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Simon Anholt: Global Voting In A Small World

There's no denying it - the world seems a bit smaller every day. Decisions made in other countries increasingly affect us all, but very few politicians and decision makers place international relations and cross-border collaboration high on the agenda. Arguably they are just reflecting the priorities of voters, but if we're going to tackle the big problems of our age, we're not going to do it by battening down the hatches and praying for it to pass. But likewise, a global government is a bit of a scary prospect. The Global Vote is the logical extension of this thought process. Still in its early stages, the project encourages people from all over the world to vote on elections and referendums in other countries. Candidates are presented on the website in the context of their international policies or manifesto pledges. The hope is that, by building up a head of steam around 'hypothetical votes', the importance of thinking globally at the ballot box will be raised. Simon Anholt is the man behind the Global Vote, as well as its associated project, the Good Country Index, which aims to "measure what each country on earth contributes to the common good of humanity". What is the Global Vote? It’s a platform that empowers anyone anywhere in the world with an internet connection to vote in other countries’ elections. The reason for doing this is to fill a huge democratic deficit. Globalisation means we’re all affected sooner or later by every election and policy decision made in every other country, but we have no say on who makes those decisions. How does it relate to The Good Country? The Good Country is all about trying to help everyone in a position of power and responsibility to recognise that today they are no longer responsible just for their own people and their own slice of territory, but for every man, woman, child and animal on the planet, for every inch of the earth’s surface and the atmosphere above it. How have Global Vote results compared with 'real' election results so far? We’ve got it wrong every time. But the Global Vote isn’t an opinion poll and doesn’t aim to be in any sense neutral or representative. The point of the Global Vote is to focus on the international responsibility of the candidates, whereas domestic voters tend to focus on issues of domestic governance. Sadly, it’s rare to get a candidate who treats both as equally important. Many of the key problems we face are global problems, but democracy often works best in smaller groups, when people are closer to the seat of power. How do you resolve this conflict? Co-operation and collaboration. And one of the key messages of the Good Country - which is also one of my main learnings over 20 years as an advisor to the governments of more than 50 countries - is that good domestic governance is absolutely not in conflict with responsible international behaviour. Indeed, they can help each other. The gold standard of good governance in the coming years must be the successful harmonisation of both. A poll earlier this year indicated that a majority of people living in emerging economies see themselves as global citizens, while it's a minority in industrialised nations. Is it a barrier to the Global Vote that richer nations tend not to be so outward-looking? Not in the least. There’s always a substantial minority in every country that agrees entirely with the Good Country philosophy, and if most of those people end up being in the 'developing' world, so much the better as far as I’m concerned. Can you envisage a more globalised world than we have now? What would it look like and how could we be better at tackling problems that affect us all? I can imagine any number of scenarios in which problems become more globalised, solutions become more globalised, and both or neither become more globalised. There are already many excellent examples of international cooperation and collaboration, but they are predominantly in the areas of trade, finance and disaster relief, and almost overwhelmingly organised and managed either by transnational corporations or by international agencies like the UN. That’s not good. What I would like to see are many more collaborations – formal and informal, temporary and permanent – between nations, between citizens, between domestic civil society and political organisations, religious groups and so forth. I would like to see more governments experimenting with co-opetition [co-operative competition], as industry has been doing since the 1970s with great success. I would also like to see much more outward-looking activity carried out by multi-state groupings like the EU, ASEAN [the Association of Southeast Asian Nations], Commonwealth and so forth. These groups have a tendency to look inwards and focus on their collective self-interest, which is I suppose better than individual nations looking inwards, but still very far from their ultimate potential. The main powers on a global scale are multinational corporations. Do they therefore have a vested interest in discouraging global citizenship? That’s an interesting question. At one level, the increasing communication and connection between citizens of different nations is a problem for multinational corporations, because it makes it harder for them to get away with different pricing models, regulations and tax obligations. But in a wider sense it’s in their interest. Since brand loyalty and sales are increasingly driven by peer-to-peer communication, a growing global society increases the overall pool of ready and willing consumers, and makes it easier to build a truly global brand. What is the next election that will be up on the Global Vote? The next election on the Global Vote is the re-run of the Austrian presidential election on 4 December. This is the most critical vote since the US election, as it's a contest between a Green candidate, Alexander Van der Bellen, and the Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer, who is usually described as 'far right'. Hofer is certainly a populist and a nationalist, whose anti-immigration stance places him firmly in the Trump category. The Freedom Party was founded in 1956 by Anton Reinthaller, a Nazi and former SS Major-General. I'm hoping to offer a Global Vote on the upcoming presidential election in Somalia, but accurate information about the candidates is proving difficult to obtain. It still isn't clear exactly how many candidates will be running. Next year is shaping up to be an important year for elections, with France, Germany and Iran, just for starters. France is a critical one, with a real possibility of National Front leader Marine Le Pen becoming the next French President. The entire political landscape of Europe and beyond could look very different indeed by this time next year, which is why it's essential for people around the world to express their hopes for a better world in the Global Vote. If you could bring one new law into force in the UK, what would it be? I would make the Foreign Secretary responsible for bringing an international focus to the plans and activities of every other ministry and department, and turn the whole foreign service inside-out starting from that point. Failing that, I would have nationalism punished along the same lines as sexism and racism. @SimonAnholt @TheGlobal_Vote )

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