Transnational Actors and International Organizations in Global Politics By Peter Willetts
From J. B. Baylis and S. Smith (eds.), The Globalisation of World Politics, (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, second edition, 2001), pp. 356-383. This copy does not contain the various boxes and diagrams that are in the book. Please note that this document is set for A4 paper, so US users should change the File-PageSetUp-PaperSize to Letter before printing.
• Problems with the State-Centric Approach
• Transnational Companies as Political Actors
• Non-Legitimate Groups and Liberation Movements as Political Actors
• Non-Governmental Organizations as Political Actors
• International Organizations as Structures of Global Politics
• Issues and Policy Systems in Global Politics
The subject of International Relations originally covered simply the relations between states, for example Britain’s relations with India. Economic bodies and social groups, such as banks, industrial companies, students, environmentalists, and women’s organisations, were given secondary status as non-state actors. This two-tier approach has been challenged, particularly by the effects of globalisation. First, ambiguities in the meaning given to ‘a state’, and its mismatch with the contemporary world, result in it not being a useful concept. Greater clarity is obtained by analysing intergovernmental and inter-society relations, with no presumption that one sector is more important than the other. Second, we can recognize governments are losing sovereignty when faced with the economic activities of transnational companies and the violent threat from criminals and guerrillas. Third, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engage in such a web of global relations, including participation in diplomacy, that governments have lost their political independence. We conclude that events in any area of global policy-making have to be understood in terms of complex systems, containing governments, companies, and NGOs interacting in a variety of international organizations. INTRODUCTION
In diplomacy, international law, journalism, and academic analysis, it is widely assumed that international relations consists of the relations between coherent units called states. This chapter will argue that better understanding of political change is obtained by analysing the relations between governments and many other actors from each country. Global politics also includes companies and non-governmental organizations. (We will see below that this is a technical term. It does not cover all actors other than governments. In particular it excludes commercial bodies.) While there are less than 200 governments in the global system, there are approximately • 60,000 major transnational companies (TNCs), such as Shell, Barclays Bank, Coca Cola, Ford, Microsoft, or Nestlé, with these parent companies having more than 500,000 foreign affiliates; • 10,000 single-country non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as Freedom House (USA), Médecins sans Frontières (France), Population Concern (UK), Sierra Club (USA), or the Women’s Environmental Network (UK), who have significant international activities; • 250 intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), such as the UN, NATO, the European Union, or the International Coffee Organization; and • 5,800 international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), such as Amnesty International, the Baptist World Alliance, the International Chamber of Shipping, or the International Red Cross, plus a similar number of less-well-established international caucuses and networks of NGOs. All these actors play a regular part in global politics and interact with the governments. In addition, even though they are considered not to be legitimate participants in the system, guerrilla groups and criminal gangs have some impact. Very many more companies and NGOs only operate in a single country, but have the...
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