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...
Links: www.un.org the United Nations home page, with separate links for the main organs and the major conferences. The site provides access to official documents and reports, but not any political analysis.
www.conferenceofngos.org Conference of Non-Governmental Organisations in Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
www.oneworld.org a gateway to most of the active international NGOs. It can be used both to learn about particular organisations and to explore controversy about global issues.
1 Data on transnational corporations is given in annual reports from the United Nations. The figures quoted come from World Investment Report 1999, (Geneva: UN, 1999), pp. 5-6. A parent TNC is defined as one that controls assets outside its home country and a foreign affiliate is defined as a subsidiary, a branch or an associate in which the parent has a stake of at least 10% of the equity (p. 465). The numbers of transnational and international organizations of different types are given in the statistical tables of the various editions of the UIA yearbook. The figures quoted come from Yearbook of International Organisations 1999-2000 (Munich: K. G. Saur, for the Union of International Associations, 36th edn., 1999). In each case, the current author has rounded the figures. The total number of global actors has increased significantly compared to the data given in the first edition of this book: TNCs are up by 56%, their affiliates have more than doubled and INGOs are up by 24%. The number of intergovernmental organisations has dropped, because more than 15% of the regional IGOs have dissolved or become inactive. The UIA reports a minimal rise in the number of single-country NGOs that are internationally active (their categories G and N), but these categories are very difficult to define and to monitor.
2. Compare the World Investment Report 1999, which in Table III.1 lists 50 TNCs as having sales of more than $30 bn. in 1997, with the World Bank Atlas, 2000, (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2000), pp. 42-3, which gives GNP data for each country in 1998. Population data was taken from the Human Development Report 1999, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 198-200.
3. ECOSOC Resolution 288(X)B Arrangements for Consultation with Non-Governmental Organizations was passed in February 1950. It was amended and replaced by Resolution 1296(XLIV) in May 1968. A further process of review and amendment started in February 1993 and concluded in July 1996, with the passing of Resolution 1996/31. As specified in Table 15.1, the classifications were renamed in 1950, 1968, and 1996. The basic definition of an NGO has not changed since the 1950 resolution, but the details of their participation rights have been changed.
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