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Supra-state actors Essay

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Updated: Jun 5th, 2019

It is intriguing to note that virtually all nation-state have been transformed into a global village through globalization and technological advances.

Capital, goods, knowledge, people, weapons and communications, as well as beliefs, pollution and crime move across different territorial boundaries without resistance that was initially experienced. After the end of the cold war between nations, the supremacy of state-centric political and military to dictate the local and international politics have severely diminished over the years.

Non-state actors such as international and nongovernmental organizations, civil societies, workers unions or other sovereignty-free actors have significantly influenced the authority of states. The states have virtually been left with no choice but to consult the supra-state actors before implementing any policies or laws.

Most scholars argue that the power struggle between the nongovernmental organization and the state are shaped by both external and internal factors, which continuously change and shape this power configuration. Farrington & Lewis (5) explains that relation between the government and supra-state may take three forms. First, the state may have formal collaboration with the supra-state actors based on joint mandate.

Secondly they may have informal or informal links, which is based on exchange of information and ideas. Lastly, the relationship may be informal or formal interaction, which may be supportive or conflicting. This study will endeavor to explore and explains the functions of supra-state actors and how they have influenced the authority of states in managing their affairs.

Definition of Supra state actors

Ataman (1) argues that defining supra-state actors is not an easy task since different non-governmental organizations have their own agenda, ambition and goals. According to the United Nation, supra-state actors are transnational, private international actors, which are made up of national groups, individual and are not officials of any representative of a national government.

Hence, the term supra-state actors encompass a large spectrum of organizations, which include nonprofit organizations, international-nongovernmental organization, voluntary associations, non-governmental organization or new social movement. All this organizations have different ideologies, operation and organizational structure that are not universally structured.

Overview of the supra-state actors

Currently, there have been wide proliferation and mushrooming of non-governmental organizations in the entire world. The emergence of supra-state actor organizations can be dated back in the early 1839. During this period, the non-governmental organizations had little influence on the state function and authority.

The non-governmental organizations, during this period, were highly active in women’s suffrage and anti-slavery movement that saw the abolishment of slavery in most part in USA. In 1945, the word non-governmental organizations became widely used after the establishment of the United Nation Organization (Nazneen and Lewis 7). The United Nation included the role of NGO in article 71 of chapter 10 of the UN Charter, which has clearly defined the relationship between governments and non states actors.

According to the United Nation, supra-state actors is any organization or a person playing a fundamental role in politics, which have direct consequences to a multiple of state, and the organization is not funded by any government. Some of the well known supra-state actors include United Nation, African Union, International monetary Fund (IMF) or Africa Union (Nazneen and Lewis 5).

Bennett (87) explains that after the establishment of United Nation, numerous non-governmental organizations emerged from western countries. In addition, globalization and the fall of communism enabled most people to communicate and share information rapidly than before. This enabled most non-governmental organization to form branches in different countries and share information and organize global demonstration.

Caramani (9) in his book “Comparative Politics” argue that globalization in the early 20th century gave supra-state actors a chance to extend their influence in international politics. During this period, international organizations and treaties like the World Trade Organization (WTO) had put more emphasis establishment of capitalism to enable enterprises expand their branches and profits.

For this reason, the supra-state actors attempted to come up with policies to counterbalance this trend of focusing only in enterprises while neglecting the welfare of individual. More specifically Marie-Claude (9) explains that the organization emphasized on developmental aids, humanitarian assistant and sustainable development that would benefit people. Most government projects did not consider the welfare of people leaving most families displaced and neglected due to physical development.

Furthermore, Willetts (34) asserts that during the period of globalization, nations were busy piling their weapons of mass destruction thereby increasing the tension and probability of world war. The supra-state actors like United Nation and European Union came up with policies and laws that governed war engagement and manufacture of weapon.

This enables the organization to have control of international policies and laws that governs relationship, communication and foreign polices within states (Nazneen and Lewis 54). Furthermore, the organizations organized World Economic Forum and world social Forum that are held annually to discuss the how countries can engage with each other.

Forums like this enable the supra-state actors to come with policies that guide economic activities of different countries. In order to clearly understand how supra-state actors have controlled most state, it is important to discuss the different functions of these organizations. The next section will briefly explore and discuss the functions of supra-state actors (Willetts, 34).

How the supra-state have taken over function of state

This section will critically explore and explains how the supra-state actors like United Nation, World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund and World Bank have influenced powers of states. The study will critically analyze how organizations have influenced the decision of the state government in implementing their decisions.

United Nation

Nazneen and Lewis (34) argue that out of all the supra organizations that operate within the globe, the United Nation have played an important role in controlling and supervising different states globally. The United Nation have plays an array of function globally, which include peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and human development. Needless to say, the United Nation have significantly changed the world politics both economically, military and socially.

Bennett (13) explains that the United Nation have send thousands of troops in nations that have failed to protect their citizens or collapsed government. Currently, the United Nation has more than 50,000 troops on the ground working in countries such as DRC, Liberia, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Burundi and Ivory Coast (32).

These countries governments have collapsed leading to sporadic killings of innocent civilians, children and women. In addition, the United Nation has forced most countries to reduce their carbon emission to prevent global warming, which is affecting most people globally. United Nation has taken an active role to ensure that countries cut down their carbon emission to reduce the effect of global warming.

Nazneen and Lewis (7) explains that the United Nation and non-governmental organization have contributed immensely to the Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition of the use, production, Stockpiling of nuclear materials. In addition, the United Nation has controlled the rules of engagement when it comes to war and relation between countries.

This has led to the establishment of International Criminal Court that tries individual that commit mass murder of people. The ICC has enabled Supra-state actors to push for the punishment of individuals who their countries lack proper mechanisms to punish the individual. Furthermore, United Nation have partnered with several non-governmental organizations to ensure that countries have implemented polices that safe guard citizens especially on the sphere of human rights.

Ataman (6) explains that the United Nation together with the NGOs work together to ensure that government comply with international human rights convections. The United Nation Security Council have also partnered with several NGOs to ensure that peace and security prevail.

The peace building commission, International Labor Organization (ILO) and the private organization have enabled the United Nation to control policies being implemented by states. Currently, states have to ensure that they comply with the policies laid by United Nation. Nazneen and Lewis (29) explains that the United Nation have played a critical role in ensuring cooperation between countries and prevent peace and stability.

The policies and laws implemented by United Nation have significantly changed the way states relate with other nations. Without the help of United Nation it would have been difficult for countries to share, communicate and cooperate with each other. These clearly show that the states have lost power to control most of their policies (Bennett, 34).

The World Trade Organization

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has for a long time been a classic example of inter-governmental organization that have revolutionized the world politics. Initially, the mandate of World Trade Center was to form trade agreement between countries to facilitate smooth trade.

The organization did not pursue independent polices like other non-governmental organization. Bennett (34) explains that globalization and technological advances have forced WTO to transform from diplomatic negotiating platform into an institution with binding and legal powers.

This is evident by the fact that member states can no longer challenge or block the ruling of World trade Organization. Initially, the member states had the veto powers to challenge the decision WTO, but currently they can only challenge the decision through dispute settlement body (Farrington and Lewis 3).

Willetts (12) explains that The World Trade Organization (WTO) regulation and laws are becoming increasingly intertwined with the international laws. The dispute settlement by the WTO has enabled the organization to gain popularity and control over most states trade affairs.

The WTO has partnered with several NGOs to come up with Trade Policy Review that are friendly to most states. Currently, states are forced to implement policies that are intertwined with the WTO. Without forming policies that are entrenched with the WTO, states are not allowed to transact business with other countries (Ataman, 32).

Ataman (24) further asserts that World Trade Organization has responded to calls from non-governmental organizations to be more accountable, democratic and transparency. It is obvious that the WTO have significant control over the policies state policies and laws. Countries have been forced to comply with the requirement of WTO to enable them have a wide range of trade options.

The fall of communism and globalization has enabled more people to transact businesses without boundaries and restriction. Countries like Russia and China have been forced to change their trade policies to reflect the changing market environment (Farrington and Lewis, 1993 Pg 3).

Furthermore, Ataman (2003) explains that Multinational Corporations (MNCs) have also contributed significantly to the state politics. According to Bennett (14), MNCs are organizations that operate large firms in several countries globally. Most MNCs are considered as the main controller’s of global economic. The MNCs organizations influence international politics because of their immense resources and influence to the government.

The multinational corporations are capable of moving personnel, goods and money, as well as share information with other organization. This enables them to have control over government since they can easily influence policy makers to change laws according to their desires (Willetts, 45).

The World Bank and international Monetary Fund (IMF)

Willetts (2010 Pg 34) explains that currently, the IMF and World Bank have expanded their mandate far beyond their initial mandate. These organizations have immense impact on the policies of developing world globally. The IMF and WB control most states through their macroeconomic advice and condition that they impose in developing countries. Currently, most developed countries control these organizations since they have significant influence on the world politics (Miller, 45).

In the early 1980s, the WB has established several forms of participation with different NGOs to come up with effective macroeconomics policies. WB together with IMF have championed together with public-private partnerships with the aim to achieve comprehensive socioeconomic goals.

The cooperation between the WB and private NGO has enabled the World Bank to provide financial support to most NGOs to support their activities. Farrington and Lewis, (3) explains that the WB and IMF have been able to take control over state policies because of their power to fund most government projects. This power has enabled the WB to dictate the policy that is supposed to be implemented in a country.

In most cases, the third world counties are the one which are significantly affected by policies set by WB. Compared to other organization, WB has significantly changed the way the government form their policies and NGOs participations. Much of this is also attributed to the fact that WB has focus on poverty, environment and gender issue.

Furthermore, Farrington and Lewis, (45) explains that through increased participation in economic and social development, the IMF has been able to control regulation of financial markets in most countries. The IMF has come up with several projects through structural adjustment to enable countries remove themselves from financial crisis.

The European Union and other organizations

Farrington & Lewis, (43) explains that EU, OSCE, Council of European and G8 have significantly influenced the functions of most states globally. The organizations are known to control the economy of countries that are part of their members. The influence of these organizations is considerable since they are capable to influence most countries through their policies and regulations.

The social dialogue between supra-state actors and NGOs have enabled organizations such as UNICE, COPA-COCECA and ETUC to incorporate factors that affect them into EU laws (Willetts, 21). The EU has further gained popularity within social committee (EESC), which is an organization that serves as a foundation between the organized civil society and EU. Unlike many other government institutions, the EU have provided considerable opportunities for non-governmental to monitor their activities.

The European Unions have well established European Court of justice, European Parliament and the European Central Bank. This organization enables different agencies to complain to ECJ in respond to dispute. This has enabled this organization to gain significant control over state governance.

Willetts (32) further explains that the Council of Europe has actively supported the role played by the civil society. This has empowered most civil society organization to take an active role in the governance of their states. Kappen (26) explains that the empowerments of this organization have contributed to the development of a normative framework, which has been extensively used in practical implementation of projects.

From the analysis, it is clear that supra-state actors play a critical role in the daily running of most state. This ensures not too much power is invested in a single organization or sate office. In fact, Kappen (45) argue that there is no any power struggle between supra-state actors and government, but different organizations have decided to take an active role in daily management of the states affair.

Needless to say, the world has been changed into a global village and every state and countries depend on each other. The supra-state actors have provided a platform were countries can communicate and share information. From the analysis, it is clear that laws and regulation made by this international organization are not binding since it is the choice of state to a member of that organization.

It is important to note that countries that lack resources find to difficult to join most of this international organizations because of strict regulations. This challenge can be mitigated through regional integration to balance their weakness. To ignore the role played these organizations in international relations is to miss the most constructive and encouraging aspect of international affairs.

Works Cited

Ataman, Muhittin. “The Effectiveness of International Organizations.” Abant Ýzzet Baysal Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Dergisi 2000.1(2000): 152-167. Print.

Ataman, Muhittin. “The Impact of Non-State Actors on World Politics: A Challenge to Nation-States.” Chicago Journal of International Law 2.1(2003): 67-90. Print.

Bennett, Alvin. International Organizations: Principles and Issues, Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice Hall, 2007. Print.

Caramani, Daniele. Comparative Politics, New York: Oxford, 2009. Print.

Farrington, John and David J. Lewis. Non-Governmental Organizations and the State in Asia: Rethinking Roles in Sustainable Agricultural Development (Non-Governmental Organizations series) New York: Routledge, 1993. Print.

Kappen, Risse. Bringing Transnational Relations Back In; Non-State Actors, Domestic Structures and International Institutions, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Print.

Marie, Claude. “The Proper Use of Governance in International Relations.” International Social Science Journal 50.155(2007): 3-81. Print.

Miller, Lynn. Global Order; Values and Power in International Politics, New York: Westview Press, 1994. Print.

Nazneen, Kanji and David Lewis. Non-Governmental Organizations and Development, New York: Routledge, 2009. Web. <>

Rosenau, James. “Governance in the Twenty-first Century.” Global Governance 1.1(2006): 4-13. Web.

Willetts, Peter. Non-Governmental Organizations in World Politics; the Construction of Global Governance (Global Institutions), New York: Routledge, 2010. Print.

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