Working towards the ‘globalization of democracy’

A professor of international law who has committed his life to the pursuit of equity and social justice, Richard Falk is an accomplished author of more than 20 books. His most recent effort, The Great Terror War (2003), examines the American response to September 11, including its relationship to the patriotic duties of American citizens. A Princeton University professor emeritus, Falk is currently visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. On June 18, York University conferred an honorary degree on Falk during the convocation ceremony for graduates of Osgoode Hall Law School.

Right: Richard Falk

In his convocation address, Falk displayed his mastery as an orator, using the event to deliver a powerful message on the current state of global affairs. He spoke of the need for his “Utopian” vision of global citizenry. “Since we do, for better and worse, increasingly live in a globalized world, we need to begin increasing the globalization of democracy to avoid living in an authoritarian world.

“We need to allow people to participate meaningfully in determining their own future. This goal can only be reached if we begin to feel and act as global citizens,” said Falk. “I ask you to consider the following: when will political globalization begin to catch up to economic globalization? The globality of the rich and influential needs to be granted to the poor and marginal.”

Falk called for the citizens of the world to have the right to vote in elections in countries with a global agenda, using the role of the United States as an example. Such global elections would ensure, he said, that powerful countries would have leaders committed to working to improving the human condition and would lessen the role of war as a social condition. Without Utopian dreams, many of the great advancements of the world would not take place, he said, pointing to the destruction of the Berlin Wall and travel into space as seemingly impossible dreams that have become a reality.

Urging graduates to take a road less comfortable as legal professionals working for the rich and powerful, he asked that they use their legal and political training to work toward bettering the human condition, to take risks and to face failure. “Stare failure in the face and do not be defeated,” said Falk. 

More about Richard Falk

Falk is the Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and a visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He holds a BSc from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, an LLB from Yale Law School and a JSD from Harvard University. He serves as the Chair of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s board of directors and as honorary vice-president of the American Society of International Law. He also served on a three-person Human Rights Inquiry Commission for the Palestinian Territories that was appointed by the United Nations. Previously he served on the UN Independent Commission on Kosovo.