Are International Organizations autonomous? – Marcelle Marins

In Barnett and Finnemore’s chapter, they try to pull readers away from the view that International Organizations are only puppets of the Great Powers that created them, by making very compelling arguments about how the IOs have autonomous acs and power. However, they don’t show in their examples, how the acts that the International Organizations took were different from the Great Powers’ interest. Moreover, they can’t explain why the UN, for example, stayed paralyzed during the Cold War in moments that clearly asked for UN response and were against its principles, as the USSR invasion of Hungary.

International Organization can have some power of their own, because as Barnett and Finnemore argue, they have the rational-legal authority, and the domain over information and specialized technics beside them. Nevertheless, they can just act when their actions don’t go against the interest of the major powers.

In the Hungary invasion by the USSR, the soviets didn’t have any interest in the UN getting involved in the country, and that was enough for the inaction of the organization. Even thought, its rules compelled them to interfere in a case such as this.

The conflict between what a IOs should do and what the Great Power want them to do, can be seen even after the Cold War. In Rwanda genocide, the UN saw the violation of one of its rules, but couldn’t do anything, because the Great Powers (or any other nation) did not have the interest of putting their soldiers in the ground, for fear of them being compromised like what happened with the Belgians soldiers.

The UN is not the only organization that see its actions constrained by the Great Powers’ interests. The International Organizations constraint is related with the fact that even after their creation, they still need the Great Powers for their survival. The Great Powers are what maintain the organizations standing, as the League of Nations show us. In the case of the League of Nations, it was already created with problems, because the United States didn’t join, what shows the importance of the states in the capacity and action of an organization.

Thus, the International Organizations have not an autonomous act and power as the authors try to put it. I agree with the fact that they can have some amount of power, since they are seen as legitimate by the public and have control over some resources, but this is not enough when a Great Power’s interest is at stake. Therefore, the International Organization autonomy can only be seen in minor problems, where their creators don’t have any concern about it.


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