The economic and social diversification agendas of developing countries in recent times have seen a rise in cross-border strategic partnerships. Very often, these allow organisations from the old world to operate in new and exciting markets, at the same time as they allow ambitious governments to develop physical and social infrastructure and to retain, attract and develop human capital. Shifts at a supranational level, including the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, new accessions to the Commonwealth and questions over Qatar’s continued membership of the GCC create risk and opportunity for the continued development of the countries involved. The marginal result in the Scottish Referendum showed that even within countries, the desire to reshape national boundaries can be incredibly strong. Bilateral relationships are fortified or weakened, and a new era begins for membership of alternative inter-governmental bodies. At both levels, the cultures and systems of government within those countries are recalibrated. The evolution through thousands of years continues.
But what happens when the economic and social agenda is to build the nation from scratch? When one has all of the world’s successes and failings to learn from? When one is developing a new system of governance, and attracting citizens, establishing a parliament and building relationships with other nations, and from base zero? Hard as it may be to believe, this is going on now, and has been at an epic scale. But not where you may expect.
Whatever our views on space exploration, and the ultimate migration of humans off earth, building a nation with good governance, adherence to the rule of law and a strong national identity, takes generations. As you can read, on page 44 of this edition of Diplomatmagazine, Asgardiais not waiting for the rockets to fire up – it is already two years in. And the relevance to states on Earth is perhaps surprisingly high.
Public Law scholars from around the world have been engaged in drafting a new Constitution. Without the benefits and hindrances of inherited systems of governance, Asgardiahas written a new blueprint for a new nation. From day one, or even beforehand, equality is assured across place of birth, residence, language, gender, race, nationality, religion and previous citizenship. “One Humanity, One Unity” is the national motto.
But Asgardiais not just about fairness. Anyone who has lived and worked in truly global cities around the world will know that cultures can clash. A mere desire to get along is not always enough. This is why a new nation, with citizens from all over the world, requires a new model of governance. Constitutional experts have given great thought to the appropriate balance of power between the state and its citizens. In many developing countries, the state exercises a greater direct control over the lives of citizens, because of the importance of consolidating decision-making and ensuring change keeps pace, whereas one of the greatest threats to progress in the developed world is the ability, or power, of parliamentary delay. For a new, transcultural nation, the citizen is supreme. The usual organs of state provide executive, legislative and judicial service, but the doctrine of referendum prevails. Nothwithstanding the elected parliament, citizens themselves are able to introduce legislative proposals and to initiate referenda, albeit with restrictions on frequency.
The establishment of Asgardiais also highly relevant within the context of self-determination. The paths chosen by the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement were studied closely, including constitutional monarchies within leading world democracies such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden, Denmarkand Monaco.
Financial models are also key to the successful operation of a nation, and these too have been reviewed at great depth. It is noted that Nigeria, Ghanaand South Africaare among those who have been publicly supportive of the ease of transferring cryptocurrencies rather than the established physical currencies. But it is also noted that communities have, and do, operate successfully without a standard system of centrally-controlled currency. As with all areas of the operation and governance of a new nation, the potential is endless and what is right is what works within the otherwise unique ecosystem; not just what appears to be best under existing conditions. In this respect, Asgardiahas learned a great deal from differing levels of state economic control.
The notion of space exploration presents parallels with other nations in two ways. First, because to date space has been the exclusive reserve of only a tiny number of countries. Yet there is now a significant acceleration from across the globe. For example, in Asia, China, Indiaand Japanare taking a lead, whereas emerging players include Iran, Israel, South Korea, Pakistan, Bangladeshand the UAE. With Asgardia, in this respect, there is a common goal. Secondly, because the new frontier represented by human migration off Earth brings a commonality with countries that have braved a new approach to existing norms: chartering parts of the ocean, desert or Arctic and Antarctic; developing new paradigms of trans-global education; setting a new standard for a truly global, inter-connected crossroads of civilisations and cultures; or altering the ways in which borders are recognised and managed. All of this requires a rebuilding of long-established practice. This is what Asgardia is building.
With around 200,000 citizens and the recent highly-successful global online elections for parliament, Asgardiais real. Their parallels with existing nations on Earth not only draw on an assessment of successful precedent, but also provide an opportunity for reflection. Asgardiais already establishing strong bilateral relationships, providing mutual benefit through the exchange of people and ideas.
Building a nation is surprisingly complex when the starting point is a blank sheet of paper. For Asgardia, the paper is no longer blank.