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The United Nations was a bold and idealistic experiment when it was founded in 1945. It has become a senile, inefficient, and corrupt shadow of its former self. It is time to begin thinking of a replacement. A new organization that bonds the free nations should be created. This organization's initial aim would be to supplement the United Nations, and only later to supplant it. It should be foremost a partnership of nations that are democratic in practice, and not just in name. Second, it should welcome the free market's spirit, creativity, and flexibility, rather than the heavy hand of venal and inefficient state-owned enterprises. Finally, it should embrace the rule of law, a free press and media, free elections, and freedom of religion and association as cornerstones of genuine democracy. Let's call this new body The Democratic Nations (DN).

Who are the DN'S natural members?

The DN will welcome all predominantly democratic nations as founding members. Its initial membership, however, would be heavily weighted toward the European Union, the Western Hemisphere, and the free nations of Asia.

Using Freedom House’s criteria, 83 nations would be eligible, a number that would encompass 43% of the world's countries.

Any nations not initially eligible to join the DN would be welcome to apply for membership provided they pledge to fulfill the stringent admission requirements. On a flexible schedule, candidate nations would be guided toward the freedom-related reforms needed to join the DN. To qualify for membership, an aspiring nation-state would have to be transparent in its reforms and agree to be monitored and evaluated regularly by DN membership observers. Specialized DN teams would work with candidate members to assist them in upgrading their laws and practices to meet DN standards.

Just as the European Union set out a list of reforms and timetables that prospective members in the former Soviet sphere were required to adopt prior to advancing to membership, so too the DN can assist the less politically and economically developed nations to reform their politics and their economies to become full members.

Goals at the Start

During the early years of the DN, the organization should limit its focus to a handful of essential priorities. 

Its first responsibility would be to promote and safeguard democratic values and institutions among its members and aspiring members. Free and honest elections and term limits, combined with universal adult suffrage, private property ownership, and the rule of law, would be essential obligations of each member nation.

The DN's second goal would be developing and supporting pro-growth, free market, and environmentally sensitive institutions and policies. This goal assumes that democratic institutions cannot flourish where the state controls the market and land and hobbles economic liberty. By vigorously promoting efficient economic progress for the developed and particularly the developing world, the DN would offer a stark alternative to the grandiose Chinese project development model that traps the nations it purports to help in debt and is regally indifferent to both local tyranny and endemic corruption. The DN must differentiate itself and its values from those of China, with its model of top-down surveillance-state economics.

The third goal would be to promote unregulated societal institutions: free media, freedom of speech and assembly, and freedom of religion.

The fourth duty would be to fight corruption and assist nations in developing honest, accountable, and efficient institutions.

The fifth and final goal would be to assist members and prospective members in their efforts to develop their physical and online educational institutions and promote educational and scientific exchanges with other DN nations.

When, after a decade or more, the DN has firmly established itself and is fully functioning, it might take on additional obligations in areas such as health, scientific research, environmental issues, and peacekeeping.

From the beginning, the DN would welcome responsible and democratic non-governmental organizations and foundations into its deliberations and activities. One key partner is likely to be the newly established Alliance of Democracies Foundation.

Keeping Feet in Two Camps

The democratic and free-market nations of Asia, Africa, and the West should not leave the UN, at least for a long while. But they should encourage the UN to transform itself radically while nurturing non-democratic states to reform themselves in order to become eligible for admission to the DN. Thirty years into the future, we could see a dynamic and growing DN and a fading UN made up of scabrous dictatorships such as China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Belarus, and Cuba.

Taking the Initiative

In the ongoing competition with China, the United States will need to muster the collective strength and resources of its natural allies while taking the ideological and moral high ground. What better way to seize the initiative from China than to create an organization that repudiates the central tenets of its ideology and puts it on its back foot in the decades to come.

Getting Started

Just as the United Nations was supported generously in its foundation by a grant from the Rockefeller family, so too one or more philanthropists or nations might endow the DN with sufficient support to launch the enterprise. After that, the DN would be supported by modest annual dues from member nations and support from foundations and philanthropists.

Legitimatizing the Initiative

U.S. President Joe Biden’s recent “Summit for Democracy” suggests that the United States and many other democratic nations may be receptive to a new umbrella organization built on democratic values. It’s time to think about how this can be done.

James S. Fay is a California attorney, political scientist, and retired college administrator. He has a Ph.D. from Michigan and a J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. He has published in the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Real Clear Education, and in social science and law journals. He has published articles on the Helsinki Accords, presidential emergency powers, and NATO funding. Veronica S. Fay is a Master's graduate in International Relations at the University of Utrecht. She lives in Poland. The views expressed are the authors’ own.