Global Constitutionalism and the Prospect of a Global Constitution

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The idea of a global constitution, as utopian as it seems, is not new. Immanuel Kant's “Perpetual Peace”, for example, outlines principles and articles towards a universally binding code. In his essay, Kant makes a strong case for cultural interdependence, a peaceful world order and the rule of law. In “The Law of World Citizenship”, he specifies that goods, ideas and knowledge should be shared across all cultures, but never with the use of force. Essentially, Kant advocates a democratization of states and a concept of world citizenship based on common human values and concerns. When could this idea ever have been more topical than today?

Yet, we live in world of division and diversity. The world is socially, culturally, politically and legally diverse. This makes the idea of a unifying global constitution questionable. However, ecologically the world is one. This makes the idea of unity within diversity plausible. That all people and cultures share one Earth and possibly one destiny is more than a thought. Rather, it describes an ever more daunting reality. And with the reality of a common destiny the need to think about a global legal order becomes more urgent.

Interestingly, over the last few years there has been quite an outburst of literature on global constitutionalism. Written mostly by international lawyers (and only a few environmental lawyers), this literature suggests a degree of harmonious development among the world's national constitutions that would allow the new notions of international constitutional law and global constitutionalism. Broadly speaking, the thesis is that the increasing interdependence of nation states has already created new forms of transnational institutions and necessitates a transnational way to think about institutions that so far have been strictly national. Examples include the institutions of ‘democracy’ and ‘constitution’.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2011

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  • Globalisation and Ecological Integrity in Science and International Law
    This volume returns to one of the major themes of the Global Ecological Integrity Group: the interface between integrity as a scientific concept and a number of important issues in ethics, international law and public health. The main scholars who have worked on these topics over the years return to re-examine these dimensions from the viewpoint of global governance.
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