I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the Paris Peace Forum last week – a global platform for governance projects. Moving away from the usual conference format, the forum’s purpose was to promote concrete actions to ensure that efforts towards peace progress each year.
In his opening speech, Emmanuel Macron described the image of 84 world leaders united in peace at the Arc de Triomphe and questioned what the image would mean to future generations looking back at it: Would it be “a symbol of lasting peace? Or the last moment of unity before the world falls into new disorder?
This,” he warned, “depends only on us.”
He described our world today as fragile. Fragile because of economic, environmental, moral, and political crises. Macron’s speech, reminding us again that our future depends on us, made me feel motivated and terrified in one hit. What will my grandchildren learn about our generation? Will we steer our world into a future we can feel proud of? Or will our grandchildren ask, “why didn’t you do more?”
Societal, economic, political, and environmental problems are often viewed as distinct from one another. However, nothing in our world occurs in isolation. At PAN we believe that living well requires a healthy planet. If we are constantly trying to recover from extreme weather events, natural disasters, water and food crises, and ecosystem collapse, how could we possibly begin to consider and manage societal, economic, or political problems. Yet these are intrinsically interlinked to how we interact with our environment. We cannot begin to solve our environmental crises without considering society, economics, and the political landscape.
For this reason, PAN have partnered with a group called Common Home of Humanity (CHH), who are dedicated to creating a legal framework for our “common home”, the planet we all share. Our project was one of the projects selected to be shared at the Paris Peace Forum as a possible solution to global governance.
The legal model proposed by CHH can be compared to a “condominium model”. If I own a house, I am responsible for maintaining everything within my property. This means I can choose whether to maintain different elements of my property or not. Perhaps I will choose to paint the walls. If I do, I bear the costs. If I own an apartment in a condominium, the legal structure for maintaining my property is more complex. I am responsible for maintaining some things, for example the internal fixtures and fittings. However, there is a shared responsibility for other things, for example the plumbing system. Where the responsibility is shared, the costs are shared, even when the plumbing that needs maintenance is located within my apartment. Moreover, if plumbing within my apartment requires maintenance, I am legally obliged to provide access for, and contribute to this maintenance, even though it is in my home.
The decision for whether something is managed by me or collectively by all the owners is determined by functionality, as opposed to by territory. If the function serves me alone, the maintenance is my responsibility. If the function serves all owners, they share the responsibility.
The world is currently managed according to territory. We draw lines on maps to determine who will manage what. However, the functionality of our world does not consider these national borders. The Amazon Rainforest is located in and managed by very few territories. This means that both the decisions and the costs of maintaining this forest fall to very few parties. However, the collapse of the Amazon Rainforest would affect us all. The CHH team are working to establish a legal framework for the world based on planetary function, rather than territory. We are working together to use Planetary Accounting as the basis of an Earth System Accounting Framework that would enable the management and monitoring of this new legal construct.
The response to our project in Paris was very positive. Many people saw, as we do, the opportunities for such a system to revolutionise global governance. Our working group includes global experts in law, political negotiations, Earth system science, and economics, to develop a holistic strategy to implement this framework. We even spent a day at the European Space Agency while we were in Paris. It is early days yet, but we hope that this solution can be one of the many needed to make the image of the 84 world leaders become a symbol of hope, peace, and a healthy planet.