Contestation between those who are largely concerned about justice and social equality and those who represent a traditional international governance system based on the primacy of nation state is neither new nor an existential threat to world order. But the tension is there and it is increasing as the forces of globalization increase. Continue reading Contesting Contestation—Alice Huntoon
Do we need a comprehensive and binding international treaty in order to start to tackle the global issue of climate change? Of course not. Do we need the country of Lesotho to agree to chip in by reducing greenhouse gas emissions before other countries can move forward on addressing climate change? Again, of course not, and thankfully it seems that we are waking up to those simple facts.
The European Union is an international organization that is not only highly developed but also highly complex, almost to the point where it seems like some member states feel it is over reaching its role. As Hugo Dixon discussed in his article, several of the member states are concerned about which issues the EU chooses to deal with and which it chooses to save for later. (https://blackboard.american.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_group=courses&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Fcontent%2Ffile%3Fcmd%3Dview%26content_id%3D_2559451_1%26course_id%3D_111529_1%26framesetWrapped%3Dtrue )These states feel that the EU, recently, has been concerning itself with issues that are more national issues rather than the intergovernmental issues such as recovering from the recession felt by the entire EU. This being said, how likely does it seem that other regions around the world, with much different pasts, are going to form international organizations that are anywhere near as stable as the EU? Continue reading The One, The Only, European Union! – Graham Koester
Traditional International Relations theory would put states at the forefront of change, domestically and at the international level; however, sometimes this is not the case. For the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the path leading to change has been driven by states as well as from within, without a clear influence from a member state. Acting in its own volition, the UNHCR’s mandate evolved since its inception after World War II. Where has this change come from? Betts pushes the idea that leaders in the position helped to push the mandate change throughout the years, with member states acting as impediments from time to time.
United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Betts argues, expanded its mandate over time in spite of states’ national interest. He explains that the reason for UNHCR mandate expansion is the strong leadership that is represented in the High Commissioner. Although this might be true, UNHCR mandate expansion cannot be used as a case to generalize the expansion of international organizations mandate. My main argument in this piece is that international organizations’ degree of freedom of action depends on the issue it is established for. On the one hand, organizations that are established around issues representing states’ national interest (i.e. security and economic matters) have less freedom of action than organizations that are concerned with non-political matters (i.e. humanitarian, culture etc.). Even with organizations that are mainly established around non-political matters, if it comes across a political issue, it would be vulnerable to states’ will.
As I mentioned above, international organizations that work around sensitive issues, such as security, are usually subjected to heavy control by states. United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) is a clear example for this. A combination of U.S. internal politics and European powers’ incentive to free-ride led not just to the failure of the mission, but to endanger UN soldiers that were sent to Rwanda. The failure of U.S. in Somalia a year before the Rwandan Genocide created fear among U.S. officials of losing more soldiers and led the American government to refuse to take any action to stop the genocide or to expand the mandate of UNAMIR in Rwanda. Some might argue that UNAMIR stayed in Rwanda in spite of the international community order to leave. Although this is true, in reality understaffed and abandoned UNAMIR was completely paralyzed and unable to take any action to preserve the peace in Rwanda. In summary, UNAMIR was vulnerable to individual states’ national interest.
Now we turn to organizations that have no political nature and are established to deal with non-political issues. I agree with Betts that UNHCR along with similar organizations (i.e. UNESCO) are freer to act on their own merit. The reason this is the case is that these organizations deal with issues that do not jeopardize states’ vital interest. Another reason is that, especially with humanitarian organizations, it is extremely hard for states to argue against their activites because if states do, they will be accused of immoral behavior. However if non-political organizations came across a political issue, they will be subjected to power politics. The UNESCO recognition of Palestine is a perfect example for this. On October 15th 2011 UNESCO approved Palestine as a full member state to the organization. Days after this the U.S. government announced that it will withhold a $60 million dollars payment to the organizations. Canada followed the U.S. and withheld some of its donations too. Although UNESCO does not have any political nature, the admission of Palestine contained a political component (the Israeli-Palestine conflict), which caused the organization to be vulnerable to power politics and to lose some of its budget.
To sum this, I agreed with Betts that UNHCR along with other non-politically oriented international organizations have easier time acting on their own. However my reasoning is different from Betts. I argue that the determinant of how free to act or to expand an organization is depends on the issue it is established around and vulnerable to states’ national interest. I supported my argument with examples from international organizations such as UNAMIR and UNESCO and showed how the issues at hand effect the degree of interference by states in the affairs of a given international organization.
After more than sixty years of sorting and dividing power at the international level, one would think that the world would at some point understand that political dynamics change. It is generally accepted by all schools of thought that power shifts hands and state rewrite their interests in response to events happening every day. Who are we to kid ourselves and say that an organization will look and function the same way it did decades ago?
Compliance is only what states make it out to be. And in most cases, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
For the past few decades, the US has relied on deterrence theory to legitimize its overarching authority around the world. Under the deterrence framework, the US has been a compliant member of the world system. But recently, that authority has been under severe question due to the shifting foundation of the world order towards the establishment of international law. It is important that the US begins to adapt its policies around this development or else they will lose the enormous amount of influence that they have on the current world order. Since this particular type of decline is unprecedented in US history, there is no way of predicting exactly what this could entail.