From Magna Carta to Real Global Democracy

runnymeadeecovillage-magnacarta800th-8 (1)Last month, a small but significant move towards participatory global democracy took place. Next to the site of the weekend long Runnymede Festival of Democracy held in Surrey England, underneath the 2400 year old Ankerwycke yew tree, where eight hundred years ago the Magna Carta was signed by King John and the Barons of England, enthusiastic support was given to hold a day of action for “Real Global Democracy.” This will be part of the Global Week of Action for a World Parliament

  • On Saturday the 24th of October, in sync with 20 actions around the world, an Occupation of Parliament Square and a demonstration of direct global democracy will take place.
  • Demonstrators will suggest, debate and vote on 5 global policies to tackle global problems; problems such as war, mass extinction, climate change, debt, poverty and the power multi-national corporations hold over national governments.
  • Support will be given by influential global justice experts and thinking tools will be used to find the wider, systemic root-causes of problems affecting us at home.
  • Organisers hope to trigger synchronised 1st Saturday of the month global demonstrations involving Occupy, People’s Assemblies, pro-democracy and anti-austerity movements.
  • It will be a celebration of our common humanity in the face of global problems. Together, we can crowd-source global solutions to global problems.

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Yew trees, which are on the endangered list, are slow growing, twisted, gnarled and squat. They send up new “phoenix” trees from their roots and groups of yew trees are interconnected beneath the soil. They have been held in auspicious regard since ancient times and are often found in church cemeteries. At Ankerwycke, festival goers drew up and attached their own Magna Cartas (Great Charter) scrolls. Two of these included a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth and a Charter for Freedom from Global Debt Slavery

The Ankerwycke yew tree is situated on a site that was once an island in the river Thames. River islands were often used to make peace agreements. In a field below our festival and next to the river was the so called official Magna Carta celebrations attended by Queen Elizabeth II, UK Prime Minister and US Vice President. The stark irony of a fly-over by war planes was not lost on festival goers. Nor was the Prime Minister’s use of the celebrations to push his scrapping of the European Convention of Human Rights. The Runnymede Festival of Democracy itself could have been a much larger event had the police not barred entrance to the festival calling it an “illegal rave.”

At the festival I made two banners to see which one would gain most support for the global action. One read “Action for World Parliament October 24th”, the other “Real Global Democracy Now! Action 24thOctober.” I created the second placard because I had a hunch that the people present might worry what a “World Parliament” might look like; potentially a monolithic building, a centre of power holding representatives.

My inspiration for the second slogan was taken from an October 2011 image of a cardboard placard draped over a tent at Occupy London Stock Exchange calling for “Real Global Democracy Now!” This image has gone viral and is frequently used by the Occupy Movement.

Festival goers caught a canal barge across the river to the Ankerwycke yew.  Under the tree I explained to those gathered that among the main organisers of the Global Week of Action for a World Parliament there is strong support for using revolutionary new online democratic platforms such as those utilised by anti-austerity, pro-democracy movements around the world. These include Liquid Democracy, Loomio and DemocracyOS.

The emergence of these platforms means that a world parliament could exist in communities, in the homes, computer screens and literally within every person taking part. A global federal parliamentary building would not be required.

I then asked people if they would be willing to show support to the other actions taking place by choosing a placard and getting in a photo behind it in front of the Ankerwyke yew. Despite my explanation, there was resounding support for Real Global Democracy Now! In spite of the minor issue of slogan solidarity, for me this is still an historic step towards tackling cataclysmic global threats in a globally unified way.

Imagine what rallying cries in the future might sound like – “Humans! Humans! Humans!”

(Most of the festival was held at the beautiful Runnymede Eco Village where about 40 people live in a number of homes made from recycled materials in an area of woodland. Read here about the thwarted attempt to evict the villages due to their assertions in court of rights under the Magna Carta and Charter of the Forest.)

The author is co-founder of Global People Power.