FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is World Federalism?
World Federalism is a proposal for running the world better. More concretely, World Federalism is the idea of creating a global federation - a united states of the world, with nations as the individual members. Such a world federation would be a democratic republic, with a parliament directly accountable to the world’s population, an effective, elected government to make decisions, and independent courts, based on a universal constitution.
How would a World Federation differ from one world government?
A one world government would abolish nations and manage all affairs centrally. A federation, on the other hand, is a collection of states that retain most of their sovereignty. Member states are free to make decisions that concern only themselves, but must work in the democratic institutions of a global republic on issues of global concern. World Federalism wouldn’t replace sovereign nations, it would work with and complement them, dealing only with those few global issues that are not better addressed at lower levels of governance. This is what “federal” means - different levels of governance for different levels of issue. Most large countries, such as the US, Germany, India, and Brazil, are already organised this way, and the world should be organised this way too.
How would a World Federation differ from the United Nations?
The United Nations is not a World Federation or a unitary world government - it is an organisation seeking to improve international relations by providing a forum in which to negotiate. As important as the UN is for international relations, there are a number of design flaws that stop it from being effective: permanent Security Council members with veto rights, representation without consideration for population size, no direct influence by citizens and the insistence on national sovereignty. In the UN, nations always have the last word. This makes it nearly impossible to take coordinated action on pressing problems, such as climate change, pandemics, poverty and war. In a World Federation, member states would be subject to binding world law, formulated in a democratic process involving all the world’s citizens.
Why do we need a World Federation?
Our world today is in a gridlock - national governments know what would be best for the world as a whole, but cannot take action for fear of weakening their position on the world stage. Our track record on dealing with humanity’s biggest problems (climate change, pandemics, poverty, war and human rights abuses) have therefore been pathetically poor. Unrestricted national sovereignty is the main reason for this. If we had a global federal government, we could pass legislation and take action to prevent and solve these global crises and launch ambitious new projects.
Would it work?
Sure. Most large countries, such as the US, Germany, India, and Brazil, are already organised as federations; the EU is currently on its way to becoming a federation. They manage to govern different cultures, languages, religions and large geographical expanses in this way. The size of the political unit has been increasing throughout history from the tribe to the city to the nation - only one small step remains to the global level.
We need a World Federation now because the sustainability crisis poses an existential risk for human civilization. The last time humanity faced such a risk - after nuclear weapons were used in WW2 - there was a popular movement for world governance. Prominent supporters included Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Einstein. That movement faded with the advent of the Cold War. Now the Cold War is over, and we again face an existential crisis, in which the enemy is not a different ideology, but our own inability to cooperate. It is time to revisit the idea.