This section tells you why and how the e-Parliament got
launched, how it works and who is helping to launch it. You
can scroll down to read it all, or jump ahead by using the
buttons to the right.
The e-Parliament is building a
new kind of international institution - one that is
democratic and transparent, in which anyone can participate.
Why is this new initiative needed?
The e-Parliament has been created
to address two major problems facing humanity: a global
democracy gap, and a problem-solving gap.
The e-Parliament, for the first time, links together the
world's democratic members of parliament and congress into a
single forum. This community of democratic legislators,
together with interested organizations and citizens, can
address a democracy gap at both the national and global
The national level:
For the first time in history, a majority of the human race
- roughly 60% - has won the right to decide in free
elections who will govern them. But some 40% are still denied
this democratic right by authoritarian governments of one kind
or another. In almost every case, brave democrats are
confronting their authoritarian rulers, many of them risking
their lives for the simple principle that their own people
should enjoy the same rights as the majority of their fellow
citizens around the world.
Those democrats would be greatly strengthened if they could
rely on the consistent support of an international body made
up of democratic legislators from all parts of the world. At
the same time, the e-Parliament can provide important
assistance to new parliaments getting established in emerging
The global level:
At the global level, the problem is different. More and
more key decisions are taken at the international level,
whether in organizations like the United Nations or the World
Trade Organization, or in the boardrooms of transnational
corporations. As a result, our elected representatives in
national parliaments are being increasingly sidelined. We're
seeing a steady erosion of democratic accountability - of our
ability as citizens to influence decisions that affect us. If
democracy is to survive and prosper in the 21st century, we
have to extend its reach to the global level.
Democracy and conflict:
The globalization of democracy is not only important for
the future of democracy itself, but also for the benefits that
democracy brings. Among those benefits is non-violent conflict
resolution. Within a working democracy, major conflicts are
resolved by elections, parliamentary votes or courts of law.
Too often, similar conflicts are resolved internationally with
bombs and bullets. The transformation of western Europe in the
second half of the 20th century, from the most warlike region
of the world to the most peaceful, shows how common democratic
institutions can give people an alternative to war as a way to
achieve their goals.
Modern transport and communications are shrinking our
world. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were a
terrible reminder of how events on one side of the planet can
affect people on the other side. They were also a reminder
that when people are denied their democratic rights they are
more likely to find violent ways to express their anger and
frustration. More than ever before, we need common democratic
institutions to help us resolve our conflicts peacefully, and
to help ensure democracy for all.
Another reason for launching the e-Parliament is the
failure of our current international system to solve a host of
critical global problems. To take just three examples:
accounts for these and many other failures? Part of the reason
is a simple lack of political will. Combined with this is an
ineffective system for solving global problems. And
contributing to the situation is a profound lack of
communication between the world's legislators. Let us look at
each in turn.
- The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere
is higher every day, and no effective action to stop the
increase is in sight.
- In the next 90 minutes, the number of children who will
have died for lack of safe water and simple vaccines will be
the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of children crashing to
- Despite years of negotiations, trade barriers remain
stubbornly in place that help to keep millions of people in
developing countries trapped in poverty.
Political will in democratic countries is heavily
influenced by the concerns of the electorate, of the media,
and of the national legislators. By contributing to awareness
raising and action on critical global issues among
legislators, the e-Parliament can help to generate the
political will to solve global problems ranging from AIDS to
The current global problem-solving system:
Our global institutions and intergovernmental negotiations
are simply too slow and too easily blocked to keep up with the
problems. Before global action can be taken through the usual
method of treaty negotiations, we have to reach agreement
among almost 200 national governments, each fiercely defending
its national interests. This results in weak agreements.
Meanwhile, our world institutions have too few resources and
too little democratic legitimacy to confront our mounting
Much could be achieved by coordinated action in national
parliaments, without the need for any formal treaty
negotiations. Elected legislators have democratic legitimacy,
national parliaments decide how the taxpayers' money is
spent, and they are the ones who pass the laws. But this
raises a new difficulty: systems for communication and
coordination among national legislators range from poor to
Communication between parliaments:
In an era of globalization, each national or regional
parliament faces an increasingly similar agenda. Each is
grappling with the same problems, and trying different
solutions. Given this reality, it is remarkable how little
mutual learning there is between one parliament and another.
While companies, citizen movements, news organizations - and
tragically, even terrorist networks - adapt to the world of
global communications, national parliaments still operate much
as they did in the 19th century, each in its own separate
This means that each parliament is 'reinventing the
wheel' on issue after issue, without good up-to-date
information about best practice from other countries. And it
means that many opportunities are being missed to help solve
shared problems through coordinated legislative action, when
those problems cannot be solved by a single parliament.
Furthermore, elected parliamentarians are largely excluded
from global decision-making processes, which denies their
constituents the possibility of direct input into those
decisions through their elected representatives. Particularly
for the world's poor majority, this means their voice is
muted in decisions that directly affect them in institutions
like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the
World Trade Organisation.
What we need is global institutions that are democratic,
flexible, well-resourced and not easily blocked.
In early 2001, reflecting on the challenges of global
democracy and problem-solving, William Ury, co-author of the
world's best-selling book on negotiation Getting to Yes, and
Nicholas Dunlop, a former Secretary-General of the
legislators' network Parliamentarians for Global Action, were
struck by an idea. By linking the world's democratic
legislators together through the internet, with a voting
system and committee structure comparable to that of a
national parliament, it would be possible to address all these
problems at one stroke.
By creating a kind of informal world parliament, we could
create the first genuinely democratic world institution. At
the same time, we could create a parallel global
problem-solving process, alongside the intergovernmental
talks, which would be transparent, accountable, inclusive and
flexible. Even though a global e-Parliament cannot make
decisions that bind anyone, and the power of decision will
rest as before in national parliaments, it could nonetheless
be potentially influential, since legislators play a central
role within each national government.
A three-year design process brought together leading
legislators, researchers, civil society groups and business
leaders in a creative brainstorming process. The result is the
e-Parliament with the services provided through this website.
The e-Parliament will develop gradually, issue by issue and
adding additional services one at a time. It can engage
steadily increasing numbers of citizens and legislators as
time goes on.
How does the
The four main sections of the e-Parliament
website (www.e-parl.net) represent the principal functions of
the e-Parliament. Two - Ideas and Communicate - concern the
exchange of information. Two - Vote and Act - concern
decision and implementation. Let us look at each in
Everyone involved in policy-making needs good ideas. One
good idea can make all the difference. One bad idea can be
disastrous. Whether in government or opposition, legislators
and political parties all need to be on the cutting edge of
The Ideas section of the website contains an 'ideas bank'
where participants can, so to speak, deposit and withdraw
ideas at will. It groups under issue headings innovative
and/or effective approaches to policy and legislation that
have been tried or proposed in different countries.
Legislators, government officials, organizations, or
individual citizens interested in policy-making can browse the
site and look for approaches that could be adapted and
introduced in their own countries. Likewise, participants in
the e-Parliament can propose their own favourite policy ideas
to be included on the site, thus reaching a wider global
Legislators and organizations who have registered to
participate in the e-Parliament can place ideas on the
site, using a standard format (click on Ideas for details),
subject to approval by the e-Parliament Secretariat.
The e-Parliament Council and staff will play an editorial
role, helping to ensure that ideas are presented in a way that
is as useful as possible for legislators. Citizens or
journalists registered to participate are encouraged to
propose ideas for inclusion, which will receive careful
In this simple way, 'best practice' from around the world
can be more quickly replicated in more countries.
The e-Parliament will put legislators, organizations,
citizens and journalists in touch with each other through a
simple Question and Answer process.
Everyone who registers is asked which issues are of
particular interest to them from a fairly comprehensive list
of policy areas. Any participant is able to pose a question on
any issue, requesting information or advice, and to answer or
comment on questions from others. All questions and answers
are posted on the website. In addition, some questions will be
forwarded by e-Parliament staff by e-mail to interested
Questions from legislators will also be sent by e-mail to
all parliamentary colleagues, organizations and citizens who
share an interest in that issue. Answers from legislators and
organizations will be e-mailed back to them, as well as posted
on the site. They can check the website for other responses.
Questions from organizations will be e-mailed to other
organizations and citizens interested in the issue. Responses
from organizations will be e-mailed back to them, and once
again they can check the website for other responses.
Questions from journalists will be e-mailed to everyone
interested in the issue, and responses from legislators and
organizations will be forwarded back to them. Other responses
will appear on the website.
These procedures are designed to make the system as
user-friendly as possible for busy participants, while not
overloading anyone's email in-box with either questions or
answers - or overloading the e-Parliament staff. It ensures
that most of the time, people are only hearing from the
e-Parliament on issues of interest to them.
Most importantly, this communication system will allow
legislators and other participants to gather up-to-the-minute
information and advice from a global community of people
interested in the same issue.
As funds permit, a series of conference calls, video conferences
and face-to-face international parliamentary hearings will enable
parliamentarians who are confronting the same problems in different
parliaments to communicate in person. In these live sessions, the
legislators can question experts from around the world about
concrete ideas for parliamentary action, and consider proposals for
joint initiatives. This is a key part of the e-Parliament's work.
The first e-Parliament hearing was held in September 2005 in the
US Congress on the issue of space weapons. Legislators from nine
countries, including Republicans and Democrats, questioned experts
who were both for and against deployment of new weapons and other
military technologies in space.
A participatory policy-making process:
The e-Parliament's operating methods draw on the
experience of national parliaments. The main job of
legislators is to make the laws (including the annual budget),
and to monitor implementation of the laws by the executive
branch of government. The e-Parliament can't make laws that
bind national governments or parliaments. But through the
creation of issue networks, it can have an input into the
national legislative process on selected issues in each
country, and it can monitor the performance of international
In a traditional parliament, decisions are prepared by
specialised committees, which may invite input through public
hearings. Policy decisions are then taken in the parliamenary
chamber, by majority vote. The e-Parliament has adapted this
'standard operating procedure' for the internet era, and for
a community of up to 25,000 democratic legislators plus many
more organizations, companies and individual citizens.
All those who indicate interest in an issue when they
register are automatically part of the e-Parliament network on
that issue. This doesn't commit them to any particular action
or policy position, but ensures that they are informed of any
e-Parliament initiative in this area. As funding is secured
and the networks are activated one by one, the e-Parliament
Council appoints a politically representative Committee from
among the network members to guide the activities of the
network. The Committees will meet regularly in person. The
networks (including potentially hundreds of members) and their
Committees (consisting of up to 25 members) together perform a
role comparable to parliamentary committees at the national
level. The first two such issue networks, one on climate and
energy and one on defence and disarmament, have already been
launched. The work of the e-Parliament Network on Climate
and Energy has already led to parliamentary initiatives in
Brazil, the European Parliament, Ghana, Norway and the UK,
which could potentially benefit millions of people (see the
1 Watt Tool Kit in the Ideas section.)
On each issue, the e-Parliament goes through a
participatory process to establish global Policy Targets, to
be advanced through the national legislative process. The
Policy Targets are arrived at by parliamentarians around the
world through a series of on-line polls of participating
legislators and other consultations. The polls will typically
become progressively more specific, starting by choosing among
general priorities and later identifying specific policy
tools. At first, the decision-making process may involve only
the members of one issue network, but once a recommendation is
ready, the issue network will put it to the full e-Parliament
for approval as an e-Parliament Policy Target.
It is the task of the e-Parliament Council, and each
network's Committee, to prepare options for the
consultations. It is then for the members to choose among the
options. This ensures that the e-Parliament is democratic,
participatory and truly controlled by the people's
In each poll, organizations and citizens participating in
the e-Parliament are invited to cast an 'advisory vote' on
Each e-Parliament issue network is responsible, as part of
its work, for monitoring the international institutions which
have primary responsibility for its issue. Some public
hearings may focus specifically on the work of a particular
National parliaments seek to define and defend the common
interests of the national community in a way that has
democratic legitimacy in the minds of the citizens. The
e-Parliament, through a similar process, will work to define
and defend the interests of humanity as a whole. And because
the decision-makers are directly elected by the people, it
will have a democratic legitimacy that eludes most
international institutions today.
The mechanics of voting:
An individual legislator can participate in the
decision-making process in just five minutes. They receive one
or more questions by e-mail, and can simply click Reply,
indicate their preferences, and click Send. By making the
process quick and easy, we can steadily build up the level of
participation. As in any parliament, of course, while larger
numbers may participate in votes, a small group of
knowledgeable and committed members will do most of the work
on each issue.
At times the e-Parliament may be asked to vote on a
resolution proposed by an issue network, the international
Council or some other group of legislators. For a resolution
to pass it needs to gain a 'double majority' in two separate
- In the first count, it needs a majority of those
legislators participating in the vote: one legislator, one
vote. In this count, the votes of all democratic members of
parliament, directly or indirectly elected or appointed, are
- In the second count, each legislator's vote is weighted
by the average number of people a parliamentarian represents
in his or her country. This figure is arrived at by dividing
the population of the country by the number of elected
legislators (in the national parliament and in any regional
parliament such as the European Parliament.) In this second
count, only the votes of directly-elected legislators are
weighted by population.
Once a Policy Target has been established by the
e-Parliament, a Parliamentary Tool Kit is created. The Tool
Kit gives legislators all the information they need to take
action in their own parliaments. It states the goal,
summarizes what action is currently being taken by
governments, lists policy tools to achieve the goal,
recommends sources of information and expert advice, suggests
possible parliamentary questions, and contains alternative
models for legislation which can be adapted to each national
situation. Different approaches may be recommended for
different parts of the world.
At times an issue network may produce a Parliamentary Tool
Kit on a particular proposal which has received strong
international support, even without seeking to make it a
formal e-Parliament Policy Target. (The first Tool Kits can be
found through the Act section of the website.)
Once a Policy Target is established and a Tool Kit
prepared, the next step is the most important: to use every
opportunity to raise it for consideration in the national
policy-making and legislative process of each country. This
work will engage only those participants who actively support
the Policy Target. There is obviously no commitment for anyone
who opposes it, or feels unsure about it, to be involved in
efforts to promote it.
The e-Parliament will enable those legislators interested in
promoting a Policy Target to stay in contact, and to draw on
advice from leading experts around the world as they adapt the
idea to their national circumstances. Information on progress
in different countries will be shared through the e-Parliament
By spreading good ideas and sharing information, and
through simultaneous policy initiatives in different
parliaments, the e-Parliament has the potential to improve
national legislation and policy on selected issues, and to
enhance the capacity of legislators to solve problems that we
The central pages of the website will be translated into a
number of languages, so that parliamentarians, organizations
and citizens can exchange information within their own
language groups, and vote in their own languages. The number
of languages covered, and the amount of text translated, will
depend partly on funding. In languages confined to a single
nation, one person in that country's parliament, perhaps a
parliamentarian's assistant, may be asked to provide basic
support. In some cases the national parliament's secretariat
may be asked to provide language support in the national
language. The e-Parliament Secretariat itself will be able to
provide support in English, French and Spanish.
The e-Parliament will evolve over time, and its future will
be decided by its members.
In the nearer term, we will work to:
- Build up participation of legislators, organizations,
citizens and journalists.
- Launch issue networks on a growing number of major
- Place staff in different national parliaments to support
the participation of legislators and others from that
- Develop the capacity to support simple online discussion
groups of legislators on any issue they might have in
- Build up the content in the Ideas section of the website
to make the e-Parliament a valuable resource centre on a
wide range of issues.
- Organize an online election to choose democratically the
members of the international Council that oversees the
In time, as communications technology develops and spreads,
we may be able to organize live, large-scale, multi-media
In the longer term, it is the hope of those initiating the
e-Parliament that it will develop in a way analogous to the
evolution of the European Parliament over the last
half-century. Just 34 years after the bloodshed of World War
II came to a close, the first directly elected European
Parliament met in Strasbourg. In the President's chair,
presiding over the elected representatives of the formerly
warring tribes of Europe, was a woman - Simone Veil - who
had spent part of her childhood in Auschwitz concentration
camp. Miracles do happen.
Whether the world will ever need to elect a separate world
parliament is a matter for debate. But like it or not, the
world is steadily developing a system of global governance,
with key decisions being taken in many different international
agencies. Today, our system of global governance suffers from
a serious 'democratic deficit'. Perhaps the e-Parliament can
lay the foundations for a more democratic decision-making
system for the planet, in which the decision-makers are
accountable to the people of the world, and governance depends
on the consent of the governed.
Which legislators have initiated
the project, who is supporting it, and who is
The e-Parliament has been incorporated as a non-profit
organization in both the United Kingdom and the United States.
The governing body is a Council made up mainly of members of
parliament from around the world. In due course the Council
will be elected by participating legislators in an online
The membership of the Council is being built up steadily to
represent all parts of the globe and all parts of the
political spectrum. The first members are:
- CHAIRMAN Anders Wijkman MEP, Swedish Christian
Democrat, European Parliament, President, GLOBE EU, former
Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations.
- VICE-CHAIR Senator Silvia Hernández, former Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Minister of Tourism in a previous PRI government of Mexico, former President of Parliamentarians for Global Action, and of Women Parliamentarians for Peace.
- VICE-CHAIR Suresh Prabhu MP, Shiv Sena, served in
the previous government of India as Minister for Industry,
Environment and Forests, Chemicals and Fertilizers, and Power.
- Dr. Kwame Ampofo MP, Ghana, Opposition
Member of the Committee on Energy and Mines.
- Dr. Axel Berg MdB, Social Democrat, Germany, member of the Industry and Technology Committee of the Bundestag, and a co-author of Germany’s landmark renewable energy law.
- Dora Byamukama MP, Uganda, member of the East African Legislative Assembly and former Chair of the Committee on Equal Opportunity in the Ugandan Parliament.
- David Chaytor MP, Labour, UK, Chair of the All-Party Group on Energy Intelligence, Chair of the e-Parliament Climate and Energy Network.
- Milind Deora MP, Congress, India,member of Defence Committee, and a leader in efforts to promote computer literacy in schools.
- Ana Gomes MEP, Portuguese Socialist, Vice-Chair, Subcommittee on Security and Defense of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, former Portuguese diplomat.
- Anne Grete Holmsgaard MF, Denmark, Vice-Chair of the Energy Policy Committee of the Danish Folketing, formerly Director of the Technical University of Denmark.
- Robert Johansen, Professor of International Relations, University of Notre Dame, and a leading thinker on global governance issues.
- Norbert Mao, Leader of Gulu Council in Northern Uganda, former Leader of the Opposition in the Ugandan Parliament.
- Congressman Jim McDermott, Democrat, USA, Chair, Subcommittee on Income Security, House Ways and Means Committee, Co-Chair of the Congressional Task Force on International HIV/AIDS and of the Africa Trade and Investment Caucus.
- Ghassan Moukheiber MP, Lebanon, a leading human rights lawyer and advocate of democracy in the Lebanese Parliament.
- George Nangale MP, Tanzania, Member of the East African Legislative Assembly.
- Congressman Thomas Petri, Republican, USA, member of Committee on Education and Labour and Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Ranking Republican on Aviation Subcommittee.
- Kono Taro, Liberal Democrat, Japan, member of
the House of Representatives and former Minister responsible
- William Ury, co-author of Getting to Yes and
other well-known books on negotiation, Director, Global
Negotiation Project, Harvard University.
- Graham Watson MEP, European Parliament, Leader
of the European Liberal Group, the third largest political
group in the European Parliament.
- Derek Wyatt MP, Labour, UK, Chairman of the
All-Party Group on the Internet, co-founder of the Oxford
A small international Secretariat is headed by:
- Nicholas Dunlop, Secretary-General, former
Executive Director of EarthAction and Secretary-General of
Parliamentarians for Global Action.
- Jesper Grolin, Executive Director, previously a
lecturer at Copenhagen Business School and Political Adviser
on biodiversity to Greenpeace International.
The e-Parliament wishes to thank the following for their
much appreciated pro bono contribution of time and skills:
Booz|Allen|Hamilton, USA for their contribution of
excellent design and technical skills to design this website.
Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas, LLP, Massachusetts,
USA for their legal services.
Cognizant, New Jersey, USA and Chennai, India for
their contribution of superb technical skills to build this
website and provide ongoing support.
EarthAction, for providing organizational and
administrative support in the early stages.
Global Negotiation Project, Harvard Law School, USA
for their assistance in research and design.
Open: a design studio, New York, USA for their
assistance with graphic design
Volunteers, Brian Coughlan and Shey Cobley for the many hours of
help they have given us, collecting data for the e-Parliament database.
Profound thanks go to the small group of individuals,
foundations and donor agencies whose willingness to back a
good idea has made the e-Parliament possible. They include:
Mrs. Marnie Clark
Secure World Foundation
Fondazione Rispetto e Paritá
Friends of the Wuppertal Institute
GTZ- German agency for development cooperation
Humanitarian Group for Social Development
Rockefeller Brothers Fund
Joseph L. and Marjorie S. Steiner Foundation
Sternberg Charitable Foundation
Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)
Government of Taiwan
Mr. Jakob von Uexkull
Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation
together with other kind individual donors.
Citizens, organizations or journalists may participate from
One goal of the e-Parliament is to promote democracy. Among
parliamentarians, therefore, voting is limited to
legislators from democratic countries. Today, they number
about 25,000 members of parliament, from over 120 countries. A
majority, about 55%, are from developing countries.
Legislators are invited to participate as voting members in
the e-Parliament if in their country:
- Any citizen may run for parliament or congress, and
there are generally multiple candidates for each seat.
- Votes in elections are generally counted fairly.
- A candidate or member of parliament may express his or
her views without fear of imprisonment, torture or death.
Organizations, journalists or individual citizens living
under authoritarian regimes are urged to consider whether they
might be running a risk of retribution from their governments
should their email communications with the e-Parliament be
traced by the national authorities. This will vary from
country to country.
If you are a citizen of a democratic country, please
encourage your own national Parliamentary or Congressional
representatives to participate in the e-Parliament -- thus
representing you at the global level as well as the national.