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The Bahá'í Administrative Order

Updated: Nov 12, 2019

A System of Global Governance

Seat of the Universal House of Justice
The Seat of the Universal House of Justice on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel.

Following a framework set down by Bahá'u'lláh, Bahá'í communities conduct their business through a distinctive system of freely elected governing councils that challenge commonly accepted ideas about the inherent limitations of democracy.

To describe the twentieth century in a phrase, it has been a single, long experiment in global governance.

Underlying the most dynamic movements, conflicts and institutions of the last 90 years has been a key question: how shall humanity govern itself?

By early in the century, absolute monarchy had been rejected; the First World War dismantled its remaining institutions. The Second World War settled the question of fascism and led to the end of colonialism. Now, the most ambitious experiment of all, communism, has been equally discredited.

Although clearly superior to other systems so far tried, democracy as practiced today is nevertheless undergoing its own convulsions. In the West, despite its successes, the multi-party system seems increasingly to reveal its limitations. In many countries, the corruption, mud-slinging, negative campaigning, vote pandering and indecisiveness have lead to voter apathy on a scale that threatens the integrity of the whole system.

In the East, new democratic experiments are threatened by a host of problems and forces, including a lack of experience, ages-old ethnic tensions, and varying cultural expectations.

Growing numbers of people today wonder whether any form of government is really viable any longer.

On the periphery of this debate is the extraordinary alternative suggested by the worldwide Bahá'í community. Following an administrative framework set down by Bahá'u'lláh, the community conducts its business through a distinctive system of freely elected governing councils that challenge commonly accepted ideas about democracy and the possibilities for achieving genuine justice.

The system combines the best elements of grassroots democracy with a facility for planet-wide coordination. It promotes the selection of leaders with integrity and has built-in checks against corruption. Its underlying principles strike a singular balance between individual freedom and the collective good.

Although many of its elements are similar to other practices for democratic election, administration and governance, when viewed as a whole the Bahá'í system stands in sharp contrast. The election process, for example, excludes any form of campaigning, electioneering or nominations. Yet it offers every individual elector the widest possible choice of candidates.

The decision-making process used by Bahá'í councils in their deliberations is also distinctive; its method is non-adversarial and seeks to build community consensus in a manner that unites various constituencies instead of dividing them.

The idea that there exists a divine pattern for the continuing administration of the Bahá'í Faith is as important to the definition of Bahá'í belief and practice as are the spiritual and social doctrines of Bahá'u'lláh.

This governance system is called the "administrative order." It is viewed as both a system for conducting the affairs of the Bahá'í Faith itself and as a promising model that can be easily adopted by other institutions of administration and governance.

"In every country where any of this people reside, they must behave towards the government of that country with loyalty, honesty and truthfulness." - Bahá'u'lláh

Founded on a common set of electoral and decision-making principles, the system is organized around a set of freely elected governing councils which operate at the local, national, and international levels. This hierarchy devolves decision making to the lowest level practicable--thereby providing a unique vehicle for grassroots democracy--while at the same time providing a level of coordination and authority that makes possible cooperation on a global scale.




Baha'i Holy Places & Pilgrimage
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