Posted by: Gray | January 6, 2016

People’s Courts for A Global Governance

We need to develop an effective global court system as part of global civil society – for all the kinds of cases which currently are not effectively dealt with by existing formal national and international government institutions. This should include both corporate law and law concerning government and organized criminal groups.

One kind of case for this would be, for example, corporate crimes involving pollution – like Unilever’s mercury poisoning in Kodaikanal. (See – and hear! – for instance, Sofia Ashraf’s rap on this, “Kodaikanal Won’t” at:

We need some kind of international system of parallel government courts in which civil society can hold trials in cases like this and allow the companies to have their day in court (if they choose) but then allow civil society to impose sanctions through actions like boycott or any of a number of other measures that would give teeth in an organized and effective way to the court decisions. – sit in’s, shareholder actions, public shaming. (For an encyclopedic list of some of the hundreds of possible actions see Gene Sharp’s WAGING NONVIOLENT STRUGGLE available online at: The trial of Exxon held at COP21 in Paris was another example of the kind of thing this might involve. (See:

But such hearings need to go beyond being viewed as “mock trials”. We need to develop civil society institutions at the international level that provide real trials in real People’s Courts which then issue decisions that acquire the force of the many powers civil society has at its disposal.

Many cases of things like pollution, human rights violations and war crimes might be handled using a model treating them as criminal matters for which punishment is assigned. Especially when the parties accused refuse to take part in the hearings and defend their actions.

But in other cases, a different kind of court procedure might be used, one modelled more along the kinds of reconciliation approaches to justice that tribal groups in East Africa and elsewhere employ when they have no third party state to appeal to in effective and functional ways and when they choose to draw on indigenous traditions to develop solutions to cases of injustice that aim not at punishment and vengeance but at peace and sustainable living together. (For some examples of this, see, for instance, John Paul Lederach’s PREPARING FOR PEACE).

Civil Society might, for example, use such a “reconciliation court” process of hearings to try to work for reconciliation between groups using terror and violence in different ways. For instance, Al Qaeda and Daesh (ISIS) are accused by the United States of using terror against civilian populations in ways that constitute war crimes. They, in turn, accuse the United States of using drone warfare that kills innocent civilians in ways that create terror. Currently each side uses the errors and sins of the other’s violence to justify its own continued use of terror – while trying to legitimate, downplay or ignore the immorality of its own act, even as judged by key moral standards it itself advocates (in the QURAN or in International Law). What if representative voices from each side were brought to a public hearing that might allow the different truths to come out and to be agreed to as part of a process of seeking a justice that might make meaningful policy reform, just compensation, and effective institutionalization of more peaceful practices possible?

A key way to end violence is to institute the rule of just law that is accepted by all parties. Our current international institutions for formal, governmental legal processes are weak. One way to strengthen them would be to develop further models that experiment with alternative kinds of hearings and that create just and peaceful outcomes in different ways. Civil society hearings could be doing that – and in fact, in some cases are. As more efforts in such experiments are undertaken, it will be possible to strengthen the procedures for funding them, the methods making them work effectively and the techniques for securing the needed sanctions for their efficacy. And these civil society efforts can then show the way and develop the institutional social capital to provide later for formal, international government institutions that secure the rule of law instead of violence. (One model that might be suggestive for this kind of process could be taken from Mexico’s experience in which civil society developed institutions for providing independent and transparent, fair systems for monitoring elections and adjudicating their results through the coalition work of Alianza Civica in 1994 – and then the people involved in that successful effort succeeded in institutionalizing many similar processes in the formal Mexican government structures of the federal electoral institution – which led to the change of government in July of 2000 with the loss of the PRI.)





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: