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Why World Federalism Is The Key To A More Sustainable Future

"All beings tremble before violence.
All fear death.
All love life.
See yourself in others.
Then whom can you hurt?
What harm can you do?”

-The Buddha

If we take a look back at recent history, say- of the past two centuries, we are presented with a panorama of scientific and technological development (abled graciously by the Industrial Revolution), colonisation and de-colonisation, and more importantly the creation of a world order characterised by increasing hostility of nations towards each other. Not only this, post the Industrial Revolution, rather depressingly, we entered headfirst into a kaleidoscope of interrelated calamities spanning from climate change to food crises, global pandemics, cyber security threats, micro-conflicts in every continent, as well as inter-continental conflicts, the proliferation and stockpiling of WMDs, and the list goes on. That is what we end up with post nearly 3 million years of evolution. And this is exactly why concepts such as World Federalism have emerged. With the inception of the United Nations in 1945, many had hoped that it would bring an end to most, if not all international tension. But here’s the thing- it didn’t. On the contrary, it enabled states- largely the United States of America (aided and supported by the majority of the West) to pursue their imperialistic ambitions.

The USA pounced, like a cat on a rat, at the newly de-colonised independent states post World War 2. With the promise of financial aid for development to these nations, the USA secured for itself stealthy international support and influenced its own ‘democratic’ ideals onto them, drowning them in acres of debt, while at the same time- crushing the emergence of any socialist nations. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising when the fall of the USSR was accompanied by the USA emerging as the sole superpower, securing for itself a godly position in international politics. An enviable position. And being the largest financial donor to the UN, it wouldn’t take a genius to put two and two together as to why the USA managed to invade Iraq (not once, twice!), Afghanistan, intervene in Syria, Libya, and various lesser known interventions in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East without being held accountable for it.

(Just imagine if China had done it- the horror!) So we’ve established the primary reason why the UN doesn’t work- because it is a machinery that is built to favour certain parts of the world. It also still has the bizarre faculty of the Veto power and most importantly- it is not a legislative body. It can only advise and at best, hope that countries comply. Being highly superficial, it hasn’t really achieved much in terms of dealing with the root of international tension and hostility. And the fact that January 2023 had the largest number of existing conflicts since Word War 2 bears testimony to that claim. Is this the world we want to live in? Is the world we want to leave behind for our future generations? Do we want to stand still as we witness the moral collapse of the most powerful countries in the world? Do we want to stay silent as we watch the slow decay of our common humanity? If you answered in the negative to any of these questions, I beseech you to continue reading and to think about World Federalism. Let’s go back to Ancient Greece.

“I am a citizen, not of Athens, not of Greece, but of the world” -Socrates

What a profound statement coming from someone who lived in a time when international tension wasn’t even that extreme (or maybe it was- Trojan War, I hear you). But the idea that I am trying to convey is that the concept of a global federation isn’t some radical leftist propaganda emerging from a dusty dungeon in some remote corner of the world. It’s been around forever, because it is based on the principle of our common humanity and equity for all. Simply putting it - A United States of the World (which would also be cool against alien invasions and stuff, but that’s a whole other thing). It would be a governing body- having supranational legislative authority. Now, this doesn’t mean an all mighty and powerful body (that is exactly what we are trying to counter!). It simply means that on matters of international importance, the global government has a say, ergo, the citizens of the world have a say.

The current inter-governmental institutions are terribly undemocratic. The UN gives each government one vote regardless of the size of their populations, and regardless of whether these governments are actually accountable to their governed populations or not. Because the government would have population proportionate representation, and there would be no “founding states” or veto powers- the chances of superpower dominance and power would be negated. This is also exactly why we can’t just reform the UN to make it legislative- because there’s already an intricately woven web of power politics in the UN that is next to impossible to remove. Thus, a World Federation would be truly democratic. As a democratic institution, the Federation would not only have population proportionate representation but all political representatives would be directly elected to a law-making assembly by all members.

Although the Federation would have a great level of legislative capacity on the international level, individual nations would still retain complete sovereignty over national matters. This rules out the possibility of all-powerful despots in the Federation with dictatorial tendencies. The Federation would have a strong commitment to the rule of law, and violators would be held accountable, which counters a major drawback that the UN has. And if you noticed, I said ‘citizens of the world’. This statement implies that the members of the Federation wouldn’t be member countries as such- but rather, just global citizens. They would still hold their nationalities of course, but at the Global Federation level, that wouldn’t come into play while voting on matters- because, as I iterated, it does not legislate on matters of a particular national concern, but rather international and global concern. So essentially, our mandate would comprise climate change, human rights, disarmament, and perhaps most importantly- a movement to end war.

The process of globalization has brought forth the issue of the regulatory gap that arises when globalised multinational corporations that function across borders. These corporations manufacture their products in one country, and sell them in another, and pay minimal taxes (if any) in a third country. As a result, there is a "race to the bottom" among nations, wherein they try to reduce corporate tax rates, leading to detrimental effects on wages and rights of workers. Ultimately, the unchecked globalisation model worsens poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation across the globe. World Federalism offers a solution to this too. An economic wing of the Federation could legislate on and enforce global regulations to govern businesses, set universal tax rates, and establish global standards for workers' rights- thus eliminating the ‘race to the bottom’.

This would champion just working conditions across the globe. Moreover, if MNCs are held accountable for their carbon emissions, they are bound to be influenced in their choice of production and manufacturing locations. Hereby, the overall quality of life, including the conditions of workers would improve, particularly in developing countries, driving economic growth. So, what’s stopping us? It seems like the ideal model, right? So why haven’t we adopted a global federation? Quite simply putting it, for the large part of it, it isn’t in my hands or yours. Unless national governments, as well as leading corporations, and organisations do not come forward- not much can be achieved, and that isn’t me being cynical, just realistic; because the movement for a World Federation has been active ever since the Second World War, yet here we are today. Some argue that adopting World Federalism would require an unrealistically high amount of cooperation, which is nothing short of utopian, given the current cutthroat competitive political and economic environment.

However, the necessity of our times, plagued with the climate crisis in particular, is so extreme, that the creation of such an organisation will become inevitable in the near future. The United Nations too, though perhaps considered a utopian system before the war, was adopted due to its dire necessity in the 1940s. If the world continues with existing political and economic systems, where developed countries continue to exploit poorer ones, where climate change continues to be a threat, where children in Bangladesh don’t get an education because they’re in sweatshops making your designer jeans, and where wars are waged among “friendly nations”, we as humanity, are going full throttle towards our end and the need for sustained international political cooperation is ever increasing. We have the key. It is up to us to unlock the door. One World. One Family.

Zoya Khan
Writing Mentorship Programme 2023


1) With highest number of violent conflicts since Second World War, United Nations must rethink efforts to achieve, sustain peace, speakers tell Security Council | UN Press. (2023, January 26).

2) Wikipedia contributors. (2023). Foreign interventions by the United States. Wikipedia.

3) . One World: Movement for Global Democracy. (2016, November 16). World Federalism, Inequality and Economic Justice > One World. One World.

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