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Role Of Non State Actors In Governance Politics Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 5464 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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In the process of state transformation, such as the appearance of new political spaces beyond the territorial nation-state, ‘relocation of politics’ from the state to international and sub-national organizations, diffusion of political power from public authorities to semi-public and private actors, and de-legitimization of the state (crisis of the welfare state, state failures, lack of performance), the old ‘paradigm’ of top-down, state-led, command & control ways of steering the states has been replaced by the new forms of governance and policy instruments: network-like arrangements of public and private actors, self-regulation by business organizations, public-private and civic-private partnerships, etc have emerged. [1] Many scholars refer to this as a ‘shift from government to governance’ which is generally referred to as ‘global governance’ in the field of international relations. [2] This new concept of global governance invariably includes the relevance of non-state actors (NSAs) for governing global issues.

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2. With the proliferation of non-state actors in International Politics,..the traditional Westphalian nation-state is experiencing an erosion of power and sovereignty. [3] This eventually undermines the state’s monopoly of the use of force as well as the monopoly on raising taxes and revenues which seriously restrict the effective performance of basic functions of the sovereign nation state. [4] This would not only lead to additional humanitarian disasters, but create tangible security problems and governance failures at the local, regional and at the global level.

3. Non-State Actors have emerged in international relations as important actors. They are limiting the authorities being enjoyed by sovereign nation-state under state-centric international relations based on principles of Westaphalian system. [5] By weakening states, NSAs are establishing themselves at domestic as well as international level.

4. At present world order, international security seems to be influenced by NSAs at unprecedented level. The diverse range of non-state actors plays a unique role in the changing dominion of international security in different manner, either positively or negatively. Certainly the various types of non-state actors like Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs), Non Governmental Organizations (NGO), Multinational Corporations (MNCs) and private security firms, and Violent Non-State Actors (VNSAs) may exert their energy in different manner in order to influence the international relations of 21st century there by affecting the international security as a whole. In order to understand the degree, nature, and gravity of influence, the major NSAs have been exerting on international security, their role in international relations need to be explored.


Statement of the problem

5. To understand and explore the degree, nature, and gravity of influence, the major non-state actors have been exerting on international security.


6. The NSAs are the important players of international relations and they influence international security to a greater extent. The degree and nature of influence exerted by various non-state actors is not same. It is basically depend on the intention and capability of the individual non-state actor.

Justification of The Study

7. In post cold war era, international security seems to be influenced by NSAs at an unprecedented level. The role that the NSAs play in the international security arena has come to the notice of many only after the attacks of September 11. The non-state actors have come in various shapes and sizes ranging from Intergovernmental organization, non governmental organization, Transnational companies, terrorist and various criminal organizations etc. This diverse collection of NSAs, with different intentions and capabilities, each plays different and unique role in the international relations. This study will try to explore the role of NSAs in international relations in order to understand the degree, nature, and gravity of influence that the major NSAs have been exerting on international security.


8. Every study and research will not be free from some weakness and drawbacks. The study is limited to certain boundaries for which future new researcher will try to find out the fact in more detail. The scope of the study is limited to the exploration of the influence of major NSAs on international security. NSAs, most active as well as with the strategic influence on international relations have been selected for the study. In this study, ‘international security’ has been discussed from the ‘traditional security’ point of view. The ‘traditional security’ concept refers to the realist construct of security in which the referent object of security is the state.

Research Methodology

9. Due to the nature of the subject matter the research is based on the documentary sources. Published materials in the form of books, journal article, dissertations, and reports mainly collected from electronic sources, mostly internet, have been used as secondary sources for this research.

Organization of the Dissertation

10. It is proposed to study the subject in the following manner:

(a) Chapter I: Introduction. The subject would be introduced broadly. Similarly the necessity to carry out the research and the objective to be achieved from the study would be highlighted. This chapter also includes the limitation of the study, methods followed and the preview of the study.

(b) Chapter II:Non State Actors and International Security. The detailed Concept of non-state actors and its role at present day world order will be highlighted. Brief background of non-state actors, its relevance at present day context and the diverse assortment of non-state entities will also be briefly brought out. Finally the most influential non-state actors in international relations in framing the international security will be identified for further discussion.

(c) Chapter III: Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs) as Non State Actors. This part would bring out various important intergovernmental organizations presently active in the world politics. Arguments would be made to qualify these intergovernmental organizations as non-state actors and at the end their contribution in international security will be brought out in detail.

(d) Chapter IV: Violent Non State Actors (VNSAs) and International Security. This part will highlight the role and significance of the violent non-state actors in international security. In doing so firstly the violent non-state actors are clearly defined and out of many violent non-state actors only relevant and most influential violent non-state actors would be selected for further discussion.

(e) Chapter V: International Nongovernmental Organizations (INGOs) and Multinational Corporation (MNCs) as International Players. In this portion the argument would be made to analyze importance of the International Nongovernmental Organizations and Multinational Corporations in driving the international relations of 21st century. Finally some conclusions will be drawn regarding the role being played by International Nongovernmental Organizations and Multinational Corporations in shaping the international security.

(e) Chapter VI: Conclusion. Based on the arguments made in the various chapters a logical conclusion would be drawn in identifying the degree, nature, and gravity of influence, the major non-state actors have been exerting on international security.



11. According to Wikipedia, online encyclopedia, ‘Non-State Actors, in international relations, are actors on the international level which are not states.’ [6] In Bas Arts’ definition, they are all those actors that are not (representatives of) states, yet that operate at the international level and that are potentially relevant to international relations. [7] Citing Josselin & Wallace (2001), Joanna Szalacha’s defines NSA as an organization largely autonomous from central government funding and control, it acts between the modern states within the networks, which extends across many borders. [8] 

12. First two of above mentioned definitions are simple and believe that only an actor, essentially not a state, active as well as influential at international level, could be a NSA. Szalacha seems to be accepting that a transnational actor focused to a state could also be a NSA. Saying ‘largely autonomous from central government’, she does not negate the possibility of some link between NSA and state. Abram Paley is concerned about the strategic role or effect of an actor to qualify itself as a NSA. After discussing several definitions, he summarizes an ‘inclusive definition’ of strategic NSA with ‘two vital components’:

(a) any actor that participates on the international stage or affects international interaction, but is not part of the domestic state structure, and (b) an actor-not an issue-that has the common attributes with which all actors in Common game-theoretic models are endowed-i.e. preferences, beliefs, strategies, etc. [9] 

13. From these different definitions of NSAs, following could be concluded:

NSAs are autonomous from states or do not represent the states or governments but may have some link with certain state(s).

NSAs operate at international or minimum transnational level.

NSAs strategically influence international relations.

14. There are different classifications of NSAs; Table 1 shows three of them by Paley [10] , Ataman [11] and Arts [12] . Although, there are great similarities in all these three classifications, all writers mention that their classification is not the complete one. Paley says his classification is out of ‘some common example’ and NSAs are not limited to them, whereas Ataman’s list of five NGOs is the ones which he believes are of ‘more effective types’.

15. There are varieties of actors other than state and it is difficult to find one of such actors without some sort of international or transnational connection in present context of globalization. Therefore, one may come up with more types of NSA than that is mentioned here. For example, Wikipedia in its classification of NSAs, apart from these common ones, has also included the international media, and transnational Diaspora communities. [13] 

Abram W Paley

Muhittin Ataman

Bas Arts

International Terrorist Organizations.

International Criminal Organizations.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Grassroots Activists.

International Institutions and Inter-governmental Organizations.

Multi-national Corporations.

Individual Actors.

International Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs).

Transnational or International Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs).

Epistemic Communities.

National Liberation Movements (NLM).

Multinational Corporations (MNC).

Religious and Humanitarian Organizations.

Various terrorist Groups and Drug Traffickers (Norco-Terrorists).

Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs).

International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs).

Corporate Interest Groups (CIG) and Transnational Corporations (TNC).

Epistemic Communities (ECs).

Remainder category (including scouts, professional organizations, terrorist networks, churches, etc.).

Table 1: Different Classifications of NSAs

16. It has grouped NSAs using violence as ‘Violent NSA’ but not included IGOs. Regarding, VNSA, it is a common practice to address all NSAs which use illegal violence as their means. There is a lack of consensus on the issue of IGOs; one school of thought believes that an organization formed and collectively participated by the states cannot be termed as a NSA. [14] As per the definition and degree as well as gravity of their strategic influence on international relations, one can draw the conclusion that the major NSAs could be classified into four groups, namely IGOs, VNSAs, INGOs, and MNCs.

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17. NSAs appeared at international level as a group of social actors since 1980s and by 1990s, those organizations have gained power and increased influence on public institutions and different states’ agendas. [15] But NSAs are not completely new phenomena. ‘…the Hanseatic League monopolized trade on the Baltic Sea between the 13th and 17th centuries, the highly powerful East India Company was founded in 1600, European haute finance was a major contributor to the relative peace of the 19th century, and the Red Cross dates to the 1860s’. [16] According to Ataman, the proliferation of non-state actors has recently led some observers of international relations to conclude that states are declining in importance and that non-state actors are gaining status and influence. [17] Quoting Miller, Ataman further says, the growth of so many kinds of non-state actors challenges and even weakens the ‘state-centric’ concept of international politics and replaces it with a ‘transnational’ system in which relationships are more complex. These organizations changed the international environment. [18] As per the 2007 August report, A globalization-fueled diffusion of finance and technology has enabled non-state actors to encroach upon functions traditionally performed by nation-states, facilitating their evolution into forms unheard of even a few years ago. [19] 

18. The NSAs have emerged in international relations as equal as the nation-states. It may compel states to adopt ‘more complex transnational system’ but in reality, NSAs rise has greater impact in international relations. NSAs have changed the overall traditional concept of international relations, based on the principles of Westphalian system of sovereign states, as Schwartz writes, ‘The influence of non-state actors in this globalized world is unquestionably stronger than at any point since the Westphalia system of state sovereignty was established in 1648’. [20] 

19. International security is the most influenced aspect of the changing trend of international relations due to the rise of NSAs. Under the traditional concept of international relations, international security is maintained through two types of organizations: classical collective security organization and defensive security organization. The first type of organization is designed to promote international security through regulating the behavior of its member states, whereas defensive security organization is to protect a group of states from threats emanating from a challenging state or group of states. [21] In present context, the role of traditional collective security organizations has expanded, if not changed; those organizations have been transformed into NSAs as intergovernmental organizations. Similarly, defensive security organizations have lost their appeal in present unipolar world order; but threat of violent NSAs for them has replaced that of formidable rival state or group of states.

20. Non-State Actors have emerged in international relations as important actors. They are limiting the authorities being enjoyed by sovereign nation-state under state-centric international relations based on principles of Westaphalian system. By weakening states, NSAs are establishing themselves at domestic as well as international level and they influence the international security to a greater extent. The degree and nature of influence may vary from one NSA to other; it could be positive or negative as well as at large or small scale. Whatever role the major NSAs are playing in international relations, needs to be studied in order to explore their influence in international security.



Defining IGOs

21. The term official web page of Harvard University defines IGOs as an entity created by treaty, involving two or more nations, to work in good faith, on issues of common interest. In the absence of a treaty an IGO does not exist in the legal sense. For example, the G8 is a group of eight nations that have annual economic and political summits. IGOs that are formed by treaties are more advantageous than a mere grouping of nations because they are subject to international law and have the ability to enter into enforceable agreements among themselves or with states. [22] 

22. The main purposes of IGOs were to create a mechanism for the world’s inhabitants to work more successfully together in the areas of peace and security, and also to deal with economic and social questions. In this current era of increasing globalization and interdependence of nations, IGOs have come to play a very significant role in international political systems and global governance.

23. The number of IGOs is difficult to determine, but estimates range from 270 to more than 1000. They cover multiple issues and involve governments from every region of the world. Among the oldest IGOs are the United Nations, which replaced the League of Nations, the Universal Postal Union, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Other well-known IGOs are the European Union (EU), the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the African Development Bank (ADB) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Since the creation of the UN and NATO, IGOs have become essential actors in the international security. IGOs, such as the UN and the EU, have the ability to make rules and exercise power within their member countries, their global impact continues to increase.

24. Ataman cites Miller to define IGOs as ‘..voluntary associations of sovereign states established to pursue many objectives for which states want to cooperate through sort of formal structure and to which states are unable to realize by themselves’. [23] Sovereign states establish IGOs through a treaty [24] and accept its authority to make decisions regarding particular problems for common benefit. In other words, the states voluntarily give up sovereignty to an IGO in order to achieve common security, cooperation for collective goods, economic rearwards and political influence.

25. In Ataman’s view IGOs could be classified by their scope (global and regional) or by their function (political, economic, social and environmental). [25] Wikipedia has classified them as worldwide global organizations, regional organizations, Cultural, linguistic, ethnic, religious, or historical organizations, Economic organizations, organizations for collective security or mutual defense provisions. [26] Among these organizations United Nations (UN) and its specialized agencies as well as some regional organizations such as European Union (EU) and collective security organization such as NATO play significant role in international security. [27] 

Types of IGOs

26. IGOs are typically organized by their membership and by their purpose. For example, the UN is called a global organization because all countries are allowed membership. There are currently 192 member states in the UN. Some IGOs are regional and limit their membership to states within the designated regions. Other IGOs are referred to as selective organizations because they base their membership on criteria other than geography. The Organization of the Islamic Conference, for example, bases its membership on religious affiliation. OPEC, on the other hand, is comprised only of countries that produce oil. Specialized IGOs, such as NATO, limit their activities to a particular field. General IGOs have expertise on a wide variety of topics. The UN is also a general IGO as it is involved in a wide range of issues, including security, poverty reduction, health, telecommunications, international criminal justice, human rights, economic development, and environmental protection. [28] 

Role in International Relations and Effects on International Security

27. Quoting several constructivist views, Susan Park writes. IGOs ‘..are norm diffusers or transmitters within the international realm; teaching states their interests’. [29] They ‘..do this through establishing regimes, forming international agendas, constructing discourse, enforcing rules, and mediating between states’. [30] Park believes that these important roles ‘..show the significance of these organizations as the ‘glue’ of the international state system, binding states together in various regimes’. [31] She argues that the IGOs ‘.. act as official gate-keepers, determining which non-state actors and groups within civil society are deemed legitimate, thus de-legitimizing others, thereby shutting the latter out of the global governance structure’. [32] 

28. IGOs are the main tools of global governance in true sense; and they are legitimate NSAs. They are responsible for collective security and defense, and they have been contributing a lot for the maintenance of international security. IGOs, formed out of common interests of the member states, maintain international security or stability by keeping member states united. On the other hand, especially collective defense oriented IGOs maintain balance with rival state or group of states.

29. UN is the key player of international relations in present context. The primary mission of UN is to maintain international peace and security. [33] To fulfill its mission UN has a strong mandate which it exercises through the Security Council. Since its inception, UN has continuously been trying to prevent conflicts, keep and enforce peace, and disarmament as well as proliferation of WMDs.

30. Regional organizations are also taking big steps, especially on the field of Human Security. EU is unifying entire Europe, which now is unlikely to spark other Great War. Unified Europe can maintain a balance with any other power which may emerge in future. However, regional alliances for comprehensive security are replacing the traditional military alliances; NATO is still effective. NATO, the only remaining major defense organization after the disintegration of former Soviet Union and demise of rival Warsaw Pact, is no more concerned for balance of power, but it is still significant for US and its allies for their defense. NATO is instrumental for US led ‘War on Terror’ in Afghanistan.


31. The role played by IGOs at the international level is not out of controversy. There is always a question mark over their effectiveness. Some scholars argue that there problem lies on the fundamental structure and changed role of IGOs, mainly security organizations; according to Gleason & Shaihutdinov,

Throughout the world, the major inter-state security organizations continue to be essentially Westphalian in nature. They assume the primacy of state actors. While collective security organizations have re-focused to their objectives to confront challenges emanating from below the level of the nation-state, they have not yet reorganized their operational programs to achieve these goals. [34] 

32. IGOs like UN have been blamed as tool for powerful countries to impose their principle on the weak countries. ‘…the UN Security Council cannot accept any decision against the interests of the five permanent members and those of their allies, i.e., the UN Security Council decisions on the Palestinian question against Israel have often been vetoed by the United States’. [35] The stability achieved on the cost of a state’s principles could not be long lasting; since it creates discontent and hatred among the people, which could be the seed of a future conflict.

33. Other IGOs, such as WTO and IMF, have been criticized for their role in globalization. Many people believe that globalization further weakens the weaker nation-states whereas strong states take maximum benefit out of it. The increasing gap between powerful states and weak states can gradually lead them to a conflict, jeopardizing international security.


34. Security always puts its stakeholders under a dilemma; states need to think rationally while joining organizations or alliances. Security cannot be achieved by either individuals or states acting solely on their own behalf. Some collective measures are necessary among the members of the system if each is to achieve security. Just as security cannot be achieved by individual actors, neither can it be created by concentrating all powers and responsibility at the upper levels. When such concentration happens, as we have seen in the case of individuals and the states, the collective institution becomes major source of threat to those smaller actors it was supposed to protect.

35. Schwartz’s following view on UN reflects importance of such IGOs amid their own drawbacks,

‘While the UN is certainly not the ideal institution for international security – simply because it is the sum of its parts, states – the world would undoubtedly be far more insecure without it. There is no other forum in the world in which every state that wishes can participate. The implication of this should not be underestimated. Communication is essential for averting crises. And there is no other organization in the world with as broad and sweeping a mandate as the UN’. [36] 

36. The criticism of IGOs, exposed drawbacks and their likely consequences are not baseless accusations, but these needs be sorted out through reforms. As the key actors of global governance, IGOs play most significant role on regulating international relations and make huge positive contribution to the maintenance of international security.





37. Citing Troy S. Thomas, Stephen D. Kiser and William D. Casebeer, Klejda Mulaj writes ‘Violent non-state actors (VNSAs) are not a new phenomenon in world politics. The operations of some such actors already posed a threat to Western interests before the fateful day of 11 September 2001. Yet, although non-state actors – primarily economic – have received extensive coverage in political science literature, VNSAs have only recently received sustained interest amongst academic and policy circles’. [37] Even a cursory global survey suggests that violent non-state actors have become a pervasive challenge to nation-states. In the 21st century, the state monopoly of the use of force is increasingly being reduced to a convenient fiction. No nation state is free of VNSAs. Relatively few of the sovereign states can truly claim a monopoly of force within their territorial borders. Mulaj further writes ‘ despite being small groups – and inferior to their adversaries in terms of equipement, traning, and often doctrine – VNSAs are likely to continue, and even increase, their asymmetric operations with a view to achieving political objectives and influence. [38] 

38. Williams says ‘One of the most striking features of VNSA s is their sheer variety. This suggests that there is some danger in lumping them together under a single rubric’. [39] Yet, it is clear from the preceding analysis that they do have certain things in common: they all emerge in response to inadequacies, deficiencies or shortcomings in many states and to one degree or another seek to compensate for those shortcomings. At t


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