World Government

World government is the concept of a political body that would make, interpret and enforce international law. Inherent to the concept of a world government is the idea that nations would be required to pool or surrender (depending on point of view) sovereignty over some areas. In effect, a world government would add another level of administration above the existing national governments or provide coordination over areas national governments are not capable of adequately addressing as independent polities.

To date, no nation has officially put forward plans for a world government, although some people do see international institutions (such as the International Criminal Court, United Nations and International Monetary Fund) and various supranational and continental unions (such as European Union, South American Union and Asian Union) as the beginning elements of a world government system. An organization comprised of legislators from various nations known as Parliamentarians for Global Action have promoted ideas of democratic global governance, though such promotion has varied in its scope and intensity during the organization's history.


History of the world government idea

Early concepts

The need for a global government to preserve the peace between nations was discussed in ancient Greek and Roman times, and, in modern times the idea has been recognized since the early 14th century (Dante, for example, discusses it in his book Monarchia, 1329). In 1625, the great Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius wrote De Jure Belli ac Pacis (The Laws of War and Peace), which is commonly taken as the starting-point of modern international law. The idea of a federation gained much momentum during the late 18th century, a period in which the first modern democratic federation, the U.S., was established (1788), and in which Immanuel Kant wrote the essay "Perpetual Peace: a philosophical sketch" (1795). In his essay, Kant describes three basic requirements for organizing human affairs to permanently abolish the threat of a future war:

  • The civil constitution of each state shall be republican
  • The law of nations shall be founded on a federation of free states.
  • The rights of people, as citizens of the world, shall be limited to the conditions of universal hospitality (i.e., people would be allowed to visit other countries, but not to stay unless invited).

The 19th Century

In 1811, a German philosopher Karl Krause, suggested, in an essay titled "The Archetype of Humanity," the formation of five regional federations: Europe, Asia, Africa, America and Australia, aggregated under a world republic. In 1842, the English poet Lord Alfred Tennyson, published the oft-quoted lines ("Locksley Hall"): For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see / Saw a Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be /... / Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer / and the battle-flags were furled / In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world. / There the common sense of most shall hold / a fretful realm in awe / And the kindly earth shall slumber / lapt in universal law.

Between 1852 and 1892 Bahá'u'lláh founded the Bahá'í Faith, and identified the establishment of a global commonwealth of nations as a key principle of his new religion. He envisioned a set of new social structures based on participation and consultation among the world's peoples, including a world legislature, an international court, and an international executive empowered to carry out the decisions of these legislative and judicial bodies. Connected principles of the Bahá'í religion include universal systems of weights and measures, currency unification, and the adoption of a global auxiliary language. The Bahá'í Faith currently counts in excess of 5 million members spread across the globe.

Following the U.S. experiment, Switzerland (1848) and Canada (1867) formed the first multi-national federations, uniting distinct ethnic/cultural/lingual regions under a common government.

Ulysses S. Grant commented, "I believe at some future day, the nations of the earth will agree on some sort of congress which will take cognizance of international questions of difficulty and whose decisions will be as binding as the decisions of the Supreme Court are upon us" [citation needed]International Peace Congresses were held in Europe every two years starting in 1843, but lost their momentum after 1853 due to the renewed outbreak of wars in Europe (Crimea) and North America (U.S. Civil War). International organizations started forming in the late 19th century – the International Red Cross in 1863, the Telegraphic Union in 1865 and the Universal Postal Union in 1874. The increase in international trade at the turn of the 20th century accelerated the formation of international organizations, and, by the start of World War I in 1914, there were approximately 450 of them. Support for the idea of establishing international law grew during that period as well. The Institute of International Law was formed in 1873 by the Belgian Jurist Gustave Rolin-Jaequemyns, leading to the creation of concrete legal drafts, for example by the Swiss Johaan Bluntschli in 1866. In 1883, James Lorimer published "The Institutes of the Law of Nations" in which he explored the idea of a world government establishing the global rule of law. The first embryonic world parliament, called the Inter-Parliamentary Union, was organized in 1886 by Cremer and Passy, composed of legislators from many countries. In 1904 the Union formally proposed "an international congress which should meet periodically to discuss international questions."

Previous attempts

It should also be noted that to date world governments were not democracies, and over human history there have been many 'world governments' which were empires or dictatorships. Famous examples are Alexander the Great and his empire, the Mongol Empire, and the British Empire, which all encompassed substantial portions of the then known world; in the case of the British, a quarter of the world's surface and approximately a third of the world's population. This is the single closest time that the world has come to a total political unification.

Since then, unsuccessful attempts were made throughout the first half of the 20th century to establish global institutions to resolve international disputes peacefully, or, when these fail, to establish laws in the conduct of wars between nations. The most remarkable ones include the Hague Conferences of 1899 and 1907, which failed to prevent World War I, and the League of Nations (1919-1938), which failed to prevent World War II.

Post-World War II

World War II (WW2), 1939-1945, resulted in an unprecedented scale of destruction of lives (72 million dead, most of them civilians), and the availability of city-destroying atomic weaponry. Some of the acts committed against civilians during the war were on such a massive scale of savagery, they came to be widely considered as crimes against humanity itself. As the war's conclusion drew near, many shocked voices called for the establishment of institutions able to permanently prevent deadly international conflicts. This led to the founding of the United Nations in 1945, which adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Many, however, felt that the UN, essentially a forum for discussion and coordination between sovereign governments, was insufficiently empowered for the task. A number of prominent persons, such as Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Bertrand Russell and Mahatma Gandhi, called on governments to proceed further by taking gradual steps towards forming an effectual federal world government.

"The Golden Age"

The years between the conclusion of World War 2 and 1950, when the Korean War started and the Cold War mindset became dominant in international politics, were the "golden age" of the world federalism movement. Wendell Wilkie's book "One World", first published in 1943, sold over 2 million copies. Another book, Emery Reves' "The Anatomy of Peace" (1945) laid out the arguments for replacing the UN with a federal world government and quickly became the "bible" of world federalists. The grassroots world federalist movement in the US, led by people such as Grenville Clark, Norman Cousins, Alan Cranston and Robert Hutchins, organized itself into increasingly larger structures, finally forming, in 1947, the United World Federalists (later renamed to World Federalist Association, then Citizens for Global Solutions), claiming membership of 47,000 in 1949.

Similar movements concurrently formed in many other countries, leading to the formation, at a 1947 meeting in Montreux, Switzerland, of a global coalition, now called World Federalist Movement. By 1950, the movement claimed 56 member groups in 22 countries, with some 156,000 members. In France, 1948, Garry Davis began an unauthorized speech calling for a WG from the balcony of the UN General Assembly, until he was dragged away by the guards. Mr. Davis renounced his American citizenship and started a Registry of World Citizens, which claimed to have registered over 750,000 people in less than two years. Opinion polls carried out by UNESCO in 1948-1949 found world government favored by a majority of respondents in six European countries and rejected in three other countries (Australia, Mexico and the United States). On September 4, 1953, Davis, from the City Hall of Ellsworth, Maine, announced the formation of the "World Government of World Citizens" based on 3 "World Laws"—One God (or Absolute Value), One World, and One Humanity. (See Following this declaration mandated he claimed by article 21(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he formed the United World Service Authority in New York City as the administrative agency of the new government. Its first task was to design and issue a "World Passport" based on article 13(2) of the UDHR. To date, over 800,000 of these documents have been issued to individuals worldwide. They have been recognized de facto by over 150 countries.

The 1950s call for Legal Realism

Legal anthropologist E. Adamson Hoebel concluded his treatise on broadening the legal realist tradition to include non-Western nations[1]: “Whatever the idealist may desire, force and the threat of force are the ultimate power in the determination of international behavior, as in the law within the nation or tribe. But until force and the threat of force in international relations are brought under social control by the world community, by and for the world society, they remain the instruments of social anarchy and not the sanctions of world law. The creation in clear-cut terms of the corpus of world law cries for the doing. If world law, however, is to be realized at all, there will have to be minimum of general agreement as to the nature of the physical and ideational world and the relation of men in society to it. An important and valuable next step will be found in deep-cutting analysis of the major law systems of the contemporary world in order to lay bare their basic postulates – postulates that are too generally hidden; postulates felt, perhaps, by those who live by them, but so much taken for granted that they are rarely expressed or exposed for examination. When this is done – and it will take the efforts of many keen intellects steeped in the law of at least a dozen lands and also aware of the social nexus of the law – then mankind will be able to see clearly for the first time and clearly where the common consensus of the great living social and law systems lies. Here will be found the common postulates and values upon which the world community can build. At the same time the truly basic points of conflict that will have to be worked upon for resolution will be revealed. Law is inherently purposive. It deserves more purposive attention; for on its immediate growth hangs the fate of civilization.” To date, this call has largely gone unanswered.

1950 to present

While enthusiasm for multinational federalism in Europe incrementally led, over the following decades, to the formation of the European Union, the onset of the Cold War (1950-1990) eliminated the prospects of any progress towards federation with a more global scope. The movement quickly shrunk in size to a much smaller core of activists, and the FWG idea all but disappeared from wide public discourse.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, interest in a federal world government and, more generally, in the global protection of human rights, was renewed. The most visible achievement of the world federalism movement during the 1990s is the Rome Statute of 1998, which led to the establishment of the International Criminal Court in 2002. In Europe, progress towards forming a federal union of European states gained much momentum, starting in 1952 as a trade deal between the German and French people lead, in 1992, to the Maastricht Treaty that established the name and enlarged the agreement that the European Union (EU) is based upon. The EU expanded (1995, 2004, 2007) to encompass, in 2007, nearly half a billion people in 27 member states. Following EU's example, the African Union was founded in 2002 and the Union of South American Nations in 2004.

Existing regional unions of nations

European Union

The most relevant model for the incremental establishment of a global federation may be the European Union, which politically unites a large group of widely diverse, some formerly hostile, nations spread over a large geographical area and 500 million people. Indeed, Star Trek: The Next Generation predicted an anachronistic entity, the "European Hegemony," would appear during the 21st century, describing it as "one of the first steps towards a unified world government." Though the EU is still evolving, it already has many attributes of a federal government, such as open internal borders, a directly elected parliament, a court system and a centralized economic policy.

The EU's lead is being followed by the African Union, the Union of South American Nations, the Central American Parliament, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. A multitude of regional associations, aggregating most nations of the world, are at different stages of development towards a growing extent of economic, and sometimes political, integration.

African Union

The African Union (AU) is an organization consisting of fifty-three African states. Established in 2001, the AU was formed as a successor to the amalgamated African Economic Community (AEC) and the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Eventually, the AU aims to have a single currency and a single integrated defense force, as well as other institutions of state, including a cabinet for the AU Head of State. The purpose of the union is to help secure Africa's democracy, human rights, and a sustainable economy, especially by bringing an end to intra-African conflict and creating an effective common market.


ASEAN, pronounced /'ɑ.si.ɑn/ ("AH-SEE-AHN") in English, or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is a geo-political and economic organization of 10 countries located in Southeast Asia, which was formed on August 8, 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand as a display of solidarity toward communist expansion in Vietnam and insurgency within their own borders. Its claimed aims include the acceleration of economic growth, social progress, cultural development among its members, and the promotion of regional peace.[2]

Shanghai Cooperation Organization

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an intergovernmental organization which was founded on June 14, 2001 by the leaders of the People's Republic of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Except for Uzbekistan, the other countries had been members of the Shanghai Five; after the inclusion of Uzbekistan in 2001, the members renamed the organization.

See also: North American union

The current global governance system

There is essentially today, no functioning global (international) military force, executive, legislator, judicial system, constitution, allotted citizen committees, or independent corruption watchdog with jurisdiction over the entire planet. The earth is divided geographically and demographically into mutually exclusive territories and political structures called nations which are independent in most cases. One may also make the case that political and economical independence although related are not the same and even though former colonies have acquired political independence since World War II, they have become more dependent financially upon each other. There are numerous bodies, institutions, unions, coalitions, agreements and contracts between these units of authority, but except in cases where a nation is under military occupation by another all such arrangements depend on the continued consent of the participant nations. Thus the use of violence is unprohibited throughout the realm and is only checked by the threat of retaliatory violence, so where no such threat exists a nation may use violence against another.

There are some signs of emerging global governance, however. Among the voluntary organizations and international arrangements the following are important examples:

The United Nations (UN) is the primary formal organization coordinating activities between states on a global scale and the only inter-governmental organization with a truly universal membership (192 governments). In addition to the main organs and various humanitarian programs and commissions of the UN itself, there are about 20 functional organizations affiliated with the UN's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), such as the World Health Organization, the International Labour Organization, and International Telecommunications Union.[3] Of particular interest politically are the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), were United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference formed together in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, United States, 1944, to foster global monetary cooperation and to fight poverty by financially assisting states in need. The World Trade Organization (WTO) sets the rules of international trade. It already has a semi-legislative body (The General Council, reaching decisions by consensus), and a judicial body (The Dispute Settlement Body). Another influential economical international organization is the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), with membership of 30 democratic members.

A less formal organization, but highly influential in global politics, is G8, an association of eight of the richest and most technologically advanced democracies. The leaders of the G8 countries meet annually in person to coordinate their policies in confronting global issues, such as poverty, terrorism, infectious diseases and climate change.

Militarily, the UN deploys peacekeeping forces, usually to build and maintain post-conflict peace and stability. When a more aggressive international military action is undertaken, either ad-hoc coalitions (e.g., multinational force in Iraq), or regional military alliances (eg, NATO) are used.

International law encompasses international treaties, customs, and globally acceptable legal principles. With the exceptions of cases brought before the ICC and ICJ (see below), the laws are interpreted by national courts. Many violations of treaty or customary law obligations are overlooked.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) (also known as World Court) is the judiciary organ of the United Nations. It settles disputes submitted to it voluntarily by states (only), and gives advisory opinions on legal questions submitted to it by other organs of the UN, such as the General Assembly or Security Council.

A recent development in international law is the International Criminal Court (ICC), the first ever permanent international criminal court, which was established to ensure that the gravest international crimes do not go unpunished. The ICC treaty was signed by 139 national governments, of which 100 ratified it into law by October 2005.

In addition to the formal, or semi-formal, international organizations and laws mentioned above, many other mechanisms act to regulate human activities across national borders. In particular, international trade in goods, services and currencies (the "global market") has a tremendous impact on the lives of people in almost all parts of the world, creating deep interdependency amongst nations (see globalization). Trans-national (or multi-national) corporations, some with resources exceeding those available to most governments, govern activities of people on a global scale. The rapid increase in the volume of trans-border digital communications and mass-media distribution (e.g., Internet, satellite television) has allowed information, ideas, and opinions to rapidly spread across the world, creating a complex web of international coordination and influence, mostly outside the control of any formal organizations or laws.

See also: United Nations  and United Nations Parliamentary Assembly

Commonly cited deficiencies

  • Enforcement powers of most of the above-cited supra-national governments (with the exception of the EU) are quite weak. Most of the supra-national governments are governments in name only, and have little ability to enforce any dictates.
  • International mechanisms for protecting basic human rights, or even preventing wide-scale atrocities, are weak and inadequate. For instances, the Rwandan Genocide was not prevented and the Darfur region is still in civil war.
  • The concentration of powers in centralized distant bureaucracies with little sympathy for local cultural norms has the potential to counteract the concept of "division of powers" and the benefits of adapting methods of government to localities.
  • While trade and finance treaties are mostly well enforced, agreements on social, human and ecological issues have had very limited effect to date.
  • Poor populations, especially in Africa, do not much benefit from the modern world economy.
  • There are many overlapping, sometimes conflicting and confusing, international treaties and jurisdictions.
  • Standardized globally-enforced laws will leave dissidents with fewer options since repealing laws will become far more difficult once enacted on a global scale.
  • Proposed government structures that allow for countries to "vote" based on their populations do not take into account whether or not there are free, openly-contested elections inside the countries themselves. Additionally, western democracies, while representing a minority of the people, represent a majority of the wealth, technological expertise, and military power, and would not willingly subjugate their successful societal structures to laws promulgated by less-successful societies.


Published works

  • Baratta, Joseph Preston. The Politics of World Federation From World Federation to Global Governance. Westport, Conn: Praeger, 2004.ISBN 9780275980665
  • Hamer, Christopher. A Global Parliament Principles of World Federation. Oyster Bay, NSW, Australia: Oyster Bay Books, 1998. ISBN 9780646355306.
  • Monbiot, George. Manifesto for a New World Order. New York: New Press, 2006. ISBN 9781595580399
  • Strauss, Andrew L. Taking Democracy Global Assessing the Benefits and Challenges of a Global Parliamentary Assembly. Global responsibility : reaching beyond national sovereignty. London: One World Trust, 2005. OCLC 62112764
  • Derviş, Kemal, and Ceren Özer. A Better Globalization Legitimacy, Governance, and Reform. Washington, D.C.: Center for Global Development, 2005. ISBN 9780815717638
  • The GTI Paper Seriesexamines the potential for the emergence of democratic global governance, see paper #3, Global Politics and Institutions
  • Cabrera, Luis. Political Theory of Global Justice A Cosmopolitan Case for the World State. Routledge innovations in political theory, 13. London: Routledge, 2004. ISBN 9780415700221
  • Craig, Campbell. Glimmer of a New Leviathan Total War in the Realism of Niebuhr, Morgenthau, and Waltz. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003. ISBN 9780231123488
  • Deudney, Daniel. Bounding Power Republican Security Theory from the Polis to the Global Village. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.ISBN 9780691119014
  • Etzioni, Amitai. From Empire to Community A New Approach to International Relations. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. ISBN 9781403965356
  • Goldmann, Kjell, Ulf Hannerz, and Charles Westin. Nationalism and Internationalism in the Post-Cold War Era. London: Routledge, 2000. ISBN 9780415238908
  • Tännsjö, Torbjörn. Global Democracy The Case for a World Government. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008. ISBN 9780748634989
  • Wendt, Alexander. 2004. "Why a World State Is Inevitable". Peace Research Abstracts. 41, no. 4. ISSN 0031-3599
  • Yunker, James A. Rethinking World Government A New Approach. Lanham, Md: University Press of America, 2005.ISBN 9780761831785
  • Yunker, James A. Political Globalization A New Vision of Federal World Government. Lanham: University Press of America, 2007. ISBN 9780761838456


  • World Federalist Movement(WFM) is a global citizens movement with 23 member and 16 associated organizations around the globe working towards the establishment of a federated world government. The U.S. member organization is Citizens for Global Solutions, and the Canadian one is World Federalist Movement - Canada
  • The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) is a well-funded research and education center in Canada dedicated to the subject. It is preparing to launch IGLOO: "a global online research community focused solely on strengthening governance around the world."
  • One World Trust (OWT) is a charity based in the United Kingdom and part of the World Federalist Movement. Its current work aims to promote reforms of existing global organizations leading to greater accountability.
  • The Center for the Study of Global Governance is a UK-based "focal point for research, teaching and dissemination of work on globalization"
  • The Metagovernment claims it will attempt to implement global open source governance in 2010, including a "meta" and a world government.
  • Civitatis international is a Non Governmental Organization based in the United Kingdom that produces legal research promoting increased systems of global governance to policymakers.
  • The Committee for a Democratic UN is a network of parliamentarians and non-governmental organizations from Germany, Switzerland and Austria which is based on world federalist philosophy.
  • Democratic World Federalists is a San-Francisco-based civil society organization with supporters worldwide, advocates a democratic federal system of world government.


See also

  • Anti-nationalism
  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Democratic globalization
  • Ethicism
  • Federalism
  • Global Citizens Movement
  • Global Justice
  • Globalization
  • Humanism
  • Internationalism (politics)
  • International auxiliary language
  • Isocracy
  • League of Nations
  • Millennialism
  • Pax Americana
  • Supranationalism
  • Trade bloc
  • World citizen
  • World Service Authority
  • World Union


  1. Hoebel, E. Adamson
  2. Overview, ASEAN Secretariat official website. Retrieved June 12, 2006
  3. Organization chart of the United Nations Retrieved November 12, 2007.


  • Hoebel, E. Adamson. The Law of Primitive Man; A Study in Comparative Legal Dynamics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1954. OCLC 505797

External links

All Links Retrieved November 9, 2007.


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