The World Federalist Movement evolved out of a series of national organizations and efforts that started in the 1930s as a response to the failure of the League of Nations and in the attempt of creating the kind of global order that could prevent world war. At the end of the Second World War, numerous citizens’ groups formed across Europe and North America to address the need for effective mechanisms of ensuring international peace and stability, realizing that the United Nations with its original structure would not be able to meet its first preambular goal: 'to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war'.

The groups started working independently of each other, publishing newsletters and pushing for reform and monitoring of the newly formed United Nations. By 1947 these independent groups recognized the need for unity in their movement if they were to achieve unity in the world. They agreed to meet in Montreux, Switzerland in August 1947 to work on forming a cohesive group, creating what is today the World Federalist Movement.

On August 17th 1947, more than 300 participants representing 51 organizations and numerous observers gathered in Montreux for the opening of the first 'Conference of the World Movement for World Federal Government'. Max Habicht opened the meeting and declared that as Federalists they wanted a world government that 'will create the Parliament of Man, in which the representatives of the people of the world will make world laws by majority vote'. Mr. Habicht described the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Charter of San Francisco as 'only steps on the path leading to a better organization, the World Federal Government, which alone, can guarantee world peace. We fear that the United Nation's efforts towards peace, like those of the League of Nations, may not be successful, if the world is not willing to take this next step to World Federal Government.' He concluded, 'Federalists in all countries of the world will try to make a contribution to this political evolution. We are here in Montreux to coordinate our activities and to make them more effective.'

The Founding meeting concluded with the adoption of the 'Montreux Declaration; The Principles for World Federal Government'.

At first, world federalists sought fundamental revisions of the United Nations Charter. After 1965, however, it became apparent that any political will among the world’s national governments to change the Charter had dissipated. Later world federalists continued to propose reforms of existing institutions to make them more effective and democratic. Many focused on the effort to transform the General Assembly into a world parliament that can enact world law instead of merely making non-binding resolutions. In addition, world federalists made proposals for new United Nations institutions and international organs, such as the Commission on Sustainable Development, International Development Authority, and International Criminal Court (ICC).



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