Summary of International Relations Articles


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Name of Student

Name of Professor

International Relations Paper

26 November 2014.

Summary of International Relations Articles

Abbott, Kenneth and Snidal, Duncan. “Why states act through formal international organizations.” The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 42.1 (1998): 3-32.

-This paper seeks to determine why states, including the most powerful ones rely on international organizations (IOs) to manage their relations with other states.

-The authors of this article argue that no theoretical framework provides a clear answer to this question.

-The paper examines the various issues that necessitate the use of IOs in efforts to enhance international cooperation.


-From the perspective of international theory, states rely on IOs because of two reasons: independence and centralization.

-Independence is an important attribute because it guarantees neutrality in efforts to resolve conflicts among states.

-Centralization is equally important because it provides an administrative framework through which relations among states are forged.

-The paper also proposes a theoretical approach that can explain how independence and centralization provide motivation for the continued use of international organizations by states.

-In this theoretical approach, the emphasis is on areas where states want to promote cooperation and to resolve non-violent conflicts.

-From the discussion made in this paper, two things are clear. Firstly, IOs facilitate the enforceability of rules of commitments. Secondly, they enable states to develop, express, and carry out the norms and aspirations of a community.

-To understand the role of international organizations, the authors begin with the assumption that states are the primary actors in international relations.

-Another assumption is that states use international organizations to create an institutional framework that can facilitate the achievement of shared goals.

-Some of the goals that are shared among states include dispute resolution, production of collective goods, collaborating in times of transnational problems such as economic crises, and solving problems of coordination.

-Some of the theories discussed in this paper include regime theory, decentralized cooperation theory, and realist theory.

-Regarding centralization and independence, the authors explain that a core objective is to enhance efficiency.

-The importance of IOs is illustrated using the example of business, whereby activities relating to contractual relations among managers, workers, and suppliers, are best coordinated within a centralized organizational framework.

-In this paper, centralization is viewed in terms of two dimensions: the need to offer support for interactions among states and operational activities.

-A discussion on the need to offer support for interactions among states is anchored on the regime theory. While aspects of operational activities are anchored on the traditional conception of IO studies.

-Examples on how IOs offer support for interaction among states are derived from mainstream international organizations such as the UN, UNCTAD, OECD, WTO, IMO, EU, and UNESCO.

-Some of the issues relating to interactions among states and the role of IOs include the extensive nature of support functions provided, elements of decentralized cooperation, the importance of administrative support, and the need for organizational structure.

-The paper also explores how international organizations operate to explain how substantive operations ought to be managed. For example, the World Bank uses its centralized organizational framework to undertake collective activities relating to international monetary policy.

-Other substantive roles include coordination and elaboration of norms, pooling, and joint operations.

-An example of a task involving coordination and elaboration of norms is carrying out of legislative programs that define how states should behave. In this regard, things such as food standards, free trade agreements, regulations governing telecommunication, and internet protocol standards are addressed.

-In the realm of independence, the emphasis is on how states use IOs to interact directly with one another.

-There is also an emphasis on how substantive operations are managed. For example, the IMF plays a critical role in the fight against money laundering.

-Another example within the aspect of substantive operations is neutrality; IOs provide a neutral ground on which states can relate to each other.

-This paper also addresses the issue of IOs from a pragmatic perspective, where the focus is on their role as community representatives (for example the Security Council) and as managers of enforcement (for example the ILO).

-On the same pragmatic note, the authors are alive to the fact that there are limits to the use of IOs indirect intervention. For example, the US acted unilaterally when it invaded Iraq in March 2003; it did not seek the UN Security Council approval.

-The conclusion of this paper is that states rely on formal international organizations because of the need to operate through an independent and centralized framework. Despite several limitations, formal IOs offer great potential as facilitators of international relations.

Volgy, Thomas., Fausett, Elizabeth., Grant, Keith and Rogers, Stuart. Ergo FIGO: Identifying formal intergovernmental organizations. Tucson: Working Papers Series in International Relations, University of Arizona, 2006. Print.

-This paper seeks to determine how a new world order has emerged in the post-Cold War era through the institutional dimension of formal intergovernmental organizations.

-It also seeks to explore how the theory explains these formal intergovernmental organizations in terms of the strength being exhibited by leading global powers within the international system.

-This inquiry is based on the assumption that FIGOs (formal intergovernmental organizations) need to be autonomous and bureaucratically stable to succeed in offering stability in the new world order.

-The authors argue that formal organizations perform two main functions: creating autonomy and establishing an operationally stable organizational structure.

-The paper also seeks to classify IGOs (intergovernmental organizations) as FIGOs based on three factors:

-The first factor is the IGO’s ability to provide oversight in governance as well as institutionalized decision-making by member states.

-The second factor is the IGO’s ability to provide a stable environment for management through organizational bureaucratization.

-The third factor is the IGO’s demonstration of autonomy in the way organizational operations are carried out and how member states execute a collective will.

-In terms of thresholds, an IGO is required to have at least three member states.

-Another requirement is that an IGO should be governed by member states without being vetoed by countries that are not state members.

-Additionally, the individuals who represent various member states should be acting on behalf of those member states; there must be an expectation for those representatives to act in a way that furthers the interests of their policymakers.

-There is also a fundamental requirement for IGOs to promote decision-making processes that are collectivized and properly routinized.

-IGOs are said to differ from emanations in the sense that the latter are organizations that have been established by other IGOs.


-The argument, in this case, is that emanations should not be viewed as IGOs.

-The paper also categorizes operational criteria into three groups: autonomy, bureaucratic organization, and autonomy.

-Operational criteria relating to identifiable funding mechanism, non-symbolic funding, and independent staffing.

-In the bureaucratic organization, the criteria include regularized contact, a charter, and permanent headquarters

-In collective decision-making, the criteria include the “3-or-more-members” requirement, member states as principal decision-makers, and individual members who act on behalf of their respective state mechanisms.

-The authors conclude that the operational criteria are not conclusive.

-This is because FIGOs differ at the micro-level in terms of the way they address issues, how they establish institutional designs, and the impact they have on international politics as well as member states.

Zweifel, Thomas. “The United Nations.” In Thomas Zweifel. International Organizations and Democracy: Accountability, Politics, and Power. Pp. 59-85. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2006. Print.

-This chapter begins with a highlight of the role of the United Nations in the $10 billion Iraqi oil-for-food plan that started in 1996.

-In this program, the UN was accused of colluding with Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi president at the time, to engage in corruption.

-This Iraq case sets the stage for the author to pose important questions, all of which are critical of the UN, an international organization whose core mandate is promoting international peace and stability.

-The authors sets out to find out whether the corruption issue in the Iraq project was an isolated case or whether UN is indeed a corrupt organization.

-The question of UN’s legitimacy as the custodian of good relations among states is also raised.

-The Iraqi issue also triggers a more fundamental question: is the UN an independent and accountable organization?

-A brief history of the UN as presented in this chapter shows that the UN has made numerous efforts to emerge as an IGO that any state can freely join.

-In this IGO, the core objective was to enable member states to resolve disputes using non-violent means.

-The mission of peace is clearly depicted in the language of the UN Charter.

-For example, all the principal organs of the UN were assigned duties that perpetuated peaceful coexistence in one way or the other.

-Corruption cases such as the one involving Iraq trigger important questions that can best be addressed by looking at the provisions of the UN Charter.

-According to this chapter, there is ambiguity regarding the system of accountability as defined in the UN Charter.

-It is unclear whether the UN is accountable to the governments of member states, the citizens of those states, the group of 130 developing states, to the Security council, or to the remaining superpower (the United States).

-To answer this accountability question, the chapter examines the UN based on seven dimensions.

-The first dimension is the appointment. In this dimension, the UN Secretary-General is viewed as the most visible individual within the UN system. The General Assembly is responsible for appointing the Secretary-General following a recommendation by the Security Council.

-The second dimension is participation. The Secretary-General can create opportunities for the participation of non-state actors in the UN system. For example, Kofi Annan aggressively courted non-state actors and lobbyists to participate in efforts to address problems in areas that were hard for the UN to reach such as Iraq and North Korea.

-In the third dimension, which is transparency, the UN performs fairly poorly. This is because most of the decisions are made through quiet consultations despite the existence of a platform for the General Assembly to discuss all issues in an open forum.

-The fourth dimension is the reason-giving. The author observes that there is no explicit requirement for UN organs to give reasons for their actions.

-The fifth dimension is overruled. Opportunities for overruling in the UN system are limited. Dissenting member states can only seek an amendment to the UN Charter, which is in itself an arduous process.

-The sixth dimension is monitoring. Some of the monitoring tools in the UN include annual reports, the budgetary process, and NGOs.

-NGOs have done exemplarily well in monitoring the work of the UN on the human rights front.

-The seventh dimension is independence. The UN does not operate as an independent entity; it is vulnerable to the influence of the world’s most powerful states, notably the United States, which even hosts the organization’s headquarters.

-The paper concludes that signs indicate a high level of willingness on the part of the UN to promote transnational democracy. However, challenges such as lack of independence, overrule, and transparency continues to hold it back.

Glennon, Michael. “Why the Security Council failed.” Foreign Affairs, 82.3 (2003): 16-34.

-This paper examines the issue of failure on the part of the UN Security Council to use the rule of law in contexts where countries were using force to resolve disputes.

-Examples of such situations is the Persian Gulf War, which was characterized by a dramatic shift in the manifestation of world power.

-The author argues that the failure of the Security Council had occurred even before the onset of the second Persian Gulf War.

-The Iraq crisis also served to confirm the failure of the UN Security Council as an institution tasked with the responsibility of maintaining peace and stability.

-Two factors contributed to the failure of the UN Security Council.

-The first factor was the emergence of American hegemony and the second one was variations in attitudes towards the decision by various countries to resort to the use of force to resolve disputes.

-The article recommends the establishment of a new institutional framework that can act as a replacement to the UN Security Council.

-Another argument is that since the forces that led to the failure of the UN Security Council will still be there, UN member states must put in place mechanisms that will facilitate the long-term survival of the new institutional framework.

Woods, Ngaire. “Whose Institutions.” In Ngaire Woods. The Globalizers: The IMF, the World Bank, and Their Borrowers. Pp. 15-38. Ithaca: Cornel University Press, 2006. Print.

-The aim of this chapter is to determine how the US influenced the formation of the IMF and World Bank as well as their evolution.

-The author agrees that the US has influenced the IMF and World Bank.

-However, he argues that the nature of influence that the US exerts on these institutions has not been properly understood.

-The gist of the author’s argument is that there are competing views regarding US interests even within different parts of the US government.

-Other than the US, there are other factors that influence the actions of the IMF and World Bank, albeit in a less significant way.

-The evidence provided in the chapter shows that the US had tremendous influence in the formation of the IMF.

-As a capital exporter in 1944, the country was keen to introduce conditions on any country that wanted to use IMF’s services.

-At Bretton Woods, the US prevailed on a number of issues regarding the formation of the IMF because it was in a hegemonic position.

-For example, unlike Britain, which was a debtor, the US was a creditor; this means that it was in a unique situation where it could exert political influence on the institutional design of the IMF.

-At a time when most western powers had been ravaged by war, the US found itself in a strategic position where it could use its political clout to influence the way the IMF operated.

-The United States hegemony manifested itself in the economic, political, and military power, at the end of World War II, which surpassed those of any other country in the world.

-Competing interests within the US first emerged when the issue of whether to locate the IMF in Washington DC or New York arose.

-Locating the IMF in Washington, DC would strengthen the Federal Reserve Board against the Federal Reserve Bank. Conversely, locating it in New York would give the Federal Reserve Bank an edge against the Federal Reserve Board.

-The author’s view is that contrary to conventional opinion, US policymakers did not perceive their position to be hegemonic and all-powerful.

-On the contrary, the policymakers felt that they need to seek consensus and concede certain grounds.

-According to this chapter, the ground that the US conceded during the setting up of the IMF and World Bank amounted to a “political miracle” because no one would have expected it to happen.

-When the British and American officials were discussing economic and political issues at Bretton Woods, they could easily have established an institution that exclusively served the interests of certain key states but they did not.

-Very few people, if any, expected that the framework for the international agreement on IMF and World Bank would be based on existing precedents rather than prevailing interests of the US and a few key states such as the United Kingdom.

-In other words, the settlement that arose out of Bretton Woods was not just about a compromise between the all-powerful United States and a lesser powerful United Kingdom; it was also about many new ideas about how best to promote international economic governance.

-In its original design, the World Bank and the IMF were meant to be immune from manipulation from even the US.

-However, the requirement for regular congressional approval in all payments that the US made to these agencies made them highly dependent on the country’s political machinations.

-Over time, American direct influence over the Bretton Woods institutions increased through the concept of weighted voting.

-During their formative years, the IMF and World Bank made decisions based on a system of the so-called “basic votes”.

-The objective of using basic votes was to protect the institutions from the direct influence of the US.

-Over time, the concept of direct votes was increasingly replaced by that of weighted voting.

-The US also exerted its influence over the World Bank and the IMF through the IDA (International Development Association)

-Moreover, as IMF continued expanding, the US obtained new opportunities for exerting its influence over the institution’s decisions.

-The US also used the World Bank to build a competitive edge over its rivals during the Cold War.

-For example, the World Bank offered loans to Yugoslavia after the country’s decision to break away from the Soviet Union.

-Moreover, towards the end of the Cold War, IMF’s policies became increasingly interwoven with the United States’ security imperatives.

-A dominant perception was that the IMF was using loans to reward states that were friendly to the US and to punish those that rebelled against the superpower.

-This paper ends with the conclusion that although the policies of the IMF and World Bank were manipulated to suit the US preferences, it is not immediately clear what these preferences are.

-This is because US votes in the UN General Assembly do not necessarily reflect the policies being pursued by the US Treasury.

-Even the idea of geopolitics does not fully explain US preferences in terms of its influence on World Bank and the IMF.

-For example, the US continued to give aid to India despite the fact that the geostrategic relationship between the two countries remained tumultuous.

-For this reason, the author concludes that although the US significantly influences the policies of the World Bank and the IMF, it is also confronted by competing for foreign policy imperatives that make it impossible for the superpower to control everything that these institutions do.

De Nevers, R. “NATO’s International Security Role in the Terrorist Era.” International Security, 31.4 (2007): 34-66.

-The aim of the paper is to explore the role of NATO in the international fight against terror.

-It examines how the US has worked with NATO in its global campaign against terror.

-The author of this paper argues that NATO has played a crucial supporting role in the ongoing efforts by the US to combat terrorism.

-However, the author argues that the role of NATO in the war on terror is not as wide-reaching as many people think. On the contrary, this organization is somewhat limited.

-According to the author, the role of NATO is being overshadowed by the unilateral decisions that the US continues to make in its efforts to outmaneuver terrorists.

-The paper stresses the important frontline role that NATO played in Afghanistan when the US invaded the country in search of Al Qaeda operatives.

-In this role, NATO does not operate simply as a military organization; it operates as a political-military organization.

-This paper emphasizes that the political function is a core element of NATO’s operations in the fight against terror.

-According to this paper, there are several similarities and differences between NATO and US strategies for combating terrorism

-One similarity is that both NATO and the US have developed military guidelines aimed at enhancing response to terrorism.

-Moreover, both NATO and the US rely on political guidance to determine which decisions to take as part of the fight against international terrorist networks.

-Additionally, both entities adopt similar approaches in efforts to deter and disrupt terrorist groups’ efforts to target innocent people.

-NATO and the US are also using similar strategies and policies to protect and defend citizens from terrorism-related conspiracies between terror groups such Al Qaeda and countries they have been designated as state sponsors of terrorism.

-Analysis presented in the paper shows that NATO uses a more defensive and reactive approach than the US.

-NATO placed emphasis on the reduction of vulnerabilities and enhancement of capabilities to hasten responses to potential terrorist attacks.

-In contrast, the US prioritizes policies that prevent terrorists from striking US interests abroad or the homeland.

-In writing, NATO’s guidelines do not exclude the possibility that the organization may take a lead role in efforts to combat terrorism.

-In practice, NATO has so far been playing a supporting role, in most cases following the lead of the US in carrying out military campaigns against states that promote terrorism.

-According to this article, NATO’s comfort zone is one in which it plays a support role. This is the one area where the organization has accumulated a lot of experience.

-The paper also identifies areas of overlap in the strategies that both NATO and the United States use to combat terrorism.

-One example of this overlap is that both NATO and the US recognize the importance of multilateral actions in the global war on terror.

-Similarly, both entities endeavor to ensure that terror attacks are prevented before they occur.

-Both entities acknowledge the importance of taking offensive action against terror networks and the states that offer them support as a way of preventing attacks.

-Despite these areas of consensus, the US frowns upon NATO’s deep level of institutionalization, which potentially hinders US from undertaking unilateral decisions whenever the country feels that preemptive action against terrorist hideouts is required.

-One area where both NATO and the US have worked together entails efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction to rogue states and terrorists.

Kaldor, Mary. “The idea of a global civil society.” International Affairs, 79.3 (2003): 583-593.

-This article provides a highlight of Mary Kaldor’s thoughts on the global civil society and the changing role of the nation-state.

-The author thinks that states have become more interconnected, the idea of global governance has been systematized, and movements have emerged that engage in the transnational public debate.

-According to Kaldor, the state is not about to die off.

-Kaldor’s view is that states will continue to be the embodiment of sovereignty.

-According to Kaldor, the only changes that will occur is that sovereignty will be conditional.

-Sovereignty will be conditional in the sense that it will be dependent on both international respect and domestic consent.

-The author also explains “global civil society” which she says is a new concept.

-According to the author, only Kant had earlier on entertained the idea of a global civil society, in which case he used the term “universal civil society”.

-The paper also explains how the meaning of civil society has changed over time.

-These changes are highlighted through the ideas of philosophers such as Aristotle and Hegel.

-One of the ways in which these changes manifest themselves is through the narrowing down of the definition of global civil society, particularly during the twentieth century.

-It seems that since the 1970s, the idea of global civil society was revived.

-Unlike its precedents, this revival process was unique in the sense that it sought to sever the link with the nation-state.

-The term “civil society” was being used in the context of opposition to military dictatorships.

-Examples include Latin Americans’ use of the term in the fight against military dictatorships and East Europeans’ opposition to totalitarianism.

 -Since then, the debate on the idea of global civil society has been advanced through the perspectives of self-organization and autonomy.

These perspectives have led to the emergence of what Kaldor refers to as “islands of engagement on civic issues”.

-These islands of engagement are being facilitated through like-minded groups operating from different countries.


– The islands of engagement are also being facilitated through international human rights laws, which governments can freely use to exert force on various socio-economic, cultural, and political entities.

-The author points out that the meaning of global civil society underwent subtle changes during the 1990s.

-One of these changes took the form of new social movements that were not related to party politics. The movements addressed specific issues such as climate change and HIV/AIDS.

-New policy agenda also contributed to change during the 1990s, whereby global institutions teamed up with Western governments to advocate for parliamentary democracy and market reform

-The idea of the “postmodern version” also contributed to changes in the conceptualization of the global civil society. In this version, the role of ethnic and new religious movements in checking on the power of the state is being emphasized.

-The latest wave of change in the debate occurred after September 11. This is because the US-led global war on terror reinstated the role of the nation-state to act autonomously in efforts to address global problems arising from a globalized world.

-In this debate, terror is being viewed as a threat to global civil society because of the way in which it instills fear and insecurity.

Works Cited

Abbott, Kenneth, and Snidal, Duncan. “Why states act through formal international organizations.” The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 42.1 (1998): 3-32.

De Nevers, R. “NATO’s International Security Role in the Terrorist Era.” International Security, 31.4 (2007): 34-66.

Glennon, Michael. “Why the Security Council failed.” Foreign Affairs, 82.3 (2003): 16-34.

Kaldor, Mary. “The idea of a global civil society.” International Affairs, 79.3 (2003): 583-593.

Volgy, Thomas., Fausett, Elizabeth., Grant, Keith and Rogers, Stuart. Ergo FIGO: Identifying formal intergovernmental organizations. Tucson: Working Papers Series in International Relations, University of Arizona, 2006. Print.

Woods, Ngaire. “Whose Institutions.” In Ngaire Woods. The Globalizers: The IMF, the World Bank, and Their Borrowers. Pp. 15-38. Ithaca: Cornel University Press, 2006. Print.

Zweifel, Thomas. “The United Nations.” In Thomas Zweifel. International Organizations and Democracy: Accountability, Politics, and Power. Pp. 59-85. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2006. Print.

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