Passports and Borders

by Donnal Walter, World Beyond War volunteer, March 8, 2018.

Matt Cardy/Getty Images

As luck would have it, my passport is due to expire between now and September, when the #NoWar2018 Conference is set to be held in Toronto (Sep 21-22, 2018). Crossing an international border, even into Canada and back, requires a current passport. If I want to attend, it’s time to renew.

By another coincidence, however, I recently watched the movie The World is My Country (reviewed here), which highlights the life and work of Garry Davis, the first “World Citizen.” With his creation of a World Passport, he sparked a global citizenship movement, which envisions a peaceful world beyond the divisions of nation states. I’ve been inspired to join this movement by applying for, and traveling on, a world passport.

World Citizen

The first step is to register as a world citizen through World Service Authority.

“A World Citizen is a human being who lives intellectually, morally and physically in the present. A World Citizen accepts the dynamic fact that the planetary human community is interdependent and whole, that humankind is essentially one.”

This describes me, or at least my intent. I identify with the description (CREDO) of a world citizen. I am a peaceful and peacemaking individual. Mutual trust is basic to my lifestyle. I want to establish and maintain a system of just and equitable world law. I want to bring about better understanding and protection of different cultures, ethnic groups and language communities. I want to make this world a better place to live in harmoniously by studying and respecting the viewpoints of fellow citizens from anywhere in the world.

World Government

Most of us accept our interdependence and desire to live harmoniously with others, but giving up autonomy does not always come easy. We may see the need for a system of just and equitable world law, but we often find it harder to envision appropriate legislative, judiciary and enforcement bodies.

The idea of submitting to a world government is disturbing for many of us. Do I really want other countries telling MY country what we can and cannot do? We are a sovereign nation. But I submit that this is the wrong question. No, I do not want other countries dictating what what is allowable to my country, but yes, I do want the people of the world, my fellow world citizens, to have a clear say in what we all do, especially where we’re all involved. As a world citizen “I acknowledge the World Government as having the right and duty to represent me in all that concerns the General Good of humankind and the Good of All.”

Local vs. Global. The primary objection for some is that decisions regarding any locality or region are best left up to local or regional government. But it is not the purpose of a world government to manage the affairs of every province or neighborhood. In fact, one of the purposes of world government is to facilitate self-government in every region of the world.

As a Citizen of World Government, I recognize and reaffirm citizenship loyalties and responsibilities within the communal state, and/or national groupings consistent with the principles of unity

Two exceptions might be: (1) when a local government is repressive or fails to represent the interests of its own citizens, and (2) when the self-interests of a given locality are at odds with the “Good of All”? What if, for example, a locality chooses to increase the use of fossil fuels unimpeded without regard to the impact on climate change, a global issue? In such cases, it is the duty of all peoples to “encourage” compliance. This would not be imposed by force, however, but through the use of sanctions or incentives.

Freedoms and Rights. Another concern is that a world government might not protect the freedoms we hold dear. Granted, there can be a tension between the Good of All and individual rights in some situations, and finding the right balance may be difficult. But the World Government of World Citizens does not remove the personal rights afforded by any nation or state. If anything, our rights are protected more effectively. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) is the basis for world citizenship and the world passport. Freedom of speech, for example, is well protected (Article 19). The right to keep and bear arms not so much, but neither is it infringed.

A World Parliament. The World Government of World Citizens provides a way to register citizenship and apply for a passport, as well as legal assistance. Beyond this, however, it does not prescribe specific details of governing, which yet remain to be worked out. That said, the World Beyond War monograph A Global Security System describes many essential features of such a system (pp 47-63).

Dual Citizenship. In applying for world citizenship, I have no intention of renouncing my U.S. Citizenship. I am still proud to be an American (though not infrequently ashamed as well). World citizens from other countries need not renounce their national citizenship either. We affirm national loyalties consistent with the principles of unity. The difference between this situation and dual citizenship in two countries, is that the latter can result in conflicts of interest. I believe I can be a good U.S. citizen and a world citizen without such conflict.

World Passport

Though I understand the reservations of some of my friends about world citizenship, I embrace it wholeheartedly and have initiated the registration process. Having gone this far, it only makes sense for me to go ahead and apply for the world passport, which I have also done. You may be wondering if there is any advantage of doing this over simply renewing my U.S. passport. The cost is about the same, the time required is similar, photos are the same, and the overall hassle is little different. It is about the same either way for me, but for many people (especially refugees) a world passport is the only legal way to cross international borders. I am therefore taking this step to help those humiliated by the nation state system (and nations acting in their own self-interest) to reclaim their dignity. The World Service Authority provides free documents to needy refugees and stateless persons.

The legal mandate for the world passport is Article 13(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including one’s own, and to return to one’s country.” According to World Service Authority:

If freedom of travel is one of the essential marks of the liberated human being, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, then the very acceptance of a national passport is the mark of the slave, serf or subject. The World Passport is therefore a meaningful symbol and sometimes powerful tool for the implementation of the fundamental human right of freedom of travel.

In a perfect world, perhaps there would be no need for national borders, or at least they should not be barriers to travel. I am not prepared (today) to go this far, but I am prepared to defend the right of every person to leave one’s country and return if they wish. Again from World Service Authority:

A passport gains credibility only by its acceptance by authorities other than the issuing agent. The World Passport in this respect has a track record of over 60 years acceptance since it was first issued. Today over 185 countries have visaed it on a case-by-case basis. In short, the World Passport represents the one world we all live in and on. No one has the right to tell you you can’t move freely on your natural birthplace! So don’t leave home without one!

Making a Statement or Hedging

I plan to use my world passport to travel to #NoWar2018 in Canada in September and return home afterward. If challenged, I intend to politely educate the border agent(s), and their supervisors if necessary, on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I am also prepared to encounter delays as a result. It is important to me to assert the right of every human being to travel as they wish. Continuing the track record is important.

If push comes to shove, however, I’ll do neither (push or shove). If it means missing the conference (or failing to get home), I would simply take  from my back pocket my renewed U.S. passport, also initiated this week, and show it. Is that hedging? Yes, probably so. And I’m okay with that.

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