The First Step to System Change
There’s a problem with the COPs. Can we design a global decision-making procedure that will lead to meaningful action? And how can you help?
The COPs aren’t working
A conference of the parties (COP) is an assembly, primarily of nations, organized by the United Nations (UN). So far, there have been COPs on climate change, biodiversity, nuclear weapons proliferation, and many other subjects: important issues, that impact the life of every creature on our planet. But there’s a problem with the COPs. The nation states negotiating their deals, and the lobbyists in their wake, all have massive interests, and decisions are made by consensus. No wonder that the outcomes are bland compromises and the incentives to comply are weak. We need an alternative method to cooperate and make decisions.
But wait, there's more
There's an additional problem with the COPs. Many of the issues we face are interconnected. For example, global warming contributes to ecological collapse, and both crises have common causes. Yet the COPs address these issues at separate conferences, sometimes years apart.
But if lobbyists can wield their influence on government, so can citizens, right? We can write publications, sign petitions, send personal emails, organize protests. After all, politicians keep telling us ’the people's opinion matters.’ It is what citizens around the world have been doing for as long as nation states exist. But all their efforts have not lead to meaningful action to combat, for instance, climate change and ecological collapse.
To tackle these crises, the world needs system change: a change that affects all parts of the system. For example, a new economy or reforestation. But to achieve such a change, we first need a global dialog on how we decide things.
There are a lot of considerations going into designing a new way to make decisions. Who gets to be in the decision-making body, how do we account for group dynamics, is there a way to flag argumentation fallacies, and last but not least: how do we decide?
To answer that question, we need a decision-change body that will on the one hand consist of scientists and practitioners to design the decision-making procedure, and on the other hand of a number of auxiliary bodies to monitor the design process. These auxiliary bodies would in turn comprise –for example– lay people, testers, journalists, editors, and argumentation experts.
What would be needed?
The following tasks must be completed:
A. Design collective decision-making procedure
In step A, decision-making experts design the collective decision-making procedure, the box with a slit in the diagram above.
B. Make system-change proposals
In step B, proposals will be collected for the changes the world needs, initially from experts in a particular subject matter, for instance a new economy.
C. Get input from stakeholders, citizens, representatives, etc.
In step C, other parties may submit additional proposals and arguments.
D. Design system change
In step D, the decision-making body combines the proposals and other input to various system-change designs. It uses the decision-making procedure to select one of these designs.
A global team must complete the tasks mentioned above: approach experts, convene the decision-change body, collect system-change proposals, and make sure that the resulting decision-making body can do its work.
Is this realistic?
Short answer: we don't know. However, if there is one thing we can be certain of, it's that the decision-making procedure will be the best of its kind. It will have been designed by both experts and lay people, and the design process will have been closely monitored. We just need to roll up our sleeves and do the work.
If there is anything unrealistic, it's to keep addressing the crises the world is facing using the same decision-making procedure that failed to avert them.
It's time to get involved and build the global team. Organisations: support this team's formation.
Read the essay.