Major Actors and Determinants of a Country's Foreign Policy

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The concept of an International System or International Relations represents the notion that the world extends far beyond the borders of a particular country and that the world itself is more than just a sum of its parts, such as states existing in isolation from the rest. And still, international relations is more than just the sum of individual interactions among these parts. The idea of international system is thus based on the belief that there are general patterns of actions among the system’s actors. In most cases, the actors are allowed, each to make its own decisions and guidelines or set of rules that guide its actions on the international centre stage in a bid to get what it wants from the other actors. This is what is usually referred to as a country’s foreign policy. Foreign policy is defined as a system of activities evolved by communities for changing the behaviour of other states and for adjusting their own activities to the international environment. “...when we speak generically about foreign policy and the decision-making process that produce it, we mean the goals that the officials heading states (and all the other transnational actors)seek abroad, values that underlie such goals and the means or instruments used to pursue them.” To begin the inquiry into how foreign policy choices are made, we consider the setting for state choices and the external events, outside their borders that make such choices necessary. Thus, the factors that shape a state’s foreign policy and the decisions of all other global actors can be categorized at three basic levels of analysis. System Level analysis-This is a world view that takes a “top-down” approach to analyzing global politics. The proponents of this level argue that the world’s socio-economic and political structure and the patterns of interaction (the international system) strongly influence the policies of states and other international actors. State Level Analysis- This level is in line with the Realist view that states are the key international actors basically because of their sovereignty and ability to control and exercise power. The proponents thus hold that the internal or domestic influences are key determinants on a state’s foreign policy, thus influencing the overall action in the international centre stage. Individual level analysis-This is a view in which the main focus is the people. It is those actions by the people, whether individually or in groups which, even though may seem insignificant when looked at in isolation, but overally affects actions and decisions of states with regards to foreign policy making and in return, determines the way those states will carry out their international relations. Major Actors and determinants of African Foreign Policies

In studying foreign policy making in specific and International Relations in general, the word “actor” is constantly used to refer to the agents who are the globe’s primary performers. The actors in international relations can be divided into two broad categories: states and non-states actors. The word state as used in International Relations refers to “...a territorially defined political unit that exercise the ultimate internal authority and that recognizes no legitimate external authority over it.” However, a state, whether large or small, rich or poor, populous or not cannot be said to be in existence if it does not possess all or most of the important characteristics of a state. The six characteristics include: Sovereignty, territory, population, diplomatic recognition, internal organization (also referred to as central authority or government), and domestic support from the people over which the government exercises control. The state level of analysis places the states at the centre of international relations and proposes that they are the main actors and that all other actors simply revolve around them and operate according to the decisions made by the states....
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