Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How does one govern seven billion people?

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia and in Portuguese on his blog. Some of his older columns are available in English at LeonardoBoff.com.

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

Last week we dealt with the challenge of feeding seven billion people. The increase in global population is at a growing rate -- in 1802, we were one billion, in 1927, 2 billion, in 1961, 3 billion, in 1974, 4 billion, in 1987, 5 billion, by 1999, 6 billion, and finally, in 2011, 7 billion. In 2025, if there is no abrupt warming, we will be 8 billion, in 2050, 9 billion, and in 2070, 10 billion. There are biologists like Lynn Margulis and Enzo Tiezzi who see in the acceleration a sign of the end of the species, like bacteria when they are placed in a closed container (a Petri dish). Sensing the end of nutrients, they multiply exponentially, and then, suddenly, all die. Would this be the last flowering of the peach tree before it dies?

Regardless of this threatening issue, we have an exciting challenge -- how does one govern 7 billion people? It's the subject of global governance, i.e. a multipolar center with the role of democratically coordinating the coexistence of human beings in the same country and Common Home. This configuration is a requirement of globalization, because it involves the interweaving of all with all within the same single living space. Sooner or later global governance will emerge, since it is a requirement that cannot be postponed to address global problems and ensure the sustainability of the Earth.

The idea itself isn't new. It was already present as an idea in Erasmus and Kant, but it acquired its first real contours with the League of Nations after the First World War, and definitely after the Second World War with the United Nations. The latter doesn't work because of undemocratic veto power of some countries that make any global initiative against their interests unviable. Organizations like the IMF, the World Bank, World Trade Organization, WHO, ILO, GATT and UNESCO are expressions of the presence of some global governance.

Currently, the worsening of systemic problems like global warming, water shortages, maldistribution of food, the financial and economic crisis and wars calls for global governance.

The U.N. Commission on Global Governance defines it as "the sum of many ways individuals and institutions manage their common affairs and resolve diverse interests in a cooperative manner. It includes not only intergovernmental relations but also NGOs, grassroots movements, multinational corporations and global capital markets."

This globalization is also at the cybernetic level, through global networks, a kind of governance without government. Terrorism has caused a security governance in the threatened countries. There's a perverse global governance that we could call governance of global corporate power formed by the great economic and financial consortia which are organized in a concentric manner until arriving at a small group that controls about 80% of the economic process. This has been demonstrated by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Research (ETH) that competes in quality with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and has been exposed among us by the PUC-SP economist Ladislau Dowbor. This power is not well-known, but it has a major influence in world politics starting from the economy.

These are the basic contents of healthy global governance: peace and security, avoiding the use of violent resolution, combatting hunger and poverty for millions of people, education accessible to everyone so that they can be protagonists in history, health care as a fundamental human right, basic decent housing, personal, social, cultural and gender human rights, rights of Mother Earth and nature, preserved for us and future generations.

To ensure these minimum things, common to all humans and also to the community of life, we need to decrease the figure of the nation states which are tending towards disappearing in the name of the unification of the human species on planet Earth.

Just as there is only one Earth, one humanity and one common destiny, a single form of governance must emerge, unique and complex, that will take charge of this new global reality and allow the continuation of human civilization.

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