentralised and networked form of governance, as can be seen in digital deliberation and participation. While digital democracy will grow over several decades, there are aspects that can be applied in the shorter term to democratise existing global governance institutions, particularly through non-electoral accountability. Potential criticisms of this model include fears over the relationship between capitalism and democracy, and the representative nature and capability of digital users, but responses can be made to each of these criticisms. Further research should aim to build a more robust evidence base for the development of global digital democracy and suggest actions to pursue it.

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Reimagining global democracy from world parliament to global digital deliberation and participation

  1. 1. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012 Reimagining global democracy: from world parliament to global digital deliberation and participation Joseph Mitchell for MA Global Governance, University of WaterlooAbstractGlobalisation presents the latest challenge to democracy, as rules made at the global levellack the consent of the world‟s people. As a solution to this, several scholars propose a worldparliament, but such an institution would struggle to be effective and legitimate. Instead,global democracy should be reimagined as a decentralised and networked form ofgovernance, as can be seen in digital deliberation and participation. While digital democracywill grow over several decades, there are aspects that can be applied in the shorter term todemocratise existing global governance institutions, particularly through non-electoralaccountability. Potential criticisms of this model include fears over the relationship betweencapitalism and democracy, and the representative nature and capability of digital users, butresponses can be made to each of these criticisms. Further research should aim to build amore robust evidence base for the development of global digital democracy and suggestactions to pursue it.AcknowledgementsThe author is grateful for the advice of Professor William Coleman, Dr. Dan Gorman and Dr.Andrew Thompson.
  2. 2. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012Table of contents1. Introduction ..................................................................................................................................... 12. The historical development of global democracy ........................................................................... 2 2.1. Democracy in ancient and pre-industrial ages .................................................................... 2 2.2. Democracy in the industrial and modern ages .................................................................... 3 2.3. Democracy in the post-modern, global age......................................................................... 43. Global representative democracy .................................................................................................... 7 3.1. A world parliament ............................................................................................................. 7 3.2. Problems with a world parliament and representative democracy ...................................... 9 3.3. Summary ........................................................................................................................... 114. Towards a global digital democracy ............................................................................................. 12 4.1. Global deliberation............................................................................................................ 12 4.2. Global participation........................................................................................................... 15 4.3. Global demos .................................................................................................................... 17 4.4. Summary ........................................................................................................................... 195. Democratising the global governance institutions ........................................................................ 20 5.1. Non electoral accountability ............................................................................................. 20 5.2. Electoral accountability..................................................................................................... 22 5.3. Global governance institutions and social media .............................................................. 23 5.4. Global governance institutions and open data .................................................................. 24 5.5. Summary ........................................................................................................................... 266. Limitations of the democratising global governance agenda ........................................................ 27 6.1. Global democracy is not possible alongside global neoliberalism ................................... 27 6.2. The tyranny of those who show up ................................................................................... 29 6.3. The realistic limits of global digital democracy ................................................................ 30 6.4. Language and digital divides ............................................................................................ 30 6.5. Summary ........................................................................................................................... 327. Conclusion and agenda ................................................................................................................. 33 ii
  3. 3. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012If you want to stay sane in this world, you have to have the intelligence to be pessimistic inthe short term and optimistic in the long term.Daniel Barenboim11. IntroductionThis paper proposes reimagining global democracy, not as an extrapolation of representativedemocracy as seen in national governance, but in a deliberative and participative formenabled through digital communication. It suggests that the only appropriate response to theliberalised economic structures and regulations that have led to such rapid globalisation - andthe resulting global problems - is a complex, decentralised and liberal political response fromglobal citizens.This argument is elucidated over seven sections. Section two presents a brief overview of thedevelopment of the theory and practice of democracy and suggests that cosmopolitandemocracy is the most advanced theory of global democracy. However, section three arguesthat the institutional solution for enacting global democracy proposed by cosmopolitandemocrats – a world parliament – is untenable for several reasons. Instead, section fourargues for a reconceptualisation of the conditions of democracy and a shift away fromelectoral involvement towards flexible and „always-on‟ networks of participation anddeliberation at the global level. It provides contemporary examples of such use of digitalcommunication technology, which suggest that this model is realistic.Section five admits that global digital democracy is in a nascent form and so examines howpower-holding global institutions, both public and private, can be made more democraticthrough digital technologies; in particular through the use of social media and a movementtowards open knowledge. Section six anticipates four problems with the model of globaldigital democracy: the power of global private interest, the unrepresentative nature of thosewho participate in the digital space, the likelihood that digital participation can solve complexor zero-sum global problems and the language and digital divides. It responds to each ofthese, suggesting that none conclusively weakens the model. The conclusion in section sevenreiterates the main arguments and calls for more research on global digital democracy andurges increased uptake and protection of, and support for, open digital deliberation andparticipation, anywhere in the world.As the quote above advises, this paper is optimistic about the long term realisation of globaldemocracy.1 BBC Radio 3, 2012. On 27 July, 2012, Daniel Barenboim conducted the West–Eastern Divan Orchestra, madeup of players from Israel and several Arabic countries, in Beethoven‟s 9 th Symphony. The libretto from thesymphony – the „Ode to Joy‟ – is a call for universal brotherhood. Immediately after the concert, Barenboimtravelled across London to carry the Olympic flag at the opening ceremony for the London 2012 OlympicGames. 1
  4. 4. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 20122. The historical development of global democracyThis section summarises the history of democratic thought, especially those developmentsthat could be considered precursors to ideas of global democracy. From democracy‟s firstrecorded practice in Athens, through to the age of revolutions and the development ofrepresentative democracy, to recent calls for global democracy, this section shows that effortsto theorise systems of governance for world peace have been made throughout history, butthe term „global democracy‟ is a relatively new concept. This is partly because the use of theterm „global‟ in political terms is itself a recent construct. Following brief descriptions ofAthenian democracy, modern representative democracy, and advocacy for world federalism,the term global is expanded and the demands for global democracy explained. 2.1. Democracy in ancient and pre-industrial agesThe first recorded experiments in democracy occurred in Athens around 500BC. The ancientcity state initiated the practice of decision-making by plebiscite – in this case, a show ofhands of all free men, the only eligible voters. This is now known as direct or unitarydemocracy, and is practised only rarely today.2 Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye argue thatthis unitary kind of democracy, whereby attempts are made to reach consensus among allthose present, is favourable to the modern „adversarial‟ kind of democracy, but that „no onehas figured out how to make unitary democracy work at a scale larger than the city-state.‟3Following the fall of Athens to Alexander the Great, this form of direct democracy was lost.The end of the Greco-Roman period led to the Dark and Middle Ages, in which systems ofmonarchy flourished. During this time, governance systems were still debated, on religiousgrounds in particular. Scholars such as Francisco Suárez questioned the validity of centralrule and earned the wrath of the Vatican by suggesting that power was legitimised from thepeople upwards.4In 1648, the Treaty of Westphalia was signed, establishing the principle of nationalsovereignty and self-determination in the governance structure of Europe. It followed ahistorical trend of developments in governance following major wars: seen in Rousseau‟s callfor obedience to the „general will‟ following the War of Austrian Succession, and Kant‟sdevelopment of the idea of perpetual peace following the bloody revolution in France.5 Theoutcome of the Treaty of Westphalia, nation-state sovereignty, became the governancestandard around the world and continues to determine much of economic, social and politicalaffairs today. The most recently created nation state joined the community of states asrecently as 2011. This standard of „self-determination‟ established by Westphalia does notnecessarily include governing by the consent of the people within a nation state. In itself,therefore, the treaty did not advance any kind of democracy, which only appeared again inthe late eighteenth century.2 Most notably the Swiss cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus, though it is likely that in smaller localgovernments similar practices are informally followed.3 Keohane and Nye, 2002:2284 Murphy, 1999.5 Hemleben, 1943: 182-183. 2
  5. 5. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012 2.2. Democracy in the industrial and modern agesThe age of revolutions, particularly in France and in what became the United States ofAmerica, heralded the return of rule by consent and the end of monarchies, across Europe atleast. Rather than the direct democracy practised in Athens, revolutionaries constructedsystems of representative democracy based upon constituencies and offices. Whilerevolutionary leaders moved across borders to spread their new ideas, democraticdevelopments were internal to the nation states.However, the events did inspire Immanuel Kant to create a revolutionary theory of his own,his plan for perpetual peace, which has formed a blueprint for scholars and activists since itwas first published in 1795. As well as immediate measures to secure the cessation ofviolence, Kant provided three „definitive articles‟ that would form the basis of perpetualpeace: state governance by republicanism, a federation of states under international law, andone world citizenship law. This latter article is even today a revolutionary idea, marking Kantas one of the earliest global thinkers. Kant wrote that the third article was based uponpeoples‟ „common possession of the surface of the earth‟.6 Again ahead of his time, Kantcalled for a world conference to establish the legal principles of the perpetual peace and aleague of nations.7In the late 1800s and early 1900s, building upon the work of Suaréz, Grotius, Kant andothers, nation states began to build a body of international law and a number of functionalinternational organisations in fields such as health and communications. This consolidated theposition of the nation state in governance. Even following the traumatic, globally-affectingworld wars of the twentieth century, the world peace conferences formed of nation stategovernment representatives do not create any new systems of governance. Though the UnitedNations has furthered the cause of democracy at the national level, by playing a significantrole ending colonialism and supporting free elections, it does not deserve the epithetdesignated by Paul Kennedy in his book „Parliament of Man‟. 8 An idea for the UNrepresentatives to be elected by the nations passed without discussion at the San Franciscoconference.9Although never realised, several more radical suggestions for governance changes were madeat the time of the foundation of the UN. In particular, considerable attention was given toworld government. Both politicians and academics argued for the development of ademocratic world federation, a concept which had grown in popularity between the worldwars. The matter was discussed in US politics, and the US Congress passed a non-binding„Sense of Congress‟ resolution stating their support for the „strengthening of the UN and toseek its development into a world federation‟.10 It was signed by popular US politicians suchas John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, and more conservative figures too. At the same time,several new books were published in favour of stronger supranational governance, including6 Kant, 1897:19.7 Patomaki, 2005: 111.8 Jolly et al, 2009 ; Kennedy, 2006.9 Camilieri, 1924.10 Weiss, 2012: 25 3
  6. 6. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012works on world, as opposed to international, law; on placing all nuclear fuel under the controlof the UN; and proposing a world constitution.11The Cold War rapidly put a halt to further development of these ideas. The activities ofSenator Joseph McCarthy in the US led to a direct association of „international‟ with„communist‟, and the discourse around the American role changed from one of the USworking with the world to build peace, to one of the US as a defender of freedom. Membersof one pro-federation organisation, the World Federalist Movement, resigned „in fear ofMcCarthy ruining their careers.‟12 The post war period outside of the US was marked byWestern Europe‟s pursuit of regional integration, and the Global South‟s fight forindependence from colonialism. The idea of a world federation slipped out of intellectualconsciousness and any ideas of global democracy were replaced by schools of realism andpower relations.13 2.3. Democracy in the post-modern, global ageIn the decades after the collapse of the movement for world federalism, the word „global‟began to be used in academia and beyond.14 In the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, therise of neoliberal policy and extensive deregulation helped fuel the process of globalisation,which saw capital movements move around the world more freely, 15 encouraged byinternational financial institutions throughout the 1980s. The term, and the issues associatedwith it, perhaps reached worldwide public consciousness in the 1990s, highlighted by theBattle of Seattle in 1999.The use of „global‟ to describe business and social affairs reflects the fact that globalisation‟seffects went far beyond the legal relations of states and the pursuit of the prevention ofviolent conflict, the main aims of the UN. In this post-modern, global age, academicsquestion the nation state as the appropriate atomic structure for analysing governance issuesbeyond national territories. Scholars discuss the power of transnational business and activistorganisations. Better communication technology, as well as growth in international travel,allows networks of interest, from tax authorities to terrorists, to build greater connections.These elements render a new world in which the nation state struggles to maintain control ofnational policy, let alone its voice at the world table.Members of the public, hundreds of millions of whom struggled to achieve democratic ruleonly recently in Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa, now find themselvesaffected by forces they have no say over. Citizens going about their business in one state findthemselves buffeted by global financial shocks, climate change, or pandemics caused halfway11 Ibid.12 Citizens for Global Solutions, n.d..13 The World Federalist Movement today campaigns on less controversial issues than its name suggests.Headquartered in New York with a staff of 50 and members across 80 countries, it appears to carry some weightin international politics. The organisation points to recent successes such as the creation of the InternationalCriminal Court and, more optimistically, the development of the Responsibility to Protect. World FederalistMovement – Institute for Global Policy, 2010.14 Scholte, 2005: 43-44.15 Ferguson et al, 2010. 4
  7. 7. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012around the world. New global public bads emerge in the forms of transnational terrorism anddrug or people-trafficking networks. Power becomes fragmented and multi-scalar, operatedby unelected technocrats or private corporations richer than entire states, with accountabilitynot to the people, but to bond markets, boards or a small coterie of governments.Thus a problem of democracy is renewed. Nation states and their representative parliamentsno longer seem appropriate. The issue is best summarised by George Monbiot: “everythinghas been globalized except our consent. Democracy alone has been confined to the nationstate.”16This is not only a problem for democrats, but for anyone interested in effective globalrelations or solutions to global problems. There is a link, as the UN-sponsored Commissionon Global Governance points out, between legitimacy and effectiveness.17 Moreemphatically, Jan Arte Scholte argues that a lack of accountability in global governance is „acore challenge for anyone concerned with obtaining decent human lives for all in the twenty-first century.‟18 It is for this reason that Richard Falk suggests that global democracy„presents itself as an attractive normative project...the classless achievement of a more justsocial and political order.‟ He argues that without global democracy, „there will have to besome hegemonic rule that guides global affairs, or there will be dysfunctional chaos.‟ 19 Facedwith these latter two options, global democracy seems favourable, but calls for such politicalstructures are not supported by nation state governments. Paradoxically, the powerful nationstates, who consistently support democratisation within other nation-states, do not apply theprinciples of self-determination to the global level.20In sum, this new economic and political structure „demand[s] a new normative andconceptual understanding of democracy.‟21 The most radical response to that demand hasbeen from cosmopolitan democrats. This theory, developed in the 1990s by David Held andDaniele Archibugi, calls for a renewed model of democracy to create governance structuresthat account for the changed economic structure. David Held‟s model attempts to protectindividual autonomy against multinational forces through protection of democratic law acrossa scale from local to global. In reality, he argued, this required a supranational criminal court,an international court of justice with compulsory jurisdiction, and reform of the UN SecurityCouncil.22 Daniele Archibugi uses the same normative framework to suggest five prioritiesfor global institutions: restrict the use of force, support acceptance of cultural diversity,strengthen self-determination, monitor internal affairs and develop participatory managementof global problems.23 It is this latter priority, italicised here, that has been neglected in muchof the discussion of global democracy.16 Monbiot, 2003: 1.17 Commission on Global Governance, 1995: 66.18 Scholte, 2011: 4.19 Falk, 2012: 278-279.20 Falk and Strauss 2001: 220.21 Bohman, 2007: 3.22 Held, 1995.23 Archibugi, 2008: 88. 5
  8. 8. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012 2.4. SummaryThis section argued that ideas of global democracy developed only recently. The power of theWestphalian model of nation states has, since its earliest existence, overcome any alternativestructure that might meet the goals of world peace. Today, when global social and economicstructures touch almost all areas of human behaviour, governance concerns go far beyondviolent conflict, but the same structural problems remain. The response to the lack of consent-based governance at the global level has been new strands of political thought. This sectionhighlighted the views of cosmopolitan democrats, themselves guided by earlier work,especially by Kant. The cosmopolitans have not met with universal acclaim, but as RobertKeohane and Joseph Nye suggest, „designing effective and legitimate institutions is [the]crucial problem of political design for the twenty-first century.‟24 The next section, therefore,reviews the most commonly held suggestion among cosmopolitans and those remainingworld federalists: a world or global parliamentary assembly.24 Keohane and Nye, 2002: 242. 6
  9. 9. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 20123. Global representative democracyThis section describes the various conceptions of a world parliamentary assembly in order todeliver representative democracy at the global level. It briefly reviews different academicsuggestions, the reasons to support such a parliament, and a contemporary political campaignfor a UN Parliamentary Assembly. It then examines the problems with these conceptions andsuggests that the potential for effective design of such an institution, the likelihood of itscreation and its potential legitimacy are weaker than the advocates suggest. 3.1. A world parliamentOver the last 15 years, various models of a world parliament have been suggested. Theauthors of the models struggle with the perceived conflict between equal representation of theworld‟s people and fears about a truly representative organisation‟s efficacy. George Monbioteschews national borders, instead dividing the world into ten-million-member constituenciesacross borders, with direct elections in each – a direct reflection of parliamentary systems inthe Commonwealth.25 Joseph Camilleri et al propose a more complex system ofparliamentary houses - a global parliament rather than a world parliament – which wouldinclude groups of leaders from transnational corporations, labour groups, civil societyorganisations, and ultimately a UN Parliamentary Assembly linked to the existing GeneralAssembly.26 Andrew Thompson and Jan Aart Scholte suggest that to avoid the difficulties ofdesigning a new world parliament, a small democratic step could be taken by the formation ofa Civil Society Forum to enhance the voice of the marginalised in global governance.27Daniele Archibugi focuses on the role of such a parliament. He envisages a WorldParliamentary Assembly that would have the authority to decide which level of governmentshould take a decision in the case of a transnational issue. This is a unique idea which suitsthe cosmopolitan theory of respecting subsidiarity. He proposes a parliament for theadministration, rather than the exercise, of power. The assembly would be directly electedfrom existing states.28Johan Galtung theorises several potential forms. One model would upgrade the power ofheads of state (perhaps a Group of 193), another would upgrade the power of heads of UNagencies. Similarly to Thompson, Scholte and Camilleri et al, he also suggests capturing theglobal element by involving houses of corporate and civil society actors. He argues that theUN could appoint a civil society forum, which would meet in August of each year in order toguide the General Assembly, which takes place each September. Ultimately, however,Galtung argues that there is no alternative to worldwide direct elections, which are „bound tocome sooner or later.‟2925 Monbiot, 2003.26 Camilleri et al, 2000.27 Thompson, 2008; Scholte, 2008.28 Archibugi, 2008.29 Galtung, 1995. 7
  10. 10. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012Scholars have also discussed the method of establishing such a parliament. They argue thatthis could occur by UN Charter alteration, but that is unlikely to occur due to the veto powersof the permanent five members of the Security Council.30 Greater opportunities lie outside theUN system in a stand-alone treaty process between willing nations, as gave rise to the uniqueRome Statute, yet this would risk losing „global‟ legitimacy. The more informal suggestionsof fora of civil society organisations or corporate members could be unilaterally created bythose actors.Proposals for a world parliament as a method of re-establishing consent-based governancestructures, as opposed to a different type of democratic system, are not always justified.Direct democracy is largely ignored, perhaps on the assumption that, as Keohane and Nyespell out, unitary democracy for six billion seems utopic. There seems to be an unwrittenassumption that there are only two types of democracy, as well as an assumption thatrepresentatives do a relatively good job in the national systems, and that it is possible tosimply recreate the national structures at a global or world level.Only a few scholars do not rely on these assumptions. Richard Falk and Andrew Strausssuggest that a parliament is the only institution that allows „interest-group pluralism‟ toflourish, compared with contemporary global governance in which „unelected interest groupsspeak for the citizenry as a whole.‟31 Daniele Archibugi argues that a parliament would workbecause it builds on existing institutional governance; efforts to go beyond this would entail aworld government, which risks creating a tyrannical centre and is likely to be unpopular.32Public support would seem like an obvious reason for such a structure, but it is hard todetermine the will of the global public. The small amount of polling data that exists suggeststhat the public of at least 18 countries are broadly positive towards the idea of „moredemocracy at the UN‟ and the idea of electing their UN representative.33The most advanced project derived from these ideas is the campaign for a UN ParliamentaryAssembly (UNPA), led by the Campaign for a Democratic UN. The UNPA would bepopulated with representatives from national or regional parliaments until direction electionswere possible. The UNPA would perform consultation on the work of the General Assemblybefore gaining „genuine rights of information, participation and control vis-à-vis the UN andthe organizations of the UN system.‟34 In 2011, the European Parliament voted to ask theCouncil of the European Union „to advocate the establishment of a UNPA within the UNsystem in order to increase the democratic nature, the democratic accountability and thetransparency of global governance and to allow for greater public participation in theactivities of the UN.‟35There are several real organisations that currently seek to involve national parliamentarians atthe international or global level. The Inter-Parliamentary Union was formed in 1889 to „foster30 UN Charter, Chapter XVIII, Article 108.31 Falk and Strauss, 2001: 212.32 Archibugi, 2008.33 Council on Foreign Relations, 2009.34 Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, n.d..35 Bummel, 2011. The Council will decide on the matter in 2012. 8
  11. 11. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012coordination [among parliaments] experiences...defend human rights...andstrengthen parliamentary democracy.‟36 The Union has been criticised for not supporting thedevelopment of UNPA.37 Another group, Parliamentarians for Global Action, is more typicalof global governance institutions. Its 1300 members operate on an ad-hoc, non-partisan basis,to rally support for relatively uncontroversial global issues. Several other organisations existto involve national parliamentarians in the work of specific institutions or issues, such as theParliamentary Network on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the NorthAtlantic Treaty Organisation Parliamentary Assembly, or the Climate Parliament. 38 Anne-Marie Slaughter suggests that these networks tend to be unsuccessful compared with theirequivalent judicial and executive networks, due to the closeness of national legislators to theirconstituencies (they are designed to be parochial, not global), the short-term nature of theirposts, and their broad job remit.39 3.2. Problems with a world parliament and representative democracyThe problems with the idea of a world parliament reflect the design and size of itsconstituencies and the real likelihood of it being created. More fundamentally, the idea thatglobal democratic consent for governance can be concentrated at an apex does notappropriately reflect the way global governance has emerged.Firstly, it is difficult to determine a structure that could represent the world‟s populationwithout being too vast to function. Most of the models suggest that the constituency bordersshould be nation states, which risks repeating a mistake made in the European Parliament: thenational constituencies create an adversarial parliament in which the public vote for amember to „defend their interests.‟40 None of the suggestions made include the idea of globalproportional representation or a presidential system - perhaps felt so unrealistic that nobodydared propose it - that would coalesce publics around issues instead of locations, thus leadingto more cosmopolitan global political parties. This would require party lists for voters tochoose from, and global political links are currently weak. However, history suggests that thisidea would have potential: in the early 1900s, transnational labour groups had millions ofmembers and were successful in creating certain influential labour standards.41 Slaughtersuggests that a global parliament would be huge and unwieldy, its members too removed36 Inter-Parliamentary Union, n.d.. The IPU‟s strategy for 2012-2017 has three priorities, the second of which is„greater international involvement of parliaments.‟ This includes developing a „parliamentary division to thework of the United Nations and other multilateral institutions.‟ It does not mention a UNPA. IPU, 2011.37 Daniele Archibugi called the IPU „part of the problem, not the solution, for global democracy.‟ Bummel,2010.38 For more, see, and Slaughter, 2004: 105.40 See the proposal of Duff, 2012.41 For example, the Second International was influential in creating the norm of the 8-hour day, practised aroundthe world. The first and second „internationals‟ had many millions of members, but collapsed during World War1, which proved nationalism to be a greater force than solidarity. Later iterations, notably Comintern, wouldnever quite gain the global policy setting power. Contemporary transnational Islamic parties such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir have similarities with those older organisations. The Online Encyclopaedia of Marxism( is a good source for information on these groups. 9
  12. 12. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012from their purported constituents and would only have time to engage in vaguedeliberation.‟42Secondly, a world parliament may be unfeasible: the world is not yet ready for such an idea.Thomas Weiss hints at the lingering concerns related to the fears of a world government,suggesting that the idea is a taboo subject.43 The polling data mentioned above showed that aworld parliament has support from many countries around the world, though not from theUnited States or Australia.44 More importantly, the reaction of large undemocratic states tothis idea is not known. Any parliament that did not include the world‟s most populous nationcould not claim to speak for the world. Jeffrey Laurenti argues that if the parliament lacksauthority and legitimacy in the absence of China, politicians from democratic nations will notinvest their time in it. He argues that UNPA is an idea whose time has not yet come.45Thirdly, it is not clear that a parliament would be sufficient to close the legitimacy gap inglobal governance. There would be a complex balancing act to perform with national andregional legislatures, with some arbiter of decision-making necessary. Several of the modelsabove suggest that a parliament should include transnational corporations or civil societyorganisations, which also raises doubts as to legitimacy and authority. While these arepowerful actors, they cannot pass for democratic representatives. George Monbiot suggeststhat inclusion of civil society organisations would be a „disaster for democracy...the worldspeoples would be represented by animal welfare charities and cancer research trusts.‟46Scholte points out that both progressive and conservative causes would have to berepresented in any such forum.47 Moreover, these organisations are already involved in globalgovernance. Their power should be scrutinised before it is increased.48A similar, but more fundamental critique applies to the idea of the creation of another singleinstitution. A parliament would present authority and power in global governance assomething to be controlled at an apex. But it may be impossible for a single institution toappropriately reflect the affairs of seven billion people. Heikko Patomaki suggests thattheorists are unable to overcome „the domestic analogy...[and the idea that] the experienceand institutions of modern, Western men in a domestic polity can and should be applied to42 Slaughter, 2004: 237. This is arguably a problem at national levels too. As governance gets more complexwith interdependency across borders, but also across industries, social programmes and so on, representativeparliament looks weaker.43 „I cannot recall a single undergraduate or graduate student inquiring about the theoretical possibility of acentral political authority exercising elements of a universal legal jurisdiction. Certainly no younger scholarwould wish to cut short her career by writing a dissertation about it.‟ Weiss, 2012: 2444 Council on Foreign Relations, 2009.45 Laurenti, 2009. Laurenti is the Director for Policy Studies at the UNA-USA, so can be assumed to be a UNsupporter.46 Monbiot, 2003: 80-81.47 Scholte, 2011: 310.48 Freidrichs, 2005: 53. He refers to these groups as transatlantic civil society, quoting the Yearbook ofInternational Organisations, which shows that 85% of CSOs are headquartered in Europe or the US. One WorldTrust did a review of the accountability of CSOs, IGOs, TNCs and in some respects, TNCs proved moreaccountable than CSOs. Kovach et al, 2003. 10
  13. 13. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012the society of states or the world as a whole.‟49 The global democracy debate has definedglobal democracy too narrowly by only looking to representative democratic models.Patomaki instead suggests that global democrats should focus on the process ofdemocratisation, rather than on the idea of some utopian end-state. Global democracy mustbe „grounded in realist analysis of context, actors, social relations and mechanisms, and itstransformative possibilities.‟50 For example, a more basic condition of democracy should bepursued, such as the power of public deliberation. A better theory of global democracy wouldunderstand a more flexible distribution of power.51 3.3. SummaryThis section reviewed proposals for a world parliament, finding that most scholars lacked asufficient explanation for why democracy should be pursued in representative form at theglobal level. In fact, in light of the problems considered above, it is clear that representativedemocracy would be a weak response to the need for global consent-based politics. If, asPatomaki suggests, a theory of global democracy must abandon the domestic analogies andthink in terms of democratising processes, then global democracy must be reimagined. In thenext section, this paper develops ideas inspired by digital communications and collaborativedigital production, and suggests that a global digital deliberative and participative democracyis a stronger proposal.49 Patomaki, 2005: 104. Tevio Teivainen, 2012, argues, similarly, that to „change that world beyond theterritorial limits of states, we need to develop new ways of thinking apolitically about transformative agency‟(143).50 Ibid.51 Frey, 2005. 11
  14. 14. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 20124. Towards a global digital democracyThe last section showed that a world parliament may not solve the democratic deficit inglobal governance. This section presents an alternative. It argues that digital communicationstechnology creates the conditions for global democracy. Rather than adapting the UnitedNations system, or copying domestic models, it is inspired by Richard Falk, who suggestsglobal democracy can only emerge from a rupture in global society. 52 This rupture ishappening through the digital information and knowledge revolution. As seen throughouthistory, communications technology will disrupt and change governance.53 This section ispartly descriptive of change already occurring and partly predictive of change over the nextfew decades.This section suggests that digital democracy is a „grass-roots‟ phenomenon. Millions ofmicro-level campaigns or globally-oriented actions are digitally connected to becomedemocratic macro-demands for change or macro-solutions to specific global governanceproblems. As opposed to elites inventing another top-down governance institution, the modeloutlined here is of global democracy as a self-establishing force.54 It suggests that as ourunderstanding of democracy went from city-state level to representative national government,it can move back towards the inclusive unitary approach of those city-states, but on a globalscale.55This section proceeds by examining some of the fundamental elements of democraticgovernance: public deliberation, public participation and, more controversially, a globaldemos.56 The role of digital communications technology is discussed in regard to eachelement. 4.1. Global deliberationIn this paper, political deliberation is taken to mean the public process of the expression ofindividual views and of free engagement with others on certain subjects with a view todetermining the best course of action. In a deliberative space, good ideas rise, others fall,through discussion of the merits among the public. In this space, the public creates socialnorms, establishes priorities, and determines the boundaries which demarcate the realms ofpossible action.57 At a global level, this is the space in which global governance is discussedand the methods for its democratic control will be developed.For deliberation to be effective and inclusive, people must have equal access to informationand the ability to publish their views. Slaughter says that the first „basic principle to ensure an52 Falk, 2012. Mathias Koenig-Archibugi makes a similar argument, 2012:175.53 A good example is provided by The Economist, 2011, which compared the arrival of the printing press andreformation with social media and the Arab Spring.54 Monbiot, 2003: 117.55 Bohman, 2007: 20-21.56 These were chosen from a range of democracy-concerned readings in the bibliography. Bohman, 2007 andDryzek, 2008 were particularly influential.57 Doris Fuchs‟ discussion of discursive power describes these aspects well. Fuchs, 2005. 12
  15. 15. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012inclusive, tolerant, respectful and decentralised world order is global deliberative equality.‟58Global democracy must establish this and maximise the possibilities of participation. WhileSlaughter described informal deliberation as the goal of transnational networks of judges,finance ministers or industry figures, global democracy goes beyond those groups to allpeople everywhere. Martin Albrow and Fiona Holland suggest that „an open global society‟will occur when „Jefferson‟s idea of the power of ideas is joined to Habermas‟ view of fulland free communication‟.59 Thus any inequality in communicative and receptive capacityleads to unequal access to knowledge, which weakens the open discussion necessary forglobal democratic development.Greater global deliberation is essential not only as part of global democracy, but also to buildthe case for global democracy, which is not yet widely understood. This is partly becauseglobal governance and the need for better public oversight of, and accountability from, theactors at that level is itself not well understood. This will take time, as will the cultivation ofglobal trust and solidarity. The dialectical process required across cultures and languages ismost eloquently described by John Dryzek:“Democracy is about communication as well as voting, about social learning as well asdecision making; it is the communicative aspects that for the moment can moststraightforwardly by pursued in the international system.”60Similarly, Amartya Sen says that democratic deliberation helps citizens to learn from eachother and helps society to form values and priorities.61 For global democracy, all citizensmust be able to join the conversation. Keohane and Nye use this principle to refute ideas ofglobal democracy, because the „world as whole lacks...a corresponding public space fordiscussion.‟62 This is no longer true: the internet provides at least 2.3 billion people with adigital voice; including one billion mobile broadband subscriptions, a number growing at40% per year.63 Digital technology provides the platform for thousands of linked „spaces‟ forconstant global deliberation and the subsequent development of social norms, codes ofconduct, and reputations. This allows people to coalesce around an issue at any level fromlocal to global, reflecting the polycentric, multi-scalar nature of global governance. Withinten years, a majority of humanity will have equal access to information, knowledge and theability to publish to the rest of the world. The ease and instantaneity with which good ideas orarguments will be shared around the world can help establish a meritocratic globaldiscussion.Throughout history, the „democratisation of knowledge has been a driving force indemocracy,‟ but there has never been such a democratisation as this.64 While problems oflanguage, access and culture will limit this deliberation – issues are discussed in section six –the information revolution still represents a transformative change. Whereas other systems of58 Slaughter, 2003: 29-30.59 Albrow and Holland, 2008 : 270.60 Dryzek, 2006: 25.61 Sen, 1999: 10.62 Keohane and Nye, 2002: 234.63 International Telecommunication Union, 2012.64 Camilleri et al, 2005: 26. 13
  16. 16. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012governance are challenged by the involvement of huge numbers of people, digitaldeliberation benefits, as it sees greater engagement in micro issues, greater numbers of voters,individual actions, and more connections between similar-minded people.In James Bohman‟s description of a global deliberative space, he suggests that participantsmust acknowledge freedom and equality for all others in the space, and themselves address„an indefinite audience.‟65 Though Bohman was writing before the advance of social media,both these ideas are good descriptions of the digital public square. Users do publish online toan „indefinite audience‟: they do not know who will read their posts or the extent of supportfor their views. Furthermore, the nature of the popular web platforms makes it hard to avoidthe acknowledgement of freedom and equality of others in the space: the designers of theplatform set the rules for posting and the same rules apply to all users.Digital communications technology provides an open space for constructing whatever usersare able to produce, which gives people the opportunity to define their own deliberativespace. They might be invited to discuss a particular document online, but if it has norelevance or interest to them, they can create a new deliberation space on a different subject.Anonymous web spaces, such as Reddit, provide „fringe‟ areas of popular deliberation,which, as the history of art demonstrates, are often productive of creative ideas. Therealisation of these digital spaces, compared with their absence in traditional media, supportsScholte‟s call for „greater political space and more respectful hearing for radical critics ofpredominant capitalist and rationalist structures of contemporary global politics.‟66 The vastrange of (potential) spaces also prevents monopolies of information. In 1995, Johan Galtungwarned of the danger of single global media ownership, such as the powerful network ofcompanies owned by Rupert Murdoch. He suggested that „global democracy is only as agood as global media‟ and that an ideal exchange of information would resemble localbulletin boards and town hall meetings.67 This is today a reasonable description ofcontemporary global possibilities in the online space.One of the most used online publishing spaces is Twitter. It has 150m active users, of whoma large proportion are from the US, but the site sees significant numbers of Brazilian,Indonesian and Malaysian users too.68 Twitter is a micro-blogging platform, in which usershave 140 characters to make their point, whether banal or profound. They may include one ormore links to substantiate their post. Users can repost, reply or „mention‟ other users‟ postsand discussions can be followed by anyone. Reputations are built, and users gain followersbased upon trust and the quality of their posts. A few celebrities bring real world recognitionwith them and so start with a larger audience than merit would suggest, so it is not a perfectlydemocratic platform. However, it is completely open: any user can ask questions of any otheruser, or follow any other conversation. The growth in user numbers of the platform showsgreater numbers of politicians, activists and non-elite people are converging in this one space.65 Bohman, 2007: 60.66 Scholte, 2011: 341.67 Galtung, 1995: 28.68 Graham and Stephens, 2012. 14
  17. 17. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012Even in undemocratic countries, microblogging is opening possibilities for discussion andestablishing an understanding of deliberation. China‟s most popular microblog is Sina Weibo,which is regulated, but not owned, by the government, and has several hundred million users.While there is little English-language analysis of this platform so far, anecdotal evidencesuggests that local governments are willing to engage with citizens through microbloggingand that Weibo has been the catalyst for growing online activism with impact in the realworld.69 These spaces represent the global public square necessary to build globaldeliberative democracy. 4.2. Global participationThe development of a global deliberation space will not necessarily lead to consent-basedglobal policy, because there is no clear route to move from an idea agreed upon in globaldiscussion to global action. This is as opposed to national governance, in which publicdeliberation might lead to a motion in a political party, further discussion by electedrepresentatives and eventually legislation. This subsection suggests that global digitaldemocracy could instead develop global policy and its delivery through global digitalparticipation.In essence, digital collaboration and participation among the public in global affairs is themost transformative effect of digital technology for democracy. Rather than activism, inwhich people aim to encourage or place pressure on governments to act, the global public, orenthusiasts and experts among them, develop projects which deliver the global services thatthey themselves desire. This reflects a shift towards functional collaboration to achievecertain goals, similarly to some of the earliest international organisations, rather than placesof political debate, such as the post-war international organisations and particularly the UNGeneral Assembly.70 It is the desire for solutions to particular problems that drives publicinvolvement and voluntarism. So far these examples mainly involve producing more andbetter quality information on global issues to influence policy, but in future, delivery ofglobal policy could arise through digital participation.One of the earliest digital examples of the transformative effects of technology, which createda small, but important revolution in global health governance, was the development ofProMED-mail in 1994. The service, which still operates, is a simple email list of doctors andpublic health technicians, used to share news of disease outbreaks anywhere in the world.This small, open association had significant effects on traditional international healthrelations. Prior to its existence, infectious disease information was shared by governmentmedical departments to other governments through the World Health Organisation (WHO),which could not prevent a country from hiding information on disease outbreaks. ProMED‟sdata, from practitioners not governments, was more reliable, so much so that when the WHOdeveloped new International Health Regulations in 2005, member states agreed that theWHO could draw on this non-official information. This simple digital tool ended the official69 The Economist, 2012a and The Economist, 2012b. See also Hewitt, 2012 and Magistad, 2012.70 Lederer and Mueller, 2005: 2. 15
  18. 18. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012monopoly on global health information, and empowered medical professionals in any localeto act globally.71Other examples suggest that digital participation can deliver global goods regardless ofexisting organisational efforts. The best contemporary examples come from the provision ofinformation, particularly using digital mapping, in which users work to provide strongerevidence bases for global policy. In the global environmental sphere, technology is beingused to link users to collectively monitor deforestation in the Amazon. This is somethinginternational organisations, such as the UN Environmental Programme, have been unable todo. The Sistema de Alerta de Desmatamento platform connects local and global activists,harnessing the latter to monitor copious real-time satellite data to feed information to theformer, who can take appropriate action to prevent further deforestation. Their joint actionswill have positive effects globally: helping limit climate change. In this case, support wasprovided by Google Earth Outreach, whose manager suggests that a „collaborativemonitoring community, powered by the internet, [has] never been possible before.‟ 72 This isone example of the active participation that individuals can take in global governance,regardless of their nationality, expertise or affiliation.There are even examples of participation in global security governance, a field generally seenas managed by realpolitik and powerful states, with limited global normative restrictions. Anend to the monopoly of information on global security through digital participation couldherald more democratic solutions. One example of a digital development that helps to buildthat evidence base is Ushahidi, a crowdsourced disaster or conflict monitoring platform, builtby volunteers in Kenya to allow citizens to send information via SMS messages to a centralweb platform. It has proved fast and accurate in mapping real-time local events in a range ofdifferent contexts, opening the data gathered to the world for analysis and response.73 Clearly,an actual digital participative response, in the event that the data called for intervention, isdifficult to imagine. The crowd only provides the information, it does not control the physicalmeans to intervene. However, there are emerging signs that private actors – such as hackers -could play a role in punishing transgressors of global democratic norms.74The above examples will be indicative of greater and more complex digital participation inthe future. Those interested in global governance solutions will not need to lobby nationalrepresentatives to present their views at an international organisation, instead they will buildcollaborative solutions themselves. This presents questions of accountability and legitimacyof those taking part, which are discussed in section six.71 International Society for Infectious Diseases, n.d., and Zacher and Keefe, 2008: 48.72 Souza, 2012. While Google support necessary now, good candidate for crowdfunding.73 See For an evaluation of its use in Haiti, see Morrow et al, 2011. Even more remarkably, acharity called Satellite Sentinel is using commercial satellite imagery of Sudan to prove when and where attackshappened. It is easy to imagine how this data could be opened up for teams of volunteers to review, highlightand feed to the world (see Individual hackers under the label „Anonymous‟ have already acted several times in what they believe to bethe global public good, see, e.g. Perlroth, 2011. 16
  19. 19. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012 4.3. Global demosDemos is a Greek word (δημοι) meaning „the people or commons of an Ancient Greek state,especially a democratic state, such as Athens.‟75 It has become used as a term for a politicalcommunity in a specific location; it is in this sense that this paper uses it. The demos isrelevant because a criticism levelled against the idea of global democracy is that there is noglobal demos: no shared sense of political union and no common global value set.76 The termis not entirely uncontroversial. This subsection reviews three varied approaches to demos:firstly that the demos already exists, secondly that democracy in fact creates a demos, andthirdly that demos is actually unnecessary for global democracy. The subsection then showsthat digital democracy helps establish demos, whichever approach is taken.Firstly, the argument that a global demos already exists can be made by reference to our„common humanity.‟ This is most clearly demonstrated in the establishment of the UnitedNations and in the lofty preamble, as well as in the legally-binding articles of the UN Charter.The concepts of self-determination, human rights and above all, peace, were supported byevery country on earth having legally ratified the Charter of the United Nations.77 It is likelythat the vast majority of people on earth at least support the goal of peace.The second argument is that a demos is a product of socialisation, in which institutions arecreated first. Archibugi provides the example of the United States of America to demonstratethis. He argues that a demos - „Americans‟ - was constructed by the institution of nationhoodand the symbols of the flag and anthem that were created by a small group of leaders. 78 InEurope, alternatively, institutions have failed to create a demos, perhaps in part due to thepolitical design mentioned earlier. Europe is instead a loose group of national demoi.79Similar arguments that suggest a global demos would be built from global democraticinstitutions have been suggested by several other scholars.80 Given that any kind of groupconsciousness, whether it concerns values, community or solidarity, is likely to be a productof social interaction in which a cognitive shift occurs due to arguments, context, events, andlearning, this seems like a reasonable argument.The third argument that demos is in fact a myth can be split into three: it does not exist, or itexists in a multiple and flexible sense, or it is in fact a misleading and wrongly-pursued idea.Firstly, in an example like India, it may be hard to identify a demos, but India can still claimto be a democracy. The country is home to a wide variation of races, religions, languages anda complex social caste system. This plurality could prevent the existence of any kind ofpolitical „community‟ or shared values. Yet all Indians receive the same legal voting rights, at75 "demos, n.". OED Online, 2012.76 Keohane and Nye suggest that a demos must have a „degree of shared understanding.‟ 2002: 236. Bohmansuggested that Demoi (peoples) be used instead at the global level. Bohman, 2007:2. See also, Marchetti, 2012:23; Laurenti, 2009.77 UN Charter, Preamble, Article 1(1-5).78 Archibugi, 2008: 143.79 Voters elect an MEP for their region, rather than voting from a party list to represent their views for the wholeof Europe. There is a campaign for the European Parliament to move towards x-European seats: Duff, 2012.80 Murphy, 1999 describes the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin on collective consciousness and thefoundation of unity. Chardin argues that eventually humanity will come together in a world public space.Murphy himself argues that there has to be some sort of „rupture‟ that provokes this (p.126). 17
  20. 20. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012least in theory. Global democracy may be the same: a vast plurality of views, cultures,religions and other divides exists, but individuals have the same access and voice in theglobal digital public space. Secondly, cosmopolitan democrats would argue that there is nosuch thing as a single global demos. Instead, the demos is constantly changing. Followingglobalisation, demoi form around issues, fates or identities, such as „climate refugees‟ orindigenous peoples, rather than locations.81 As a result, global democracy would requireflexible decision-making structures and institutions. Lastly, Jurgen Habermas argues that theidea of demos is actually normatively backward. He argues that politics must be decentralisedand be rid of the metaphysical and inaccurate assumption of a „people‟ whose „collectivewill‟ is expressed. Instead we must recognise the individual as part of the whole.82A conception of global digital democracy can satisfy any of these approaches to demos.Firstly, if demos is a sociological construct, global digital democracy‟s prospects arestrengthened by the effects of digital social networking platforms. Seventeen years ago, wellbefore the internet‟s broad public use, the Commission on Global Governance claimed that a„new generation...are neighbours to a degree no other generation on earth has been.‟83 Ifglobalisation has created a „smaller world‟ then digital technology has connected it, erodingthe restrictions of time and distance, and potentially reducing „otherness‟. Internet users cantoday connect with others on platforms such as Facebook, on which nearly one in sevenpeople on the planet is now represented.84 This may increase people‟s awareness of theeffects of their actions upon others, which, coupled with the ability to empathise, could createa sense of community necessary for a global demos.Secondly, if a demos must be flexible and multi-scalar, as cosmopolitan democrats wouldargue, digital democracy copes well with this: it allows the creation of platforms at little to nocost and allows multiple membership of demoi or demos, which are flexible according topeoples‟ wishes. This is a unique element provided by digital democracy: individuals can joinin any debate or participatory project that interests them, anywhere in the world, thusremoving the problem of constructing fixed constituencies for a world parliament. The digitalspace allows what Bohman called „distributed publics.‟85 A good example of this is in „urbanpublics‟ for the governance of cities. Local communities tend to lead deliberation on localsubjects, but they are likely to experience common problems and thus could share commonsolutions with similar cities around the world. Digital communities allow networking acrossthe globe on these matters, sharing ideas and values. Membership of this „global urbandemos‟ does not render the city-dweller any less a part of their national or regional demos.86Thirdly, if the idea of demos is in fact misleading because it discounts the individual, asHabermas claimed about the falsehood of „collective will‟, digital democracy does not haveto repeat this mistake. Digital deliberation can occur at an individual-to-individual level. Inlarger participative projects an individual‟s view can be uniquely recorded as well as81 The author is grateful to Prof. Will Coleman for this point.82 Habermas quoted in Bohman, 2007: 31.83 Commission on Global Governance, 1995: 356.84 Facebook claims it has 955 million monthly active users. See Facebook, 2012.85 Bohman, 2007: 15.86 In this sense, cities are especially useful spaces for helping people understand a multilevel form of democracy. 18
  21. 21. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012categorised as part of a group. This allows a more complex understanding of political viewsand renders political labels such as left or right less useful. The technology allows clearmacro-impressions to be made from the vast quantity of individual data. Digital technologyenables this to occur in real-time, and data-visualisations can be performed to increase publicunderstanding of macro trends. 4.4. SummaryThis section proposed a reimagining of global democracy as a ongoing process of globaldeliberation and participation in the digital space. It suggested that digital democracyprovides a solution to any problems, should they exist, with the creation or existence of aglobal demos.The democratisation of knowledge and information is the first step towards and main focus ofcontemporary global digital participation, but it is possible to conceive of participative globalpolicy-making and ultimately even of better global policy delivery. Some of these long-termissues are dealt with in section six. The next section, however, suggests that while thefoundations of global digital democracy are being created, digital communicationstechnology also has positive implications for the current system of global governance. Itsuggests that the existing institutions of global governance, currently far more powerful thanglobal participatory movements, can be democratised through digital means. 19
  22. 22. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 20125. Democratising the global governance institutionsThis paper argues that global democracy is not best served by a world parliament. Instead itsuggests a digital deliberative and participative democratic model, which will be a constantproject over the coming decades. Currently, digital deliberation and participation does notlead to sufficient global action. Instead, the making and delivery of global policy rests withthe institutional bodies of global governance: any effort to create global democracy must aimto democratise these institutions. Robert Dahl believed that international organisations couldnever be democratic, partly since they lack elected officials.87 But the challenge of globalgovernance institutions is much broader than only international organisations. Global digitaldemocracy will have to drive openness and transparency in civil society organisations,transnational corporations as well as international organisations.James Bohman argues that the „weak publics‟ of the internet can only demonstrate globalopinion and that they will become strong only when they are able „to exercise influencethrough institutionalised decision procedures.‟88 The examples in the fourth section haveshown „internet publics‟ are capable of acting entirely independently, but in the short term,perhaps over the next decade, this section supports Bohman‟s view. It suggests thatdemocratisation of global governance institutions can be pursued via non-electoralaccountability and recognises some potential role for digital electoral accountability too. Itthen presents two subsections on social media and open data, two popular themes in digitalmedia that will help democratise existing institutions.89 5.1. Non electoral accountabilityAccountability for the exercise of power is not only provided by elections. This is mostclearly elucidated by Jan Arte Scholte, who suggests that there are four elements toaccountability in a system in which A has power over B.90 First, transparency is required tounderstand where power lies and how that power is exercised by A in a way that might affectB. Second, consultation is required where A intends to act in a manner that may affect B, inorder that B could alert A of this, and request changes to A‟s plan. Third, independentevaluation is required to demonstrate the true effects of A‟s action upon B. Fourth, correctionis required if B is unfairly or unjustly suffering from A‟s action, which should lead toremediation, or even A‟s removal from power. This subsection argues that digitalcommunication allows B, the affected party, to directly work to hold A accountable. In theparagraphs that follow, digital democracy is discussed in relation to each of these fourelements.87 The other reasons that Dahl gives: global people are not all free to express themselves, there are no politicalaprites, nor are there global citizens equal under one law. Archibugi, 2008: 134-135.88 Bohman, 2007: 82.89 A note on word choice: „institutions‟ is used to capture more than „organisation.‟ Organisations are assumedto have headquarters, letterheads, etc., whereas institutions are more flexible arrangements, such as such as theWolfsberg Group. A large international relations literature exists on this subject: Simmons and Martin, 2002,gives a good overview.90 Scholte, 2011. 20
  23. 23. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012Digital communication has reduced the resources required for institutions to becometransparent, voluntarily or not. Global institutions can publish more detailed and explanatoryweb sites and open their databases or they can be subject to involuntary transparency throughleaks to digital platforms such as WikiLeaks or through less controversial methods such asindependently-authored Wikipedia pages. Digital information does not expire or disappear, atleast as long as server space exists. Once published it is nearly impossible to prevent itsdissemination around the world. Digital tools often automatically record author names andthe dates of any alterations. When Slaughter described the lack of transparency in globaltransnational policy-making networks, she argued there was a need for „a public sphere forthe operation of government networks, to help citizens understand.‟91 This is now beingrealised, along with a greater expectation of transparency.Consultation between A and B can happen more often, more easily, globally, and far lessexpensively due to digital media platforms that exist solely for the purpose of consultation orthrough institutions‟ dedicated consultation web platforms; such as the World Bank‟s e-publishing, which creates the space for online comment and discussion on draftpublications.92 While consultation such as this has yet to reach a large audience, and itrequires educated, literate audiences as well as enthusiasm by the institutions themselves, thistoo reflects positively on global democracy. Digital technology allows large amounts ofconsultation data to be handled or visualised easily, and by taking place in one shared digitalspace, consultees may find it easier to work together on a constructive and powerful response.Evaluation requires independent and thorough monitoring of the effects of A‟s action on B.This may mean that vast amounts of data need to be analysed, and that independent authorsneed to be found. Digital platforms allow data to be collected and analysed far more easily. Itcan be done automatically by following „digital exhaust trails‟ or digital „footprints‟ left byinternet users, or „crowdsourced‟ by encouraging a large group to participate in data entry.93This group-sourced data is harder to corrupt, and the global deliberative space rendersevaluation more independent and more stringent.94 When publishing an opinion or joining apublic debate in a digital space is a possibility for the majority of the world‟s people, thequality of evaluation and its analysis should rise, as a greater number of worldviews arebrought together and the merits of an argument are more widely discussed.Correction involves changing policies to mediate the ill effects of a policy, to compensate B,or even to remove A. In this area global digital democracy can not yet achieve much, becausecorrection such as compensation requires a legal structure. However, some elements ofcorrection are possible: a digital community could decide to collectively remediate or supportB following A‟s action. Further, digital campaigns could put A under a public spotlight and,by sheer moral weight, force a response. These campaigns could encourage member states toact against an international organisation, or for consumers or shareholders to act against a91 Slaughter, 2003:235. Slaughter did mention the role that „virtual spaces‟ could play, but was writing longbefore the popularity of social media.92 See, e.g., Digital consultation products can be bought off-the-shelf via companies such asDelib: Accessed 17 August, 2012.93 Global Pulse, 2011.94 See Goldman, 2004, for an example of problematic pre-digital „independent‟ consultation and evaluationcarried out by the World Bank in South East Asia. 21
  24. 24. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012transnational corporation, or for members to act against a civil society organisation. Whileultimate accountability through correction would be met by A losing their job, global digitaldemocracy can not yet force this, though some ideas for electoral accountability aresuggested in the next sub-section.In sum, there is not yet a democratic revolution within global governance institutions, butpressure is increasing on global institutions to open up and if necessary, publicly explain orjustify their actions. It is the connections that digital communication creates between theinstitutions and the people, which allows the pursuit of non-electoral accountability. Everytime an institution‟s ideas, arguments, policies or data are published online, and each time amember of staff of these institutions engages online, transparency is increased, and globalgovernance gains a little more democratic potential. 5.2. Electoral accountabilityElectoral accountability, as practised in national governance institutions for parliaments,mayors, presidents - and in some jurisdictions, judges or police chiefs - does not exist in thesame sense in the global governance institutions. These national elections present anopportunity for holding power accountable and typically also represent a moment at which asignificant part of a population participates in their democracy. At the global level, this is„easier to state than to implement‟.95 Not only is there the size of the electorate to consider,but there are many areas of decision-making and power, which complicates the issue of towhom accountability is owed, and from whom it should be expected.Digital voting is already being used to shape global policy priorities, which may show thepotential of online voting. One recent example saw the organisers of the UN Conference onSustainable Development (or „Rio+20‟) establish a voting platform to try to make anauthoritative case for prioritisation of certain goals, which were presented to national politicalleaders. The organisers first invited public deliberation on ten topics led by experts in eachfield, then invited each topic group to nominate ten global goals. These were presented to theglobal online public for a vote. The impact of the voters‟ decisions, such as whether nationalnegotiators were influenced by this global popular support, is not yet known and wouldrequire further research. However, the ease with which the platform appeared to beestablished and the level of response, thought to be over a million votes, suggests this type ofglobal online voting platform may become more common.96The next step for electoral accountability in institutions would be global elections forleadership positions. Throughout history, only one such election has been attempted. Theboard of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which coordinates thenaming protocol for the internet and has „an important impact on the expansion and evolutionof the internet,‟ ran global direct digital elections in 2000 to elect five board „members-at-large‟ from nominations via the internet.97 Hans Klein suggests that while the electionpresented several challenges, it broadly refuted sceptics who view global elections as95 Archibugi, 2008 : 286.96 See Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 2010. 22
  25. 25. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012impossible: the community deliberated sensibly and many typical national institutions sprungup at the global level in response to the election.98 Despite ICANN‟s decision not to runfurther elections – they subsequently changed their governance structure – their experienceproved that running such an election is relatively simple. The size of a potential digitalelectorate is today both considerably larger and more reflective of the world population.It is also possible for an interested party to simply hold a digital vote without the approval ofan institution. For example, one small global governance weblog set up an informal poll forthe recent election of the President of the World Bank and received 3,500 votes and generatedmuch debate.99 It is not hard to imagine a more professional operation and a substantialeducation campaign resulting in a substantial electorate. The moral legitimacy conferred bythis vote might influence institutional voting reform or force national governments to reflectthe global verdicts.One more radical proposal to establish electoral accountability for global governanceinstitutions, which would adequately reflect their complex, networked and multi-scalarnature, would be to mirror this in a complex, multi-scalar digital voting platform. Oneexample of such a platform is LiquidDemocracy, developed by a German political party toensure that its members all had a say in the party‟s policy positions.100 It is based onpreferential and delegated voting: a member does not have to vote every time, they caninstead delegate their votes to somebody else, for as long as they trust them. The trustees canallow the manager of their vote the authority to delegate further, such that votes „trickle up‟in a digital network of delegated responsibility, which can flex according to reputations,expertise and so on. People seeking change on an issue could request votes from individualsor other delegates on different occasions, creating a hybrid between direct and representativedemocracies – a flexible, flowing style of democracy. The preferential element in the votingallows for ranked decision-making, which is arguably a more equitable way of findingagreement across a range of opinions and a complex electorate. There will probably furtherdigital innovations of this sort in future. 5.3. Global governance institutions and social mediaThis subsection, and the next, look at two still-emerging digital themes and their applicationto global governance. Social media refers to the information published by internet users andthe ability of connections to be made between them. In its most popular forms this includesweblogs, social networking sites and photo and video sharing. Many global governanceinstitutions run their own weblogs and many more have a presence on social networkingsites. Some of the most popular institutions have over a million connections with individualsor other institutions. Institutions use social media differently: some sign post their events orpublications, others, more promisingly, engage with citizens. For example, following JimKim‟s election to President of the World Bank, the institution invited questions from thepublic via social networks and he answered them in a web video, translated into four98 Klein, 2001. Scholte, 2011b refers to „this unique experiment‟ as „highly problematic‟, but this is an unfairreading of Klein‟s article.99 See Accessed 17 August 2012.100 See Accessed 17 August 2012. 23
  26. 26. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012languages.101 Compared with traditional media interviews, digital social networks allowleaders of institutions to maintain a constantly-updated presence, to informally discuss theirwork and to connect with the public in a way that forms a permanent, transparent, accessiblerecord.Social media can help lead to institutional transparency, a vital part of non-electoralaccountability. Social media lowers the barriers to public inquiries and to finding usefulinformation already published. It also helps improve the consultation element by making iteasy for institutions or their staff to share ideas and proposals in the early stages of theirdevelopment, in a more informal style than a bureaucracy would typically encourage. Forexample, consultation can be ongoing, rather than based on deadlines. Social media can alsoimprove evaluation processes, as individuals can easily check records of an institution‟sprevious claims and connections can be made to directly link those affected with those whotook the decision at the institution. The nature of the media means that every institutionalresponse to questions from the public will be open for discussion and comment. Improvingthe correction element of non-electoral accountability is more of a challenge for social media,though examples do exist of moral outrage changing the behaviour of such institutions,particularly corporations, and this effect will grow with greater membership.102The aspect of social media with the most transformative potential for institutions is the digitalpresence of actual policy-making institutional staff members, rather than press officers orcorporate channels. If decision-making individuals operate openly in the digital space, thenthe lack of political representation of the public is less of a problem, as they can communicatedirectly with the international civil servant, factory manager or campaigner that concernsthem. People do not need to elect someone to „represent‟ their interests, they can pursue it forthemselves.103 Several leaders of global governance institutions have online profiles and usethem appropriately to respond to questions, to seek the opinions of others or to share theircurrent reading list.104 However, the majority either have no digital presence, or have apresence, but use it only to broadcast their views, as opposed to debating issues with otherusers. This may change as a generation of staff more exposed to digital technology gain moresenior positions in these institutions. 5.4. Global governance institutions and open dataThe term „open data‟ refers to institutional databases which have been published online forpublic use. A growing quantity of data held by national governments is being shared online,such as databases of expenditure, pollution rates, reported crimes, and so on. One useful101 World Bank, 2012. The World Bank reported that they received 1,000 questions and comments from 62countries.102 Consumer goods and apparel companies, such as Apple, Nike and Reebok, have come under the mostpressure. See, e.g., Sage, 1999.103 The limits of this approach may not just be set by leaders of global institutions. Member states, donors orprivate sector partners may discourage public engagement in an open manner.104 Examples include the Administrator of UNDP, Helen Clark, the President of the International Fund forAgriculture and Development, Kanayo Nwanze; the Head of the European Parliament, Martin Schultz; the CEOof Virgin Group, Richard Branson; the director of the anti-poverty advocacy group One, Jamie Drummond; bothBill and Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation, and many more. 24
  27. 27. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012global example showing what the global public can do with open data from nations is anattempt by to track every government financial transaction in the world.105Another smaller example, but with a similar potential for transformative effects, is the effortby the Danish Refugee Council to publish real-time feedback on their aid programme fromthose it is supposed to help. This is revolutionary in the aid field, in which agencies aretypically accountable only to their donors. By opening this data, any interested people aroundthe world can review it, comment, provide assistance or flag up concerns to the institution.106The open data „movement‟ is largely led by a diverse group of national governments, some ofwhom formed the Open Government Partnership in 2011 to „make governments better‟.107The Open Government Partnership Declaration states that open governments will „increasethe availability of information about governmental activities, support civic participation [and]increase access to new technologies for openness and accountability‟ among other things.Countries can sign up to the declaration providing they meet minimum criteria. 108 Thisclearly encourages transparency within national governance and membership of the OGPclub provides an incentive and social norming in favour of openness. However, thepartnership currently only includes national governments: it should be widened to includeglobal governance institutions.Some such institutions already support the open data movement, such as the World Bank.109Others, particularly in the science field, have always published their data, recognising thevalue in opening up to fellow experts around the world.110 However, there are hundreds oflesser known institutions operating in global governance that could become more transparent.The data held by international financial institutions, for example, is presumably - or hopefully- particularly robust and detailed; making global economic governance claims relies oncomplex economic data. Yet these institutions are some of the most closed in globalgovernance.111In terms of open data and the private sector, extractive industries have been under pressurefrom activists for several decades to „publish what you pay‟ to display any corrupt paymentsto governments. Opening the data of powerful private institutions would expand this effortand generate useful information for the global public. Open Corporates, an enthusiast-createdplatform, scrapes public information on over 40 million corporations in 52 jurisdictions andpublishes it in a user-friendly way online. They argue that „few parts of the corporate worldare limited to a single country, and so the world needs a way of bringing the informationtogether in a single place, and more than that, a place thats accessible to anyone, not just105 See Their data includes most European and North American governments, but alsodata on Cameroon and Kenya.106 Ayala, 2012.107 Open Government Partnership, n.d..108 The criteria are based on a points system, by which your position on transparency indexes developed byvarious NGOs (e.g. on access to information get points based on score in index developed byOpen Society Initiative; on Citizen Engagement they use the EIU‟s Democracy Index). Makes some toughdemands of countries. The founding governments of the OGP were Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway,Philippines, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States.109 See For example, the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change. See Mattli and Woods, 2009. 25
  28. 28. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 2012those who subscribe to proprietary datasets.‟112 Although the site relies upon good nationaldata reporting, it forms a useful example of the ways in which the open data movement islikely to focus on the private sector over the next decade. The global private sector is likely toshow some intransigence, but simply opening non-proprietary data would create informationthat could help change the system.113 This kind of data could help local activists vet factoriesand working conditions, rather than relying on local government agencies that might not havethe will or capacity to enforce global standards.In sum, open data improves transparency, making it easier to see the exercise of power and todiscuss and evaluate the use of that power. Further, it democratises the knowledge on whichglobal policy arguments are constructed. Open data allows anyone in the digital space theopportunity to construct robust policy ideas and strengthen their arguments in globaldeliberation. Online enthusiasts are also proving skilled at visualising data such that even aweak grasp of data-handling or statistics does not prevent people from analysing suchinformation. Eventually, open data and the tools to use it will enable inspired individuals ornetworked groups of globally-minded citizens to build their own constructive solutions(„open solutions‟) to global governance problems. 5.5. SummaryThis section has shown that the democratisation of global governance institutions, as withglobal democracy as a whole, is most rapidly developing in terms of freer information, whichin this case improves non-electoral accountability most obviously through increasedtransparency. The democratisation of knowledge and of access to global policy makers,through open data and social media will create a more direct and participatory system. In thelong term, innovations in digital collaboration may render certain institutions resistant,particularly those that are too bureaucratic to react to change or those whose principals,member states or shareholders, would lose from democratisation.114 In the meantime,however, these institutions hold the budgets and much of the knowledge necessary to scale-up better solutions for management of global affairs. Democratising the institutions throughdigital means is an important first development of a global digital democracy.This paper has thus far presented an optimistic view of the potential of digitalcommunications technology to lead to global democracy. The next section considers thelimits of these arguments.112 See www.opencorporates.org113 Shadbolt, n.d.. The apparel company, Nike, have experimented with open data (Turoczy, 2011).114 Keohane and Nye, 2002, suggest that a lack of transparency in international organisations is politicallyefficacious for member states (p. 221). 26
  29. 29. Joe Mitchell Reimagining global democracy Summer 20126. Limitations of the democratising global governance agendaThis section attempts to anticipate criticism of the general thesis put forward in this paper –ideas which have arisen throughout the paper, but that are listed here to avoid repetition. Fourpotential criticisms are identified: the dangers created by neoliberalism, the issues with director participatory democracy as the „tyranny of those who show up‟, the real limits of globaldigital democracy when faced with complex or zero-sum problems, and finally the languageand digital divides that could prevent a true global public space. Each argument is outlinedand followed by a counterargument below.115 6.1. Global democracy is not possible alongside global neoliberalismThe first criticism suggests that as neoliberal forces drove globalisation, the interests ofglobal capital-owners will compete with any attempt to build a global democracy that wouldreflect the interests of everyone else. Bhupinder Singh Chimni criticises cosmopolitandemocrats for their failure to recognise the importance of economics in global politics.116 Inhis view, in order to enact global democracy, the economic system must be changed. Thereare several examples of the effects of economic globalisation on global governance, includingin global economic governance, which is led by international financial institutions, at whichvoting structures are determined by national income, not by population. These internationalorganisations, along with the Group of Seven, Eight or Twenty countries, the Bank ofInternational Settlements and several private organisations, have been criticised for comingunder the undue influence of private interests.117 Another more subtle example of privateinfluence is shown in the distinction between the World Economic Forum, an agenda-settingorganisation whose annual conference presents many opportunities for networking betweenbusiness leaders and political leaders, and the World Social Forum, which fails to generatethe same discursive influence.The response to this argument is twofold. Firstly, it is conceivable that the norm oftransparency and accountability, as outlined in section five, will grow even in transnationalcorporations. Clearly, the private sector, as befits its name, is the most closed part of globalgovernance. Yet everything this paper has described thus far suggests that private sectororganisations too will be unable to avoid opening up; if not they will face creative destructionat the hands of more collaborative, cooperative production methods. This relates to thesecond, broader and more fundamental response to Chimni: digital participation is somethingof a revolution itself. It is driving non-market-driven collaboration and production and it ischanging the traditional assumption of the value of intellectual property rights. In digitalcommunities, users direct their resources, often time and expertise rather than money, based115 This paper assumes throughout that democracy is an appropriate state for global governance to aspire to. AsAmartya Sen says: democracy „is intrinsically important to human life ... [and has a] constructive function in theformation of values. These merits are not regional in character.‟ 1999:16. Yet this is not uncontroversial.Arguments from various scholars in fields such as critical political theory and anthropology suggest that theuniversalisation of democracy is not value-neutral. Due to limited space, and the underlying assumption of thepaper, these are not dealt with here, but the author is grateful to Professor Will Coleman for his guidance on thisissue.116 Chimni, 2012.117 Mattli and Woods, 2009. 27