Global Community: The Role of International Organizations in the Making of the Contemporary World


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In fact, due to the financial crisis, Europe has already been witnessing an increase in the popularity of authoritarian political forces. In , the world has seen an abrupt fall of oil prices, due to a slowdown in the emerging countries and Europe's demand, and mostly due to the huge increase in the US production of non-conventional oil. Saudi Arabia reacted in a strategic long-term approach for avoiding the depletion of its oil reserve assets in face of a rapid development of non-conventional oil and renewable energy.

The country's bet is to keep the oil price below the cost of production of a significant part of the producers of shale oil in the US. This reduction in oil prices is producing major effects in oil exporters dependent on a high price for keeping their national budget on balance-Russia, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Ecuador, etc. On the contrary, the US seems to be winning, since the country is benefiting from a large increase in its production and from being a major consumer the country is importing cheaper oil.

Some may interpret this development in prices as an aggression from the US against Russia, but howsoever there is an evident geostrategic tension in the international system, which constitutes a security risk. With regard to exporting states, the existence of valuable natural resources heightens competition for control of the state and postpones the development of other sectors of economic life, given that, in most cases, these states have very weak political institutions, something that increases the likelihood of political authoritarianism and civil strife.

It is important to underline that these conflicts begin as national security risks, but can quickly turn into international or global problems. Le Billon argues that resource allocations, operating practices, social rights and the discursive representations contribute to shape vulnerabilities and opportunities for the emergence of armed conflicts, which means that, in many cases, security problems are originated within a state, but have a large potential to surpass national borders and affect regional and international security.

The idea of future conflicts over scarce resources and anthropogenic environmental change need to be considered in terms of particular geographies of vulnerability, threat and insecurity, as well as the new dynamics associated with globalization. So, traditional geopolitics perspectives over natural resources conflicts seem to be increasingly obsolete, inasmuch as they focus on resource supply for rich countries, pointing towards military invasions and national autarky, regarding natural resources as strategic imperatives based on state-centric perspectives which stress conflict risks fueled by ideas of shrinking resources and difficulties in supply.

Given that one needs to study potential conflicts over resources in light of geographies of vulnerability, threat and insecurity, one also should be careful when analyzing geopolitical narratives about the threat of interstate resource wars due to the growing economies of Asia, for example, since they can promote them instead of avoiding them, simply because this is a simplistic view on the issue, which neglects the multidimensional nature of environmental issues and the need for global cooperation. As Frerks et al. One cannot assert the decay of geopolitics, one must admit that geopolitics is still relevant and important, but geopolitics cannot be the only perspective on environmental issues and natural resources in particular, since globalization itself has made the environment a global problem.

Globalization and its global issues challenge the orthodox vision that emphasizes traditional geopolitics and the struggle for power among states, pointing to the importance of a new perspective, one which focus its attention on a geocentric perspective in the politics of global social relations or in a new geopolitics, given the increasing importance of soft power in international relations.


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Howsoever, this is another aspect that proves globalization is a "double-edged sword. In the core of geopolitical thinking lies the realistic notion of the importance of achieving world order by means of a balance of power that seeks to prevent regional and global hegemony of rising powers, and some supporters of globalization suggest that world order can be achieved through greater economic and cultural interaction. So, according to this view, the Arab Spring events can be viewed both from the perspective of globalization and from the perspective of geopolitics.

Globalization was important in disseminating ideas through social networks, especially and in spreading weapons through state borders, which challenged dictators across the Arab world. Also, external powers were asked to intervene either directly or indirectly, in order to establish a balance of power in a critical region of the world, one that can serve their interests Heywood One must keep in mind that outsiders have to deal with the problems associated with national conflicts over resources-problems such as illegal migration, terrorism, human or drug trafficking-becoming entangled in weak states trying to control these events, but that great power involvement may be aggressive and selfish, instead of defensive or altruistic Hendrix and Noland The more assertive example of this is the US invasion of Iraq.

Thus, there are many narratives about competition over resources between the US and China Klare : they mention the effects of this competition for US-China relations, as well as possible tensions between China and countries such as Japan, India and Southeast Asian countries. As Reed emphasizes, "Chinese and US economies are intimately connected, while the two countries also compete for geostrategic influence at regional and global levels.

Chinese influence in Africa is already a reality, because the country has surpassed the United States as the single largest provider of aid to the continent, and Chinese outward foreign direct investment is deeply targeted at the extractive sector.


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This resource boom can occasion a geopolitical confrontation between the United States and China Hendrix and Noland The question is: can China rise peacefully? So, China's rise is one of the reasons why the environment and natural resources are becoming more and more important in international relations. The other reasons encompass, for example, India, which is about to be the world's most populous country, having an emerging economy and being a political force stabilizing the South and Southeast regions of the Asian continent; Brazil, a major provider of commodities on world markets and an extremely important player in terms of global food security; or the Russian Artic, destined to be the heart of an enormous struggle of extractive industries and commercial and shipping centers.

Besides, these are regions of high priority to the US; all of them are vulnerable to natural resource shocks and to the effects of climate change. According to Reed , illegal trade in natural resources runs in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually. This illegal resource trade distorts international trade, weakens rules governing international commerce, and causes economic loss to producers and consumers in the United States. Garrett and Piccini , 5 also mention this fact, focusing on war economies, "a fertile business environment for international criminal networks and arms traffickers, who seek to exchange arms and other inputs in return for access to natural resource revenues or commercialization opportunities provided by high-value commodities.

Another risk encompasses the fact that natural resource exporting states are empowered by higher prices, which makes them less amenable to international norms, namely those associated with global environmental governance and human rights, two global issues. In fact, these states tend to be economically highly integrated and they are associated with a low degree of political integration, in other words, they are very weakly linked to the global governance system.

This fact can be explained by the fear of loss of sovereignty and autonomy, which reveals that we are living in "an international system under conservative hegemony" Viola et al. Its smaller political integration complicates efforts to deal with issues that require collective global action, particularly those related to the environment.

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This dynamic is very clear in the negotiations to manage climate change, where the material interests of oil-exporting countries are at stake Pereira Economic integration tends to reduce the likelihood of international environmental treaties ratification, while political globalization increases this probability. Therefore, energy exporting countries will hardly participate in the global governance of the environment. Additionally, since these countries are poorly integrated in political institutions, they are less likely to adhere to international norms associated with the use of force, both nationally and across borders, so their behavior is not constrained as it should be.

Moreover, their weak political institutional links mean that especially energy resource exporters have fewer forums in which to peacefully solve their tensions with other countries. Consequently, these states are also isolated regarding conflict behavior. Nevertheless, these security guarantees can instigate exporting countries to act aggressively against other countries, namely those which are not exporters and don't have the same guarantees.

Besides, the limited possibility of polluting the environment has the potential to inhibit resource extraction, another source of conflict, which is why the international community has to join forces to cooperate and manage the environment together through a geocentric perspective. Thus, natural resources, either in scarcity or in abundance, are a source of conflict and, at the same time, cooperation. Power and wealth have always been associated to warfare and cooperation, but since the environment belongs to the entire humankind and globalization gave birth to a number of global environmental challenges, which can only be addressed by all, cooperation will have to prevail in an effort to keep order in the international system.

In fact, as Reed underlines, resource scarcities have obliged the governments of many countries to develop bilateral and regional resource management systems to prevent conflicts among neighbors while providing citizens with access to needed resources, which proves that environmental issues have the ability to promote cooperation. When managed properly, resource issues may help to foster a culture of environmental cooperation Proper resource governance could not only help resolve resource conflicts, but also prevent them and lead to peaceful mutual relations.

This meets the idea exposed in section 2, since it corroborates that, regarding global issues, international organizations and regimes have not an appropriate structure to manage and resolve such issues, reflecting the need for a reform in international institutions or even the creation of new ones, eminently global-oriented. In fact, institutions of resource governance and the environment are rudimentary at best and they largely ignore the issue at the heart of the problem Mildner et al. Thereby, geopolitics and globalization are not two incompatible concepts, inasmuch as globalization opens many doors for international conflict, which should be considered in the light of geopolitics, but it also calls for unprecedented cooperation.

Thus, the world may be heading for a new order or a new disorder.

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The growing interdependence among states and the global governance system "have borne fruit," but the international community is not free from the triggering of conflicts and wars. And here is where International Relations come in. The path for cooperation: why global environmental issues "belong" to International Relations. The environment is perhaps the most global and multidimensional issue in the international system and International Relations is a scientific field which benefits from a number of sciences and intends to combine knowledge from other disciplines with which the discipline itself develops, so it is the perfect field of study to analyze and build up a better understanding of the contemporary world.

It requires an understanding of each of the drivers of change" Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation , 1 , which means that, concerning a multidimensional and global issue such as the environment, International Relations seems to be the most appropriate discipline to develop and provide to local, regional and international stakeholders a framework to understand global dynamics and its implications for the international community, as well as underline risks and find paths for cooperation.

In the hybrid international system of the twenty-first century, where the world faces geopolitical challenges and the need to cooperate on a global scale, International Relations emerges as a highly relevant discipline. As we have seen, the world seems to be heading for a new global order or a new global disorder, deeply linked to the environment, which makes it extremely important to study this new global context, in order not to fall in global disorder.

Since International Relations study the diplomatic and strategic relations between or among states, cross-border transactions of all types and the multiple dimensions of contemporary globalization, it can contribute to building solutions for the new challenges of the twenty-first century, in other words, it can help promoting collective responses for problems that affect us all and for which there is no solution unless the international community joins forces, because the discipline has the potential to develop new knowledge about the political, economic and social dynamics of the present world.

What happens inside of a state influences the global sphere and what happens globally affects the domestic domain: that is what globalization has created and has been exacerbating, and that is what we need to understand with the view to adapt to these new circumstances, avoiding conflicts and benefiting from the existence of common issues to promote a cooperative and concerted international system.

Nevertheless, there are some obstacles which have to be surpassed. Given that International Relations is a recent discipline, created after the end of the First World War, there is a very significant number of countries where this scientific field is still underdeveloped and underestimated, struggling to emancipate itself and conquer its very own place.

Therefore, it seems fair to assert that, in International Relations, in many countries, there is still a very inadequate and insufficient body of knowledge, as well as inappropriate methodologies and scarce resources. Wherefore, scholars of International Relations need to work hard with the aim of developing the discipline, as well as proving its value and importance for a changing and interconnected world. This would be extremely important not only to develop a discipline which emerges as fundamental for understanding the present world, but also to promote scientific studies and its conclusions among elites decision makers, stakeholders, etc.

With respect to the environment, all of the challenges already exposed in this article require, firstly, a holistic perspective on environmental insecurity, one that focuses on cause global, economic, political, modernity , context history, culture and effects health, natural disasters, slow cumulative changes, accidents, conflict Schnurr and Swatuk -International Relations has tools for developing this holistic perspective-and then a new way of living, a new philosophy of life.

In other words, extremely efficient life styles in terms of resource use and global responses, something that asks for a global mindset change. This is another challenge for International Relations' scholars, given that, in this discipline, one finds the prevalence of a paradigm that does not link human society with its biological basis the exception is traditional geopolitics , which is considered infinite.

The truth is that the essential holistic paradigm still lies in the sideline of the discipline. However, because the protection of the environment constitutes a civilizational imperative, this paradigm must become predominant, in other words, International Relations' scholars have to develop this area towards a view which takes into account planetary boundaries. It is impossible to develop this scientific field without transforming it towards a total perception of the unbreakable link between social and natural spheres.

We need to find a new way of articulating the local and global environmental insecurities and injustices that affects us all, but unequally so Schnurr and Swatuk This requires a new approach to national interest. The international community must act keeping in mind global problems and, consequently, global interest, which is not contrary to national interest.

We must face national interest in a new way, different from the traditional one: we have to build a concept of national interest which is strictly related to global interest, in the sense that it is impossible to achieve the most important domestic goals without thinking globally, without achieving the interest of humankind, and the environment seems to corroborate this fact.

Thus, national and global interests are two sides of the same coin and not two incompatible realities, simply because globalization, one way or another, links our destinies.

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Concerning water, for instance, we need to associate water management to global governance, in order to improve governance of the drivers causing pressures on water climate change, population growth, economic development. Thirty to fifty percent of the food produced in the world is wasted, lost or converted Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the production of energy is the second largest user of water, activities that put pressure on this vital resource and make it very difficult to fight against poverty in the most vulnerable regions of the globe and promote human rights.

Taking into account the great civilizational challenge of climate change, the international community needs to "re-engineer the energy of nations" Legget , international leaders and citizens must converge and commit to provide a fair and efficient use of fundamental resources, as well as to develop the path for a green economy, which should be a priority in a globalizing world. Although the international community is aware of the existence of global commons, global responsibilities and common goals, the truth is that, in practice, responses are based on narrow and simplistic approaches to the problems.

There are neo-Malthusian assumptions of the future, but they seem to be insufficient to trigger effective action, hence the importance of promoting the prevalence of a holistic paradigm in International Relations. Current constraints can be broken and there is no need to be Malthusian, since trends are not destiny. Changing contexts must be explored and it is vital to highlight that new opportunities are also emerging Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation This is what Klare , calls "the race to adapt," which is "a contest to become among the first to adopt new materials, methods, and devices that will free the world from its dependence on finite resource supplies.

Power and wealth will come However, one may not forget that the creation of an effective environmental global governance regime and the move towards a green and sustainable economy will require political will and action from the greatest powers of the international system, both with regard to its internal contexts, as for the transition to sustainability in the poorest countries. The international community can start with a global governance regime for the resource sector which level the playing field for populations, governments, and businesses and encourage greater transparency and improved management of natural resource wealth Le Billon Thereby, scholars of International Relations have the potential and the duty to seek and propose new ways of global organization, holistic ones, because, as Hendrix and Noland , 56 argue, membership in international organizations and political globalization have powerful implications for reducing international conflict behavior and increasing respect for human rights, since international institutions can be important shapers and transmitters of international norms.

In the high stakes world of international relations IR , with its devastating wars and persistent insecurity, any insight is a valuable commodity. Analysts mine the centuries following the treaty of Westphalia, when the modern system is said to have been born, looking for ways to do things better. In this quest, an understanding of the peaceful means by which interests have been pursued is as important as the history of war. As the world has become more complex, these means have increasingly involved systematic multilateral negotiations involving a growing number of stakeholders.

The story of the evolution of these interactions, or of international organization, as it has come to be known, will no doubt be familiar to students of IR: The state, as primary actor in post-Westphalian order, began to engage in multilateral initiatives - institutionalized as necessary — to pursue its goals and interests. As the world has become increasingly interconnected, however, and the need for international organization has grown, states have responded to this need, albeit often reluctantly, with even more complex, more institutionalized multilateral arrangements, eventually expanding to include even non-state actors.

These have altered the nature of state interactions, for better or for worse, though whether they are altering the actual structure of the international system remains a point of heated debate. A reading of the most cited histories, however, leaves a number of questions unanswered. Where, for example, did these non-state organizations suddenly emerge from? Various texts reveal their presence at Versailles and other notable events prior to the Second World War1, though little is written about how they came to be there, what influence they had, and how their presence shaped international organization.

An examination of these, perhaps minor, elements, reveals a host of more profound questions.

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If states are, indeed, the primary actors in IR, what factors enabled non-state actors to play a greater role? What, if anything, changed to allow them to have assumed the position they have today? Was the structure of our international institutions shaped in some way by those non-state actors, and with what implications? And, if institutions do, as some propose, have the power to mitigate the most destructive elements of IR, what can be learned from a more comprehensive understanding of their history? This paper seeks, in fact, to refute the commonly held view that minimizes the impact of non-state actors in influencing the shape of international organization, suggesting that the apparent lack of historical evidence of their effectiveness may simply be a reflection of the dominance of the assumption and its impact on research agendas.

The paper will begin with an overview of the traditional telling, shedding light on some of the limitations of state-led international organization and demonstrating vacuums that demanded filling. A brief history of the role of international non-governmental organizations will then demonstrate not only how such vacuums were filled, but also how these actors actually shaped the agenda with an alternate set of interests. Finally, a summary will argue that this more robust history offers a number of opportunities for further inquiry and insight that can be valuable for students of modern IR.

Despite the many types of actors and groups engaged in the complexities of large-scale diplomacy and negotiation, the history of international organizations is too often synonymous with the history of international organization. In both cases, the term international tends to focus the discussion around the process, or specific articulations of the process, by which states organize relations with other states. In much the same way as sovereignty is linked to Westphalia, and the balance of power to Utrecht, the origins of international organization s are generally attributed to the Paris Peace conference and the development of the League of Nations.

Yet the Paris conference, viewed from a slightly different angle, has less of a definitive quality. The pre-war period, or infancy phase, of international organization was formative for the developing state-based diplomatic apparatus in a number of significant ways. The Congress system, created by a fractured and devastated post-Napoleonic Europe, emerged from the Congress of Vienna, forever changing diplomatic technique. These meetings were, importantly, not just about peace settlements and, according to Claude, facilitated a necessary psychological acclimatizing to the new political landscape.

In fact the old, hierarchical system was everywhere showing signs of the inevitability of change. The Hague System, begun in , emerged as a more inclusive development, though granted not by design. Despite the rampant insincerity at these meetings, they were significant for their emphasis on institutionalization favouring a Hague System over Hague conferences , with a systematized organizational structure, regularized meeting dates, and a set of permanent agencies.

Perhaps more notable, however, was the extent of the inclusivity, with the second Hague conference boasting at least 44 states, many hailing from well beyond the borders of the European continent.

Adapting to Change: The Role of International Organizations

Traditional accounts that give primacy to states, diplomacy, and war miss what Iriye argues is the most important force at work: the growth of networks of shared interests that cut across borders. These transnational organizations, spurred by deeper globalizing forces of technology and politics, have created an alternative world society that coexists with sovereign states and nations.

Thus the decades before did not just pave the "road to war" but saw the flowering of social and cultural internationalism, which in turn set the stage after for agreements in areas such as maritime safety, nature conservation, education exchange, and labor rights. The Cold War decades were not simply a long peace produced by nuclear stalemate but an era of democratization, consumerism, economic integration, and colonial liberation. The resulting transnational society was only dimly related to the East-West struggle.

At each historical turn, Iriye contends, states and empires were destroying the peace and dividing up the world while transnational organizations, embracing a sort of "global consciousness," struggled to preserve the vision of one world.

Global Community: The Role of International Organizations in the Making of the Contemporary World Global Community: The Role of International Organizations in the Making of the Contemporary World
Global Community: The Role of International Organizations in the Making of the Contemporary World Global Community: The Role of International Organizations in the Making of the Contemporary World
Global Community: The Role of International Organizations in the Making of the Contemporary World Global Community: The Role of International Organizations in the Making of the Contemporary World
Global Community: The Role of International Organizations in the Making of the Contemporary World Global Community: The Role of International Organizations in the Making of the Contemporary World
Global Community: The Role of International Organizations in the Making of the Contemporary World Global Community: The Role of International Organizations in the Making of the Contemporary World

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