Africa, Youth and Supranational Democracy | The Youth Cafe

This week, The Youth Cafe’s “Perspectives'“ features Prof. Sussana Cafaro. Sussana is a full professor of European Union Law in the Faculty of University of Salento in Italy. She is also a founding member of the think tank The Group of Lecce for fair global governance , and a member of the Bretton Woods Committee.

Watch Susanna’s views on supranational democracy below:

Many people react with suspicion and mistrust when they hear the two words global governance and even worse when they hear about global laws or global constitutionalism.

I can understand them. They are afraid of an authoritarian, elitist system, going to limit the sovereignty of states and communities, to suppress self-determination, to flatten cultural identities. A real nightmare.

Paradoxically, this is what happens with globalization in the absence of a global rule of law, what happens right now, when the forces of market and the pressure to competitiveness are left alone to govern processes and outcomes.

Yet, many people immediately grasp the point when you tell them that the most compelling issues are nowadays global: climate change, migration waves, rising inequalities, pollution of the oceans (to name a few).

How may it be possible that we understand the size and magnitude of problems and we are so reluctant to act accordingly? Why do we resist the idea that we need global solutions to global problems and that as citizens of this world we should act immediately to claim for them?

I think it is because of the difficulty of overcoming past patterns and fears. The idea of one or two dominant powers, or of a global directory - be it the G7, the G20 or maybe a meeting of big corporates’ CEOs.

Young people are different. They don’t carry with them so much past, they are freer and probably more logical. Some years ago, Malala Yousafzay has shaken consciences with this simple truth: even girls have the right to go to school. Today Greta Thunberg does the same, with a simple yet powerful message: climate is changing and we do need to act now to stop it. Not in 2025, not when circumstances will be favorable or we will see a resumption of multilateralism, NOW.

And I can get her frustration when politicians react with vague commitments or empty political reasoning, which are far from “acting” and far from “now”.

Now, these two girls are a powerful example of what a citizen can do when she takes a clear commitment. A single person can be incredibly powerful. Many people can be even more. When I listen to her, or to my young sons, I think that maybe this world will be rescued by young people. Not one day, not when they will be adult and will take the reins of the situation, but sooner, when they are still young enough not to be stopped by words as possible reasonable or, even worse, realistic.

Yet, the first step in doing so, is ownership: owning this world with its problems and its incredible beauty. Owning the problems means making them your own and feeling free to take a stance for their solutions.

Here we are. Where do we start from?

There are already a number of global institutions, big organizations as the UN or smaller task-oriented structures as the secretariat of the UN Climate Change Conference (UNCCC) or the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). They are intergovernmental, this means they are created by states at their own level. They are a structure given to cooperation among states and all the decisional bodies represent directly or indirectly the will of states. Here, we have a problem.

What if states are not willing to cooperate and to express a common will towards the solution of problems? What if – more specifically – those who represent states are prisoners of the same old patterns stopping the large majority of politicians and individuals, even the most willing?

We need a paradigm shift from intergovernmental to supranational. We need a decisional level over the states which can impose its ruling to states. 

No surprise if this appears terrifying. It is because we dissociate the global level from the idea of democracy. This is just another pattern we carry from the past.

To make global governance democratic we need it to be legitimate, to be representative of the people, we need it to express shared values and concerns. We need it also to be accountable, so transparent, held to take motivated decisions and composed of replaceable people. Finally we need it to be inclusive: a self-evident concept.

This global level of government could simply be an evolution of the governance structures we already have on the global stage or could be something new. This is not so important. The tools for participation and inclusion could be technologies yet to be patented or could be adjustments to existing instruments – such as parliaments, petitions, consultations.

It is not a mere wish-list. Some law schools and think tanks are already studying the options, outside the mainstream thinking.

One year ago, thanks to pressures from civil society and local governments, the Fiji Presidency of UNCCC launched the Talanoa Dialogue ( Talanoa is a traditional word used in Fiji and the Pacific to reflect a process of inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue; its purpose is to share stories and build empathy in order to make wise decisions for the collective good. The process involves the sharing of ideas, skills and experience through storytelling. It was a little step in the right direction.

In the African cultures there is so much to offer in the spirit of Talanoa: there is Ubuntu, there is story-telling talent and there is empathy to build upon, there is concern for Mother Earth. 

Africa, with its incredible percentage of young people and with its cultural heritage, can be and should be at the forefront of this paradigm shift in the interest of humanity as a whole.

Susanna is a full professor of European Union Law in the Faculty of University of Salento in Italy. Susanna is also a founding member of the think tank The Group of Lecce for fair global governance , and a member of the Bretton Woods Committee. She is an associate professor of EU Law in the Law faculty of Universita del Salento, Italy.

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