Principal actors of the world politics are nation-states, but they are
not the only actors. The international system consists of nation-states,
international organizations, and private actors. Even though thousands
of international organizations were established during the post-World
War II era, they were underestimated by students of international relations.
The increasing number of international organizations is parallel to the
increasing levels of economic, political, social and cultural transactions
between individuals, societies and states. The growth of so many kinds
of non-state actors challenges and even weakens the "state-centric"
concept of international politics and replaces it with a "transnational"
system in which relationships are more complex. These organizations changed
the international environment (Miller, 1994).
The proliferation of non-state actors has recently led some observers
of international relations to conclude that states are declining in importance
and that non-state actors are gaining status and influence. New theories
of international relations such as the "complex interdependence"
of Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye (1989) were formed in order to explain
new developments. Kegley and Wittkoph (1995) accurately point out that
"as the world grown smaller, the mutual dependence of nation-states
and other transnational political actors on one another has grown"
Following the traditional classification, non-state actors are divided
into two categories: international intergovernmental organizations (IGOs)
and transnational or international non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
(Brown, 1995; Miller, 1994). The first group consists of the non-state
actors that are created by nation-states. They are officially documented
by government agencies. The second group of non-state international actors
is established not by nation-states, but by certain group of individuals,
businessmen and other societal forces. This group has no legal bonds with
nation-states; therefore, they are truly transnational.
IGOs are voluntary associations of sovereign states established to pursue
many objectives for which states want to cooperate through sort of formal
structure and to which states are unable to realize by themselves (Miller,
1994). There are hundreds of IGOs in today's world which are significant
in their respective fields. They are created by treaties and negotiations
which mainly reflect preferences of stronger states. Especially stronger
states create IGOs because they need them to protect their interests.
By and large, decisions made by IGOs are the product of negotiations among
the governmental representatives assigned to them. In general, it is not
idealism, but the need of states which tend them to cooperate with other
states in the context of IGOs. Therefore, they are part of the Westphalian
state system in which IGOs are instruments of nation-states (Miller, 1994:
IGOs may be classified by scope (global and regional) and by function
(political, economic, social and environmental). IGOs are adjuncts of
nation-states and play significant roles by providing means of cooperation
and multiple channels of communication among states in areas in which
cooperation and communication provides advantages for all or most states
Bennett, 1991). It is commonly known that the main functions of IGOs are
rule making, agenda setting, and information gathering. In addition, they
decrease uncertainty between states and search for cooperative solutions
to international problems. IGOs may change norms of international relations
and preferences of nation-states. For instance, the United Nations Environment
Program played a significant role in the creation of regimes such as the
Protection of the Mediterranean Sea and the Protection of Ozone layer
(Brown, 1995: 195).
Furthermore, IGOs monitor principles, norms and rules of international
institutions and international regimes in nation-states. The most well
known case is the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which monitors
the "non-proliferation of atomic weapons" principle in states
whenever any claim is made. They decrease the cost of information gathering
which is more important for poor and small countries. For example, the
UN plays a key role for states, small states in particular, in receiving
information about international politics and systemic issues. Without
the UN, many states are unable to obtain information about the international
society and politics. Activities of IGOs, such as the UN and the IMF,
are decisive for most small countries. They may impose their principles
on them more easily than on big powers.
The effectiveness of IGOs differs from one issue area to another, one
international regime type to another, one state to another, one spatial
setting to another, or one time period to another. Powerful states are
less constrained by the principle of IGOs than those who are relatively
weak (Ataman, 2000: 152-167). The IMF and the UN Security Council are
two prominent organizations in which some powerful states direct activities
of the organization and impose their principles selectively. For instance,
the UN Security Council cannot accept any decision against the interests
of the five permanent members and those of their allies, i.e., the UN
Security Council decisions on the Palestinian question against Israel
have often been vetoed by the United States.
The influence of IGOs varies with the capacity of governments of member
states to implement their own provisions. Most governments face serious
resource constraints limiting their ability to apply the provisions of
regimes to areas and activities under their jurisdiction. This is true
for most countries, especially for less developed countries. Even the
superpowers do not have full control over IGOs. In spite of the fact that
international organizations are utilized by powerful nation-states, they
make a difference in international interactions and have notable influence
even on the most powerful state, the United States (Karns and Mingst,
IGOs, which function in technical issues such as in telecommunication,
transportation, environmental management and postal service, are perfectly
successful (Brown, 1995: 268). The effectiveness in economic issue areas
is also considerably high. For example, the IMF and the World Bank are
very effective in money flowing, debt management and financing debt issues
between the rich and poor countries (Brown, 1995: 207). Still effective,
the least success rate of IGOs is in political and security issues.
After briefly analyzing the role of IGOs in international relations, the
impact of NGOs will be examined in the following section. The article
will try to explore the impact of the five most important types of NGOs,
some of which are about to be among the main players in the international
game. It argues that even though they have a significant impact on the
world politics, this category of non-state actors was largely ignored
in the study of international relations. In the last section, roles of
non-state actors in the international relations theory are evaluated by
comparing them with those of nation-states. This section raises some theoretical
questions on the topic.
INTERNATIONAL NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs)
Non-governmental organizations are institutions that are established
by non-state actors or at least one side of these organizations is not
states. There are many kinds of NGOs such as transnational, government
organized, government-regulated and initiated, business and industry,
donor-organized, donor-dominated, people's organizations, operational,
advocacy, transnational social movements, quasi, and anti-governmental
NGOs. Their number increased (more than 23,000 in the early 1990s) and
their effectiveness for transnational politics became more relevant in
recent decades. They have become "crucial participants in the international
policy process" (Brown, 1995: 268).
NGOs create and/or mobilize global networks by creating transnational
organizations, gathering information on local conditions through contacts
around the world, alerting global network of supporters to conditions
requiring attention, creating emergency response around world, and mobilizing
pressure from outside states. They participate in IGO conferences by mobilizing
transnational social movements organizations around issues in IGOs, building
transnational social coalitions, raising new issues, supporting IGO development,
addressing IGO meetings, submitting documents to governmental organizations'
meetings, improving skills in conference diplomacy, and increasing expertise
on issues (Mingst, 1999: 255-257). They facilitate inter-state cooperation
by preparing background papers and reports, educating delegates and representatives
of states to narrow technical gap, serving as third party source of information,
expanding policy options, facilitating agreements, and bringing delegates
together in third party fora.
NGOs conduct many kinds of activities within states such as linking to
local partners, linking to transnational social movements with complementary
skills, working in national arenas to harmonize state policies, providing
humanitarian aid, and protecting accompaniment of persons in danger. They
also enhance public participation within states by reminding government
delegates that they are being watched, enhancing public understanding,
increasing transparency of international negotiations and institutions,
and provoking public protest.
As a by-product of intensified globalization process, NGOs which operate
at transnational level have become more significant determinants of foreign
policies of nation-states. Like their counterparts that operates at domestic
level and lobby in their respective countries, they lobby at international
and transnational levels. Human rights advocates, gender activists, religious
movements, developmentalists, and indigenous peoples have invaded the
territory of nation-states. As pointed out by Brown (1995), "as the
countries and sectors of world society have become more and more interdependent,
it has become commonplace for nongovernmental groups representing similar
communities in their various countries to closely coordinate their policies
and to constitute (or reconstitute) themselves as international nongovernmental
organizations (INGOs)" (p. 267).
The focus of this study is on NGOs that function at transnational level.
This section concentrates on the five more effective types of NGOs, namely
multinational corporations (MNCs), national liberation movements (NLMs),
epistemic communities, religious and humanitarian organizations, and terrorist
groups and drug traffickers, which have influential impact on international
Multinational Corporations (MNCs)
The most prominent contemporary NGOs are multinational corporations (MNCs)
(Krasner, 1995: 263). They are huge firms that own and control plants
and offices in at least more than one country and sell their goods and
services around the world. They are large corporations having branches
and subsidiaries operating on a worldwide basis in many countries simultaneously.
MNCs are "major driver of global economic integration" and "establish
unprecedented linkages among economies worldwide" (Peterson, 1995:
261). The biggest and the most effective industrial corporations are based
in the United States, Europe and Japan. In 1992, of the 20 largest MNCs,
excluding trading companies, in terms of sales all were based in G-7 states
-eight were in the United States, four were in Japan, three were in Germany,
and five were in Britain, two of which were jointly based in the Netherlands
(Goldstein, 1999: 412).
MNCs can be classified according to the kinds of business activities they
pursue such as extractive resources, agriculture, industrial products,
transportation, banking, and tourism. The most notable MNCs are industrial
and financial corporations (the most important being banks). Naturally
the primary objective of MNCs is profit maximization (Miyoshi, 1993: 746).
They are very effective in directing foreign policy of states, including
that of the most powerful ones, and they set agenda for international
politics. They have become a major factor in national economic decision
making process (Peterson, 1995). As mentioned by Miller (1994), the activities
of MNCs "may seem evidence of the growing inability today of the
sovereign state to control and regulate effectively economic activities
within the private sector. If that is so, then one of the traditional
rationales for modern sovereignty is undermined" (p. 67).
One of the measures of the influence of MNCs is the extent of the resources
they control. They have enormous "flexibility in moving goods, money,
personnel, and technology across national boundaries, and this flexibility
increases their bargaining power with governments" (Bennett, 1991:
264). Dozens of MNCs have annual sales of tens of billions of dollars
each. Many of them have more economic activity than the GDPs of the majority
of the states in the world. For instance, MNCs such as General Motors,
Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell, General Electric and Hitachi outranked the GDP
of nation-states like Taiwan, Norway, Turkey, Argentina, Pakistan, Malaysia
and Nigeria in the early 1990s (Brown, 1995: 153-154). As compared "to
total world export in 1992 of about $4.0 trillion," "sales by
MNCs outside their countries of origin were $5.5 trillion for the same
year" (Peterson, 1995: 262).
Different economic schools of thought treat MNCs differently. According
to liberalism, MNCs are vanguard of the new world order since they possess
the most efficient means of production (Mingst, 1999: 223). Liberal economists
argue that "the global efficiency and the increased generation of
the wealth result from the ability of MNCs to invest freely across international
borders" (Goldstein, 1999: 415). Some economists even welcome the
replacement of the nation-state by MNCs as the main economic unit (Barnet
and Cavanagh, 1994: 19-20). Mercantilist and nationalist perspective argues
that MNCs are instruments of home states. For them, MNCs either serve
national interests of the state or become a threat to the state (Mingst,
1999: 224). The Marxist tradition considers MNCs as the instrument of
exploitation and as an extension of the imperialism of strong capitalist
states (Mingst, 1999: 224). Their monopolistic power causes uneven development
and inequality in international division of labor. They bring mal-development
into host countries (Brown, 1995: 213). In today's world, I argue that
the combination of these three perspectives, that is an eclectic approach,
seems to be more relevant regarding MNCs as well as other economic issues.
When we observe activities of MNCs, we see that their operations create
a variety of problems and opportunities for both home countries, states
in which the MNC has its headquarters, and host countries, states in which
a foreign MNC operates (Carnoy, 1993: 61-66; Clark and Chan, 1995: 144).
All three sides (home country, host country, and MNC) benefit from the
wealth created by the MNC. At least in theory, mutual interests result
from the creation of wealth in the host country by the MNC. An observer
calls the relationship between MNCs and host countries as "a 'love-hate'
syndrome" (Bennett, 1991: 265); that is, host countries may have
both advantages and disadvantages in its relations with MNCs.
MNCs may be considered as instruments of economic development for less
developed countries. However, when we look at the functions they perform
in host countries, we see that they have a very strong bond with the home
government which becomes a source of concern for host countries. MNCs
challenge the state sovereignty of host countries. Host countries may
lose control over their economies. They may create political and social
division and prevent the development of domestic industries in host countries.
They may produce specialized products of which the buyer is usually the
parent company. They may manipulate prices of imports and exports in host
countries (Brown, 1995: 212-213). For instance, generally Turkey has to
accept the price set by US MNCs specializing on military equipment parts,
since Turkey has no choice to buy component parts of American made weapons,
which it has already bought.
In order to minimize the negative impact of MNCs, we witness government
interventions through nationalization, government participation and government
initiation of joint development projects. Furthermore, governments have
to maintain control over tax revenues, inflation rate, credit policies,
trade balances, balance of payments, trade restrictions, monetary values,
employment, and economic planning to decrease their dependence on MNCs.
Host countries may place restrictions on the ownership and behavior of
subsidiaries and on the freedom of businesses. Because only by controlling
these fields a host country may have an upper hand vis-à-vis MNCs.
MNCs serve national interests of home countries as instruments of global
economic development, a mechanism spreads ideology and a tool of diplomacy.
They are highly centralized and are dominated by the parent company which
is located in the home country (Carnoy, 1993: 64-65). The administrators
are mainly from the home country, research is centralized, technology
is imported from the home state, "profits are often repatriated,
and the policies of the firm conform closely to the economic and foreign
policies of the home government" (Bennett, 1991: 264). Therefore,
some, i. e., dependency theory, consider MNCs as instruments for colonization.
Sometimes manipulated and controlled by home governments, MNCs expand
marketing base of their home country. They increase production in home
country to supply components for foreign subsidiaries. They can ensure
lower priced products from the foreign subsidiaries back to home country.
They provide taxes to home country. Stockholders in home country gain
more profit from investments made abroad. However, there are many conflicts
between MNCs and their home countries over taxation, trade policies, and
economic sanctions. MNCs may not want to follow national policies pursued
by their home governments. That is, trade (MNCs) may not always follow
'flag' (state policies).
National Liberation Movements (NLMs)
Individuals give loyalty to and identify themselves with ethno-national
groups besides nation-states. "Many people pledge their primary allegiances
not to the state and government that rules them, but rather to their ethno-national
group which shares a common civilization, language, cultural tradition,
and ties of kinship" (Kegley and Wittkopf, 1997: 175). As a result
of people's loyalty to and identification with ethno-national groups,
national liberation movements are increasingly gaining importance in the
world setting. Since most states are multiethnic and many include at least
one potentially threatening minority, the rising significance of ethnic
groups reduces the relevance of nation-states in world politics. As illustrated
by Quebec nationalism, ethnonational movements demonstrate a persistent
tendency to stimulate anarchic and hierarchic impulses in the political
arenas in which they operate (Lapid, 1994: 29).
National liberation movements (NLMs) have been playing an effective role
in international politics for decades, especially in Africa, Latin America
and Asia. Some NLMs became the most important actors of many international
problems. One of the most well known examples of NLMs that played and
is still playing a significant role in international politics is the Palestinian
Liberation Organization (PLO). Since the late 1960s, PLO has been playing
the key role in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Arab states have been considered
PLO and its longtime leader Yasser Arafat as the legitimate representatives
of Palestinians. Some other significant NLMs were African National Congress
(ANC) of Nelson Mandela of South Africa which eventually brought down
the white supremacist government; Patriotic Front which was fighting the
white dominated government of Rhodesia; and the Southwest African People's
Organization (SWAPO) which gained power in Namibia. Many NLMs have been
the main actors of post-World War II process of de-colonization in Africa.
These NLMs shaped the map of the African continent and political structures
of African states.
"Stateless nations," "nations without states," or
nations or ethnic groups without a state, are also very significant actors
of international politics. Even though there are 3000 to 5000 nations
in the world, "if a nation is defined as a population with a distinctive
and enduring collective identity based on cultural traits and lifeways
that matter to them and to others with whom they interact" (Brown,
1995: 162), there are only less than 200 nation-states. According a project
conducted by the US Institute of Peace Press, there were about 230 disadvantaged
and dissatisfied political ethnic movements in the 1990s (Gurr, 1993).
Some stateless nations that are effective actors of international politics
are the Palestinians, the Catholics in Northern Ireland, the Tibetians
in China, the Basques and Catalonians in Spain, the Quebecois in Canada,
the Muslims of Kashmir and Serbia, the Hindu Tamils in Sri Lanka, and
the Kurds in the Middle East (Brown, 1995: 162-163).
For instance, among these national groups, the Kurdish people and parties
who represent them play an important role in Middle Eastern politics.
The United States, Israel, Western European and Middle Eastern countries
have been using Kurdish people and organizations against the central governments
in which the Kurds live and constitute a certain percentage of the population.
Likewise, Kurdish diaspora in the West has been using the Western governments
to put pressure on central governments. Like many other ethnic groups,
the Kurds are also both a subject and an actor of international politics.
Systemic powers seek contribution of Kurdish groups to their regional
calculations and policies. Observers agree that without the consent of
the Kurdish people, it is quite difficult, if not impossible, to bring
stability to the region (Olson, 1994; 1996).
"Native" or "indigenous" peoples living within many
countries constitute an "outside world" for the nation-state
system. Some observers call this group of peoples as "the fourth
world" (Kegley and Wittkopf, 1997). They oppose the status quo and
its institutions. In this regard they also oppose the globalization process,
which threaten their traditional way of life. The most well known example
of indigenous people movements is the Zapata movement, which has been
struggling against Mexican government for years.
Epistemic communities are specific communities "of experts sharing
a belief in a common set of cause-and-effect relationships as well as
common values to which policies governing these relationships will be
applied" (P. Haas, 1994: 138). They are comprised of a group of experts
and scientists who contributed to the development of convergent state
policies in compliance with the regime.
Epistemic communities provide technical knowledge to increase international
cooperation. Even though states may use epistemic communities according
to their interests, epistemic communities influence states as well as
each other. They play a key role in the transformation of information
independently. According to Ernst Haas (1990), epistemic communities bring
learning in international politics because they produce new theories and
develop new understandings and paradigms, which are able to solve the
real international problems. This process leads changes in state preferences
because new understandings may change interests and therefore policies
Peter Haas uses the case of the Mediterranean Action Plan (Med Plan),
a regime for marine pollution control in the Mediterranean Sea initiated
by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)'s Regional Seas Program,
to show implications of epistemic communities. In the Mediterranean Sea
environmental regime, an epistemic community, comprised of UNEP officials,
some secretariat members from other specialized agencies, regional marine
scientists, and like-minded governmental officials of regional states,
played a considerable role in changing the policies of states, especially
that of Algeria. UNEP officials forged transnational alliances with regional
marine scientists who persuaded their governments to support the UNEP
measures to control as many sources and sorts of pollution as possible,
to take stronger measures, and to abide by Med Plan policies. While there
had been only few measures for pollution control at the beginning of the
1970s, regional states introduced many measures to comply with the Med
Plan policies after the success of the epistemic community who set the
agenda of the regime and directed nation-states (P. Haas, 1994: 131-133).
Algeria, the state that experienced the most dramatic transformation of
pollution policies, was considering the primacy of industrial development
over environmental protection and asserting that those measures might
impede economic development. Therefore, Algeria opposed any pollution
control measures in the early 1970s. Furthermore, Algerian government
was suspicious of the motives of France, its former colonizer, fearing
that it could exploit those measures against the Algerian state. Following
the inclusion of marine scientists in the administration, state preferences
began to change. They also acted as an international and domestic interest
group and put pressure on decision-making process. As a result, Algeria
not only ratified the Barcelona Convention on the marine pollution in
1983 to control pollutants but also developed economic plans that prevent
environmental degradation (P. Haas, 1994: 133-135).
Religious and Humanitarian Organizations
Human rights are traditionally understood to regulate certain relations
between individuals and nation-states of which they are nationals. This
understanding has changed significantly after the Second World War (Donnelly,
1995: 191). Even though the state-centric and sovereignty-based conception
of the world system remains the norm for international human rights, nation-states
are now obliged to obey transnational and international formal and informal
legal and political constraints on their human rights practices. Nation-states
have to take into consideration international and transnational public
opinion since there are dozens of transnational organizations that monitor
human rights practices of nation-states and examples of coercive foreign
The most notable example of international human rights regime is constituted
by the Council of Europe. The European Commission of Human Rights receives,
reviews, and evaluates complaints from individuals living in the member
states, and the European Court of Human Rights makes legally binding decisions
(Donnelly, 1994: 211). Member states turned over their sovereignty to
the organization on these issues. Practices of the organization have a
significant impact on national decision-making. These non-state actors
mainly concern about morality, human rights, environment and social values.
International Red Cross, International Red Crescent, and Amnesty International
(AI) are the most well-known and influential NGOs among humanitarian international
organizations that monitor human rights worldwide. The first two gives
assistance to wartime prisoners and send help in areas affected by natural
and man-made disasters in peacetime. They mainly work along with the UN
and related organizations lines.
Amnesty International monitors human rights violations worldwide. It mobilizes
international community against oppression, torture, and individual and
group rights. It initiates worldwide campaigns against states because
of human rights violations. Some IGOs such as European Parliament (EP)
use AI's reports to develop policies, like EP's policies toward Turkey,
for instance, regarding human rights issues. Therefore, AI gets results
from its activities. Likewise, human rights abuses practiced in South
Africa (apartheid) for decades ended largely as a result of international
struggle led by the UN organs (Donnelly, 1994). In cooperation with many
other transnational factors, NGOs that function in the field of human
rights have "produced an impressive array of new machinery for protecting
human rights" (Miller, 1994: 189).
Green Peace emerged as one of the major actor of global environmental
policies. It is known for its protests against environmental problems
caused by some states, i.e., France among others. It prevented many initiatives
of many states regarding environment. It makes public illegal or harmful
environmental policies of states. As a result of its campaign against
France due to nuclear tests, for instance, France was condemned by international
community. It also sponsored some environmental programs in poor countries.
Economic and political historians mention that there were significant
religious movements that had great impact on the international system
(Brown, 1995: 158-160). The most famous religious organization has been
the Roman Catholic Church. It was a major force in the Middle Ages superior
to kings and emperors. Although it lost its supremacy in later centuries,
its importance as a transnational actor continued (Haynes, 2001). "The
institutional structure of the Catholic church, that most enduring of
transnational actors, reflect both competitive incentives emanating from
national states, and norms and expectations that are derived from the
church itself" (Krasner, 1995: 262) It has been struggling for liberal
democracy in many countries in the last century and supported democratic
opposition movements initiated by Catholic Christians such as in Poland,
Latin American countries, Northern Ireland, Indonesia and Sudan. Many
statements and visits made by the head of the Church in Vatican, the Pope,
strongly influenced the international politics. The fact that more journalists
follow the Pope than most political figures in the world and Vatican has
more ambassadorial missions than most nation-states demonstrates the Pope's
political influence in international politics.
Terrorist Groups and Drug Traffickers (Narco-Terrorists)
Although national liberation movements and ethnic groups sometime use
terrorism, terrorist organizations are different from NLMs since terrorism
is their main means of struggle. Terrorist groups use terrorism as the
main instrument and largely lack large-scale support from the public.
Individuals and groups engage in terrorism for different political, economic,
social, religious, cultural, and even personal reasons (Mickolus, 1995:
98). Their goals are to publicize their grievances and aspirations to
international community by hijacking, assassination, kidnapping and attacking
on embassies. International terrorism is "the most conspicuous and
threatening form" of low-intensity violence (Kegley and Wittkoph,
1995: 7). As long as the state system and the world system leaves some
groups or states out of the system, terrorism will continue to be an instrument
of those who are weak. However, strong states also use "state terrorism"
against the powerless groups or states.
Terrorism has moved from the national to transnational level and from
plane hijacking to a wider range of terrorist techniques since the 1960s.
The transnational dimension of terrorism is established when there is
collusion and cooperation between different terrorist groups and when
some countries serve as sanctuaries and training-centers for terrorists
of various nationalities. While some states orient their policies by supporting
terrorist groups, some other states change their foreign policies by taking
counter-terrorist measures. One way or another, all states are influenced
by terrorist activities; therefore, no country tends to ignore terrorism.
Today, terrorism is globalized like other non-state actors, as was witnessed
during the attacks directed toward the heart of the American state and
the US-led international system on September 11. That particular terrorist
attack has caused more damages than most of the attacks carried out by
nation-states and shocked the whole world as well as the US more than
the Pearl Harbor attack, which made by Japanese and ended up the US to
take place in the Second World War. September 11 incident showed the world
the horror of terrorism, the vulnerability of all nations-states including
the strongest one, and its paramount effect on international politics
and the world order. Terrorism demonstrated that the powerlessness and
vulnerability of the only hegemon of the world, the US, against terrorism
Some political organizations hijack planes to increase their leverage
vis-à-vis states. They use civilians as a shield and force nation-states
to negotiate with them. And in this way, they become actors of many international
conflicts. Especially some Palestinian groups such as the Popular Front
for the Liberation of Palestine have engaged in plane hijackings in the
1970s. After the dramatic events of September 11, plane hijackings have
been a cause of much more concern to governments, airlines and to the
Even though drug traffickers are engaged in profitable "transnational
business," they are similar to terrorist organizations because they
use illegal means, including assassinations and kidnappings, and deal
with products banned by international community. Therefore, they are known
as narco-terrorists. One of the most well known drug trafficker organizations
was the Medellin of Colombia. This largest cocaine organization caused
many social and political problems in the Latin American world.
Non-state actors, in an interconnected globalized world, pose a significant
threat to nation-states, since they are not territorial actors. They are
"enemies without an address" (Bishara, 2001). Terrorism introduced
a new concept into the world system. Now, there is "asymmetric wars"
in which there are no rules and whose sides are nation-states and non-state
actors such as international terrorists, mafia, and narco-terrorists (Bishara,
2001: 75). These actors use unconventional ways in waging wars against
NON-STATE ACTORS AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS THEORY
Non-state actors play a major role in foreign policy making of nation-states
and significantly influence their foreign policy behavior. They lobby
in domestic as well as international settings and mobilize their home
or host states and national and global public opinion. Non-state actors
are active in more than one state; therefore, they can exploit states
against each other. By hiring former bureaucrats and political leaders,
non-state actors use personal connections of their employees. Nowadays,
non-state actors began to substitute nation-states in many areas (Miyoshi,
As a product of intensified globalization process, NGOs which operate
on international and transnational levels have become more notable determinants
of foreign policies of nation-states. Like their counterparts that operate
at domestic level and lobby in their respective countries, they lobby
at international level. Therefore, no nation-state can ignore their existence
and effectiveness. Due to their increasing significance, non-state actors
forced students of the international relations (IR) to revise their theoretical
perspectives and to develop more explanatory theories. Consequently, "the
field of international relations and international organization may be
even need to be redefined so as to accommodate dimensions previously largely
ignored" (Bennett, 1991: 250).
The neorealist assumption of "states as primary international actors"
does not become seriously misleading or inadequate due to non-state actors.
According to realists, IGOs are simply instruments of states. They cannot
change the belief and behavior of states and the role of international
institutions are marginal (Waltz, 1979: 96). However, some arguments of
realists are proved to be inadequate and inefficient. Their main consideration
that states as unitary actors has been strongly questioned by several
perspectives such as bureaucratic politics, domestic politics, liberal,
transnational, and regime models. Today, nation-states are no longer able
to solve their problems only by themselves. They cannot deal with problems
such as acid rain, nuclear contamination of the atmosphere, climatological
changes, shortage of food, poverty, overpopulation, and insufficient natural
resources (Kegley and Wittkoph, 1995: 332; Miller, 1994: 215-225).
Neoliberals accept the state-dominated view of realists; nevertheless,
they suggest that international institutions are also part of the world
system and effective in international politics. In this regard, Lapid
argues that "the gap between the 'nation-state' ideal and political
reality seems to be actually growing rather than narrowing," since
"recent technological, economic, and social developments have posed
enormous challenges to the capacity of territorial states to fulfill their
traditional functions of security, welfare, and identity" (Lapid,
1994: 23, 24). When state boundaries do not overlap with national boundaries
which do not in most cases, "the ascendance of nationalism as a 'generative
order' will set into motion a disruptive dual-track process that predisposes
to embark in energetic efforts to 'normalize'
their existence" (Lapid, 1994: 22).
It is impossible to separate public from private, domestic from foreign,
and political from economic and social matters; therefore, previously
narrow concepts of the political process became problematic. As mentioned
by Bennett (1991: 253), "if the political process is defined in terms
of the authoritative allocation of values, then private actions in economic
and social realms, which affect the values available to other actors,
are political actions. If these actions have an impact across state boundaries,
they are transnational." A broad definition of the political process
points to the inadequacy of the state centric understanding of the world
politics. That is why, the state-centric model tends to view activities
of transnational actors as outside of the political process.
There is a strong relationship between the distribution of power and the
role of non-state actors. According to realism, rational actors concern
about their self-interests in an anarchic international system. Power
is the key variable in explaining behavior of states. Realists give less
chance for international cooperation and for effective international institutions.
However, Keohane (1984) uses realists' core concepts in order to explain
the high possibility of international cooperation. According to Keohane,
although actors are egoists, they cooperate for the long-term interests.
Since realists concentrate only on short-term interests, they ignore behavior
changes in the iterated Prisoner's Dilemma. As a result, we can say that
the influence of non-state actors is considerably significant in international
The role of non-state actors is accepted by most political scientists,
including neorealists (Krasner, 1982). They only differ on the level of
the relevance and effectiveness of non-state actors. Their significance
in international relations is increasing parallel to the increasing level
of interdependence in international setting. Increased transactions, awareness
and common concern on regional and global problems require collaboration
between nation-states, transnational organizations and communities. As
the Cold War ended up with the disappearance of the ideological contest,
cultural cleavages and hatreds such as tribalism, religious fanaticism,
and hypernational ethnicity have resurfaced (Kegley and Wittkoph, 1995:
122). Many non-state actors have involved in these conflicts and shaped
national, regional, and international policies.
In short, non-state actors have become essential instruments within the
international system. Today, it is difficult to analyze international
politics and behaviors of nation-states without attaching great importance
to them. As mentioned by Brown (1995), "the world polity is in the
process of self-transformation -out of the traditional nation-state system
and into a system more congruent with the contemporary global polyarchy"
(p. 268). Nation-states, including the most powerful one, the United States,
have to attach great significance to non-state actors in order to maintain
their interests. Therefore, any new theoretical and conceptual approaches
to international relations have to take non-state actors and new conditions
into account in order to be able to make sound analyses about world politics.
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