In the build up to our elections, many local and national questions are being asked, but what about the global questions? We constantly talk about globalisation but do we put our politicians and government to the test about what they are doing to advance global cooperation between nation-states and what South Africa is doing about destructive global alliances and global competition?
In anyone’s book, the world is in crisis. We’re constantly warned that if we carry on repeating and escalating destructive, shortsighted behaviour, then, if the Earth’s life is one hour, we probably have five minutes left to significantly change or go down.
Surely we therefore need to be far more global-centric? Surely we need to know what our politicians are doing or would do if they came to power about the global pollution crisis, the food security crisis, the fossil fuel crisis, and offer aligned solutions, such as the immediate reskilling of coalminers for the renewable energy industry, which would also reassure them that they won’t be losing their jobs.
How do our policies and actions match up globally, and how can we all come together to achieve a better world through an action plan that addresses the world’s biggest problems, and to which everyone commits; something the United Nations, WTO, EU, African Union and other international bodies are still struggling to achieve?
You encourage voters in every single country in the world to start asking global questions and seeking global answers in exchange for their vote, say businessman John Bunzl and psychotherapist Nick Duffell. They call it the SIMPOL Solution, and it’s explained in their recently-published book, The SIMPOL Solution: A New Way to Think About Solving The World’s Biggest Problems.
“Humanity is failing to tackle urgent global problems like climate change, tax havens, mass migration and wealth inequality. Meanwhile, voters are rebelling in the form of Brexit, Trump and the rise of the Far-Right,” the authors explain.
They believe there is just one barrier that prevents all governments from taking action together: “the fear that it would make their national economies uncompetitive. No nation can move first for fear of losing jobs and investment to others.”
Enter the SIMPOL SOLUTION, which is effectively an international citizen action campaign that puts the power back in the hands of the voters, country by country, through an ‘opt-in’ international policy collaboration drive that creates effective meta-governance policies and structures. Hence SIMPOL, which stands for ‘simultaneous policy’.
In an interview published in the online journal Evonomics (evonomics.com) with David S. Wilson, State University of New York (SUNY) Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University and Arne Næss Chair in Global Justice and the Environment at the University of Oslo, Bunzl explains he’s been working on SIMPOL for 20 years:
“Back in 1998, I was having a Sunday lunch with my family and we were discussing climate change because the kids were covering it at school. Afterwards, my Mum unexpectedly confronted me with a question: what would you do about it? Her disarming directness had a strange effect because, almost from nowhere, I responded that ‘it would have to happen simultaneously’. All, or nearly all, nations would have to act simultaneously.”
Bunzl says the problem we are all facing is “Destructive Global Competition (DGC) – the unregulated competition among nations and corporations”. The only solution, he believes, is “the formulation of policies with the welfare of the whole earth in mind”.
It’s idealistic but it is also logical. If we don’t resolve the global crisis together, do the right thing together and start disassembling the barrier of global competition together, it is going to compromise us all. So how does it work?
By joining the SIMPOL campaign, citizens agree to ‘”give strong voting preference in all future national elections to politicians or parties that have signed a pledge to implement SIMPOL simultaneously alongside other governments. This pledge (the ‘Pledge’) commits a politician, party or government to implement SIMPOL’s policies alongside other governments, if and when sufficient other governments have also signed on”.
Some would call it pie in the sky, others, like Einstein would say if we keep repeating the same behaviour while hoping for a different result, that is not only pie in the sky, it’s insanity.
Bunzl told Wilson the process has already been actioned in a number of countries, and it’s growing. “In the UK where SIMPOL is most developed, at the last national election in 2017 we got over 650 candidates from all the main political parties to sign the SIMPOL Pledge. Of those, 65 are now Members of Parliament (MPs), which is about 10% of all UK MPs.” Bunzl adds: “In the last national elections in Germany and Ireland, both countries with proportional representation systems, we got over 50 candidates in each of those countries to sign the Pledge. Of those, we now have 14 pledged MPs in the Irish Parliament and 11 in the German Bundestag”.
Duffell explains that if you find yourself backing off from the concept before exploring it, that’s perfectly natural as it delves into deep identity and consciousness issues and patterns. Can we let go of nationalism?
“It’s quite natural that humans backpedal when they’re on the brink of a big change. Our challenge today, then, is to really see ourselves in the same boat but that will mean letting go of our familiar ideas of national sovereignty. We have to grieve and then embrace the change,” Duffell told Wilson.
Bunzl adds that it is an inevitable part of evolution. He explained to Wilson that around 2000 he was contacted by Australian evolutionary biologist John Stewart, author of Evolution’s Arrow, “who suggested SIMPOL had many common features with how evolution had resolved key competition bottle-necks in the past….how each new and larger cooperative social unit pushed competition to higher levels and, today, globalisation means that competition is now global, requiring the urgent evolution of global cooperation between nation-states. And there, I realised, SIMPOL had a potentially crucial role to play”.
Hopefully it does and hopefully as South Africans we start by asking our politicans global-centric questions, and maybe even becoming the second country, after Zimbabwe, currently the only African member of SIMPOL, to at least explore a different approach and escape insanity.
This article appeared in Leadership, Edition 395, August 2018. It is reproduced with their permission.