While recognized states comprise the United Nations (UN), other actors exercise major significance in global governance. These other entities are not bound to recognized states, hence the name non-state actors (NSAs), but they do bear a role in the United Nations in terms of its policy-making process and representation. According to a 2003 workfrom the University of Nijmegen, NSAs are seen to be “fully functioning” when they lobby, advocate, mentor, protest, and participate. Through these methods, they familiarize themselves with the field in which they work, whether it be environmentalism, development, or human rights. Once the NSAs gain expertise in their particular field, they obtain legitimacy, making them desirable to work with on the board of the UN. The UNstates that it openly welcomes NSAs into their realm as long as the organization operates within the competence of the Economic and Social Council of the UN.
Schools of thought exhibit different approaches to NSAs, although they interact with each other differently in reality. Realists concern themselves with particularly violent NSAs, as those present a threat to national security and the sovereignty of the state. On the other hand, the institutionalist school of thought tends to hold profit-driven actors in high regard.
Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organisations are good examples of a non-state actors that lead to unrest in the realist school of thought. These terrorist organizations violently spread revolutionary ideas around the areas of conflict in which they originated, the Middle East, and they transcended to the Western world. 2015’s The Weekstates that, Islamic fundamentalist terror groups tend to promote a radical terrorist theocracy with puritanical Sunni Islamic agendas. This interpretation cemented itself in the Mujahidin, later the Taliban, as they witnessed the Soviet invasion into Afghanistan of 1979 as a ‘holy war’; and, therefore, their movement went unsuppressed. According to Alabester of The Independent, the Arab Spring of 2011, a catalyzing event, led to groups such as ISIS to rise alongside the opponents of the Assad regime in Syria. The rise of ISIS continued on from Iraq, where they preserved their Cold War ideologies; their fervor and ideology matched the spirit of the Afghan-Soviet War, while their tactics varied greatly. ISIS emerged in Syria — establishing its prominence in both countries. It officially became a powerful non-state actor as it transcended borders between these states, hence the name “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria”. ISIS continues to remain influential as a NSA, its dominance within the region overshadows other Islamic fundamentalist groups. A conflict thus arose between fundamentalist groups of different Islamic sects due to the rise of Sunni-led ISIS, leading to clashes and mass murderthroughout the region (2015).
These acts threaten the Realist school of thought because ISIS, now viewed as a non-state actor, operates via violent protests, recruiting the young and at-risk,, and conquering swaths of land. ISIS believes that they represent people whose governments failed them, such as young people in Kosovo who recently joined ISIS. The fact that ISIS recruits citizens from the world’s youngest country, a nation where they do not hold much territory, establishes the groups notoriety as a major non-state actor in the region. In fact, at a certain point, they ruled over previously legitimately governed territory, and were considered as a fluid de facto state. While not recognized, this non-state actor was powerful enough to rule and control the lives of thousands. The Realist school of thought remains threatened by non-state actors, such as ISIS, in general, as they transcend the state. This offsets the balance of power within a state and renders it obsolete. This fact validates the Realist concern for mainly violent actors that have no ties to individual states. Through their violent actions, ISIS infiltrated the borders of Syria and Iraq. ISIS, therefore, presents the most substantial threat to the Realist school of thought, as it is extremely violent and its presence weakens the state. Even given that ISIS no longer possesses a state, its followers remain positioned throughout the world and continue to launch terrorist attacks in their name, thus continuing to threaten the power of states across the globe.
The fight against ISIS may persist as more of a struggle against a rogue rule in the Middle East, rather than against terrorism. Terrorism is the main way the organization struggles to obtain recognition for their plight especially through western media; a radical idea is often hard to battle, and even more so to defeat. Back and forth negotiations in the Middle East occurred on how to reign in their control, but reached little regional consensus. These negotiations took place within the UN, and included the global hegemonies such as the USA. However, a lack of representation exists within the negotiations sphere — especially internationally. There is no forum for members of ISIS to talk about the change they want to see in the world. Many politicians, such as Presidents George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Prime Minister Theresa May used the famous phrase, “We don't negotiate with terrorists” in order to safeguard national security. This seems logical for both the safety of diplomats and politicians, as well as the question of ethics that comes with negotiating with mass murderers. In theory, this interaction would legitimize these terrorists and make them more powerful. However, according to Sly, ISIS remains backed by Sunnis throughout the region because of Shia-dominant governments that overpower the people with inequality. In other words, a major reason as to why they exhibit so much power is because they provide a voice to those without one, however violently it may manifest itself.
If the international community continues not to negotiate with these groups, an increase in attacks will occur, as stated by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Alice Wellsin March of 2018. As Torosputs it in her 2015 paper, “Negotiations in terrorist conflicts are thus not only possible, they are potentially less destructive than most other responses to terrorism envisioned by academics and policy- makers today.” The only way to listen to a non-state actor as powerful as ISIS is to bring them to the international sphere so that security may be reconsolidated. This is due to the inclusion of ISIS members within Syria and Iraq, where the conflict is most severe, as well as abroad. Below is a map of where attacks conducted, and inspired, by ISIS occured:
While the rise of violent NSAs lead to the conflicts that plague the Realist school of thought, the Institutionalist school of thought plays a large role when it comes to writing international policy. Their roles are notably evident in the formation of environmental policy. Profit-driven multinational corporations (MNCs) prioritize industrial growth because of self interests; investment in a project only occurs in the hope that they will receive a return. As Winchester’s 2009article puts it, environmental policy presents a “threat to comparative advantage” for multinational corporations, therefore affecting their profitability. They inhibit policy making on a global scale in the UN through lobbying. According to Clark in the Guardian, the IPCC, which “evaluates climate change science,” is central to this aspect. Pearce’s 2014work gives an example of when they were undermined due to lobbyists backing climate change skeptics when he states that the Himalayan glaciers had not been properly checked and the results of the study turned out to not be true.This made skeptics take it as evidence that the science behind climate change remains riddled with errors. Skeptics challenged climate change policies set out by the UN and delegitimize them, which led to a slower legislations process.
An even worse example exists. The multinational corporation Shell extracts 16% of its total market from the Niger Delta region, as found in Helman’s 2009 Forbesarticle, effectively making them a superpower in that region as Nigeria is the largest exporting oil country in Africa. With this in mind, many oil spills occurred and, as a result, environmental degradation also occurred. And since Shell is such a large contributor to the Nigerian economy, the government is willing to allow the company to bypass laws, as stated by theWorld Policy Journal’s Allen: “While a number of oil-related environmental laws and regulations exist in Nigeria, none are fully implemented by major oil companies. The Environmental Impact Assessment Act of 1992 was designed to prevent oil spills and gas flaring. Sadly, oil companies can dismiss environmental impact statements with impunity” (2012). The UN attempted to take action regarding this issue. Through collaboration with multiple actors, such as Shell and members of the civil society within Nigeria, they wrote h resolutions to follow so as to prevent further environmental degradation. Below is flow chart of the results that are to be achieved.
However, these profit-driven stakeholders are not the only actors to blame for their self-interested motives. In the age of high consumerism and an ever exponentially growing population, more people require more resources. For example, Shahstates that genetically modified foods increase food production and can therefore relieve world hunger, but multinational corporations make the most profit out of the development of this technology (2002). Due to legislations at the global level, they remain limited in the amount of profit they can make, therefore inhibiting the spread of their technologies and influence. Profit driven actors such as MNCs have a high influence on policy-making through lobbying since they possess pressing motives to do so for economic reasons .
When thinking about the United Nations, nations often come to mind; they are the building block for international relations and law. However, often times non-state actors are overlooked since they do not exercise the same powers as states. Even if these actors may bear the same, or even more, influence as states in global governance. The argument that they represent people better than states is highlighted upon in the Cardoso report by the U.N., as they see NSAs as a reflection of civil society. As seen in the examples cited earlier, NSAs are hold enough power to prove a threat to international security, delay policy-making processes, and lobby their way out of issues. As evidenced, these NSAs can be malicious actors such as ISIS that hold no recognition at the international level, and warp grievances for those whose domestic governments have failed them. When it comes to RDS in Nigeria, they possess international recognition in terms of the corporation, but are not held accountable for their work outside their home state. Negotiating with them proves difficult because they do not follow the same rules as states since they are not actually states themselves. Despite this, it remains important to recognize the amount of power and influence they carry, as this engagement may provide change for better security and less pollution.