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Thursday, 12 June, 2003, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Manifesto to change the world
May Day protests
We've all seen pictures of anti-globalisation protesters in London or Seattle demonstrating against the IMF, the World Bank, Third World Debt and American power. But it has never been entirely clear what - if anything - positive these protesters would agree upon to defeat and replace their enemy - modern global capitalism.

Well, in his new book The Age of Consent, the environmental campaigner and author George Monbiot has some ideas for a positive anti-globalisation agenda, including a world parliament.

Newsnight gave him a camera and asked him to explain.

Sometimes when you are thinking about how the world might change, you need to get away from the debates and the demos, to somewhere quiet like Hurst Castle on the Hampshire coast.

For generations the English have defended their borders. Henry VIII built the castle to repel the French and the Spanish. The same castle was used in the Second World War. The fortress mentality is obsolete in the modern world.

Globalisation is ripping down the walls, political, economic, cultural and linguistic that kept us apart and its establishing a single planetary class interest - as people all over the world are affected by the same forces and institutions. It has granted us all the conditions we need to overthrow the existing world order. Instead of retreating into our castles, we should seize this opportunity and use it change the world.

Thousands of people at the beginning of this month gathered in Geneva to protest as the leaders of the G8 met. Protest is necessary, but it's insufficient. To change the way the world is run, we must not only oppose but also propose. We need in other words, a manifesto of our own.

The soldiers billeted here in the Second World War were defending democracy. Millions of lives were lost before Hitler's dictatorship was overthrown. The global institutions set up by the victors in the aftermath of the war were deeply undemocratic.

In 1945 the charter of the United Nations was drafted at a conference in San Francisco. It was meant to represent the interests of all the peoples of the world. But the victors of the Second World War and their main allies made sure it was controlled by them. They became the permanent members of the Security Council, any one of them can block a decision taken by every other nation state. Even the UN General Assembly is a undemocratic body. Many of the members are not themselves democracies and have no claim to represent their people. And it's riddled with rotten boroughs. The 10,000 people of Tuvalu has the same vote as people in India.

In 1944 economists form the principled allied nations disembarked in New Hampshire to found the bodies which became The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The US insisted they were run on the time-honoured democratic principle, one dollar one vote. The countries with - the biggest financial quote - quotas have the most votes. The rich nations still use their power to control the economies of the poor.

It's time that democracy stopped being turned back at the national border and became the principal by which the world is run.

Here in Gateshead the sculptor Antony Gormley has just opened his latest exhibition. There is something about his work which seems to resonate with some of the ideas I'm trying to promote.

So what would a world order based on democracy look like, not dissimilar to a democratic nation state, its pre-eminent political body, would be a world Parliament. In the Baltic Gallery he has sought to unlock the power and presence exerted by every human being. My project is similar to that. Let's imagine these people as the members of our new world Parliament. Let us picture a chamber of some 600 representatives, each of whom would be elected every few years by a constituency of around 10 million people. This body would instantly possess something which no other global institution had. Namely, moral authority. The authority would come from the fact that it was the only body which could claim to represent the world's people. It could use that authority to hold the other international institutions to account.

At the same time, let us picture a reformulated United Nations. Democratisation would mean scrapping the Security Council and handing its powers to its general assembly. The general assembly itself could be democratised by means of weighted voting. China, because it has a big population, would have more votes than a small country but fewer than it would have if its government was democratically elected. A small country like Tuvalu would come in higher on the global democracy index but it's very small population would earn it fewer votes than a big democracy.

We have established a self-reinforcing system. Governments would have an incentive to encourage elections to a world parliament, because that would increase their score on the global democracy index. The world Parliament in turn could hold the UN to account enhancing its legitimacy. We could expect the two bodies to begin to draw together and in time to form a two chambered Parliament for the planet.

The way in which the UN was bypassed before the invasion of Iraq has changed everything. Until March of this year, ours looked like an impossible project. The old undemocratic world order seemed impregnable. The war has turned George Bush into an unlikely ally of the global justice movement. He seems determined to destroy the instruments of power the Security Council amongst them which have served the US so well we can expect the men who run the world to resist global democracy just as the monarchy and the aristocracy resisted national democracy.

There may be a way of overcoming their resistance. Poor nations possess an invincible weapon. If you owe the bank $100 you are in trouble. If you owe them $100,000 the bank is in trouble. What if you owe the bank $2.5 trillion. If you defaulted on your debts at once you could bring down the entire global financial system. The point of possessing a terrifying weapon is that you don't necessarily have to use it. The fear alone can be sufficient to get results. Nowhere does fear do its work more effectively than in the great concrete towers of the financial markets. We should seek then not to overthrow globalisation, but to capture it and to use it as a vehicle for humanity's first global democratic revolution.

In the 19th and 20th century's democracy was demanded for the nation state. In 21st century those who oppose the current dictatorial global order should demand democracy for the world.

This transcript was produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.

George Monbiot, Campaigning Journalist
argued that there has never been a better time to launch a manifesto for a new world order.
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