Non-state actors are individuals or organizations that have powerful economic,
political or social power and are able to influence at a national and sometimes
international level but do not belong to or allied themselves to any particular
country or state.
Types of Non-state Actors and Their Roles
1: Sub-state Actors
Sub-state actors are groups of people or individuals with similar interests not
beyond the states that areable to effect the state’s foreign policy. They are also
known as domestic actors. They are politically assembled to influence policies
through interest groups, lobbying, donating to political candidates or parties,
swaying public opinion on certain issues, and other means.
Some examplesof sub-state actors arethetradeunion (British English) / labour
union (Canadian English) labour union (American English). Trade union is an
organization of workers who have banded together to achieve common goals
such as protecting the integrity of its trade, achieving higher pay, increasing the
number of employees an employer hires, and better working conditions. They
are able to influence the decisions made regarding their state’s laws in order to
protect the rights of employees.
2: Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs)
IGOs areorganizations whosemembers consistof threeor morenations-states.
IGOs arecreated and joined by states to solveshared problems which givethem
authority to make collective decisions to manage problems on the global
agenda. In these organizations, the states’ representatives gather to discuss
issues that are of mutual interests to the member states.
There are two main types of IGOs,theglobal IGOs and theregionalIGOs. Global
IGOs are organizations having universal or nearly universal membership which
means every state is a member like the United Nations (UN), World Trade
Organization (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and many more.
Regional IGOs are a subset of states as members based on a particular interest
or region,such asthe Associationof SoutheastAsianNations (ASEAN),European
Union (EU) and many others.
2. States need to correspond with each other and oversee other states to ensure
that they are honouring their commitments to acknowledge many of the
problems.Asan example, in thecaseof freetrade,the WorldTradeOrganization
(WTO) was formed to coordinate the negotiation of tariffs and to provide a
mechanism for resolving disputes. Some of these tasks might be more
complicated and expensive to execute without the IGOs.
Some examples of IGOs and their purposes:
i: United Nations
The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that aims to
maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among
nations, achieve international cooperation, and be a center for harmonizing the
actions of nations.It is the largest, most familiar, most internationally
represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world.
The UN is headquartered on international territory in New York City; other main
offices are in Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna and The Hague.
ii: World Trade Organization (WTO)
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an intergovernmental organization that
is concerned with the regulation of international trade between nations. The
WTO officially commenced on 1 January 1995 under the Marrakesh Agreement,
signed by 123 nations on 15 April 1994, replacing the General Agreement on
Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which commenced in 1948. It is the largest
international economic organization in the world.
iii: World Bank
The World Bank (French: Banque mondiale) is an international financial
institution that provides loans and grants to the governments of poorer
countries for the purpose of pursuing capital projects. It comprises two
institutions: the InternationalBank forReconstruction and Development (IBRD),
and the International Development Association (IDA). The World Bank is a
component of the World Bank Group.
iv: International Monetary Fund (IMF)
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an international organization
headquartered in Washington, D.C., consisting of 189 countries working to
foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate
international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic
3. growth, and reduce poverty around the world while periodically depending on
the World Bank for its resources.
Formed in 1944 at the Bretton Woods
Conference primarily by the ideas of Harry Dexter White and John Maynard
it came into formal existence in 1945 with 29 member countries and
the goal of reconstructing the international payment system. It now plays a
central role in the management of balance of payments difficulties and
international financial crises.
Countries contribute funds to a pool through a
quota systemfromwhich countriesexperiencing balance of paymentsproblems
can borrow money.
3: Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs)
NGOs are private international actors whose members are not states, but are
volunteersfrompopulations of 2 or morestates whohaveformed organizations
to promote their shared interests and ideals in order to influence the policies of
state governments and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs). NGOs tackle
many global problems and seek changes in the world for causes such as
disarmament, environmental protection, human rights and many more. Most
pursueobjectives that are highly respected and constructive, and therefore do
not provoke any controversy or arouse much opposition.
NGOs interact with states, sub-state actors, MNCs, and other NGOs. NGOs are
increasingly being recognized in the UN and other forums, as legitimate actors
along with states but is not equal to them. Some of the groups have a political
purpose,somea humanitarian one, somean economic or a technical one. There
are times where NGOs combine efforts through transnational advocacy
networks.Byjoining NGOs, many peoplefound thatthey could participatein the
global system and lobby to influence international organizations.
Some examples of NGOs:
One of the NGOs that fight for human rights is Amnesty International. Amnesty
International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for
internationally recognized human rights for all. They conduct research and
generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights and to
demand justice for those whose rights have been violated.
Some of the issues that has been campaign are armed conflict issues and
protection of civilians, basic welfare of children, LGBT rights, rights of people
4. with AIDS, women's rights, disability rights, human impact of pollution and
environmental degradation, freedom of the press and many more.
Although states remains as the most important actors in the global system, the
non-state actors in today’s world have an increasing influence and power in IR.
One of the largest MNCs has revenues that even surpasses someof the poorer
states shows their increasing influences. As the world continues to globalize, it
will be difficult for us to distinguish corporations, countries and other actors in
an era of collapsing states and re-emerging nations.