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The idea that international law and institutions represent cooperative means for resolving inter-state disputes is so common as to be almost taken for granted in International Relations scholarship. Global-governance scholars often use the terms international law and cooperation interchangeably and treat legalization as a subset of the broader category of inter-governmental cooperation. This paper highlights the methodological and substantive problems that follow from equating ‘global governance’ with ‘international cooperation’ and suggests an alternative. The traditional model applies liberal political theory to the study of international institutions and interprets global governance as the realization of shared interests. It deflects research away from questions about trade-offs and winners or losers. In place of cooperation theory, I outline an overtly political methodology that assumes that governance – global or otherwise – necessarily favors some interests over others. In scholarship, the difference is evident in research methods, normative interpretation, and policy recommendations, as research is reoriented toward understanding how international institutions redistribute inequalities of wealth and power.
The European Union is a vast collection of international institutions, laws, and political arrangements. At its heart, it is a regional inter-governmental organization that coordinates policies across its member states. This has grown, in scope and in territory, out of the European Coal and Steel Community of 1951 to encompass a customs union, a monetary union, a single labor market, and more. These new areas and competencies have been added through additional treaties negotiated among its states, and not all these treaties have been accepted by all members – as a result, the obligations of member states to the EU can vary widely. For instance, the Euro currency is used in nineteen countries while the Schengen borderless-travel area comprises twenty-two EU countries and four non-EU countries, and the customs union encompasses all EU members and several non-members. The fate of the United Kingdom in relation to the EU is being rewritten today, after its exit in 2020 left it in uncertain regulatory territory. This chapter examines the legal and political structures of the European Union and places the EU in the context of other regional international organizations.
On matters relating to international peace and security, the United Nations has decisive authority to impose itself on any country or dispute in the world. This power goes far beyond the power ever given to any other international organization and it introduces a radically new kind of hierarchy into inter-state relations. There are strict limits, both legal and political, on how this authority can be used, and these limits are in large part responsible for the patchwork of activism and seizure that characterizes the UN’s record on international security crises since 1945. The UN Security Council controls this authority, and decisions to intervene must pass through the peculiar membership and voting rules of the Council. The combination of these rules and the political interests of influential states produces the controversies, actions, and limits that define the UN’s behavior on international security.
It is a perpetual dilemma of market capitalism that firms face a never-ending incentive to reduce costs in order to increase profits. For workers, this is experienced as downward pressure on both wages and working conditions. A global market economy seems to amplify these pressures. The International Labor Organization was created during an earlier period of “globalization,” in the 1910s, to limit the damage this does to the condition of workers in the international economy. The organization produces labor regulations which member governments are encouraged to adopt as domestic laws. Its structure and authority are highly peculiar, a fact that reflects the highly political nature of its subject matter. It includes representatives of labor and employer groups from each member country alongside representatives of their governments. It also has no authority to impose rules on members, relying instead on the process of deliberation to generate rules that will be appealing to states’ self-interests.
The legal hierarchy between international organizations and their member states is diverse and ambiguous. It is conceptually interesting and politically productive. It produces forms of political activity in and around international institutions that shape the conditions of life for people around the world. International organizations are clearly the products of state decisions but, by committing to them, governments subordinate themselves to the rules and decisions of the organizations. It is worth investigating precisely what those rules are as well as how in practice governments react to them. International organizations have few coercive tools of enforcement but violating rules is rarely costless for states. The costs of noncompliance come in many currencies, both internal and external, both explicit and subtle. The practical power of an international organization depends on a complex mix of factors and may be either more or less than what is shown in its legal charter, and indeed it may be both more and less at the same time. To study the impact of international organizations in world politics today requires looking closely at individual cases and crises and the rules that make them up, rather than aiming for generalizations.
As international organizations become ever more prominent in global politics it is increasingly urgent to understand their power, their limits, and their effects. Now in its fourth edition, this leading textbook provides the definitive introduction to modern international organizations, from the legal charters of their beginnings, to the issues they engage with in the contemporary world. In his analysis of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the International Criminal Court and ten other prominent global institutions, Hurd combines legal, empirical, and theoretical approaches in an accessible and cohesive package. Fully revised and updated, this latest edition includes topical cases and controversies involving international organizations, such as Brexit, trade wars, environmentalism, forced migration and border disputes. It will be of interest to undergraduate and graduate students taking courses in international organizations, international institutions, global governance, and international law.
The Nuremberg Tribunals after World War II institutionalized the notion that an individual could face criminal prosecution under international law for acts committed while in government. This was revolutionary at the time and echoes of that principal are what animate the International Criminal Court. Before Nuremberg, criminal law was understood as a relationship between a person and their government – there was very little connection between individuals and international law. The change is remarkable: by the end of the twentieth century, the idea that it was possible for a person to violate “international criminal law” and be prosecuted by a judicial institution at the international level had not only become widespread but was the foundation of an entirely new body of rules known as international criminal law.
The UN estimates that about a billion people live outside their country of citizenship. That means that about one eighth of the world’s population has moved or emigrated from their “home” country. It is the largest number in history and it is on an upward trend. Some of these people have moved by choice, pursuing education, work, or other opportunities in new countries. But most of the world’s emigrants live abroad because they have been forced to by dire circumstances at home, and most will never be able to return. These are people who would have preferred to stay in their home country but some danger compelled them to leave searching for safety elsewhere. Wars, persecution by governments, and collapsing natural or social environments are the main causes of migration and they often combine in ways that make it hard to distinguish one pressure from the other. These forces are largely the result of the active choices of governments; they are not accidents.
The World Trade Organization enforces a set of rules that limit the choices of governments with respect to international trade. These rules define what policies a government can have with respect to a wide range of topics that might affect international trade. These include policies on import tariffs, subsidies and incentives, labeling, trade zones, the movement of goods, and all manner of taxes and regulations. For WTO member countries, any government policy that might have an impact on private firms that trade across its borders could conceivably come under the scrutiny of the organization. However, not all goods and services are covered, and not all trade-influencing policies are prohibited, and so interpreting the WTO’s rules has become an important industry both inside the organization and its Dispute Settlement Body and outside the organization in the universe of international trade lawyers, lobbyists, and activists.
The Charter of the United Nations, signed in 1945, created two things that the postwar planners thought would improve world politics from its prewar patterns: a set of basic rules of conduct for governments, and a formal institution with defined organs, powers, and obligations. The basic rules include commitments to refrain from the use of force to solve international disputes, to respect the decisions of the International Court of Justice, and to pay the required dues to the United Nations itself. The formal organization of the United Nations is composed of separate organs, including the Security Council, the General Assembly, and the Secretariat. Each has a specific area of competence and they vary in how much authority they exercise over member states.
The IMF and the World Bank, the two big international financial institutions created after World War II to stabilize the global economy have similar goals and mechanisms but work with different instruments and in different contexts. Both pool the resources of their members and use that capital to make loans to governments with specific needs. The IMF lends to countries experiencing critical balance-of-payments problems. It makes short-term loans of foreign currencies that the borrowing country must use to finance the stabilization of its own currency or monetary system. As a precondition to the loan, the Fund generally requires that the borrower change its policies in ways that enable future monetary stability. The World Bank makes longer-term loans to pay for specific projects related to development or poverty reduction. Most Bank loans are tied to a particular project undertaken by the borrowing government – an urban sewage system or a rural farm project, for instance.