Is there a sinister conspiracy to establish a repressive world government or is this simply the view of paranoid extremists?
Dr Seth Baum, Executive Director of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute, wrote that many people do not appreciate that “Global government might begin benevolent, but it could turn sour, even becoming the oppressive disaster that the conspiracy theorists fear. And if it does, there would be no other government out there to keep it in check.” He added: “It’s worth noting that there have been several major oppressive governments throughout world history, resulting in some of the biggest disasters ever. Fortunately, a historical trend has been that other, more open societies have eventually out-competed them, leading to the oppression declining. But if that oppressive government is a global government, then there is no chance for another society to out-compete it.”
The steady development of globalisation
Globalisation is an inevitable process, a lot of which has already happened. Some people may not appreciate that there is already a huge amount of international co-operation and control. Much of it is for positive motives and has the potential to improve the lives of human beings. But, as Seth Baum says, well-intentioned and helpful developments can go wrong. There are various contributory factors to globalisation some of which I’ll mention briefly:
One of the biggest factors driving the movement towards globalisation is economic. There has been an increasing exchange of products, services, capital and labour across national borders which has led to closer integration of economies throughout the world. This is linked with a large fall in transport costs over time. Also modern communications facilitate global trade and an international work force, and enables companies to split their work between different countries. The great increase in speed of travel and transport assists this trend. These developments require international laws to govern economic activity. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) founded in 1945, is composed of “188 countries working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.”
Another factor which has brought nations together in global co-operation is the experience of the world wars. Both the United Nation and the European Union have grown out of the aftermath of war as an attempt to promote and maintain peace. Dag Hammarskjöld, UN Secretary General, said the UN “was created not to lead mankind to heaven but to save humanity from hell.” In addition to providing peacekeeping forces around the world, the UN set up the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1957, to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.
Upholding Human Rights
The disturbing oppression and inequalities in many countries has led to attempts to bring nations together to promote human rights and welfare across the world in the 20th and 21st centuries.
• The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948 in Paris.
• The International Labour Organisation (ILO), set up in 1919, was inspired by the idea that social justice was crucial to world order and peace.
• The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, set up in 1946, contributes to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, science, and culture to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights.
• UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women was set up in 2010.
Overcoming Hunger, Ill-Health and Poverty
The need to overcome the huge challenge of world poverty has also led to global co-operation which has drawn nations together.
• The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, set up in 1945, leads international efforts to defeat hunger.
• The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, was created 1946 to provide food, clothing and healthcare to European children who faced famine and disease. It now works in more than 190 countries with families, local communities, business partners and governments, to help protect children in danger.
• The World Health Organization (WHO), established in 1948, is concerned with international public health
• The World Food Programme, which was set up in 1961, delivers food and other relief supplies to about 80 million people in more than 80 countries every year.
• The UN Population Fund, UNFPA, set up in 1969, aims to ensure every young person has their potential fulfilled, every pregnancy is wanted and every childbirth is safe.
• The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), set up in 1977, is dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries.
Caring for Refugees
The increasing problem of people fleeing war and oppressive regimes has also brought nations together to provide for them.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), was founded in 1950 to help displaced Europeans. Globalisation encourages people to move. In 1970 there were 70 million international migrants. Now there are over 200 million.
Professor Alexander Betts ex-director of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford believes that refugees and displacement are likely to become a defining issue of the 21st century. This is because an increasing number of states are very weak and so are unable or unwilling to ensure the most fundamental human rights of citizens. The UN Security Council has not dealt well with this increase in migration and there will need to be a more effective international co-operation on the issue.
It is interesting that in September 2015 for the first time, at a meeting of EU Interior Ministers, a majority decision was made on the sensitive issue of refugee quotas which was binding on all EU countries. Previously such a decision would have been left to individual states to make. This was based on the new mechanism whereby 55% of EU countries representing 65% of the EU population can decide for all 28 members of the EU. This was a significant step forward in European solidarity and a corresponding weakening of national sovereignty.
Combatting Climate Change
One of the biggest challenges facing the world is, of course, global warming and this requires much more global co-operation. In 1988 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was set up to assess scientific information relevant to the impact of human-induced climate change and options for adaptation and mitigation. It is essential that the nations of the world work together to combat this problem.
In August 2015 President Obama launched his Clean Power Plan which set achievable standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030. His action encouraged the UN Climate Conference in Paris in December 2015 which agreed to seek to limit global warming to a maximum of 2C.
Obama predicted what would happen if world leaders don’t take action on climate change: “Submerged countries. Abandoned cities. Fields no longer growing. Indigenous peoples who can’t carry out traditions that stretch back millennia. Entire industries of people who can’t practice their livelihoods. Desperate refugees seeking the sanctuary of nations not their own. Political disruptions that could trigger multiple conflicts around the globe.” He added: “Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy, our infrastructure, human health, human safety—now. Today.”
Sustainable Development Goals
In July 2015 24 Heads of State and Government met with other politicians in Addis Ababa to discuss ending poverty in the world and combatting climate change. They put forward 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General said the agreement “encompasses a universal, transformative and integrated agenda that heralds an historic turning point for our world.” The UN General Assembly endorsed the Addis Ababa agreement and Ban Ki-moon commented “We launch a new era of cooperation and global partnership.” Then at the end of September 2015 the 193 countries of the UN ratified the Goals. Ban Ki-moon commented: “They are a to-do list for people and planet, and a blueprint for success. To achieve these new global goals, we will need your high-level political commitment. We will need a renewed global partnership.”
The 17 goals including ending poverty and hunger, ensuring people have healthy lives and access to water, energy and education, achieving gender equality, promoting economic growth and employment for all, tackling climate change, pollution and promoting sustainable use of ecosystems, etc. They also include “promoting the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensuring equal access to justice for all.” In addition it involves “promoting a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system under the World Trade Organization.”
Another aspect of the Addis Ababa conference was that developing countries are demanding a global body on tax co-operation. Currently global tax standards are decided privately by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which any see as the “rich countries’ club.” Developing countries lose more money through international tax dodging than they receive in aid. They want this to be stopped.
Achieving all this will require much greater international co-operation between governments and nations. The pressure is on and this will move the world more in the direction of world government.
In addition to the numerous international bodies mentioned above, the following also encourage globalisation:
• The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), set up in 1947 to encourage the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth.
• The International Maritime Organization (IMO), set up in 1948 to regulate shipping.
• The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), originally founded in 1865, as the International Telegraph Union, is now responsible for issues that concern information and communication technologies.
As can be seen, global co-operation has led to many very positive developments.
One of the ways in which world government could “turn sour” is by it seriously limiting human rights and freedom, despite the organisations set up to promote human rights. There is already disturbing evidence of such a trend. The reason may be international crime, cyber war and the spread of Islamic terrorism. But counter measures carry serious dangers. One aspect of an oppressive world government would be a powerful surveillance system.
The dangers of surveillance
David Anderson QC produced a report in June 2015 in which he said: “Modern communications networks can be used by the unscrupulous for purposes ranging from cyber-attack, terrorism and espionage to fraud, kidnap and child sexual exploitation. A successful response to these threats depends on entrusting public bodies with the powers they need to identify and follow suspects in a borderless online world … But trust requires verification. Each intrusive power must be shown to be necessary, clearly spelled out in law, limited in accordance with human rights standards and subject to demanding and visible safeguards.” He recommended replacing the current legislation on surveillance. He also proposed safeguards against snooping on journalists, lawyers and other groups. He rejected the idea that the threat from terrorism is “unprecedented” and questioned whether the intelligence services need the power laid out in the Government’s proposed “snooper’s charter” to search through people’s web browser histories to see what they have been looking at online.
He also suggested that control over the intelligence services be transferred from politicians to judges, which does not seem to have gone down well with the government. Sir David Omand, the ex-head of GCHQ (Government Communications HQ), commented that it would be “unconscionable for a judge to authorise a very sensitive intelligence operation where the political risk, if it went wrong, fell on the home secretary, or overseas the foreign secretary, who would know nothing about it and wouldn’t have approved it.”
However he has agreed with demands from GCHQ that bulk data gathering should continue. Although the security authorities claim it is an anonymous exercise in tracking, it is clear from the US that personal information can be extracted from it.
In February 2015 GCHQ was found guilty of illegal behaviour in the period leading to December 2014 when it allowed American security authorities to access private personal information about UK residents. However the government strongly defended GCHQ and said this judgment would not affect its operations.
Tony Porter, the UK government’s Surveillance Camera Commissioner, said he was very concerned about the “burgeoning use of body-worn videos” by police, university security staff, housing and environmental health officers – and even supermarket workers. He added: “If people are going round with surveillance equipment attached to them, there should be a genuinely good and compelling reason for that. It changes the nature of society and raises moral and ethical issues … about what sort of society we want to live in … I’ve heard that supermarkets are issuing staff with body-worn videos. For what purpose? There is nothing immediately obvious to me.”
The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee has criticised the level of secrecy surrounding the use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), saying it allows the police to “engage in acts which would be unacceptable in a democracy.” Keith Vaz, the committee chairman, said: “Using RIPA to access telephone records of journalists is wrong and this practice must cease. The inevitable consequence is that this deters whistleblowers from coming forward.”
The Intelligence Services Committee (ISC) report into the murder of Lee Rigby confirms the existence of the Tempora programme – which taps undersea cables off the Cornish coast in order to collect the communications data of every UK internet user.
Whilst avoiding a paranoid reaction to the security services, it is important to recognise that modern surveillance, although claimed to be about combatting terrorism, is disturbing. It is easy for it to be misused and to be open to facilitating political oppression.
Another factor which can encourage oppressive political action is terrorism and there is growing evidence of this trend today.
One of the most disturbing recent developments is the establishment of the UK governments Counter-Radicalisation Strategy. There is widespread concern that this could lead to censorship. One of the problems is that “radicalisation” has not been defined. Also “British Values” is a term which lacks clarity. Roger Mosey, former editor of the Today programme on Radio 4, commented: “There are difficulties sometimes in deciding what is extremism and what is not; hardline religious conservatism is one thing, inciting terrorist violence another. I’m not sure politicians are the best to judge which is which.”
Sajid Javid, when he was UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, told David Cameron that he couldn’t support the Home Secretary’s plan to vet TV programmes which might contain extremist material before they were screened. He added: “It should be noted that other countries with a pre-transmission regulatory regime are not known for their compliance with rights relating to freedom of expression and government may not wish to be associated with such regimes.”
Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police supports the UK government’s new counter-terrorism measures. But he commented: “If these issues [defining extremism] are left to securocrats [police officers with power to influence government] then there is a danger of a drift to a police state. …There is a danger of us being turned into a thought police. This securocrat says we do not want to be in the space of policing thought or police defining what is extremism.”
There is a real danger that views such as that homosexual practice is sinful or Jesus is the only way to God (and thus other religions are false) would be deemed extremism.
Growing restrictions on human rights is a serious issue in many parts of the world.
Limitation of human rights
James Savage, Human Rights Defenders Programme Manager for Amnesty International, commented on the fact that, in the last three years over 60 countries have drafted or passed laws that curtail human rights groups and 96 countries have inhibited them from operating at full capacity. He said: “This global wave of restrictions has a rapidity and breadth to its spread we’ve not seen before, that arguably represents a seismic shift and closing down of human rights space not seen in a generation. There are new pieces of legislation almost every week – on foreign funding, restrictions in registration or association, anti-protest laws, gagging laws. And, unquestionably, this is going to intensify in the coming two to three years. You can visibly watch the space shrinking.”
Contributory factors are the shifting of political influence away from western countries which tend to fund such groups, reaction against pro-democracy uprisings in former communist states and the Middle East and counter terrorist actions which, intentionally or otherwise, adversely affect human rights groups.
As is often the case, the truth lies in the middle. Some people dismiss the danger of oppressive world government as the stuff of fiction. Others oppose genuinely positive developments to promote human welfare on a global level because they read everything as sinister. Both of these approaches are unhelpful. A more balanced view is that globalisation has many positive aspects but there is a real need to be alert to unhelpful and sinister developments. The New Testament envisages an eventual oppressive world global regime. But that does not mean that Christians should oppose the positive trends which benefit