Role of State and Non State Actors
The way United Nations works is very unique and many parts play significant roles to make it a viable organization. First it is the role of states that have different functions and powers that contribute to the UN. Major powers such as the United States, China, Russia, France, and Great Britain play key roles that make the UN a viable organization. There are also non state actors such as regional organizations, and NGO’s that also have significant roles towards the United Nations.
The United States is the most important power to the UN and plays a key role to making it a viable organization. Shaping the international system structure after World War 2, including the establishment of IGO’s is one example. However, the US started getting mixed feelings about international organizations and withdrew from several of them. In the Security Council, the US used its veto power 34 times between 1976 and 1985. In 2003, US went to war against Iraq without authorization of the Security Council. Therefore, US were not taking the UN seriously. This changed when Ambassador Susan Rice got appointed and restored her position to cabinet status. In 2009, the US sighed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, making it the first action on an international human rights treaty since 2002.
Several factors, such as the role of Congress have changed this US ambivalence. Congress controls the budget, which is an important source of US power in the UN. This is very significant to the relationship of the US and UN. Mainly, America’s unique history, its record of democracy, and its support for human rights all give it a special role in international relations. This is called the belief of exceptionalism, which is where the US power in the UN is derived from. Therefore, the UN needs this support from US if it is to remain a vital organization.
Russia is also a major power in the UN and its influence in the Security Council including veto power is significant in the UN. Since 2005, Russia has had a major role in international relations such as dealing with Iran’s nuclear program. Russia’s long involvement in Iran allows its leaders to offer alternative diplomatic solutions, which is something the other major powers of the P-5 can’t do. Its ability to veto power also gives it influence in the Security Council deliberations over sanctions. Therefore, Russia has its own ability to use its power in the UN, aside from the US to keep this organization vital.
France and Great Britain as members of the P-5 hold veto power, continue to be significant donors and major actors in the UN. They have played key roles in post Cold War UN peacekeeping and enforcement operations by providing troops in the Gulf War and Afghanistan. Since 1990, each had a responsibility for a subcontracted enforcement operation, Great Britain in Sierra Leone and France in Rwanda. This explains what kind of power they have in the Security Council. However, these powers also have different views in UN politics. France has shown greater interest than Great Britain in developing a common European position, which basically means taking a common position on major issues among members of the European Union. Even though Great Britain and France have their own views on UN politics and Security Council decisions, their strong involvement in UN peacekeeping operations, its participation in the 1991 Gulf War, and ongoing NATO operations in Afghanistan make them significant actors to the UN. They still have continuing ties with their former colonies which help them retain influence and interests in the developing world.
Last but not least, the fifth major power and permanent member of the city council, China, has become more active in the UN since the 1990’s. China’s dramatic economic growth has given them the power they have now in the UN. As of 2010, everything has increased for China, such as national pride, increasing assertiveness, and of course a burgeoning economy. Due to this, China had to balance its own interests and representing those of other developing states. At first, The World Bank was one of the biggest funders of external aid to China, now China is a lender. With this economic boom, as the most populous state in the world, only non western member of the p-5, a nuclear weapons state, and the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide with veto power, China is a key actor.
Then there are key actors such as the Secretary General and the UN Secretariat. First, the Secretary General has many functions and one is to serve as a neutral communications channel and intermediary for the global community. Therefore you need diplomatic skills to be able to handle the tasks and jobs presented. They are responsible for making an annual report to the General Assembly and notifying the Security Council of matters that might threaten peace and security. The UN Secretariat derives authority in performing duties of office. They derive legitimacy from the moral purposes of the organization and they derive power from their missions of serving others. One of its main duties is to publish all the treaties and international agreements the UN makes. Other duties are to act as a mediator or administer different peacekeeping operations. These actors are important in the UN because they can shape the success or failure of operations by their actions. Yet influence in international institutions is not only limited to states. Non state actors have come to play leading roles in the UN as well. NGO’s is one of those non state actors. NGO’s are made up of private individuals that come together for a common purpose. These groups are formed and come together for different purposes. Some NGO’s are formed to advocate a particular cause such as human rights. Others come together to provide services such as disaster relief. NGO’s are under estimated to some extent because they are under the radar. Most people don’t know that NGO’s have more money than most governments. In this world, the more money you have the more power you have. Therefore, NGO’s can become pressure groups to force countries into making decisions. NGO’s have always had the money but their political power grew gradually. In 1997, they first gained limited access to Security Council meetings. Then through the NGO working group on the Security Council, they gained a voice in council deliberations. Informal consultations between NGO’s, the Security Council president, and council members became a common practice. NGO’s are very important to the UN and special agencies. UN specialized agencies and programs have long welcomed the involvement of NGO’s. Agencies such as UNICEF and UNESCO have enjoyed an extensive network of national commissions, scientific councils, and more than 600 NGO’s in consultation. NGO’s are significant because in most cases, they are contractors of services these specialized agencies provide. In the General Assembly, there are four main NGO’s that have specialized privileges. For example, they participate as observers in all assembly sessions. Also since the late 1980’s, NGO’s have had access as petitioners to some assembly committees. Therefore this non state actor plays many different roles in many aspects of the UN that keeps this organization vital and unique. In conclusion, the United Nations is the biggest and most important organization in the world that runs very unique. All these state and non state actors play their own different roles that keep the UN viable till this day. Major Powers such as US, China, and Russia and even non state actors such as NGO’s has their own affect on the UN. Without any of these actors, the UN would be much different and probably not viable. United Nations is very important to this world; hence it keeps peace and security throughout all nations. I still have much to learn about this global organization.