Bahai Global Governance System

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Michael Karlberg [1]:

"The worldwide Bahá’í community ... has been learning about aspects of global governance for over a century. Though every aspect of Bahá’í governance is not transferable to the wider society, the Bahá’í system is one of many social innovations that we can examine for relevant insights.

The worldwide Bahá’í community has constructed an integrated system for elected governing assemblies at the local, national, and international level. One of the distinguishing features of the system is that there are no nominations, campaigns, or parties. In short, there is no competition of any kind. In addition, it is based on reconceptualization of the nature and function of power in human affairs.

Within this system, every adult votes and has complete freedom of choice in voting for those they believe embody the requisite qualities and capacities of self-less, intelligent, and principled service to the common good. Attention is also paid to the diversity of those voted for, to enrich the insight and perspective available to elected bodies. Those who receive a plurality of unsolicited votes are thus elected, which entails giving up their prior aspirations at the community's bidding in order to serve. In large local communities, and at national and international levels, delegate systems are employed, similar to Ranalli’s description of tiered democracy.

Once elected, assemblies at all levels employ a system of consultative decision-making that is principled and non-partisan, and is informed by the outside expertise and perspective of diverse segments of the community. Because those who serve on elected assemblies have no interest in being re-elected, and employ a system of decision making that is shielded from self-interested lobbies and influences, concentrations of power and wealth play no role in decision making processes.

To date, this system has been constructed in over 10,000 localities worldwide, almost 200 countries and territories, and at the global level. Across these levels the system functions as an integrated and coordinated whole according to the subsidiarity principle, mentioned by Cabrera, in which decisions are made at the lowest level possible. Though this system is still evolving, and Bahá’ís are still developing corresponding capacities, the basic architecture of the electoral model, and the deliberative practices associated with it, have already demonstrated their viability in every cultural milieu.

Bahá’ís understand that the structure alluded to above is only as effective as the consciousness of those who participate in it. In this regard, social structures and cultural consciousness have to co-evolve. In the Bahá’í community, this co-evolution has been advancing for over a century, through a systematic learning process.

Part of this process is learning how to systematically foster a universal consciousness of the oneness humanity, combined with a sense of agency as a global citizen and a commitment to justice as the central organizing principle of social life. In this regard, processes of education, training, and socialization are foundational requisites of global governance, and they must be founded on a coherent system of meaning and values that motivate and guide collective agency. In our GTI discussions of global governance, we would do well to pay careful attention to these requisite conditions.

I draw attention to the experience of the Bahá’í community not to suggest that Bahá’ís have all the answers or that the Bahá’í system can readily be adopted wholesale by the wider society. On the contrary, Bahá’ís are still learning their way forward in a particular context. But there are certain normative principles Bahá’ís have been learning to translate into social reality that seem to have wider applicability, and we would do well to consider these principles and the experience that has been generated from efforts to apply them." (

More information

"Those who are interested in learning more about the evolving Bahá’í system of global governance, and its contrast with Western liberal systems of competitive democracy, might be interested in either of the two following discussions: