Different countries have formulated policies to ensure that they achieve certain goals in the internationally. These are mainly foreign policies, which direct relations with other states and groups in international affairs. Individuals or groups acting within states’ structured institutions are responsible for formulating and implementing international relation policies (Mingst and Arreguín-Toft 22). A number of domestic and international elements normally influence international relations and state’s behaviours. Governments, however, rely on certain institutions or political machinery to execute their policies. The purpose of this term paper is to review institutional actors of international relations.
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A number of state and non-state actors influence international relations (Mingst and Arreguín-Toft 24). These actors may include people, certain groups or states, which have controls on international issues. Institutional actors represent established structures or systems that a country may use to ensure cooperation with other states.
The state institutions remain the dominant international actors. The state may use its apparatus such as the presidency, different ministries, leaders, international diplomats, lobby groups and other interest groups to promote international relations. There are also national assemblies and the judiciary, which have significant roles in international relations. National assembly debates and enacts policies. In fact, national assembly is responsible for foreign policies and respective mechanisms of implementation. National assembly decides whether a country should pursue certain policies to promote international relations. The judiciary, as a state actor, must interpret various international laws and treaties to determine their relevance to a state. As a result, policymakers understand the implications and potential outcomes of their policies on international affairs. Therefore, countries must strive for informed decision-making on relevant international relations. The judiciary plays a critical role in interpreting international laws and their implications to a state.
There are also sub-state or domestic actors in international relations. These are mainly individuals or groups with significant influences on foreign policies. For instance, industries in a given country could be sub-state actors. Such companies influence trade foreign policies so that they can export their goods and services to other countries and lessen impacts of imported goods. Sub-state actors use various techniques such interest groups and lobby groups to promote their international agendas. Trade unions are perfect examples of sub-state actors. Trade unions fight for specific objectives such as better remuneration, working conditions and fair trade among others on behalf of their members. Consequently, they influence labour laws and policies in a country to protect their members.
Intergovernmental Organisations (IGOs) are actors with more than three nations. States usually create such organisations to tackle certain, common challenges and develop collective approaches to global issues. They discuss issues that offer advantages to all member states. Both regional and global IGOs are actors. Global IGOs have universal outreach. They include organisations such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) among others. On other hand, regional IGOs derive their membership from countries in specific regions. For example, the European Union (EU) and African Union are some regional IGOs. States create IGOs to protect their regional interests easily and cheaply. In most cases, IGOs have specific agendas on security, trade tariffs and environmental protection among others. Hence, different states must honour their undertaking in these IGOs to ensure effective implementation of policies. The WTO has been an effective actor in trade tariff issues and dispute resolution among member states. The UN offers a platform for various states to discuss their security and legal concerns with other states or individuals.
Transnational actors consist of groups operating across state borders but not above states. In this case, two actors such as multinational corporations (MNCs) and not-for-profit organisations (NGOs) are good examples. MNCs consist of companies that have global operations but with headquarters in a single state. MNCs usually have subsidiaries or branches in other states. That is, MNCs have employees spread globally across all their subsidiaries. There are different types on MNCs. First, there are industrial companies such as automobile, electronic companies, oil and gas and drug manufactures among others, which manufacture goods, distribute and sell them in other counties. Today, G8 countries have many MNCs that influence international relations. Second, financial corporations, global food outlets, airline companies and other companies with multinational outlook continue to influence international relations.
For instance, MNCs continue to participate in international affairs as powerful, independent actors for their countries. MNCs have financial influences because of their revenues and profitability. In fact, many MNCs have financial power over emerging states. Today, MNCs have introduced terms such as global citizens to reflect their global aspirations to the global community. MNCs tend to function beyond states in their operations, and one may think that they are not obliged to any government but rather work to protect interests of their global citizens and other stakeholders. Their primary goal is to maximise profit as they cooperate with states to realise these objectives. In most cases, however, certain MNCs have accused some states of hostility towards them. For example, GE had claimed that China was becoming increasingly hostile to foreign MNCs.
MNCs work with transnational business communities where they must overcome certain barriers, particularly cultural and language issues. However, certain practices have become common for the global community, for instance, the use of international languages, consumption of international media, hotels and the use of Internet. MNCs are known to promote economic developments, job creation, stabilise economies and efficiency for their host countries, but they also require effective policies to operate. Thus, they influence foreign policy formulation and implementation.
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have become significant actors in the global community. They operate internationally and lobby states on international affairs. There are many NGOs in the international arena today. NGOs are not affiliated to any governments but rather they are private international actors that consist of volunteers drawn from various states. NGOs also rely on donations to run their operations. Nevertheless, NGOs continue to influence global policies and promote certain ideals and interests for benefits of humanity. They mainly focus on solving major global issues such as poverty, diseases, wars, famine, health, ensuring environmental protection, human rights and supporting disarmament among others. These roles show that NGOs have noble, purposeful objectives. Consequently, their contributions and constructive purposes create good international relations.
NGOs have developed links that reach states, sub-state actors, other NGOs, MNCs, global citizens and individuals. Today, NGOs have gained significant recognition within the UN because of their complementary roles. Although NGOs are legitimate international actors, they cannot be equal to state actors. NGOs have different agendas. For instance, there are certain groups with political, economic or humanitarian agendas. NGOs may combine efforts to promote their agendas. Individuals have found that by working with global NGOs, they can contribute to global affairs and influence international relations. The case of Amnesty International demonstrates how NGOs can influence issues of human rights. Amnesty International covers abuse of human rights in all countries in the world. They engage in research, publish reports, propose solutions and demand justice for persons whose human rights have been violated by states or other groups. NGOs focus on all aspects of human rights and other related issues such as the need to end conflicts against humanity, protect children, civilians, the rights of LGBT, people living with HIV/AIDS, people with disabilities, minority, marginalised groups, women, prevent environmental degradation, promote free speech and media freedom among others.
Religious groups have also critical roles to play in international relations. Religious organisations have global faith-based membership that cut across borders. They promote principle of moral conducts and righteousness through strong religious convictions. Religious bodies have continued to give their views on political issues. In addition, they have also focused on promoting religious tolerance, for instance, Pope Francis of Catholic Church recently visited Turkey, held a joint religious session in a mosque and urged Muslim community to oppose the Islamic State and its violence tendencies. Istanbul is a city dominated with Muslims and therefore Christians and other religious groups are minorities. As such, religious bodies aim to foster peace among international communities and between states. As previously mentioned, other NGOs focus on environmental and animal protection.
Lobby groups shape international relations and foreign policies. To understand how lobby groups have shaped some issues of international concerns, one should focus on the US-Israel relationship. Scholars have pointed out that were it not for the Israel Lobby, the relations between the US and Israel could have been completely different, perhaps far less intimate. The lobby, in this case, refers to a loose group of individuals and organisations that influence the US foreign policies towards pro-Israel. Many critics have attributed such support the US gives to Israel to some lobby groups with strong grips on the Congress and the executive. They are able to influence decision-making to favour Israel. The Israel Lobby is powerful, and it has mastered power games by playing interest-group politics (Mearsheimer and Walt 29-87).
Terrorists and other political fundamentalist groups also influence international relations. These groups interact with states and populations they control and facilitate attacks on the public. The incidence of 9/11 in the US has led to changes in relationships with these non-state actors. Groups, such as al-Qaeda, al-Shabbab of Somalia, IS in Iraq, and Boko Haram of Nigeria, have shown the destructive tendencies of extremists. These groups rely on global institutions and infrastructures to run their operations.
There are also international criminal groups. These criminal elements act in illegitimate way. Many criminal gangs are affiliated with certain political parties or politicians and they use their financial resources to influence state’s policies. This is the case of Mexican drug cartels and illegitimate gangs of Jamaica. They, to some extent, are threats to national security. In fact, their activities have gone beyond individual states, particularly in cases involving drug and human trafficking, mercenaries, smuggling contraband, firearms and other forms of illegal activities.
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In conclusion, the state actors remain the most dominant actor in international relations. Although non-state actors have gained considerable recognition and influences in international relations, they can never replace states. It is believed that globalisation will change international relations and define new relations as the world acquires a new status as a global village.
Mearsheimer, John J and Stephen M. Walt. “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.” Middle East Policy Council 13.3 (2006): 29-87. Print.
Mingst, Karen A and Ivan M. Arreguín-Toft. Essentials of International Relations, 5th ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.