"Democracy Matters" Dr Hanan Ashrawi, founder and Secretary General, Palestinian
Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH).
Dr Ashrawi argues that the time has come for the world to move beyond
the concept of national sovereignty. Sovereignty constrains: for the powerful
state, it often means the power to disenfranchise other peoples. And in
many of the world's weaker states, it gives us governments that believe
they own their land and their people, to do with as they choose. The world
will always be run by self-interest. But a narrow concept of sovereignty
means that self interest can never become benign, global, collective self-interest.
Global institutions, particularly the United Nations, are built on national
sovereignty. Inevitably, they become subject to the most powerful state
or alliance of states. The permanent Security Council reflects this reality.
But globalization is challenging this order. Yes, globalization can enhance
the power of the powerful, like the western mega corporations. But it
also creates new ways for individuals and groups to communicate, to act
together, to participate in decisionmaking and to challenge governments.
The Palestinians are a case in point. Half the Palestinian population
are exiles, but global communications are recreating this community.
how could the world move beyond narrow sovereignty? One vital institution
of the new order would be the International Criminal Court. We need to
establish that there are standards of justice that apply to everybody,
and that it is wrong for states to value their own citizens above other
human beings. And we need practical solutions that are not politically
absolutist, or religiously fundamentalist. Take the dispute over the status
of Jerusalem, claimed by both the Palestinians and by Israel. Why should
Jerusalem not become the capital of both states, controlled and owned
by neither? That would be an example of how in challenging the established
world order, we could transform reality for the better.