It is increasingly difficult to escape blame for climate change. Culpability lies in the land we allocate to urban development, in cars we drive, and even in many of the manufactured goods we enjoy. Culpability is also not specific to the developed world. China and India do not trail so far behind the U.S. and the EU in the share of global emissions toxic to the environment. We must recognize that climate change is something to which many-if-not-most people around the globe are contributing. However, as scholars like David Victor have pointed out without tire, universal “solutions” drawn up through the conventional international institutions are unable to provide us with sufficient climate governance. Instead, a looser framework relatively lacking in universality and binding institutions seems more likely to succeed in reducing the risk calculus for world-wide, climate change-induced disaster.
The modern World Health Organization (WHO) faces some immense challenges. Ebola may be what immediately comes to the mind, but response to emergencies and epidemics is by no means old work at this international organization. Rather, Laurie Garrett highlights for us five “existential challenges to global health.” Among these five, three are inextricably tied to financial and structural concern, a swift departure from the notion that Ebola, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and the like are the largest issues begging for WHO solutions. It is the opinion of this author that while it is quite productive to be critical of the implications of governance structure on the success of the organization’s mission, a large sum of the energy vested in that criticism could be better spent furthering the successes of the organization in question. In other words, fretting about the influence of a donor like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on the WHO is not going to solve any of the organization’s immediate problems or even its existential challenges, especially when minimal alternatives have been provided.
The World Trade Organization is the only international trade organization at present. Since its creation in 1995 it has brought positive effects on international trade by providing surveillance on state trade-related practices and by providing grounds for diplomatic negotiations. It is also the defender of important principles of trade liberalization, including the Most-favored Treatment and National Treatment. Critics, however, point out to the failure of the Doha Round to reach any meaningful agreement as evidence to the decline of the World Trade Organization. However, recent successes of the WTO seem to indicate otherwise. Continue reading World Trade Organization, A Still Relevant Factor in the International System
The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) has been a fundamental organization within the United Nations since its inception after World War II. Today, the UNHCR has a very different mandate since its creation 60 years ago, and this is because it has been able to adequately identify the growing problems in this world and broaden there scope. Climate refugees are in a growing number thanks to the amount of environmental disasters that have been happening in the past years thanks to the phenomenon that is climate change. Tragedies like those felt all around the Indian Ocean in 2004, which left many people dead and many others internally displayed is just a fragment of what citizens of this world are exposed to when mother nature strikes.
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.
Globalization is a catch phrase in today’s society, but what does it really mean? To me, the definition encompasses a plethora of components such as the sharing of ideas, cross boarder economics, cultural sharing, and division of resources. With so much involvement cross- boarders, there becomes a blurred line of state power and sovereignty. It is a debated topic whether sovereignty is in decline or just being challenged by various factors. Krasner, a professor of International relations at Stanford University, argues the idea that sovereignty has always existed, however is always being challenged in various ways. Continue reading Sovereignty: Declining or Evolving- Julia Norman