by Alec Neilly & Andreas Hemmetter, Young World Federalists
What would the global stance on nuclear weapons be if all the people of the world could express their views on the subject directly? What if we had a supranational body that democratically represented all world citizens, rather than the interests of a few powerful governments? That democratic body is a world parliamentary assembly.
A child born today could have worse-than-even odds of experiencing a nuclear war claims Stanford professor Martin Hellman. According to the ‘Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,’ nuclear weapons continue to pose an existential threat to the world, especially to younger generations as we go forward. It is odd then, the apathetic way in which most of the public thinks about nuclear weapons. Such analyses should give us pause to reevaluate our priorities in global politics. In recent years, global issues such as the climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic have grabbed public concern. However, nuclear weapons have merely become something that we have learned to live with.
One cannot deny that great progress has been made in limiting the proliferation of nuclear weapons. However, these developments have faltered in recent years. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) and Open Skies treaties have been terminated, increasing tensions between Russia and the US, non-proliferation is at risk due to the failed Iran deal, North Korea is threatening neighboring countries with its new weapons, and established nuclear nations have invested heavily into the modernization of their nuclear arsenals.
And what does the public think about that? According to a survey by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), 84% of millennials say that the use of nuclear weapons is never acceptable. A similar survey by the Simons Foundation found that across the board, more than 70% of adults think that nuclear weapons make the world a more dangerous place. Even in nuclear states, citizens are predominantly against nukes: 63% of Russians and 73% of Americans favor eliminating all nuclear weapons. Clearly, if people were given a say, nuclear weapons would all but disappear from our world.
We see that the vast majority of the world’s population, at home and abroad, opposes nukes. And yet, little tangible effort is made towards ensuring a world free from the danger they pose. National governments act on the paradigm of national security to retain existing nuclear weapons or even to obtain new ones. Our governments have maneuvered themselves into a prisoner’s dilemma in which the most rational action is to build more nukes and hold tightly to the ones they have. We cannot continue in this fashion. We need a new approach. We need to give the people of the world a say in global affairs.
In 1949, the United States House of Representatives signed a House Resolution supporting the development of the UN into a World Federation. Among the signers of the resolution was Massachusetts Congressman John F. Kennedy. Peace Action itself was even founded by world federalists, led by Norman Cousins, when the organization was initially founded in 1957 as the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy. However, the movement slowly faded as the Cold War intensified, and by the time the US was the world’s sole superpower, Americans were in no rush to share that power with a global institution. However, the Young World Federalists aim to bring that vision of global unity back.
A world parliament would empower everyone in the world to express their opinions on matters of global concern and actively participate in finding global solutions. The weight of a binding world parliament resolution, legitimized by 8 billion people, would be a powerful voice against the destructive national interests of any individual government, and for the common interest of every human being. Instead of the will of the most powerful few governments dictating world politics in order to maintain their own power, global issues such as nuclear weapons, climate change, and global pandemics would be addressed by a body representative of the will of all people.
Surely, establishing a world parliament would require great effort and would meet significant resistance from the status quo of national governments insisting on their own selfish interests, but it is a necessary step on the journey towards a more peaceful world. In the words of Robert Schuman, founding father of the European Union, “World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.”
–Alec Neilly is a Northeastern University Student and intern at Massachusetts Peace Action as well as a board member of YWF USA. Andreas Hemmetter is a board member and Communications Director of YWF Global.