Developing 21st Century Institutions for a Transnational World

Developing 21st Century Institutions for a Transnational World

In order for nations to solve contemporary problems such as migration and immigration, our institutions need to update themselves for the 21st century.

Since 2015 and the refugee crisis aftermath there has been much debate about citizenship in Europe. In Sweden, a solution for integrating newcomers has included different proposals relating to citizenship tests. Regardless, if the idea behind the citizenship tests was to include or to exclude more individuals, the debate itself has not been particularly innovative. Even parties like the Liberals and Social Democrats, which have been presenting themselves as being progressive and forward-thinking, tended to promote state-centric views on identification and institutions. This should be seen as a problem, keeping in mind the fourth industrial revolution, decentralisation and green globalisation that is approaching over the next decade and beyond.

To understand the problems of the citizenship debate, we need first to understand the meaning of methodological nationalism. Sociologist Ulrich Beck argued in the early 2000s that the nation-state and national identity were the norm for working methods and starting points in scientific research and political communication. In practice, it means that when political actors are communicating about collective identification, community or cohesion, it usually means the “national” is the starting point.

No matter the political party, it is easier to make proposals such as introducing military conscription to “strengthen social cohesion”. We can only imagine how it would look like, for example, to propose introducing mandatory climate service to strengthen global cohesion and send people to clean waste or do something else that should be saving the planet from ecological catastrophes. Such a proposal would be considered unusual compared to current institutional norms.

A central part of methodological nationalism is that the state is equated with the nation-state, which is problematic since not all states in the world are nation-states per se. Take for example Bolivia that officially is presented as a plurinational state. Therefore, we should ask the question – does the state has to be a nation-state or are there other alternatives?

Since the 1980s, globalisation has transformed many states into more cosmopolitan and transnational institutions when it comes to decision-making and governance in the fields of climate, the economy and education. One prominent example is the European Union as the world’s only supranational democracy based on multi-level governance and citizenship.

Processes like globalisation and regionalism have also impacted on personal identification. Nowadays, there are more people with a cosmopolitan, supranational or transnational identification than 30 years ago. This has also affected how we view on topics such as migration, climate and multiculturalism that partly explains the reasons behind the arguments about a “globalists vs nationalists” political spectrum.

Things are of course more complex since politics is a multi-dimensional process. Many people are involved today in transnational and global democratic movements and political networks, such as European party federations. In practice, the current situation means that there are alternatives to state-centric views on democracy, citizenship and central institutions.

Democracy should not be equated with political representation that takes place primarily at the national and local levels. Instead, democracy must be seen as the decision-making procedures through opinion making and conversations that can take place from local to global levels of governance. For example, dealing with climate change demands more than intergovernmental cooperation. Global problems need real solutions, for example, a global carbon tax that can be collected locally and used for ecological transformation.

At the same time, there is a gap between local identifications and global problems. It is not a coincidence that climate change denial is common among right-wing oriented actors since there is no nation-state polity at a global level. However, solving climate change problems does not mean the establishment of a global state. Instead, people would have usage of global institutions that can make more people feel connected and cooperate.

This is why multi-centric views on institutional development are necessary for the future. I am proposing four following solutions that could improve the current conditions:

  1. Every human being should be provided with a self-sovereign-identity (SSI) based on blockchain technology. This would mean that nobody has to be stateless or without papers. The SSI can be used for interactions between individuals and also between individuals and institutions. It can also work as cosmopolitan or global citizenship that will enable global free movement and participation in democratic procedures, as a World Parliament and citizen initiatives, that could be complementary to or even replace the United Nations intergovernmental structure. Global SSI could also make it easier for aid donations to go directly to individuals than to governments.
  2. Further development of European citizenship by establishing a social contract and constitutional right to basic income. At the current moment, the EU citizenship is the only “real” supranational one with concrete freedoms and rights. This why a future union needs a basic-income policy with minimal administration requirements where for example every citizen and long-term resident of the union who is 18+ can receive around 250 euros every month. This could make it easier for many to handle their basic needs and reduce poverty within the union.
  3. Multiple systems for citizenships and/or residency. This could make it easier for an interplay between welfare states and the reception of refugees. It would mean that one can choose to have lower taxation but without general access to the welfare, something that could make it easier for refugees and newcomers to earn more money and to contribute more to the public finances through indirect taxation. The partial or full access to the welfare system and voting system can be made after processes of language and social orientation training.
  4. Decentralised sovereignty for humanitarian immigration. Instead of states and national sovereignty being primary institutions for managing for humanitarian migration such powers for immigration and adaptation policies should be given to cities and regions, depending on the country context. The human nature is local and we interact with each other mostly on the local level. This is how cities of the world, and especially in Europe, could contribute to managing global problems with receptions of refugees and asylum seekers, something that can be done easier thanks to local SSI and citizenships.

Today, we live in the world which is, despite developments including Brexit and the election of Donald Trump,  more integrated and cosmopolitan than ever before in human history. Therefore, we should aspire for a multi-centric institutional development making it easier to solve problems through common institutions, both locally and globally.

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