Do International Organizations Matter On The World Stage?

In the era of globalization, International Organizations (IOs) is crucial and influential to the world. By the network development and rapid information transmission, the importance and influence of IOs grow rapidly, so do their social power in world politics. Moreover, there is lack of discussion over IOs in International Relations (IRs), as the main actor of IRs is “state”. IOs were interpreted to facilitating cooperation to solve the problem for state, such as market failure, and strengthen the state power ultimately. This article “The Politics, Power, and Pathologies of International Organizations” by Martha Finnemore and Michael Barnett (1999) in the International Organization ( 53:4) raise the discussion of IOs by applying both the economistic and sociological theoretical approaches, see bureaucracy as generic cultural form shape IO behavior, which advance our understanding about IOs behavior, and why IOs exercise power autonomously in the ways that is unintended and unanticipated by state and how IOs influence world politics.

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Barnett and Finnemore (1999) suggested IOs are purposive actors instead of simply pursue state policies. Moreover, did IO really matters to the state? In the following, I will take United Nations (UN) as an example to further elaborate. UN is found in 1945 after WWII by 51 countries and 192 state members now. The fundamental aim of UN is maintaining world peace and security, promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights throughout the world. The founding Charter vested its power and the Charter enables UN to take action on a wide range of issues, such as worldpeace keeping, legitimately. While US is UN’s largest contributor, us contributes 22% of UN regular budget and 27% of the UN peacekeeping costs, which is more than US$2 billion in 2010.

In today’s complex and complicated world, state cannot defeat the global issues on its own, UN act as an important platform to sustain international cooperation, such as organizing UN Climate Change Conference to address environmental issues. UN also set the standard of global norms, such as affirmed the access to clean water and sanitation as essential human rights; and response to world disaster, such as Pakistan flooding and Haiti earthquake. Moreover, does the UN matter when it comes to its fundamental principal, maintaining world peace and security?

Does the United Nations matter when it comes to war and peace?

The US-Iraq war provides us some insight over the discussion. According to the UN Charter, there is only two legal basis for the use of force, either self- defense or authorized or directed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in order to maintain or restore international peace and security. A country should try settle the disputes peacefully by negotiation, mediation, arbitration, etc., say UN could apply complete or partial interruption of economic relations, severance of diplomatic relations and else. After all, UNSC is the key in maintaining international peace and security under the Charter.

With regards to Iraq, US claims that Preemptive measures towards Iraq are necessary due to Iraq possesses Mass Destructive Weapons. Based on the UNSC rule of “Great Power Unanimity” (Veto” power), the decision of use of force required the concurring votes of all five permanent members. Moreover, three out of five UNSC permanent members: France, China, and Russia opposed the war and the UN inclined to give more time for the weapons inspection process. Unfortunately, US ignored the decision of UNSC and started the war, which is not conformity with UN charter and from the charter point of view, it was illegal.

From the above, we found that UN is important in terms of soft power, such as legitimacy and norms, but little hard military power. Before Iraq war started, US eager to get the authorization or support from UNSC and hoping to make her action legitimate and accepted by the world. Moreover, UN declined and US started the war without UN support, which in turns margined the credibility and power of UNSC. The Council was criticized about its ability to maintain world peace and being questioned if UN is relevant to security challenges. In fact, this is a lose-lose situation that US was blamed to be illegitimate over the war towards Iraq and pay a high cost without legitimacy and multilateral support.

In 2004, US and British stated the critical role played by UN in post-conflict Iraq, specifically humanitarian issues and creating the Iraq Governing Council. Did the state see UN as a tool to achieve goals instead of an independent legitimate power?

To conclude, Barnett and Finnemore (1999) contribute to IRs by view IOs through constructivist lens and provide a basis for reating IOs as purposive acrirs; explain IOs behavior after set up, its autonomy and power; explain the propensity for dysfunctional behavior and reason of undesirable behavior occued based on bureacuracy. Empirically, states are core of IOs, in terms of financially, feasibility and support. Moreover, Barnett and Finnemore (1999)’s article focus on Intergovernmental Organizations only, thus not applicable to all International Organizations, such as Non-Government International Organizations and their relationship with NGOs or civil society. The article also put a lot of emphasize on IOs bureacuracy pathological behavior in order to explictly IOs autonomy. We understand that bureacuracy have both its pros and cons, ultimately their behavior will change in order to fulfill their responsibility more effectively through administrative reform.