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Globalisation, terrorism and democracy: a wider perspective.

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Parliamentary Government Under Threat?

Contemporary Challenges to Liberal Democracies


Northern Territory Chapter

Annual Conference 18-19 July 2003 Darwin Northern Territory

PAPER TITLE: Globalisation, Terrorism and Democracy: A Wider Perspective

AUTHOR: Mr Graham Nicholson

Constitutional Adviser to the NT Legislative Assembly’s

Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs

SESSION THEME: Globalisation and Terrorism: A Threat to Democracy?

PRESENTATION DATE: Friday 18 July 2003


Globalisation, Terrorism and Democracy:

A Wider Perspective

Graham Nicholson

(Statue at United Nations Building, New York)

An Outline of the Argument The purpose of this paper is to consider in general terms the extent to which, if at all, the process known as “globalisation”, and the contemporary global practice of “terrorism”, pose a threat to democracy, and if so, what if anything can or should be done about them. This involves the question as to the adequacy of present measures being taken to protect national democracy. It also involves the question whether such measures meet the balance needed to preserve democracy and what may be regarded as the essential democratic rights and freedoms, while at the same time taking measures to maintain reasonable levels of public order, security and prosperity. Alternatively, whether the latter measures may go too far and themselves threaten democracy.

But beyond this, it is argued that for all its current faults, it is preferable to engage the process of globalisation, in a manner that seeks to influence its future development in


globally beneficial ways, rather than to reject or try to contain it. It represents a movement towards global integration, and it is in interests of all nations and peoples to craft it in a way that the newly emerging, supra-national levels of governance are equitable and themselves have the necessary elements of democracy. In the case of terrorism, it is argued that it is better to understand its underlying causes and to try to constructively address those causes from a global perspective, rather than to simply oppose it by violent means. These approaches are seen as a better long-term guarantee of democracy and the elimination of mass violence.

Democracy You gather here today, I assume, as supporters of national systems of government that in your view contain a significant element of democratic public participation in the business of government, in one form or another. Those of you that come from a “Westminster” heritage will most commonly support a system of national government that is representative in nature, with regular and fair public elections of the representatives sitting in some form of a public legislative chamber or chambers, from which the members of the government are effectively chosen and by which they can be dismissed if they loose majority support (sometimes called “responsible government”1). Such systems commonly have a reasonable degree of freedom to form and operate political parties, accompanied by a reasonable degree of freedom of speech and assembly. True it is that most decision-making in such systems, including legislative decision-making, now takes place behind closed doors in the executive arm of government, advised in private by bureaucrats, political party leaders, lobby groups, etc. But at least the decision-makers are still answerable to the wider public, once their decisions become public, through the mechanisms of regular elections, media publicity, judicial and administrative review, etc.

Such a model is widely regarded as being essentially “democratic” in nature, given the complexities of modern government, and the difficulties of providing for greater public participation in the decision-making business of such modern government in any more direct and comprehensive way. The notion of “democracy”, although not a precise term, usually carries with it some significant element of public participation in government. It is now widely accepted that this can either be in the form of direct or indirect participation. There is some continuing support for various forms of direct public participation, such as in the use of citizens’ initiated referenda for various purposes, but by and large modern governmental democracy is mainly based on indirect representative models.

This indirect, representative model can be contrasted with one in which national decision making is monopolised by a select few people, behind closed doors, those rulers not having to answer in any significant way to a representative, public legislature nor to

1 The term “responsible government” comes from the constitutional convention that Ministers of the Crown are “responsible” to the elected house of Parliament, and hold their office only whilst they have the confidence of a majority of the members of that house, those members in turn being responsible to the electorate, rather than being responsible to the Crown or to the Crown’s representative who formally appointed those Ministers and who can dismiss them. It does not necessarily connote any moral uprightness.


submit to regular, open and fair elections, and one in which the rulers do not allow a reasonable measure of freedom to form political parties nor freedom of speech and assembly. Such systems suffer from a severe democratic deficit, being essentially authoritarian and tyrannical.

Most of you would see this basic democratic feature of government as being essential to your way of life, a necessary element of the contemporary western-derived, liberal, capitalist, secular, nation-state, an element to be defended at all costs. You may be prepared to admit that there may be many ills in every nation-state based on such a democratic model, many deficiencies that need remedying, even at the top levels in your system of government, but this essential democratic feature is not generally seen as being one of them.

It is not, therefore, surprising in such a scenario that such western-derived models having this essential democratic element have come to be seen by many in the West as the best practicable form of government available to humanity, one to which all people on the planet have a right. The failures of communism and other autocratic models, and the relative successes of liberal, capitalist, secular democracies, in an increasingly globalised world, have even been said to mark an end point of history2. Given the fragilities of human nature and the pluralist nature of modern society, it can be argued that this form of government is the best of all possibilities out of all known models, in that it does provide a reasonable measure of freedom for the individual, including the freedom, alone or in association with others, to have a say in public affairs and decisions made concerning those affairs that affect him or her. Correspondingly, the deduction is made that there must be a universal human right to “democracy”.

But such an assessment that this is some final point in human societal development is obviously open to challenge, as many other models of governance, both secular and religious, continue to be advanced in other parts of the world 3. These feed on the weaknesses in many western countries, on the methods used to protect the existing privileged position of some nation-states, and on the many subsisting global inequities that exist in the modern world. The ability of western liberal, capitalist, secular democratic model to meet the needs of the mass of humanity in a reasonably just way is under continuing scrutiny. Undoubtedly some amazing technological and material progress has been made in parts of the globe in the last century or so. These have benefited at least sections of humanity. But equally there are many obvious deficiencies in many countries that are not being met by such advances. There are growing and widespread concerns about the way the world is heading, including under the twin influences of globalisation and terrorism. Opposition to existing western models is undoubtedly one of the key elements now contributing to global terrorism, discussed

2 F Fukuyama, “The End of History?”, The National Interest (Summer, 1989), following his book of the same name; “History is Still Going Our Way”, Wall Street Journal (5 October 2001). But even Fukuyama admits that there are some unresolved issues in liberal societies, because human nature is not sufficiently satisfied by maximization of individual choice and material prosperity. In some talks he has also mentioned the need for community and spirituality. 3 For an interesting analysis, see J Fonte, “The Fracturing of the West?”, Policy, Spring (Sept-Nov) 2002; see also the discussion below on different models of world unity.


further below. And the relative absence of democratic elements at levels of governance above the nation-state, in an increasingly globalised world, calls into question the value of present western concepts of democracy. Many people in the world feel that they have been left behind and are powerless to do much about it.

Further, it is debatable as to the extent to which the alleged right to democracy is already part of international law, whether or not such a right is conferred by the domestic constitutional law of any nation-state. In the two main International Covenants4, there is an express right to self-determination, but the exact scope of that right in democratic terms is still open to question. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 19485, as well as several other international and regional covenants and agreements, include a citizen’s right to participate in the government of the country, either directly or through representative means under a system of periodic and genuine elections, but again the extent to which this fully incorporates even the basic, essential elements of democracy on the western model is unclear6. All these international provisions are short on detail in what are clearly very important matters. The word “democracy” is not used in them.

“Democracy” as a concept is of course a notion with an ancient lineage. It goes back to the ancient Greeks and to the practice in some of their city-states, if not before. What is of interest is that both “globalisation” and also “terrorism” are also not new concepts or practices. We are not dealing here with anything particularly new, except perhaps in terms of scale.

Essential Background -the “sovereign” nation-state The Title to this paper raises the question whether this essential democratic element in countries based on western models is now under serious threat from “globalisation”, and/or from “terrorism”. But before we can examine this, it is necessary to examine briefly the structure of the present world order.

Since the emergence of the “Westphalian” system of “sovereign”7 nation-states in the seventeenth century in Europe, as subsequently exported around the globe with post-colonialism, developments in democracy have been centered around the nation-state. The concept of the nation-state has gradually been adapted to meet the demands of reformers and other advocates of change, through the introduction of various systems of indirect, representative, national democracies, in some cases as a part of the breakdown of absolutist monarchical authority. It has often been accompanied by a devolution of representative democratic rule to the sub-national levels, including within federal

4 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Art.1; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Art. 1. 5 Art.21, and see Arts 18, 19 and 20. 6 H J Steiner and P Alston (Eds.), “International Human Rights in Context”, (2nd.Ed., 2000, Oxford); 890-910, P Alston (Ed.), “Peoples’ Rights”, (2001, Oxford), 220-221. There is no right of intervention to create a democracy where one does not exist - A Coleman, “Using Might to Enforce a Right”, (2003) 28 Alt L J No 3, 110. 7 According to Islam and some other religions, only Allah (literally “God”) is truly “sovereign”, in the sense of being All-Powerful.


systems, and also down to the level of local government through representative local government models. But because of this nation-state centered approach, democratic ideas have not yet been adapted and applied in practice to any significant degree to the higher, supra-national or international level of government.

It is increasingly being recognised that nation- states are no longer truly “sovereign”, in the sense of having absolute power and control within their own national boundaries. For some considerable time now, there has been a steadily growing (but not uniform) accretion of power at the multi-national and international levels at the expense of the nation-state. This has correspondingly limited the scope for independent action by the nation-state. This accretion has occurred through various agencies, including the United Nations and other supra-national organs, through multi-national corporations, through non-government organisations operating across borders and a variety of other means, including the actions of national governments themselves8. There has been a growth of international interdependence at the expense of national independence.

Globalisation Typically the development of a truly international economy is referred to as the most recognisable example of this process of globalisation, indicating that no country can now fully insulate itself from international economic trends and influences without adverse national economic problems. Globalisation, however, is clearly not a process limited to economic concerns, but now affects, to a greater or lesser degree, virtually the whole spectrum of human activity across the globe. This is not to say that the nation state has ceased to be important; clearly it still plays a vital part in human affairs. But looking at the world as a whole, the global system of governance is increasingly taking on the characteristics of a multi-tiered system, with the top tier comprising the international level (in a pre-mature form9), with the emergence immediately below that level of various schemes of regional, supra-national governance in many parts of the world (also in most cases in a pre-mature form), and with national or state government coming below that10. It may be that there are not always clear lines between these different tiers. Further, the priorities between these different tiers are still evolving, and the nation-state may still

8 The Statute of the International Court of Justice, Art. 38, recognises that “international conventions” (ie: agreements having effect in international law), “whether general or particular, establishing rules expressly recognised by the contesting states” before it, are a primary source of international law. Thus by voluntarily entering into such international agreements, the nation-states can themselves make rules with effect as law, and by undertaking legal obligations thereunder, they are restricting themselves in terms of future action beyond mere contractual obligations unless they can legally free themselves from those obligations. International law remains largely consensual in nature, but in practice the nation-state looses some of its sovereign powers by this practice. Australia is a party to a large and growing number of such agreements, as are most other countries. The practice bears some analogies to the way in which the making of legislation by the Crown, firstly with the consent of the Lords, and later with that of the Commons, developed in England in the late Middle Ages. 9 By this is meant that it does not yet have all the normal features of a modern “government”, that is, a legislature with power to make binding international laws, an executive with legal authority to carry out the laws and make international policy, and a judiciary with a wide, compulsory jurisdic tion in international matters. 10 Compare F Halliday, “The World at 2000”, (2001, Palgrave), 133-138.


exercises more power than its lower level would indicate. But the position is fluid both on a horizontal level (as between different nation-states) as well as on a vertical level (as between the different tiers of governance).

This multi-tiered system, and the global inter-connections that gives rise to it, are the basis of what can be identified in broad terms as the process of “globalisation”. This is not a precise term, and may mean different things to different people. It is not appropriate to attempt a definition of this term in this paper, except to comment that it refers to a process that is centered on global notions and activities, as distinct from the nation-state centered approach of the past. It is as much a matter of perspective or conceptualisation as it is of actual events and actions 11. Further, it is to be noted that this process is not new, just as the concept of democracy is not new12. It is not even a western creation. There were many examples of complex cross-border relations between ancient Empires, creating links that impact on government, going back into ancient history. This extended into the Middle Ages in Europe. With the emergence of the Westphalian system, it was not long before a new universalism became evident in Europe. This tended to dissipate in the nation-based mercantile, colonial competition of the Nineteenth Century, only to be revived in force in the twentieth century. It has been greatly assisted in that century by modern developments in technology, communications and transport.

Post World War II, globalisation took on new force, with the creation of the United Nations and other factors. That has been assisted even further by the demise of the Cold War, with its associated relaxation of many national barriers, and the emergence of the USA as the only global super-power, with its emphasis on global capitalism and related matters. What is different about this present age, as distinct from past ages, is both the exponential pace of change towards ever greater cross-border links between peoples and nations, and also the ever-widening scope and complexity of that change. The interdependence of all peoples and nations is now an established fact that cannot be denied. There is no going back in practice to some sort of envisioned global system of truly autonomous or “sovereign” nation-states. There is also an accompanying movement in recent times towards a global-centered approach that is challenging our accustomed nation-centered approach. The nation-state may still remain the primary focus of public attention, but increasingly more and more people, including many people who are opposed to the worst effects of globalisation, are realising that this is becoming out of touch with global realities. To the extent that the focus remains nation-state centered, it is clear that this is partly at least because many people do not yet have an adequate knowledge and understanding of how intense and complicated the process of globalisation has already become13.

This lack of knowledge and understanding, in turn, is due to the lack of emphasis on democratic notions as part of this process. Globalisation as a process has occurred in an

11 P Allott, “The Health of Nations”, (2002, Cambridge UP). 12 A G Hopkins (Ed.), “Globalization in World History”, (2002, Pimlico,); R J Holton, “Globalization and the Nation-State”, 1998, Macmillan). 13 Attempts have been made to try to explain the process in common, everyday language, eg: T Friedman, “The Lexus and the Olive Tree”, (1999, 2000, HarperCollins), but it is debateable as to how widespread is their success. These attempts usually concentrate on economic globalisation.


evolutionary way on many fronts, with only limited participation by ordinary citizens and with limited publicity intelligible to ordinary citizens. Most changes have occurred at the institutional/corporate/political level, involving only a relatively few participants, being those with particular qualifications or expertise, and with limited (if any) democratic accountability14. The ordinary public has generally been the end recipients of the process, not the participants in the process. It is, in these circumstances, natural to expect the expression of concerns about the process as it impacts on the ordinary citizen, given the haphazard and largely unregulated way in which it has evolved.

Terrorism Likewise the practice of terrorism is not new to the present era. The unlawful use of organised and indiscriminate violence, with a view to causing intimidation and fear, has been going on for centuries15. It has been seen as a method of achieving certain goals where the ends are regarded by the terrorists as being so important as justifying the means, no matter how unjust or violent those means may be.

Since the Westphalian system emerged, the practice of terrorism has most commonly been used in seeking goals that may be opposed by those in power in the nation-state. Take, for example, the quest for greater recognition of the rights of minorities located within the borders of a nation-state, including in some cases their alleged right to self-determination and independence. More recently, terrorism has been employed as a means of trying to secure the rights, interests and beliefs of specific religious groups, notwithstanding the view, widely held, that the original teachings of all the Great Religions do not condone such use of violence. Often the motivating factors are multiple and complicated, involving intertwined issues such as race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, language, economic disparity, other historical hatreds and prejudices, border location issues, etc. It seems that the increased recent use of terrorist tactics in the world may partly be due to the collapse of the Iron Curtain, with the loss of all the restraints inherent in the previous bi-polar world of international power politics.

With the emergence of contemporary international humanitarian law, most terrorist tactics are now likely to be in breach of that law, as well as being in breach of the domestic law of the nation-state where those tactics are employed. There remains a grey area between the legitimate pursuit of the right to self-determination and other human rights on the one hand, and the use of terrorist tactics on the other. That is, the differentiation between what may be seen by some as the pursuit of a right to freedom from foreign rule and from abuse of their human rights by those groups that are or feel oppressed by the state, as against what may be regarded as “terrorism” and subversion against the lawful authorities of the nation-state in question, from another perspective. Elements of nation-state attitudinal “hypocrisy” are not hard to detect in practice here.

14 O L Orchard, “It Never has been Easy: Democracy”, Chapter 15 of C Sheil (Ed.), “Globalization: Australian Impacts”, (2001, UNSW Press), 266-281. 15 For a history of terrorism, see W Z Laqueur, “The New Terrorism: Fanaticism and the Arms of Mass Destruction”, (1999, OUP).


What is of particular concern since the collapse of the Iron Curtain in regard to contemporary terrorism is the ready accessibility of modern technology and equipment to serve the terrorists needs. This is even of more concern with the potential for the acquisition, concealment and deployment of various types of weapons of mass destruction. Obviously it is much more of a threat if terrorists have weapons that can cause enormous destruction as compared with the situation if they only have handguns or the like. This is of compelling concern to the USA, the main target of terrorist attacks in the world. One can readily imagine the dangers if some terrorist was able to evade security and explode even a small, dirty atomic bomb in a big western city. It would no doubt make the destruction of the Twin Towers look like a small incident in comparison. It is really too horrible a possibility to even contemplate, and yet it is not a scenario that can be readily dismissed in the present world situation16.

The Role of the USA The USA is now the main economic power in the world and by far the largest spender on military matters. With the demise of the Soviet Union, and the limited success of the United Nations in peacekeeping and peace-making, the USA has to a large extent become the defacto “policeman” of the international scene. Despite its historical beginnings in revolution and violence, the USA is now the main opponent of terrorism in the world and the main advocate of national democracy. Its definition of “terrorism” is built upon its Government’s view of its own national interests and the risk of violent attacks on or threats to those interests. It is also, with its multinational companies and its investment-conscious citizens, the main player in the process of economic globalisation. Any study of globalisation and of terrorism would be incomplete without a consideration of the role of the USA.

The approach of the USA Government to these twin contemporary aspects of globalisation and terrorism can be briefly summarised in the following points.

1. To actively support the expansion of the global economy, based on private capital on the western corporate/capitalistic model, using open markets, deregulation, free trade, freedom of capital movements and investment, etc., except in those areas in which such an approach is not perceived as being in the national interest of the USA (such as in relation to USA farm production). The western countries are the main beneficiaries of this policy, although there is some evidence that 3rd world countries can also benefit economically through the opening up of their national economies to the global economy17.


16 One writer, W Z Laqueur, has speculated that terrorism could become “the incendiary torch and the devastating storm of the coming century”, - “The New Terrorism: Fanaticism and the Arms of Mass Destruction”, op.cit. 17 Dept. of Foreign Affairs and Trade, “Globalisation: Keeping the Gains”, (2003, Commonwealth of Australia); S Bhalla, “Imagine There’s No Country: Poverty, Inequality and Growth” (2002, Institute of International Economics); D Gruen, T O’Brien and J Lawson (Eds.), “Globalisation, Living Standards and Inequality: Recent Progress and Continuing Challenges”, (2002, Reserve Bank and Dept of Treasury, Australia).


At the same time, to advocate and to press for the introduction of democratic reforms in other countries, using all forms of leverage open to the USA. This applies in particular to those 3rd world countries that are presently governed by autocratic governments, and even more so where those countries may be supporters of global terrorism that might threaten the process of globalisation and USA interests generally.


To fiercely oppose all forms of terrorism, wherever that may occur on the globe and where it is seen as a threat to the process of globalisation and the interests of the USA generally, with a greater tendency to use force and coercion as the preferred solution. Thus we have talk of the “war” on terrorism, the new global war to replace the Cold War. This approach tends to be simplistic in nature, avoiding any detailed examination of the underlying causes of terrorism and the solutions needed to address those causes. The dictates of national interest prevent this examination, as many of the solutions ultimately require a co-operative global approach.

Some commentators have gone on and suggested that the contemporary practice of terrorism is largely an outward expression of a new global clash emerging from aggressive economic and cultural globalisation, largely derived from the USA, and that of militant religious fundamentalism. Thus, for example, it is suggested that we have a new conflict between western culture and traditions based on the individualistic, liberal, secular, democratic model, versus eastern culture and tradition based mainly on the Islamic theocratic model18. The USA and its allies see themselves as defending “the western way of life” from the only source that can at this time mount a credible attack upon it, that is, the Islamic world.


To give priority to the status of the “sovereign” nation-state in the international order, and in particular to the rights and privileges of the USA as the most powerful nation-state in that order. The USA will make full use of the international global system in so far as it suits its purposes, but this does not extend to opening up that global system to any form of democratisation or other radical reform, or otherwise weakening the powers and privileges of the USA in that system.

It is partly for this reason that, as the number of the member-states of the United Nations has increased over the years since World War II, and as the voting power of the USA has correspondingly decreased in the General Assembly of the United

18 S Huntington, “The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Orders”, (1996, Simon & Schuster); also “The Clash of Civilisations”, 72 Foreign Affairs, Summer, 22-49, and also “The Coming Clash of Civilizations: Or, the West against the Rest”, Chapt 17 of C W Kegley Jr and E R Wittkopf (Eds), “The Global Agenda: Issues and Perspectives”, 6th Ed, 2001, McGraw Hill); B R Barber, “Jihad v McWorld”, Atlantic Monthly, March, 1992; also “Jihad v McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism are Reshaping the World”, ( 1996, Ballentine). The subsequent lower level debate has often tended to concentrate on an “us versus them” approach. For a critique of Huntington, see J O’Hagan, “A ‘Clash of Civilizations’?”, Chapt 10 of G Fry and J O’Hagan, “Contending Images of World Politics”, (2000, St Martins), 135.


Nations, the USA has increasingly become the main opponent of a number of co-operative proposals and international agreements that have a global perspective19.

It should be stressed that I am not wishing to single out the USA for special criticism in its present significant global role. History has played a predominating role in thrusting the USA into that role, and it is not one that the USA has always readily sought. The Government of the USA is acting in the manner of all nation-states in seeking to protect what they perceive to be their national interests in taking these approaches. One can understand an approach that seeks to protect a nation-state from the horrors of terrorist attacks, especially if it could involve weapons of mass destruction.

The difficulty that presents itself, and which prevents the USA taking a broader, global approach, is one that is inherent in the present world system of “sovereign” nation-states. Politicians and others representing a nation-state will instinctively wish to protect and give priority to the interests of their own nation-state above that of any other nation-state or of the world as a whole. This has the capacity to cloud one’s ability to see beyond those national interests to some wider, global benefit or interest. But the present world situation now demands a wider vision, an ability to see beyond limited loyalties, and to embrace a new planetary perspective. Such an approach, in my view, now represents the best interests of all humanity in this emerging global age, including the best interests of ourselves, and even though we are citizens of a particular country and identify most closely with that country.

The United Nations

Given these comments, people often turn to the United Nations in the assumption that it was created to provide this wider perspective. Certainly it was created with high expectations that it would prevent war and other forms of mass violence. But again the structure of the United Nations is tied to the concept of the “sovereign” nation-state, thereby imposing limitations that restrict its capacity to take global action in the best interests of all humanity.

The United Nations did look as if it was destined for some major new role in securing world peace and security with the demise of the Cold War. It seemed that a new era of peace might dawn. But these hopes have since subsided through a number of misfortunes, the greatest of which was the humiliation of UN peacekeepers in the so-called UN “safe area” in Srebrenica, Bosnia, and the subsequent genocidal atrocities committed on the defenseless male Bosnians there20. Since that time, it has been steadily downhill for the United Nations. The USA has correspondingly taken a greater international interventionist role, relying on its military capacity. This is despite the somewhat doubtful international legalities of some of its actions, most recently in Iraq.

19 Eg: the Law of the Sea Convention, the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, the Statute of the International Criminal Court. 20 W Shawcross, “Deliver Us From Evil”, (2000, Bloomsbury).


The continuance of the veto on the part of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, including the USA, has worked both in favour and against the interests of the USA in that body. It provides a means for the USA to prevent the use of force under Security Council auspices in cases where the USA does not agree, but at the same time it gives each of the other permanent members of the Security Council the power to prevent UN endorsement of the use of force by the USA where the USA wishes to use it. This has not so far proved to be a major impediment in practice to the use by the USA of force against terrorists, particularly under its doctrine of pre-emptive intervention. The USA will still go to considerable lengths to obtain Security Council endorsement for its coercive actions taken in other countries, for reasons mainly connected to international politics and international law. The absence of any independent international court with compulsory jurisdiction prevents any realistic legal oversight of national decisions to use force outside national boundaries. And of course the great military power of the USA acts as a major deterrent to any national challenge to its use of force.

The end result is that the United Nations is now often perceived as a relatively weak institution in the quest for international peace, security and prosperity. This in turn tends to bring the whole contemporary international system, of which the United Nations is the centre-piece, into disrepute21. Cynics may claim that it is all just a matter of international power politics, with the USA at the pinnacle of the power hierarchy. But this is clearly a gross simplification of a global system that is extremely complicated and interwoven, of which the USA is only a part, albeit a significant part. To suggest otherwise is to demonstrate that we have not yet learnt the lessons of Vietnam or Somalia, or of the former USSR in Afghanistan, with further such lessons that may now be in the course of unfoldment. The USA, as the only remaining super-power, does not have unlimited power as a global actor. Nor is it just a matter any longer of a world governed by independent “sovereign” nation-states, even though the present design of the international system is largely framed on this basis. This design has become “out of kilter” with the realities of the contemporary, increasingly globalised society comprising all nations and peoples.

What can be said with certainty about this international system is that it is lamentably defective in being able to deliver peace, security and prosperity for the whole of humanity. Violence, human rights abuses, economic dislocation and gross inequity continue to oppress much of humanity into the 21st century. Viewed from the global perspective, it is a system that is simply not up to the task set for it; it is not working adequately; it is a system under threat. The widespread prevalence of terrorism is but one testimony to this fact.

The “threat” of Globalisation The question arises at this point; does globalisation pose a threat to the essential elements of western national democracy?

21 The UN has a number of multilateral Conventions on the suppression of terrorism, as to which see the UN Treaty Collection, but their effectiveness is open to question. The absence of adequate international enforcement mechanisms is but one of the factors involved.


The answer to this question depends very much upon a person’s perspective. If a person wishes to retain allegiance to the view that nation-states are “sovereign” and are the primary actors on the international stage, to which his or her primary loyalty is owed, then it may be that the process of globalisation will be viewed with some suspicion, particularly if it reacts adversely on the position of that person’s nation-state and its independent ability to make its own decisions in its perceived best interests. Such a person will tend to support the status quo in the present international system, with all its faults and limitations, but only in so far as it suits his or her purposes and those of his or her national government. If the nation-state is the privileged economic beneficiary of globalisation, then it will seek to maximise the economic advantages to it of globalisation, even if at the expense of other nation-states.

The extent of the threat to democracy, from this perspective, will be measured by the extent to which the process of globalisation has taken away the scope for the democratic institutions of the nation-state to make decisions in the national interest. Conceivably, as the process of globalisation moves forward, then barring some unforeseen calamity, there may well eventually come a time when decision-making on many matters of importance will have been elevated to a level above that of the nation-state, leaving the national democratic institutions with a residue, concerned only with issues of purely domestic importance. The ardent nationalist will be concerned to minimise the risk of this occurrence.

An opposite point of view is that globalisation is an inevitable process, a realignment of the global system to meet the needs of the time. However it is a process that, because of the way it has developed, has many flaws and inequities. But rather than being a threat to democracy and justice for all, it can be turned into an asset for all mankind through reform, such as in greater democratic participation at the higher international level, through greater and more effective international controls on international transactions and processes, imposed in the interests of all humanity22, and through improvements in the accountability and effectiveness of global institutions23. To the extent that the national institutions of government loose power and authority to a higher level of governance as a result, this is but an inevitable consequence of globalisation and the realignment that it incorporates. Those nation-states, after all, are one of the main contributors to the process through the voluntary undertaking of more and more international obligations and the ongoing process of entering into international agreements. All elements of human society should be engaged in the globalisation process, as part of writing the

22 It is said that no one nation-state can now regulate transnational corporations - W Dierckxsens, “The Limits of Capitalism”, (2000, Zed Books). 23 There has been some academic debate concerning a cosmopolitan democracy in a global civil society, and global democratic law; see O L Orchard, footnote 14. These include calls for a rethinking of democracy beyond national limits - D Held, “Democracy and the Global Order”,(1995, Polity); and by the same author “The Changing Contours of the Political Community”, Chapt 2 of R V Ericson and N Stehr (Eds),“Governing Modern Societies”, 42-57. Overall, Held is an optimist about the future of democracy - see D Held and A McGraw, “Global Transformations”, (1999, Stanford U P); also by the same authors, “Managing the Challenge of Globalization and Institutionalizing Cooperation Through Global Governance”, Chapt 12 of The Global Agenda: Issues and Perspectives”, op. cit., 134. See also R Falk, “On Humane Governance”, (1995, Polity).


planet’s future. It should not be left to an elite behind closed doors. At the same time, there is no reason why the national systems of government should not still remain democratic in nature in a more equitable global order.

The real problem, on this latter view, is the current insistence on a theory of the primacy of the “sovereign” nation-state, at a time when such a theory is increasingly not being reflected in global practice. A move to decision-making on the great global issues of the day at the international level, in the best interests of the planet as a whole, is, on this view, preferable to such decision-making between contending nation-states, each seeking to maximize their own national interests at the expense of those of the planet as a whole.

The vocal opponents of globalisation, usually seen as represented by protesters at international multilateral meetings, are concerned with economic globalisation in its present form. Their fear is the threat of what they see as a new imperialism, imperialism being defined as an unequal global system in which the benefits overwhelmingly accrue to the elite, privileged members of the system. They may argue that the western version of rampant economic globalisation has many serious side-effects, not only in the economic inequalities and loss of employment that can result, but also in terms of environmental damage, in terms of abuses of human rights (particularly in third world countries) and in other kinds of discriminatory exploitation. They may argue that it has resulted in a troubling concentration of power in certain existing economic institutions such as the World Trade Organisation. These factors will be emphasised by them rather than any perceived threat to national democracy.

Religiously-based societies may also view globalisation with suspicion, not so much because of the economic consequences, but because of the risk of importing secular western culture and ideas that directly threaten the prevailing religious teachings of those in authority and the non-western culture of those societies. Democratic ideas from the west may be included in this category (depending on the country concerned), particularly if they incorporate ideas of pluralism and religious freedom. It is, however, arguable that some element of democracy is not incompatible with Islamic teachings24 nor with the teachings of the other great religions.

As to which of these views is the correct one, this is clearly a matter for judgment. But in my view, one thing is fairly obvious. Globalisation as a process has now built up a momentum all of its own. Stopping it now seems a little like trying to hold back the furious sea by putting your finger in the one small leak in the dyke. We all have to come to terms with the process, and to try to influence it in a way that is most beneficial to all. It is conceivable that an end may be put to international terrorism at some future point in time, but the same cannot be said with any confidence for globalisation. The world and its peoples seem destined to come together ever closer, to become one “global village”.

24 F Al-Braizat, “Is Islam compatible with Democracy?”, paper presented at Conference on Culture, Democracy and Development, Switzerland, 6-11 October 2002; Dr J Piscatori, “The Role of Religion in Globalisation”, 9 March 2002,


The Threat of Terrorism from Without and Within The threat posed by global terrorism as seen by the west on its “way of life”, including to that essential democratic element of western governmental systems as previously mentioned, is clearly a real and significant one. Terrorists have already demonstrated that they can cause great damage and havoc, and the potential is there for them to cause even greater damage and havoc, extending to the very fabric of society. The use of indiscriminate violence against western targets is now an established fact of life, even though on any reasonable view it can never be justified as a legitimate means of achieving any political or other goal. If there are deficiencies in the global system, they should be addressed openly by constructive discussion, effort and education, and not by such indiscriminate violence. The use of such violence is not only counter-productive, it is fundamentally unjust. It is also a criminal act, if not an act of war. In so far as it is a tactic used in the name of any of the great religions, it is clearly an abuse of that religion as originally taught and properly interpreted, and is not in furtherance of it.

It is interesting to note in this respect that the Prophet Muhummad25 proclaimed in the Holy Quran that it is impermissible to use force to make someone convert to Islam26, and whilst asserting that He was the latest at that time in a line of Messengers from God, He taught and practised respect for the people of the “Book” or the “Scripture”27 and for their rights, providing they did not oppose the new Islamic state. The original Teachings of all the great religions, including Islam, place emphasis on peace and peaceful methods in preference to aggression and violence.

Of course, terrorists do not see the world in this way. They may well be frustrated with the present world order and the bases of power and privilege within it. They see no alternative but to use indiscriminate violence. They may even be prepared to distort their own religious teachings to self-justify their actions. But this does not make their actions morally or legally correct.

The threat of terrorism to the west from “within”, that is, the threat resulting from the nation-states’ own response to terrorism, is more controversial. We have experienced this recently in Australia with debate in the two Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament on amendments to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 197928. The Bill to amend this Act was sponsored by the Commonwealth Government, the Government parties having a majority in the lower House. It proposed sweeping new powers for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to combat “terrorism” as widely defined. In some cases these proposals intruded greatly upon long-established common law rights of freedom of the individual, there being no comprehensive, entrenched constitutional Bill of Rights in Australia to prevent such an intrusion. Considerable opposition to the amendment proposals was demonstrated by other political parties, by elements of

25 Muhummad (AD 570 or 571 - 632) was the Founder/Prophet of the Muslim Faith, otherwise known as Islam. 26 Surah II.256, “There is no compulsion in religion”. 27 Ie: Jews and Christians. 28 Australian Security Intelligence Organis ation Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Act 2002, passed by the Senate on 25 June 2003.


academia, by citizens groups and others29. The Bill was closely scrutinised, and considerable amendments were made in the Senate, where the Government does not have a majority. The Bill only recently passed the Senate in a form acceptable to the Government, with some reduction in the scope of the new powers of ASIO.

This debate illustrates the dilemma posed by terrorism for western governments in relation to measures they may wish to take within their own society30. Clearly action has to be taken to prevent acts of terror as far as is reasonably possible. No society can operate effectively if constantly under the threat of indiscriminate violence. But a balance has to be found to ensure that the very measures taken to prevent terrorism within the nation-state do not themselves undermine that which the west treasures the most - that is, the western system of democratic rights and freedoms31. Whether the balance has been correctly struck in the case of this particular Commonwealth Bill is difficult to assess, and views will differ. There is a strong, long-standing tradition in this country of support for the basic rights and liberties of the individual, and if the politicians allow excessive inroads into these then a strong reaction is to be anticipated. Of particular concern is the use of modern surveillance mechanisms, with their potential for unsupervised abuse. It has been repeatedly demonstrated how fragile are these inherited freedoms, and how they can be lost through the use of carefully manipulated campaigns designed to influence public opinion in an emotional debate, where passions and prejudices tend to prevail. Much will depend upon how any new coercive powers are applied in practice, and whether the courts will take an active role in reviewing those actions. I do not wish to express a view on this particular point. The point I wish to make is a more general one.

Towards an Understanding of the Underlying Issues


I have already argued that globalisation has developed a momentum of its own. Rather than opposing it, it is better in my view to engage in the process and approach it in a way

29 Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO< ASIS and DSD, “An Advisory Report on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2002”, (May 2002); Law Council of Australia, “Submission the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee Inquiry into the Security Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2002 (No 2) and Related Bills”, (April 2002); Law Council of Australia, “Submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee Inquiry into the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2002 (“the ASIO Bill”)”, (20 November 2002); Law Council of Australia, “Submission the Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD and to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee: Inquiry into the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2002”, (29 April 2002); Prof G Williams, “Bali, Terrorism and Australia”, speech on 19 November 2002,; Michael Head, “Counter-terrorism laws threaten fundamental democratic rights”, 27 Alt L J, No 3 June 2002, 121. 30 This dilemma is described by P Wilkinson, “Security and Terrorism in the 21st Century: The Changing International Terrorist Threat”, (1996, 31 For a description of action taken in other countries, see Dato P Cumaraswamy, “Terrorism: Meeting the Challenge/ Finding the Balance”, 13th Commonwealth Law Conference, Melbourne, 13-17 April., 2003.


that turns it to the most beneficial global purposes. If it is perceived to pose a threat to democracy within any country, then measures should, as far as possible, be taken to prevent this. As I presently perceive the issue, globalisation does not necessarily pose a threat to all national democratic systems, although there is some debate about this and there is a danger that globalisation, including economic globalisation32 and the form of the emerging global order, could undermine national democracy where it exists. There is a risk that the democratic powers and responsibilities of a nation-state will be compromised by the dictates of global corporations and other global factors in the absense of adequate global regulation. Each nation-state, as well as the global community itself, need to examine this issue for itself and keep it under review33. Smaller and less powerful nations will be more concerned about this issue than more powerful nations. The negative influence of many contemporary international developments, particularly in the rise of the global economy, have clearly impacted on smaller nations 34, creating difficulties which in some cases have contributed to the undermining of national democratic systems35. So far, Australia does not appear to be in this category.

This process of review, to take into account international developments as they affect Australia and its democratic system, is no doubt going on within the Australian Government. Witness the recent adjustments to the treaty-making process in Australia36. This has been matched by the High Court to a limited extent in finding implied democratic rights and freedoms in the Australian Constitution37. Whether more needs to be done within Australia in this regard is a specialised question that cannot be adequately addressed in the scope of this paper. The Australian Government seems to have voluntarily embraced many features of the globalisation process, particularly in matters of international trade38. It is an active participant in the process, seeking to maximize the

32 S Burchill, “Democracy and World Order”, Chapt 18 of A Vandenberg (Ed), “Citizenship and Democracy in a Global Era”, (2000, MacMillan), 275-288. 33 It is noteworthy that Barber considered that both globalisation in its present form, together with terrorism, posed a threat to western democracy, and advocated that radical changes would have to be made to create a “global, democratic and civil order” to regulate capitalist investors and banks, and to remove the sense of powerlessness on the part of others not benefiting from globalisation, if the threat was to be removed. See footnote 18 above. 34 J Kelsey, “Globalisation, State and Law: Towards a Multi-perspectival Polity”, 50th Anniversary Conference of Australasian Law Teachers’ Association, 1995. 35 This is evident today with some small Pacific Island countries and perhaps in Africa, see J Overton, “Global Markets and Global Citizens”, Chapt 4 of L Boon-Thong and T S Bahrin (Eds), “Vanishing Borders: The New International Order of the 21st Century”, (1998, Ashgate), 57-70. 36 S Blay, R Piotrowicz and M Tsamenyi (Eds.), “Public International Law”, (1997, OUP), 111-117; Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, “A Seminar on the Role of Parliaments in Treaty Making”, Report 24, August 1999, Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. 37 Australian Capital Television v Commonwealth (1992) 177 CLR 106; Nationwide News Ltd v Wills (1992) 177 CLR 1 and other cases on the implied freedom of communication in political matters; but see McGinty v WA (1996) 186 CLR 140; Langer v Commonwealth (1996) 186 CLR 302; Ditchburn v Divisional Returning Officer {1999} HCA 41 and other cases, rejecting a general constitutional guarantee of democracy and representative government. Only Kirby J on the High Court appears to favour a wider democratic constitutional guarantee. 38 An important change in direction resulted from the Garnaut Report of 1989, see Q Beresford, “Governments, Markets and Globalisation”, (2000, Allen &Unwin).


commercial gains for Australia and to make Australia internationally competitive. Whether it has sufficiently embraced other aspects of globalisation is a matter I do not need to enter upon at this time. Australia continues to have an international reputation as a stable, democratic country and an active international player.

From a wider perspective, all nations and peoples have an interest in ensuring that globalisation leads eventually to a fair and equitable global order, one in which democracy is a key element and in which human rights play a central role39, and not one in which autocratic elements are introduced at the highest levels of global governance to the benefit of a few and to the disadvantage of the many. There is a clear danger that without adequate foresight and attention, a new autocracy could emerge at supra-national levels of governance, one that would impact adversely on democracy at every level. And it simply cannot be assumed that the USA will remain forever the world’s “policeman” and guarantor of democracy in a uni-polar world of power politics. The rise and fall effect in human history and civilisation strongly suggests that the present position of the USA is not immutable. The USA is part of the globalisation process and will be impacted upon by that process. Adjustments will have to be made by the USA, as with all other countries, to accommodate that process and to ensue that it does not impact in ways presently not envisaged or desired. As a process, it is leading the world and its disparate nation-states into ever-closer relations. It is up to those nations and peoples to ensue that what emerges iat the supra-national level is fair, open and accountable in the best interests of all.

And there is an additional argument that globalisation may well trigger and facilitate an increase in participatory democracy at the local level, particularly in the global city. There is the potential for the rise of urban democratic citizenship 40, as part of a wider loyalty and identification with the planet as a whole.

This leads to a brief consideration of the issue of democratic public participation in the higher levels of governance above the nation-state. New ground has been broken in this respect with the introduction of the elected European Parliament, as a part of the European Community, a regional multi national organisation that has assumed many of the features of a governmental system. This Community is still in a transitional stage and it is difficult to assess where it will finish up.

Other intergovernmental regional arrangements have not developed to the same extent and do not have such an element of democratic participation except through their national representatives. And at the international level, the United Nations remains an institution comprised of “sovereign” nation-states only. Suggestions such as that of an elected third chamber of the UN have made no progress. Some scope for individual involvement has arisen in some of the agencies of the UN, for example, before human rights committees,

39 It is argued that transnationally applicable basic human rights provide the foundation of a cosmopolitan democracy - U Beck, “What is Globalization?”, (2000, Polity). See also “On Humane Governance”, op. cit. 40 J Brodie, “Imaging Democratic Urban Citizenship”, Chapt 6 of E F Isin (Ed), “Democracy, Citizenship and the Global City”, (2000, Routledge), 110-128; J Martin and E Goldsmith (Eds), “The Case Against the Global Economy”, (1996, Sierra Club),


and there is increased activity at the UN by accredited NGOs, but this hardly amounts to a democratic role. UN reform continues to be an active agenda item, but progress is slow41. It may take some international crisis to promote substantial UN reform to reflect contemporary realities.

(b) Terrorism

The issues for consideration are quite different in the case of international terrorism. As already noted, such terrorism clearly does pose a threat to national democracy. The argument being advanced in this paper is that international terrorism, in an increasingly globalised world, can only be effectively tackled by addressing the underlying causes of terrorism in a constructive way. It is argued that even with the latest advances in technology, with the most frightening of modern military hardware, the most sophisticated forms of intelligence-gathering and the most intrusive invasions of democratic liberties, as part of a war on terrorism, the prospects are not good of stopping terrorism by force without also addressing these underlying causes. People with a sufficiently strong motivation, if so disposed, will still be able to find some means of expressing their anger and hatred in the use of indiscriminate violence. The evidence is that there are many people in this category, and the number and their determination tends to increase with every violent retaliation by those in authority. The risk becomes more serious as the availability of weapons of mass destruction increases. Measures taken by the USA and other western nations appear to have achieved some success in limiting the terrorist violence, but all would agree that a significant threat still remains to global order.

But what sort of measures would be required to undertake this task? Obviously they are not going to be simple. And in my view they should not be devised against the backdrop of some divisive new theory that casts the west against the east in some new form of conflict. People of goodwill, whether from the east or the west, cannot support terrorism in any form. Far from giving rise to a new divisio n, we have already considered the fact that the world is heading towards ever-greater integration, not only in its commercial aspects but in all other major aspects. Unless the present “war” on terrorism is successful, some might think that we are destine d to have an ever more integrated world that is cursed with continuing terrorist activities. It is not an attractive prospect to suggest that we might have to “learn to live” with such a state of affairs.

In my view we must look beyond such a prospect; it is simply not acceptable. Nor is an ongoing “war” on terrorism, without any forseeable end, acceptable. The solution must be found in a wider perspective, one that envisages a future non-violent world order. Part of the problem is that the present world order continues to be dominated by a theory that increasingly reflects a past age, one which placed almost complete focus on the nation-states as the central actors, each (allegedly) with a substantial measure of independence (“sovereignty”). International and regional institutions were either not present in such a theory or they were not considered as being important. Under that old order, “solutions” were to be found within each nation-state, separately from every other nation-state. But

41 There is a great deal of literature on UN reform. A good starting point is the Report of the Commission on Global Governance, “Our Global Neighbourhood”, (1995, O U P).


the solutio ns to the major problems of the world today are increasingly co-operative and international in nature, requiring an international response. This in turn requires more effective international and regional institutions and supra-national methods of governance. Arguably, much greater public participation in the processes of globalisation will make it less likely for future world terrorists to emerge42.

Global terrorism, in my view, must be dealt with in this co-operative, international way43 if it is to be effectively dealt with, using appropriate international and regional institutions which take a broad view of the problem and which seek comprehensive solutions. No one nation-state, no matter how powerful or interventionist, has the capacity to do this. Terrorism cannot be allowed to exist if the world is to be built upon principles of peace, security and prosperity.. Its elimination will take not only direct and effective global counter-measures including the use of force where essential, but also global measures to eliminate the causes of terrorism, whatever they may be. These two approaches must go hand in hand. The causes of terrorism may be based on ancient religious, racial or ethnic prejudices, etc., on poverty and other material inequities, on human rights abuses, on border disputes or other matters. An open, democratic and effective global system, committed to the resolution of such global problems from a global perspective in the best interests of all humanity, is required for this task, and not just solutions that may be advocated by one or more powerful nation-states from their own national perspectives. This may seem an enormous task, but in my view the reality is that there may be no long-term alternative other than a slide into further global crises and more terrorism and violence.

Let it not be thought that this is an impossible task. The Baha’i Faith, of which I am privileged to be a member, teaches that the process known as globalisation is in fact an inevitable movement towards world unity and peace among all nations and peoples, as prophesised down through the ages. Baha’u’llah44, the Founder of the Faith, has set out in His Writings the essential conditions conducive to the creation of a truly global society, one that includes a necessary democratic element as part of a world federal system of nation-states. He has emphasised the necessity of creating a universal global consciousness as part of a new spiritual awareness and a new responsibility to the planet as a whole. His conceptio n of world unity bears no relation to the bland, faceless and value -deficient global economy that we see today. It is a unity that recognises and celebrates the diversity of cultures and religions, while at the same time emphasising the commonalities shared by all human beings. It involves a commitment to the principle of “unity in diversity”. Time and space prevent a full exploration of these teachings.

42 A C Samli, “In Search of an Equitable, Sustainable Globalization: A Bittersweet Dilemma”, (2002, Quorum). 43 The need for international cooperation in solving the great problems of the world was recently affirmed by the national leaders of the world in the Millennium Summit, 6-8 September 2000. In the United Nations, there have been many calls for cooperation in the prevention of terrorism, eg: Security Council resolution 1269/1999. 44 Baha’u’llah (1817 -1892), is the Prophet/Founder of the Baha’i Faith.


Many other learned proposals, both secular and religious, have been made for world unity45.

To politicians accustomed perhaps to thinking in limited time frames, this may all seem somewhat fanciful and speculative. And yet history indicates that it is necessary sometimes to take a broad sweep over the centuries to discern important patterns and directio ns. The process of globalisation comes within this category, for reasons already indicated. It is arguably the most important development in human political organisation since the introduction of the “Westphalian” nation-state and the spread of that concept around the globe. It indicates that human society is now undergoing a most profound transition in its organisation and governance. The fulfillment of your duty as politicians should take this into account as part of a vision for a violence-free future. It is a vision encapsulated in the quote from Fromm46 at the beginning of this paper. To quote from another visionary, H G Wells:

“The world perishes unless sovereignty is merged and nationality subordinated”47

And may I respectfully remind you of the emphatic promise of world peace and unity and the elimination of global mass violence incorporated in the words of the Prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament48

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it..... .

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”.

Thank you. July 2003

45 Eg: G Clark and L B Sohn, “World Peace Through World Law”, (2nd Ed., 1960, Harvard). A good collection of writings on the idea of world federalism is contained in B Walker (Comp.), “Uniting the Peoples and Nations”, (1993, WFN and WFA). 46 E Fromm, “Beyond the Chains of Illusion”, (1980, Sphere Books), 169. 47 H G Wells, “The Outline of History”, (1920, Garden City Publishing Co ). 48 Book of Isaiah, Chapter 2, v 2 and 4. See also the Book of Micah, Chapter 4, v 1 and 3.