Becoming worldwide citizens

We have certainly come a long way from the times when the majority of people did not have a say in the running of their country – or rather some empire which was not theirs. From the feeling of belonging to an extended family, tribe, or small village, now most people feel they belong to their nation.

All well and good, but we are now facing a problem: a lot of major issues do not belong to any nation in particular. Take for example the environment, our financial systems, immigration, personal data, the use of drones, genetically modified food – all issues which are seriously affecting all of us and yet there are no independent and powerful institutions which can set worldwide regulations and enforce them. A case in point is the saga of Edward Snowden: who should decide his fate? The US whom he has “betrayed”? Countries who are known to be non US sympathisers? The victim countries which have been spied upon? Clearly, none of these parties is impartial. The same can be said for the other issues mentioned above which are currently being handled by ill prepared politicians from the perspectives of the nation they represent.

OK, one might say there is the United Nations; but we all know how helpless it has been in the face of certain issues such as the Syrian uprising. The way I see it, the world urgently needs stronger worldwide mechanisms to handle worldwide issues. Further in the future, I would imagine a single worldwide state, but that is far too much ahead of our times. Fortunately, we already have a foretaste of what it means for nations to join forces with blocs such as the EU, and other continent-based agglomerations (e.g. ASEAN). These movements are not without their challenges and they are still in their infancy. Yet, the underlying principles enabling free movement, sharing of resources, a common court of justice, etc, are slowly bringing a change in mentality, particularly in the upcoming generations.

All these dreams of a united world may sound naive and they may well be. Still, I believe the Internet can help us imagine what a united world could be like. In many ways the world is already united. Who could have dreamed up till a few years ago, when Encyclopedia sellers sold expensive books by knocking doors, of a free encyclopedia maintained by people all over the world? Who could have thought that software maintained by professionals in their free time would be available for everyone at zero cost? Who would have imagined that before travelling to a country you could roam its streets and read what other customers thought about the hotel you are thinking of booking? I wonder whether there was a time with so much collaboration in all of human history!

Yet, with so much borderless activity, our institutions remain largely disconnected with politicians (even locally!) still emphasising the national interest before human rights and international concerns. This surely is a short-sighted way of seeing things! We all know and are already suffering the consequences of egoistic reasoning with so much natural resources lost, flimsy financial structures, etc.

On a number of levels we are already too late! If we want humanity to live on, we have to start thinking wider and longer!

2 thoughts on “Becoming worldwide citizens

  • Reply Chris Porter 18th July 2013 at 10:31 am

    Hi Chris,

    These are very interesting insights, which show the strides humanity has made over a short period of time.

    This idea of global governance has been a dream of many, and in line with Wikipedia, we now have efforts such as global.yougov.com which aims at bringing a voice to every global citizen. Also, avaaz.org attempts to influence decision makers through petitions.

    But how about crowd-sourced government? Wouldn’t that be a great idea? Take Kickstarter.com, a site that lets people fund projects (i.e. the crowd decides which projects are to be implemented). Now, transpose this to a governmental-arena, where local councils or smaller groups of people propose projects for their country, and the people vote for (and why not, fund), these projects. Obviously this idea has many flaws, starting with large companies funding projects that meet their goals, rather than the general public’s.

    Nonetheless, to start with, crowd-driven decision making may not be so much of a bad idea. I’ve seen projects, such as potholes.co.uk that lets people alert authorities of road maintenance needs. This can be extended onto other areas, where people manage politicians’ priorities (through the voice of many), rather than the other way round.

    This is the way forward I guess, and it’s what the idea of transformational government is all about, for which an open standard is being developed (oasis-open.org), where “transformational government begins with citizen engagement”.

    Chris

  • Reply Christian Colombo 18th July 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Wow Chris! Thanks for mentioning all these initiatives! Wasn´t aware of a number of them. Sometimes I really wish to fastforward in time to see what we will have achieved in the coming decades! 🙂

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