Reshaping the International Order – Part 3 – “Functional” Sovereignty and the Common Heritage of Mankind

Knowledge Driven Revolution
Brent Jessop

“The achievement of this global planning and management system calls for the conscious transfer of power – a gradual transfer to be sure – from the nation State to the world organization. Only when this transfer takes place can the organization become effective and purposeful.” – RIO: Reshaping the International Order, 1976 (p185)

This article addresses the redefinition of sovereignty from “territorial sovereignty” to “functional sovereignty” by The Club of Rome. Also discussed is the use of the concept of the “common heritage of mankind” to gain international control of not just the oceans, atmosphere and outer space but also all material and non-material resources.

The Club of Rome is a premiere think tank composed of approximately 100 members including leading scientists, philosophers, political advisors, former politicians and many other influential bureaucrats and technocrats. This series of articles describes the major conclusions of the 1976 book Rio: Reshaping the International Order: A Report to the Club of Rome [1] coordinated by Nobel Laureate Jan Tinbergen. The RIO report “addresses the following question: what new international order should be recommended to the world’s statesmen and social groups so as to meet, to the extent practically and realistically possible, the urgent needs of today’s population and the probable needs of future generations?”

Part 1 of this series gives an overview of the proposed new international order described by the RIO report as “humanistic socialism”. This includes: collective neighbourhood armies, a fully planned world economy, global free trade, public international enterprises, proposed changes in consumption patterns among other topics. Changes to the financial system including international taxation and the creation of a World Treasury, World Central Bank and World Currency are examined in part 2.
Territorial Sovereignty versus Functional Sovereignty

From RIO: Reshaping the International Order:

[Italicised text is original emphasis and bolded text is added by author.]

“Given the growing list of problems confronting mankind, every effort must be made to stimulate processes which point in directions which can be deemed desirable. This would certainly apply, for example, to the tendency towards the increasing centralization of decision-making involving issues beyond national frontiers should be viewed as a logical continuation of the process of change and a precondition for the effective assertion of national sovereignty.” – 103

The “increasing centralization of [international] decision-making” being a “precondition for the effective assertion of national sovereignty” may seem contradictory. The reason for this misunderstanding is your definition of sovereignty is based on an apparently outdated “territorial sovereignty” instead of the much more modern and politically correct “functional sovereignty”.

“In other words, the traditional concept of territorial sovereignty should be replaced by the concept of functional sovereignty, which distinguishes jurisdiction over specific uses from sovereignty over geographic space. This would permit the interweaving of national jurisdiction and international competences within the same territorial space and open the possibility of applying the concept of the common heritage of mankind both beyond and within the limits of national jurisdiction.”- 172

That is right, “sovereignty” no longer involves governmental control within a geographic space, rather it refers to governmental control of specific functions within a geographic space. Which functions would depend on the dictates of a world authority.

“Acceptance of these elements calls for a reinterpretation of the concept of national sovereignty. Participation and social control suggest a functional rather than a territorial interpretation of sovereignty, or jurisdiction over determined uses rather than geographical space. Conceptually, this interpretation will make possible the progressive internationalization and socialization of all world resources – material and non-material – based upon the ‘common heritage of mankind’ principle. It also permits the secure accommodation of inclusive and exclusive uses of these resources, or, in other words, the interweaving of national and international jurisdiction within the same territorial space… Ultimately, we must air for decentralized sovereignty with the network of strong international institutions which will make it possible.” – 82

Common Heritage of Mankind as “Functional Ownership”

“… the new concepts of functional sovereignty and functional ownership (common heritage of mankind).” – 314

“The [Communist Yugoslavian] concept of social ownership and its attributes are clearly applicable to the ‘common heritage’ concept.” – 81

“Effective planning and management calls for the fundamental restructuring of the United Nations so as to give it broad economic powers and a more decisive mandate for international economic decision-making… It is also hoped that major changes in the United Nations structure will be made over the next decade so that it is not only able to play a more forceful role in world political affairs but it is also able to become more of a World Development Authority in managing the socio-economic affairs of the international community. … The most effective way of articulating the planning and management functions of this organization would be through a functional confederation of international organizations, based upon existing, restructured and, in some instances, new United Nations agencies – to be linked through an integrative machinery. This system and its machinery, if it is really to reflect interdependencies between nations and solidarity between peoples, should ultimately aim at the pooling and sharing of all resources, material and non-material, including means of production, with a view to ensuring effective planning and management of the world economy and of global resource use in a way which would meet the essential objectives of equity and efficiency.” – 185

“In the long term, and assuming progress towards the creation of an equitable international economic and social order leading to a pooling of material and non-material resources, mineral resources will need to be viewed as a common heritage of mankind. This concept implies both a real world market for all mineral resources and a system of world taxation to replace national mining taxation. The revenues collected should be redistributed among Third World countries – possibly through such an agency as IDA [International Development Association – World Bank group]…

This tax could, for instance, be introduced as one of a moderate rate and gradually be raised to something in the order of 70 per cent of profits on fossil fuels and 50 per cent of the value of production of ores (including uranium).

Such a tax would, like the present taxes on oil products, in fact be paid by the consumers…

Such a tax, at the rates proposed, would probably induce consumers to restrict their consumption of mineral raw materials…” – 148

This concept includes the manipulation of the Third World “national liberation” movements in the post colonial era. These are only stepping stones toward “functional sovereignty”.

“[Third World territorial sovereignty] is a weapon which must be used in the struggle for a new international order.” – 247

“After the exercise of national sovereignty by Third World countries over their national resources has helped to establish more equality between mineral producing and consuming countries, a switch to the concept of the ‘common heritage of mankind’ is recommended and a gradual transformation of the principle of territorial sovereignty into functional sovereignty. This must be viewed as the most desirable approach to the world management of national and other resources, material and non-material.” – 150

“Sovereignty and the Common Heritage of Mankind… the first objective to be achieved is the attainment by Third World countries of full sovereignty over their resources in compliance with the UNCERDS [United Nations Charter of the Economic Rights and Duties of States]. Only after this objective has been achieved can the concept of the common heritage of mankind, traditionally limited to resources considered as res nullius such as the oceans and outer space, be expanded to new domains such as mineral resources, science and technology, means of production and other sources of wealth. After the exercise of national sovereignty has contributed toward the creation of a more equitable international order, the aim should be to pool all world resources – material and non-material – with a view to ensuring effective planning and management of the world economy and of global resource use in a way which would meet the dual objectives of equity and efficiency. In this perspective resources would need to be managed on the basis of decentralized planetary sovereignty. Proposals contained in the following chapters for the application of the common heritage concept to particular fields should thus be viewed in this broader context.” – 123

Remember when you hear the term “Common Heritage of Mankind” it does not just refer to the oceans, atmosphere and outer space, it refers to all material and non-material resources. Anything that might be considered a source of wealth would be brought under strict international authority. Keep in mind non-material resources includes, among other things, the education of “human resources”.


The next part in this series discusses the generation of public opinion and the use of white coated propagandists. The creation of a World Food Authority and its use for population control is examined in part 5. The final article in this series deals with a variety of issues including global solidarity, regional unions, legal changes and a standing United Nations Peace Force.

[1] Quotes from Jan Tinbergen, RIO: Reshaping the International Order: A Report to the Club of Rome (1976). ISBN 0-525-04340-3


About IanPJ

Ian Parker-Joseph, former Leader of the Libertarian Party UK, who currently heads PDPS Internet Hosting and the Personal Deed Poll Services company, has been an IT industry professional for over 20 years, providing Business Consulting, Programme and Project Management, specialising in the recovery of Projects that have failed in a process driven world. Ian’s experience is not limited to the UK, and he has successfully delivered projects in the Middle East, Africa, US, Russia, Poland, France and Germany. Working within different cultures, Ian has occupied high profile roles within multi-nationals such as Nortel and Cable & Wireless. These experiences have given Ian an excellent insight into world events, and the way that they can shape our own national future. His extensive overseas experiences have made him all too aware of how the UK interacts with its near neighbours, its place in the Commonwealth, and how our nation fits into the wider world. He is determined to rebuild many of the friendships and commercial relationships with other nations that have been sadly neglected over the years, and would like to see greater energy and food security in these countries, for the benefit of all. Ian is a vocal advocate of small government, individual freedom, low taxation and a minimum of regulation. Ian believes deeply and passionately in freedom and independence in all areas of life, and is now bringing his professional experiences to bear in the world of politics.
This entry was posted in Main Page. Bookmark the permalink.