An interesting new meme has been proposed by John Bunzl at his International Simultaneous Policy Organization. The idea is this: many policies that help human rights, social justice, and the environment never get voted into law because they cause economic disadvantage for those that adopt them first. The current method of getting past this barrier is the international treaty system, like the Kyoto Protocol. However, as that treaty's history has demonstrated, the process is long and bureaucracy-intensive. What if we could use information technology to streamline that process? Bunzl's idea is that policies are published online, and citizens in all countries are encouraged to vote for the candidates who promise to "adopt" the policies they like. "Adoption" would be equivalent to signing a treaty saying "when all countries concerned vote yes on this, it will become law in all those countries"; only after all countries have ratified it does a policy become implemented. Sounds like a great idea.
The problem, however, is that it provides no apparent means to discuss or revise the policies, and if revision were allowed, it would make no sense to make elected officials to agree to policies which will not be the same policy five or ten years later (when sufficient nations adopt it and it goes to the implementation stage). And without the lengthy discussion and review process, the existing methods of writing treaties would be just as fast and unburdened by bureaucratic overhead as the ISPO.
Nonetheless, the idea behind ISPO does raise an interesting question. People have been thinking for some time about how technology can democratize and streamline governments; how can we democratize and streamline the politics between governments? What if treaties were wikis and all meetings were blogged by the participants? etc. etc...
I'm grateful to Jeremy Faludi for bringing the Simultaneous Policy (SP) to the attention of this group.
There are, however, a couple of points I'd like to clarify:
Firstly, the key advantage SP has to offer is that it provides citizens with a new way to use their votes to drive politicians to implement appropriate solutions to global problems. So instead of "governments leading the people", with SP it's the other way around: "citizens can lead governments" by adopting SP.
"Adopting" means that citizens gain the right to participate in deciding what measures SP should actually consist of AND they crucially pledge to vote in future elections for ANY politician or party - within reason - that pledges to implement SP when all or sufficient nations do likewise. Alternatively, if they have a party preferrence, their adoption signifies their desire for their party to pledge to implement SP.
With more and more seats and even entire elections being won or lost on very low margins, politicians who fail to pledge for SP will increasingly risk losing their seat to those that do. So this new way of using our votes to bring politicians of ALL parties into much stiffer competition with one another provides the global justice movement with a new political too to drive our leaders where they need to go. But by the same token, pledging for SP involves politicians in no risk because they don't have to IMPLEMENT it unless and until sufficient nations have also pledged. So it's a win-win.
This is particularly vital because to solve many global problems, we need to get the USA on board but as we know with Kyoto and other such initiatives, the present administration has no such intentions. But if we can build a critical number of SP adopters in Florida and in the other key US states, it will quickly become in the interests of BOTH presidential candidates to pledge for SP. So this provides us with a way that citizens can take control and drive our dear politicians towards cooperation at the global level.
Another point to clarify is, as Jeremy suggests, that one of the provisions of SP be that it incorporates a means of revising existing SPs and for developing new ones. As visitors to our website http://www.simpol.org will see if they visit the Policy Proposals page, such provisions ARE indeed incorporated into the provisional list of SP measures.
Please also note that the policies listed remain strictly PROVISIONAL at this stage. This is because, as Jeremy also points out, it will take quite a while to build the necessary consensus amongst nations to implement SP and over that period the policies, if fixed today, could get out of date. Also, if ISPO fixed its policies now, it would deny citizens the opportunity to participate in their formulation which would be undemocratic. So that is why our policies remain PROVISIONAL and unfixed. They are thus a work-in-progress which all citizens who adopt SP are invited to participate in shaping along with independent policy experts who are also interested in what we are doing.
For more on these points, see the FAQ page of our site.
with kind regards
John Bunzl - Trustee
International Simultaneous Policy Organisation (ISPO)
SP: Using our Votes to Take Back the World
An important addition to the gathering toolkit ... this may even provide the 'missing piece' to the strategies in George Monbiot's 'Manifesto for a New World Order.'