The action of international organization in the world politics Preface The financial and economic current crisis has increased pressure for a re-evaluation of the current power system in the international economic organizations. Emerging countries fights for more control in them that they often blame for being unfair and responsible of theirs luggish development. On another hand developed countries are benefiting widely from the organizational regime that has been agree more than sixty years ago and that hasn’t adapt to shifts in economical and political power.
We assist of what could be called a battle for global economic governance, that is one for the “overaching system which regulate human affairs on a worldwide basis”(O’Brien and Williams 2007). But we can wonder why such battle is taking place on an organizational level? Do international organisation matter in world politics and how? Answers have been provided by different school of thought : realists, liberals and constructivists. We will see how they view world politics and how IOs affect it, and to this regard we will look at a specific situation within the United Nations Security Council in 2003 before the start of the Irak war.
Realism, constructivism and liberalism or three ways of looking at international
Therefore, there is no such things as axiom in the logical sense in social science. Instead, we have diverse theories that are usually advanced in a specific historical context and that often support the cause of a specific group and what they are concerned. Consequently in the domain of IOs and in world politics we have general, complementary and different frameworks . They have different focus and outcomes. None of them claim to explain everything but they give one part of understanding in the mechanisms at work. There are three main ways of approaching IOs : realism, constructivism and iberalism. We’ll briefly summarize centuries of literature and research for each of them and focus on their key actors, dynamics and views on IOs. • Realism Realism framework is rooted in nationalist and mercantilist economic theories that emerged with the nation-state in the 15th century in Europe. The state is the key actor in this framework. In the realism framework, the world is rather anarchical and states fight for wealth since the world is view as a “zero-sum game”. Consequently, conflicts are frequent and their outcome is influenced by the balance of power.
Power, the ability to influence or control other states (Evans. G. & Newnham 1998), is the key to shape outcomes in the global political sphere and to obtain wealth. In the realism view it is possible to avoid conflicts through cooperation in regimes that are arrangements put in place by states on issues. The regime’s theory claims that it is possible to have “cooperation under anarchy” (Oyle 1986), the distribution of wealth in the regime being determined by the balance of power between states. IOs are therefore view as a structure that will help states to further their own goals.
IOs have no independance and existence of their own since they are just an instrument of states. Since states are the main source of decision and power in the world politics, after all organization would not be supported if they doesn’t help serve states’ interests. Institutions still exist though because by reducing uncertainty they promote cooperation and make it more feasible. Furthermore, Koremenos, Lipson and Snidal argue that the design of institutions affects outcomes in the world politics. When states agree on an institution they agree on a specific balance of power, scope and others dimensions.
The creation of an organisation is a negotiated response to issues faced by states and the outcome of this negotiation is reflected in the design of organizations. Therefore states pay careful attention to it. An example would be the post-world war organizations that were subject to long discussions and where conflicting theories were discussed. Often the final result represent the balance of power of a certain periode in time, which can be dominated by a “hegemon” or superpower such as the Dutch in the 15th century.
After they are set up, it usually takes time for international organisation to adapt to shifts in power which again reinforce the rational and negotiated design attention. The organization of most of the Bretton Woods institutions in the 1950’s represents the post world war economic order and it is often criticize for not having change much since. In this view, IOs are not so significant in world politics they are more the puppet of states and it’s not relevant to look at a specific IO without looking at states that are behind it. • Liberalism Liberal theory is sometimes encompass in the realist one but it is slightly different.
The central idea is that individuals are free to choose and that they should pursue their own interest. Therefore individuals and not states are central in liberal theory. States are only a representation of collective preferences and the market is preferred for transaction since it’s assumed to be the optimal way of allocating ressources. Ricardo’s comparative advantages is at the heart of liberalism and consequently the world is seen as a positive sum game. By reducing the role of the state and increasing interdependency with markets everybody will gain and world welfare will be maximize.
International organisations in liberal literatures matters for efficiency reasons. It facilitates cooperation and decreases transaction costs and asymmetry of information. In this regard it is similar to realism, but here IOs are controlled by different actors. States are not actors of their own, it’s individuals that shapes the outcomes of IOs. These individuals are not only represented by states, but also by other forms of collective construction such as NGOs, TNCs and IGOs. A critical literature develops the argument in this framework on the increasing power and influence of TNCs in international organisations.
An exemple would be the TRIPS1 agreement voted in the WTO. This agreement was pushed by US TNCs because it would benefit to them and has been adopted despite the dramatic consequences it had on emerging countries and especially LDCs. Another study demonstrated an substantial influence in the UN by TNCs (Bull, B. , Boas, M. and McNeil 2004). In this view we’ll look at the states influence closely since they’re supposed to reflect individuals preferences but also at other actors that can influence them and exercise power in international organisations. 1 Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Constructivism The constructivism framework is derived from sociological theories and is giving very different sets of answer than the two other frameworks. It focuses on social construction of rules and norms and on the fixing of meaning. It doesn’t focus only on efficiency criteria but also on normative and cultural factors. Norms and values that are considered fixed in the two other frameworks are here sets by actors and can be shaped and influenced. In this view, IOs are not only created for efficiency purpose and for what they do but also for “what they are” (Barnett and Finnemore 1999).
Their existence conveys values and norms that are created by their legitimacy. By defining concepts such as “development”, “poverty” they shape our view on these issues. The World Bank for instance defines the concept of development and shapes it’s meaning, adapting it to its view of what it should be. This is made possible with the rational-legal authority or normative appeal (Barnett and Finnemore 1999) that exist in these organizations. Bureaucraties have a legitimate modern authority that comes from impersonal procedures and rules that are seen as rational. That makes them powerful and give them authority.
The normative appeals come from the technical expertise obtained for instance through information, training and experience. It reinforces their power since it makes them technically superior than states in some specific domains, giving them authority in this domain. The fact that an organisation is created for a specific purpose is also creating meaning. This organisation will act on the behalf of the meaning it creates. The fact that there is an international organization such as UNICEF for helping children will promote the concept of fighting for other people’s rights. This also omes with disadvantages, “pathologies”, because in certain circumstances IOs are stuck in their own rules and it can drive them to non-desired behavior. Like a bureaucratie, what gives IOs power can lead them to self-destructive behavior. By acting essentially in their rules they can become irrational and lose legitimacy. This is sometimes see as being the case in the IMF that is criticized for its “one size fits all” recommendations. This view challenges other theories by viewing IOs as autonomous actors that matter for the norms and meaning they create and that can challenge states and outcomes.
Since theory is made to interpret facts, we will now use these different frameworks on a specific issue. We’ll try to explain the violation of the security council by the US and look at its implications on different angles. Irak war : Two complementary view on the consequences of the security council violation As an illustration of the complementarity of theories, we will now focus on the United Nations (UN) and more precisely on the security council. We want to look at the serie of events that leads to the US attack on Irak and analyse them first through a realist framework, then a constructivist one.
The UN is born in the aftermath of WW2, on october 1945. The purpose of the organization is to “maintain international peace and security” (UN charter : article 1). This organisation started with 51 members and now encompass almost all the country in the world with 192 members in 2006. Within the UN, the security council was created as an instrument to achieve the organisation goal. It gives the UN power of formally authorizing collective military actions or other actions to dissuade states from bad behavior. The council votes resolutions in which they give their opinion about the country and ask for measures.
There are 15 countries in the council, 5 permanent members with a veto and 10 other alternating countries. There are two observations we can make at this point regarding our two frameworks. First, realism theory provides an accurate explanation of the design of this institution (Koremenos, B. , Lipson, C. and D Snidal 2001). It corresponds well with the post-WW2 balance of power since the five countries having a veto are China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States. The membership is inclusive by design and definition .
The scope of the security council is security issues and informations are centralized. States can use the council to take military decisions and to discuss formally and informally security issues. Therefore it is making cooperation easier and it centralizes decisions made by states. Constructivist would look more at the meaning created by this organization. It is obvious that the UN and the security council have to be extremely fair if they want a legitimacy in international security. A resolution has a very powerful meaning since it represents the opinion of almost all ountries in the world. By passing negative resolutions about a country it classifies it as disturbing international peace and security. Therefore it has authority on what is a good behavior and a bad behavior in world politics. This is a very powerful tool that comes from both the normative appeal of rationallegal authority and the UN control over technical expertise and information. The UN that encompass most of the world’s countries wants to be perceived as very neutral and independent. This would make rules created and implemented by the UN commonly accepted as truth and normative.
The technical expertise comes from the fact that the UN is in relation with most of the countries and has offices in the main part of the world, therefore it is very knowledgeable about security in the world. In 2003, following 9/11, the US president Georges Bush focused on Sadam Hussein in Irak and made frequent inquiries to the UN security council ( Sept 17th 2002, january 28th 2003). Face to a possible nuclear threat, the Bush administration wanted to use the article 51 of the UN charter that states that :
Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective selfdefense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defense shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.
The council eventually voted a resolution against Irak but they didn’t explicitly gave the right to the US to military attack it. The threat of nuclear weapons wasn’t believe to be “immediate” therefore military attack wasn’t approved by the Security Council. The US protested against this decision and decided to attack Irak on the behalf of “pre-emptive self defense”. By doing that, the US violated article 25 of the UN security council charter that gives the UN power to make binding decisions that member governments have agreed to carry out. Here there is a clear case of self-interest state behavior.
Indeed, the realist prediction happened : since the security council didn’t serve the US interests, the US just ignore them and acted alone. Their power at the time allowed them to go against the regime that was created by the UN since it didn’t serve it interests. This being said, we could conclude too quickly that the security council didn’t play any role and didn’t matter. States would violate the rules if doing so would put them in a better position in the future. Therefore institutions are dominated by states, they are only structures and they play little role by themselves. To understand that this is not entirely true we eed to look at constructivism theories. For a constructivist, the security council designs meaning of what is a behavior that challenge international peace and stability by voting resolution and by commenting security issues. This gives the organisation a certain independence from states since it can construct what is a bad behavior and what is good behavior. In the US case, none of the resolution against Irak call for using “all means possible”, it was only blaming them for non-cooperation. When the US attacked Irak without agreement in the UN security council they classified the US behavior as “bad” according to the meaning they create.
Constructivist would argue that by going against the security council decision the US labels themselves has a state that acts against international peace and stability. The rules that were broken here caused “shaming” of the US and labelled their war has non-justified in the world’s view of what is a justified war. By shaping norms and rules of a good behavior and being able to decide legitimacy of an intervention in a country, the security council has an independent power that can go against state interest and shapes current and future outcomes.
In this case, the UN is not just a structure, it is an independent actor. Conclusion International organization are central place for political bargaining and matters in the world politics. In realism and liberal theory, they matter because they represent interests of actors. In these school of thought they are more a structure that facilitates cooperation. They matter in a different way in the constructivist view since they create norms, value and they give meaning to the world around us. Therefore they have a power in their own and they are independent actors.
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