By Chris Hamer, President, Australian
World Citizens Association
(This article was first published in the Bulletin of the Australian World Citizens
Association and the Institute for Global Peace and Sustainable Development, Volume
Eleven, Issue One, Winter 2014 www.worldcitizens.org.au http://igpsg.org )
This year marks a hundred years since the start of World War One! It is hard to
imagine how all those young men in the trenches must have felt, dying of
disease, drowning in mud, blown up by artillery shells and then climbing over
the top to be mown down by machine guns. ‘Why am I here?’, they must have
thought. ‘Surely there must be a better way!’
They dubbed it the “war to end all wars” and after the war they tried earnestly to
make it so. They set up the League of Nations as the first attempt at
international governance and they forged disarmament treaties which led to the
scrapping of newly-built battleships sitting on the slipways. But still it
Nowadays, it is possible for one man to press a button and incinerate half a million of
his fellow human beings with a nuclear missile. Or a computer jockey in Nevada
can pot a man like a rabbit from half the world away, using a drone aircraft.
War has become a business of mechanical slaughter and there is no honour or
glory left in it. It is time we renewed our commitment: to End All Wars!
How can we do that? Most people will say it is impossible. But in fact it is possible
and the way to do it has been known for hundreds, if not thousands of years. It
was put very neatly by William Penn in the seventeenth century. He was the son
of Admiral William Penn of the British Navy and he later became a leader of
the Quakers and the founder of the colony of Pennsylvania in America, with its capital in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. In 1692 Penn wrote an essay “Towards the Present and Future Peace of Europe”, in which he summed it all up:
“Peace is Maintained by Justice, which is a Fruit of Government, as Government is from
Society and Society from Consent”.
In other words, people will be happy to live at peace provided they are treated justly
and equitably according to the law. But you cannot have the rule of law in a
state of anarchy, because then the robber barons and the warlords rule. The
rule of law can only be upheld by a stable government, installed according to
the will of the people.
For example, look at the national level. A country like Australia has a reasonably
stable and effective government and has never had a war within its borders in
its entire history. Compare that with the Congo, which has little or no
government, where some five million people have died in conflicts over recent
William Penn called for a European Parliament to keep the peace in Europe. A mere three hundred years later, that has actually come to pass! Similarly, if we want
world peace, we need a world parliament. Albert Einstein put it in different
“In my opinion, the only salvation for civilization and the human race lies in the
creation of a world government, with security of nations founded upon law”.
How are we going with that? The world tried again after World War II, with the creation
of the United Nations. Under the UN system, we have made major advances.
Imperialism is dead, colonialism is dead, apartheid is dead and the number of
deaths in battle each year is down by a factor of ten in the last half-century,
though you would hardly know it from the newspapers. But the UN is not a global
parliament and was never intended to be one. It is not the final answer.
Meanwhile, the Europeans have acted to prevent any future wars between France and Germany, having endured five of them in the past two centuries. Starting from the
Schuman Declaration of 1950, they proceeded in a step-by-step fashion, through
a succession of treaties, to construct first the European Coal and Steel
Community, then the European Economic Community and finally the present
European Union and European Parliament. As a result, we can be confident that
there will never again be a war between France and Germany.
Now we need to copy the European example in the global arena and proceed to the
construction of a global parliament. It is a huge task, involving the
integration of nearly two hundred sovereign nations and seven billion people
and is likely to take many years. It could come about through reform of the UN,
or it could start from a smaller grouping, a new global community of democratic
nations, perhaps. We are supporting the global campaign for a United Nations
Parliamentary Assembly and also trying to form a Coalition for a World
Community of Democratic Nations. Nobody knows precisely what the future may
The first necessity, however, is the Consent of Society and a change in our way of
thinking. We must all learn to regard ourselves as fellow citizens of the
global village. We must all work together and promote international
cooperation for the solution of our global problems. We must resolve to uphold
the universal human rights of others, regardless of nationality, race, religion
or gender. And we must all commit ourselves – as citizens of the world – to End