OK, so what comes after today’s upsurge of pumped up nationalism around the world? There are one or two signals of a new era of experiment and innovation in global co-operation.
I signed up last year as a member of the first ‘online space nation’, Asgardia, which ran an open process to develop its constitution. There is an inaugural leader, the founder, but not surprisingly, the system of governance that has emerged is close to that of a global co-operative. When you need to bind people voluntarily into a common cause, equality of voice and control knits people together, just as inequalities of power can tend to unravel it.
There are now close to 200,000 members signed up, across two hundred countries.
Of course, the United Nations itself could be characterised as a co-op of Nations, were it not for the Security Council, which usurps power of nations more widely by giving a veto to a handful of nations, some of whom like Britain would find it hard to justify their place if launched today.
There are all too many many global challenges stacking up, for which global governance ultimately is needed. It can feel like nation states drag their feet when it comes to species loss or climate change, because each is responding to their own electorate rather than the shared interests for action across all.
For this reason, the Swedish Global Challenges Foundation has launched a $5m competition for radical proposals to improve global governance. From clubs of cities to new global networks, it is interesting to see how many are rooted in and perhaps informed by co-operative models of democracy plus participation. The competition received 2,702 entries from 122 countries. The finalists will appear before the jury at the New Shape Forum in Stockholm, 27-29th May.
One finalist, for example, submitted by Stephan Bettzieche and Katharine Peter is for a global web of co-operative communities.
There is a new edge too to international campaigns like Global Citizen, non-governmental organisations that are gaining the support and participation of a new generation of citizens across different countries, to tackle issues that national governments are failing on. In the UK, the campaign has been working with The Co-op on its outstanding campaigns on modern slavery.
It reminds me of the words of Hazel Henderson, the visionary new economist, writing of Jubilee 2000, the campaign I was associated with, that “it marked the emergence of global citizens, in advance of the structures of true global governance”.
Cat Tully runs the School of International Futures. She commented to me in an exchange recently on what a good fit co-ops are for the challenges of sustainable development, suggesting that “co-operative governance is a human operating system that is much better able to be innovative and resilient under conditions of dramatic change and uncertainty.”
So what follows populism, nationalism and trade wars? If it is not outright conflict, then there are signs of hope for a new and hopeful push for global co-operation.