Role of Non- State Actors in International Relation – I

Non state actors literally mean organizations and individuals that are not affiliated with, directed by, or funded through the government.  These include corporations, private financial institutions, and NGOs, as well as paramilitary and armed resistance groups.  In the context of human rights and particularly ESCR advocacy, there has been an increasing focus on the human rights responsibilities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises.       The existence of non-state actors proves to be very vital globally bringing countries together to form a bond of peace amongst each other, looking after the rights of all living beings, bringing about new laws internationally, politically, economically forming a platform for the development of every nation globally and in itself. The increasing number of international organizations is parallel to the increasing levels of economic, political, social and cultural transactions between individuals, societies and states.

 Apart from the state there are certain non-state actors also which greatly influence the course of international politics. These non-state actors greatly differ with regard to their scope and purpose. We shall deal with some of the prominent non-state actors. How and what roles are played by the non-state actors are mentioned below.

  1. U.N.O: The UNO is the most important non-state actor which influences the working of international politics. The United Nations is a permanent organization with a membership of 193 members. It carries out a vast range of activities and has greatly altered international relations. The organization received extensive support from public during the initial years, but in recent years the public support for the UNO has somewhat wanted. The governments have viewed UNO as in important non-state actor in the field of international politics. No doubt, while formulating their policies the leaders of various countries do not pay any attention to the fact whether their policies would find approval with UNO or not. Further the attitude of states towards UN varies according to the manner in which the UN affects the state’s interests. However, generally the states believe that it is in their interest to cooperate with the UN.

The United Nations has exercised tremendous influence on the course of international politics through its major political organs; the Security Council is responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security. However, in actual practice the Security Council has not been able to act effectively in conflicts between major powers, or where one of their allies is involved, and it has taken collective action only against minor

Powers. This limitation on the authority of the council was deliberately envisaged in the UN system to ensure the participation of all major powers, by giving them veto power.

      The United Nations has played important role in international politics in numerous other ways too. It has worked as fact finder, investigated the issues and reported its findings. For example, in 1958 the Security Council sent a United Nations Observer Group to LEBANON (UNOGIL) to look into the allegations that the agents of United Arab Republic were infiltrating and smuggling weapons in Lebanon. Again, UNO has acted as mediator and made suggestions for reasonable settlement. The role played by UN commission in Indonesian nations, can be cited as an example.

       Thus we find that the United Nations plays an important role in international politics. However, since it is essentially state controlled, it is more a reflector than a determiner of policies. Its utility to a large extent depends on the willingness of the state to use it. Since the UN does not possess any independent capacity to make or enforce binding rules or to settle dispute between its members, it cannot be regarded as an effective international party separate from its members.

  • Regional Organisations: The regional organizations are another important non-state actors of international politics. The regional organizations usually lack supra-national authority and hence do not enjoy any power over their constituent parts. They also do not possess any unified institutions, practices and attitudes. Therefore, they can hope to bring about only peaceful changes in the territorial boundaries of the organization. However, EEC is supranationalism. In the economic sphere the EC council of Ministers can take certain types of decisions which are binding on all the members, including those who disagree. According to Robert L. Wendzel the EC is not a ‘recognizable international party distinct from its members except in a very limited sense… the EC us operative only in the economic sphere. In all other areas- political, legal, ethical, organizational, military, whatever- except as such areas are perceived 9by the state to be related to economic matters, the nine operate individually as traditionally independent states’. He asserts that ‘this is not to say that their co-operation on economic issues may not have some spillover effect; in some cases no doubt it does. Nevertheless, it is of cardinal significance to recognize that as a rule, on non-economic matters the members of the EC act individually in accordance with their perception of their individual state interests and they seek to achieve their own particular state objectives’.
  • Multinational Corporations:The most prominent contemporary NGOs are multinational corporations. They are huge firms that own and control plants and offices in at least more than one country and sell their goods and services around the world. They are large corporations having branches and subsidiaries operating on a worldwide basis in many countries simultaneously. MNCs are “major driver of global economic integration” and “establish unprecedented linkages among economies worldwide”. The biggest and the most effective industrial corporations are based in the United States, Europe and Japan. In 1992, of the 20 largest MNCs, excluding trading companies, in terms of sales all were based in G-7 states –eight were in the United States, four were in Japan, three were in Germany, and five were in Britain, two of which were jointly based in the Netherlands. MNCs can be classified according to the kinds of business activities they pursue such as extractive resources, agriculture, industrial products, transportation, banking, and tourism. The most notable MNCs are industrial and financial corporations (the most important being banks). Naturally the primary objective of MNCs is profit maximization. They are very effective in directing foreign policy of states, including that of the most powerful ones, and they set agenda for international politics. They have become a major factor in national economic decision making process. As mentioned by, the activities of MNCs “may seem evidence of the growing inability today of the sovereign state to control and regulate effectively economic activities within the private sector. If that is so, then one of the traditional rationales for modern sovereignty is undermined”.

One of the measures of the influence of MNCs is the extent of the resources they control. They have enormous “flexibility in moving goods, money, personnel, and technology across national boundaries, and this flexibility increase their bargaining power with governments”. Dozens of MNCs have annual sales of tens of billions of dollars each. Many of them have more economic activity than the GDPs of the majority of the states in the world. For instance, MNCs such as General Motors, Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell, and General Electric Alternatives: Turkish Journal of International Relations, and Hitachi outranked the GDP of nation-states like Taiwan, Norway and Hitachi outranked the GDP of nation-states like Taiwan, Norway, Turkey, Argentina, Pakistan, Malaysia and Nigeria in the early 1990s. As compared “to total world export in 1992 of about $4.0 trillion,” “sales by MNCs outside their countries of origin were $5.5 trillion for the same year”. Different economic schools of thought treat MNCs differently. According to liberalism, MNCs are vanguard of the new world order since they possess the most efficient means of production. Liberal economists argue that “the global efficiency and the increased generation of the wealth result from the ability of MNCs to invest freely across international borders”. Some economists even welcome the replacement of the nation-state by MNCs as the main economic unit. Mercantilist and nationalist perspective argues that MNCs are instruments of home states. For them, MNCs either serve national interests of the state or become a threat to the state. The Marxist tradition considers MNCs as the instrument of exploitation and as an extension of the imperialism of strong capitalist states. Their monopolistic power causes uneven development and inequality in international division of labor. They bring mal-development into host countries. In today’s world, I argue that the combination of these three perspectives, that is an eclectic approach, seems to be more relevant regarding MNCs as well as other economic issues. When we observe activities of MNCs, we see that their operations create a variety of problems and opportunities for both home countries, states in which the MNC has its headquarters, and host countries, states in which a foreign MNC operates. All three sides (home country, host country, and MNC) benefit from the wealth created by the MNC.

 At least in theory, mutual interests result from the creation Alternatives: Turkish Journal of International Relations, of wealth in the host country by the MNC. An observer calls the relationship between MNCs and host countries as “a ‘love-hate’ syndrome” that is, host countries may have both advantages and disadvantages in its relations with MNCs. MNCs may be considered as instruments of economic development for less developed countries. However, when we look at the functions they perform in host countries, we see that they have a very strong bond with the home government which becomes a source of concern for host countries. MNCs challenge the state sovereignty of host countries. Host countries may lose control over their economies. They may create political and social division and prevent the development of domestic industries in host countries. They may produce specialized products of which the buyer is usually the parent company. They may manipulate prices of imports and exports in host countries. For instance, generally Turkey has to accept the price set by US MNCs specializing on military equipment parts, since Turkey has no choice to buy component parts of American made weapons, which it has already bought. In order to minimize the negative impact of MNCs, we witness government interventions through nationalization, government participation and government initiation of joint development projects. Furthermore, governments have to maintain control over tax revenues, inflation rate, credit policies, trade balances, balance of payments, trade restrictions, monetary values, employment, and economic planning to decrease their dependence on MNCs. Host countries may place restrictions on the ownership and behavior of subsidiaries and on the freedom of businesses. Because only by controlling these fields a host country may have an upper hand vis-à-vis MNCs.

continue to part – II

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