Introduction to the sub-discipline of international relations

De Baripedia

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We will explore the foundations of the sub-discipline of international relations, focusing on crucial concepts. We will discuss the fundamental elements that make up the international system of states and examine how the process of internationalisation and the dynamics of globalisation are changing this system. We will also look at inter-state architecture, highlighting its role and functioning in the current context. In addition, we will review the three main theories or paradigms of international relations, which provide us with interpretive tools for analysing the phenomena we observe on a global scale.

COP21 is a global movement in support of an international agreement, a particularly notable phenomenon because traditionally the role of citizens and civil society in international politics has been relatively under-discussed. They have often been sidelined from politics perceived as elitist. Nevertheless, climate and environmental issues are areas where we are seeing growing pressure from the grassroots of citizenship and global citizenship for more effective policies. At COP21 in Paris, it was not just states and world leaders who were present, but also many representatives of civil society and non-governmental organisations. A global framework was being negotiated, centred on the idea of a global public good that requires cooperation across borders. As Ban Ki Moon emphasised, environmental issues transcend national borders and do not carry passports, hence the need for this mobilisation.

It is crucial to note that this mobilisation involves not only governments, but also civil society and the business sector, including companies that are directly concerned by issues relating to the use of carbon-based energy. Surprisingly, even city mayors have played an active role and sought to support this process. We are therefore seeing a multi-level structure being put in place, encompassing a variety of players. Cooperation measures that go beyond simple international agreements are being developed on a global scale, with the active participation of NGOs and state bureaucracies. So it is clear that cooperation in today's world no longer depends solely on international treaties.

We will take an overview of this subject, focusing mainly on global governance. We will examine how the international system has been constructed, how far it has evolved and how we can interpret this change from a theoretical point of view.

The State system and international relations[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The Principles of the 1648 Treaties of Westphalia[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The question of the birth of nation states is complex and often debated among historians and political scientists. For much of human history, the dominant political organisation was that of empires or kingdoms, rather than nation states as we know them today. The political structure we now call a 'state' has its origins in modern Europe, in particular with the Westphalian system that emerged from the 1648 Treaties of Westphalia. These treaties put an end to the Thirty Years' War, a devastating conflict that involved a large number of European powers and was largely centred on religious issues. The Treaties of Westphalia introduced several principles that became fundamental to the concept of statehood. Firstly, they affirmed the principle of sovereignty, according to which each state has the exclusive right to exercise political power over its territory and population. Secondly, they established the principle of legal equality between states, regardless of their size or power.

However, the Westphalian system did not immediately lead to the emergence of modern nation states. For several centuries after Westphalia, many territories in Europe and elsewhere were still governed by empires or kingdoms that did not correspond to the political structure of the nation state. It was not until the 19th century that the concept of the nation-state began to take on predominant importance, with the emergence of nationalism as a major political force. Today, the nation state remains the dominant form of political organisation throughout the world, although globalisation and other transnational forces are increasingly challenging the pre-eminence of the nation state.

Banquet of the Amsterdam Civil Guard celebrating the Peace of Münster (1648), exhibited in the Rijksmuseum, by Bartholomeus van der Helst.

A state is distinguished by its territoriality, as a social entity inextricably linked to a defined territory. These territories are intrinsically exclusive, with each state exercising complete legal control over its own territory, without claiming jurisdiction over the territory of other states. In addition, a state has internal sovereignty, which means that it monopolises the use of force within its borders.

According to this definition, a state is characterised by territoriality. It is a social structure that is associated with a specific territory. These territories are mutually exclusive, meaning that a state has jurisdiction over its own territory, but not over that of other states. Sovereignty is another crucial characteristic of a state. It means that a state has ultimate and uncontested control over its territory and its population. It has the power to make laws, enforce those laws, and punish those who break them. In other words, the state has a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within its borders. It is generally the state that controls the armed forces, the police and the courts, and has the power to levy taxes. However, although states have sovereignty within their borders, they are also bound by the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, another fundamental norm of the international system derived from the Treaties of Westphalia. In practice, of course, the reality can be more complex. For example, some states may not have effective control over their entire territory, or their sovereignty may be compromised by foreign intervention, internal conflict or other factors. Nevertheless, the concept of a state as a sovereign territorial entity remains a basic principle of international politics.

Max Weber's definition of the state revolves around the legitimate monopolisation of the means of force, meaning that it is accepted by the population of the state in question. However, state power is not limited to the monopoly of force alone. It also encompasses exclusive legal authority, which includes making and enforcing laws and levying taxes - two other distinctive features of a state. Currency is also part of this definition. Historically, these concepts were already present in the treaties, where we find the Latin terms indicating that the king was the "imperator" in his kingdom, i.e. the one who held supreme power.

In addition to internal sovereignty, which manifests itself in the monopolisation of force and legal authority, another key aspect is external sovereignty. External sovereignty refers to relations between states, and includes the fundamental principle of state autonomy, mutual recognition and respect for non-interference. This norm, which is crucial within the international system, not only ensures the survival of States, but also guarantees their autonomy to conduct their national policies without external intervention. It thus protects each State against any foreign interference in its internal affairs.

External sovereignty, also known as international sovereignty, is a central aspect of the international system of states. It refers to a state's independence from the outside world and its freedom to conduct its own policies without foreign interference. The concept of external sovereignty is based on several important principles:

  1. Autonomy: Each state has the right to manage its internal affairs as it sees fit, without interference from other states. This includes the ability to make independent political, economic and social decisions.
  2. Mutual recognition: States must recognise the existence and legitimacy of other states. This implies respect for the borders and sovereignty of each state, and non-intervention in the internal affairs of another state.
  3. Non-interference: This is the principle that no state has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, in the internal affairs of another state. It is a fundamental principle of international law and is enshrined in the United Nations Charter.

These principles of external sovereignty help to maintain stability and balance in the international system, by preventing arbitrary intervention and interference in the affairs of other states. However, they are often put to the test by issues such as humanitarian interventions, international conflicts, and pressures from transnational forces such as globalisation and international organisations.

The principle of non-interference is fundamental to the Charter of the United Nations and the League of Nations, and continues to play a crucial role in international governance. However, this principle is being transformed by the growing emergence of increasingly binding international standards. These norms, which may come from international treaties, conventions or other forms of agreement, can impose limits on the way in which a state can exercise its internal and external sovereignty. For example, international agreements on human rights, the environment or trade may require states to take certain measures or refrain from certain actions, even if this might interfere with their internal autonomy or external policy. In addition, the concept of the 'responsibility to protect', which has gained prominence in recent years, suggests that the international community has a duty to intervene in certain situations, such as genocide or crimes against humanity, even if this involves a violation of state sovereignty. These developments highlight the tensions between state sovereignty and international imperatives, and raise difficult questions about the balance between state rights and global responsibilities. They also illustrate how international norms are evolving in response to changing global concerns and priorities.

These three principles - state autonomy, mutual recognition and non-interference - are the fundamental pillars on which the international order has been built. These principles were first codified in the Treaties of Westphalia in 1648, which marked the birth of the system of sovereign states we know today.

  1. State autonomy means that each state has the right to manage its own internal affairs without external interference, enabling it to take its own political, economic and social decisions.
  2. Mutual recognition between states implies respect for each state's borders and its right to sovereignty. This means that each state must be recognised and treated as an equal by the other states.
  3. Non-interference in the internal affairs of another state is a central principle of international law that protects the sovereignty and independence of each state.

Together, these principles have shaped the development of the international system of sovereign states, and continue to influence the way states interact with each other on the international stage. However, as mentioned earlier, these principles are constantly being challenged and adapted in response to new realities and global challenges.

The "globalisation" of the State system[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

How did states come into being? There was the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, but in Europe it took much longer until we really had states and abolished empires. From a global perspective, this process took much longer.

The formation of states as distinct political entities was a long and complex process that took place over several centuries. In Europe, the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 is often cited as a major starting point, as it codified the principles of state sovereignty and non-interference. However, the transition from empires and kingdoms to modern nation states, as we know them today, took much longer. In the European context, this process was facilitated by various factors, such as the emergence of the bourgeoisie, national revolutions, the rise of nationalism and the weakening of feudal structures. It was a gradual process, marked by wars, revolutions and diplomatic negotiations. Ultimately, the concept of the sovereign state became the main model of political organisation in Europe around the 19th century. On a global scale, the formation of states was an even longer and more complex process. In many parts of the world, the concept of the sovereign state was introduced by European colonialism. After decolonisation in the mid-20th century, many new states emerged, often with borders arbitrarily drawn by the former colonial powers. These new states had to navigate a number of challenges to establish their sovereignty and legitimacy, including ethnic and linguistic diversity, economic underdevelopment, and internal and external conflict.

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The United Nations system was founded in 1945 by 51 countries determined to preserve peace through international cooperation and collective security. The Charter of the United Nations, which is the founding document of the UN, was signed on 26 June 1945 in San Francisco at the end of the United Nations Conference on International Organisation, and came into force on 24 October 1945. These 51 original Member States accepted the obligations of the United Nations Charter and undertook to respect its principles. As such, they laid the foundations for today's organisation, which aims to maintain international peace and security, promote respect for human rights, foster social and economic development, protect the environment and provide humanitarian assistance in times of famine, natural disaster and armed conflict. Since its creation, the UN has grown and evolved to reflect the political and geographical changes in the world. In 2023, the UN will have 193 member states, reflecting the increase in the number of sovereign states since 1945 and the central role of the UN as a forum for international cooperation.

The idea of a state is constantly evolving and the number of states in the world continues to change. The creation of a state is not a fixed and defined process, but rather is shaped by a combination of historical, political, social and cultural factors. In 1945, when the UN was founded, there were 51 member states. However, the number of UN member states has grown considerably since then, to 193 today. In addition, there are entities that have some form of autonomous governance and consider themselves to be states, but are not recognised as such by the international community. These entities, such as Kosovo, Palestine and Taiwan, are often in a complex situation of partial or contested recognition. This reminds us that sovereignty and international recognition are complex political processes that depend not only on the internal structures of a territory, but also on how other states and international organisations perceive and interact with these territories. In short, the existence and recognition of states are constantly evolving and subject to ongoing negotiation. This underlines the complexity and fluidity of the international system, and the fact that statehood is a dynamic and constantly evolving process.

The increase in the number of sovereign states over time can largely be attributed to two major historical processes: decolonisation and the fall of authoritarian regimes and empires. Decolonisation, which mainly took place in the 1960s and 1970s, led to the creation of many new sovereign states in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. These new states were born of the struggle for independence by colonised peoples against the European colonial powers. Then, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia in the 1990s, many other states appeared on the international scene. These events marked the end of the Cold War and reshaped the political and geographical boundaries of Europe and Central Asia. However, this process is not over. There are still regions of the world where statehood is contested or uncertain. Moreover, the very concept of a sovereign state is constantly evolving, in response to political, economic, technological and cultural changes. Consequently, although the international system has evolved considerably since the Treaty of Westphalia, we still live in a world of states in flux, where sovereignty and autonomy are never definitively acquired, but are always the subject of negotiation and conflict.

Implications of the Westphalian State Model for International Relations[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

What does this division of the world into sovereign states represent or imply for international relations?

The division of the world into sovereign states has profound implications for international relations. Essentially, it creates an international system that is often described as anarchic. This is not to say that it is total chaos, but rather that there is no higher global authority that can impose rules or laws on states. Each state has its own internal authority and no state has official authority over another. This means that states are the main players on the international stage. They have the capacity to wage war, conclude treaties, recognise other states and enter into diplomatic relations. In practice, however, their freedom of action is often limited by factors such as economic and military power, alliances and obligations under international law. This also means that international cooperation is often difficult to achieve. In the absence of a global authority, states must voluntarily agree on common rules and standards. This is where international organisations such as the United Nations come in, providing a framework for negotiating and developing these common standards. Finally, this can also lead to conflicts of interest between states, as each state seeks to protect and promote its own interests. These conflicts can be managed through diplomacy, but they can also, in certain circumstances, lead to military conflict. In short, the division of the world into sovereign states creates a complex and dynamic international system, where both cooperation and conflict are possible, and where power and influence are constantly at stake.

In the early phases of the development of international law, the main emphasis was on the coexistence of states and the settlement of disputes through military force, rather than through international legal mechanisms. This included the "law of war" (jus ad bellum and jus in bello), which regulated when a state had the right to declare war and how it should behave during war. In this context, the main aim of international law was to prevent or limit conflict by establishing acceptable standards of behaviour for states. For example, laws governing declarations of war, neutrality and the treatment of prisoners were intended to provide a degree of predictability and stability in an otherwise anarchic international system.

However, the absence of a higher international authority meant that the application of these laws ultimately depended on the will of states and their ability to enforce these norms by force. In other words, the law of the strongest often prevailed. Over time, however, international law has evolved and expanded to encompass a much wider range of issues, including international trade, human rights, the environment, and the law of the sea, among others. In addition, international institutions have been created to facilitate the application of these laws and the resolution of disputes. These developments have contributed to the creation of a more complex and sophisticated international legal order, although many challenges remain in ensuring the effective application of international law.

The Traditional Structures of the International Order[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

This diagram shows the idea of anarchy at international level.

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The classic structure of international order distinguishes between a hierarchy within states and anarchy between them.

Within a state, a structural hierarchy is clearly observable. The government, acting on behalf of the state, exercises authority over society. This authority is generally accepted by the citizens, in a form of mutual consent or 'shared sovereignty', particularly noticeable in democratic systems. The state, through its control of law enforcement agencies and the military, guarantees respect for the law and maintains order, thus establishing a clear hierarchy over society.

Internationally, however, there is no comparable hierarchical system between states. No state has recognised jurisdiction or authority over another, and no supranational body exercises absolute power over all states. We therefore speak of "anarchy" in the international system. In this context, relations between states are governed by power, negotiation and, in some cases, international law, rather than by a recognised higher authority.

It is within this framework of anarchy that states exercise their external sovereignty, respecting the rule of non-interference and acting autonomously on the international scene. Interactions take place mainly through diplomacy and negotiation, although conflicts and power rivalries can sometimes dominate.

It is important to note that although anarchy describes the absence of a central global authority, it does not mean that the international system is devoid of structure or order. Treaties, conventions, international organisations and other cooperative mechanisms play a crucial role in structuring interactions between states and contribute to the relative stability of the international system.

The "internationalisation" of the international system[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The "internationalisation" of the international system can be described as the process by which states have become increasingly interconnected and interdependent at the international level. This trend began well before 1945, but accelerated sharply in the post-war period. The formation of the United Nations in 1945 marked a significant turning point in the internationalisation of the international system. With the creation of the UN, states sought to resolve their differences by peaceful means and to collaborate on issues of common interest, thus contributing to greater interconnection and international cooperation. However, it is important to note that the process of internationalisation was not limited to the creation of the UN. It has also been marked by technological advances, the growth of world trade, the emergence of international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and the expansion of global communications. These factors have helped to break down barriers between states and increase their interdependence.

Internationalisation has also been fostered by major events such as decolonisation, which led to the emergence of new states and the redefinition of international power relations. In addition, the evolution of international norms, such as human rights and international humanitarian law, has also helped to shape today's international system. It is therefore essential to understand that internationalisation is a dynamic process, which continues to evolve and shape the international system. Sovereign states, while retaining their autonomy, must now take account of their international obligations and responsibilities, reflecting the increasing interconnectedness and interdependence that characterise the modern international system.

The establishment of today's international system can be attributed to a number of key historical moments. However, one date of particular significance is 1945, with the creation of the United Nations at the end of the Second World War. This moment represents a tipping point where the states of the world, deeply affected by the devastation of two world wars, came together to create an organisation that aimed to prevent such conflict in the future. The adoption of the United Nations Charter by 51 countries, establishing principles of international cooperation, peaceful conflict resolution and respect for human rights, marked the beginning of a new rules-based world order. However, the current international system did not stop there. Many other key moments have shaped its evolution, such as post-war decolonisation, which saw the emergence of many new sovereign states, or the end of the Cold War, which marked a new era of cooperation and conflict between nations.

The year 1945 marked a particularly significant turning point for the international system with the founding of the United Nations. However, an exploration of previous historical events reveals that state sovereignty was already being transformed before this period of modernisation. The transformation of state sovereignty began long before 1945, notably with the development of international trade and the birth of international law. By the 19th century, for example, the expansion of imperialism and colonisation had already created networks of international interdependence. Trade treaties established norms and rules for relations between states, eroding certain aspects of their sovereignty. In addition, the Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907 marked important preliminary stages in the regulation of international conflicts and the establishment of certain standards of international behaviour. So, although 1945 marks a crucial stage in the structuring of the international system as we know it today, the process of eroding and transforming state sovereignty had already begun long before that date, through the development of international relations and the gradual emergence of an interconnected international community.

These processes have accelerated in recent years at three levels. There has been an internationalisation of the international order through :

  1. Globalisation and the spread of liberal values: Global interconnections between societies and populations are becoming increasingly intense. This is mainly due to globalisation, where increased social transactions are leading to an unprecedented level of interdependence. In addition, the spread of liberal values, which encourage the free movement of ideas, goods and people, facilitates and reinforces this process of globalisation. Globalisation is a multifaceted phenomenon that has a profound influence on our contemporary world. It is a process that intensifies the interactions and interdependence between states, societies and populations around the world. On the one hand, this process is fuelled by a significant increase in social transactions. Thanks to technological advances and modern means of communication, individuals, groups and organisations are increasingly in contact with each other. Whether through trade, travel, education, immigration or social networks, people and societies are interacting and interdependent on a scale never seen before. These growing interactions are leading to a convergence of cultures, ideas and lifestyles, making the world smaller and smaller. Globalisation is also facilitated by the spread of liberal values. These values, which include principles such as equality, freedom, human rights, democracy and free-market capitalism, have been widely promoted and adopted throughout the world, particularly since the end of the Cold War. The spread of these liberal values has not only paved the way for greater interconnection and interdependence between societies, but has also created an environment conducive to globalisation. By promoting openness, exchange and cooperation, these values encourage international cooperation and networking across national borders. In this way, globalisation and the spread of liberal values are two interdependent processes which, together, have contributed to greater integration and interdependence between societies throughout the world.
  2. International organisations and institutions: Another aspect of the internationalisation of the international system is the emergence and strengthening of international organisations and institutions through which states cooperate and coordinate their actions. The observation of this phenomenon is not only interesting in terms of the numerical growth of these entities, but also in terms of the qualitative changes that have taken place, particularly since the end of the 20th century. One notable trend is the increasing judicialisation of some of these international organisations. In other words, more and more of these entities have developed legal mechanisms that enable them to exercise supranational legal authority and to issue decisions that are binding on member states. This marks a move away from the traditional principle of state sovereignty in the sense that states are now obliged to respect the decisions of these international organisations, even when they may run counter to their national interests. In parallel with this process of judicialisation, we have also seen a considerable development in regional integration. Examples of regional integration go well beyond Europe and the European Union. We can think of organisations such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), all of which have sought to promote greater cooperation and integration between their member states.
  3. Transgovernmental and transnational relations: The third level of internationalisation of the international system is found in the emergence of transgovernmental and transnational relations. Trans-governmental relations refer to interactions between different parts of government - bureaucrats, technical specialists and other civil servants - rather than formal relations between governments themselves. For example, those responsible for environmental or financial policy may network with each other, share information and best practice, and so influence national policies. This phenomenon, known as transgovernmentalism, has been particularly marked in recent decades. On the other hand, transnational relations concern interactions between non-governmental actors, such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs), multinational companies and other civil society entities, which are playing an increasingly important role in international politics. These actors can influence international policies and standards, engage in cross-border activities and even negotiate directly with governments and international organisations. In short, the international system is no longer limited to interactions between sovereign states. With the increase in transgovernmental and transnational relations, the boundaries between the internal and external affairs of states are becoming increasingly porous, and a multitude of non-state actors are actively involved in international politics.

These developments bear witness to an ever-changing international landscape, in which the sovereignty of states is both eroded and re-articulated.

The Globalisation of Social Exchanges, Interdependence and the Theory of Liberalism[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

There are no simple definitions of the phenomenon of globalisation. Globalisation is a complex and multidimensional concept that cannot easily be summed up in a single definition. However, it can be understood as an increasingly rapid process of integration and interdependence between countries around the world, due to the growth of international trade and capital movements, as well as the rapid diffusion of information and technology.

The definition proposed by Anthony Giddens in Dimensions of Globalization emphasises the growing interconnection of societies around the world.[1] According to him, globalization is "the intensification of global social relations that link distant localities in such a way that local events are shaped by events occurring miles away and vice versa."

This definition highlights two key aspects of globalisation:

  • The intensification of global social relations: This refers to the increase in interactions and interconnections between individuals, groups, organisations and states around the world. This can take the form of trade, information flows, migratory movements, etc.
  • The mutual influence of local and global events: This means that events or decisions taken in one part of the world can have significant effects in other regions, and vice versa. For example, a decision taken by a multinational company in one country may have an impact on the living conditions of people in another. Similarly, local environmental problems can have global repercussions, as is the case with climate change.

Overall, Giddens' definition highlights the interconnected nature of our contemporary world and how events, decisions and processes at different levels (local, national, regional and global) are increasingly interdependent.

Giddens conceptualises globalisation as a process whereby an activity carried out in one distant region has an immediate and perceptible impact in another distinct region. The example of climate change is a perfect illustration of how actions taken in one part of the world can have significant impacts elsewhere. Greenhouse gas emissions, whether produced in the North or the South, have global consequences because they contribute to global warming, which affects the planet as a whole. Similarly, conflicts, political or economic crises and natural disasters can trigger migration movements that have repercussions far beyond the borders of the country concerned. For example, a civil war in one country can trigger an influx of refugees into neighbouring countries and even beyond, affecting the stability and resources of these countries. Globalisation has amplified these interdependencies. Because of the increased ease of travel and communication, and growing economic interdependence, local problems can quickly become global. At the same time, global problems increasingly require global solutions, which calls for greater international cooperation.

According to Robert Gilpin, globalisation is the process by which national economies become increasingly integrated and interconnected, leading to a unified world economy.[2] This means that economic decisions and activities in one country can have significant impacts on those in other countries, even those thousands of miles away. Economic globalisation, as defined by Gilpin, has many facets, including international trade, foreign direct investment, labour migration and the movement of capital. For example, a company based in the United States can have its products manufactured in China, sold in Europe and invest the profits in emerging markets in Africa. This process of global economic integration has been greatly facilitated by technological advances (particularly in telecommunications, transport and information technology), the adoption of liberal economic policies favouring free trade and financial liberalisation, and the rise of international institutions such as the World Trade Organisation.

Globalisation has profoundly changed the way goods and services are produced and distributed. Production chains are increasingly fragmented and spread across different countries, a reality sometimes referred to as 'global value chains'. An example of this phenomenon is the production of a technological product, such as a smartphone. Different components of the phone may be manufactured in different countries around the world. For example, the chips may be produced in Japan, the assembly may be carried out in China, and the design and software development may be carried out in the United States. The finished product is then distributed and sold around the world. At the same time, financial markets have also become increasingly interconnected. Investments can be made almost instantaneously across borders and currencies, and the impact of economic decisions in one country can be felt around the world. This integration of production processes and financial markets has led to greater efficiency and lower costs, but it has also led to greater economic interdependence. This means that economic or financial crises can spread rapidly from one country to another, as we saw during the global financial crisis of 2008. Overall, globalisation has led to greater interconnection and interdependence of the world's economies, with both positive and negative implications.

Jan Aart Scholte, a Dutch international relations scholar, offers a different perspective on globalisation by defining it as deterritorialisation, or the growth of supraterritorial relationships between individuals.[3] Deterritorialisation refers to the weakening of links between culture, politics, the economy and physical territory. In the context of globalisation, deterritorialisation means that geographical boundaries and distances become less relevant in social, economic and political interactions. For example, in today's digital economy, many transactions and interactions can take place regardless of the physical location of the participants. Individuals and organisations can collaborate on projects, exchange information and ideas, and conduct business together despite significant differences in geographical location. Furthermore, the concept of supra-territorial relationships implies that people, organisations and governments interact and influence each other across national and regional boundaries. International organisations, transnational networks and online communities illustrate these supraterritorial relationships. It is important to note that deterritorialisation does not eliminate the importance of territory and the nation state, but it does complicate and transform these relationships. Thus, from Scholte's perspective, globalisation represents a move towards a more interconnected world that is less rooted in specific territories.

Deterritorialisation refers to the weakening of geographical constraints on social, cultural and economic interactions. With the development of communication technologies, particularly the Internet and social media, interactions and transactions can take place instantaneously and independently of geographical location. This is particularly evident in the digital world, where information and ideas spread across national and regional borders at lightning speed. Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, as well as communication platforms such as Zoom or Teams, allow people to communicate and exchange ideas regardless of their geographical location. This deterritorialisation has profound implications for international relations. It makes it more difficult for states to control information, encourages the sharing of ideas and cultures, and can accelerate social and political change. However, it can also bring challenges, such as the spread of disinformation, the emergence of cyber-attacks, or the exploitation of digital technologies by extremist groups.

David Harvey, a leading British geographer, sees globalisation as a "time-space compression".[4] This conception refers primarily to the way in which technological advances, particularly in transport and communication, have shortened distances and accelerated interactions between people and places around the world. For example, it takes just one click to send an email to the other side of the world, which would have taken days or even weeks by post a few decades ago. Similarly, advances in air transport have reduced the time needed to travel from one continent to another. This compression of space and time has facilitated and intensified global interactions and exchanges, bringing people and places closer together. It has therefore played a major role in globalisation. However, like deterritorialisation, space-time compression can also pose challenges in terms of international relations, such as the rapid spread of diseases or the management of information on a global scale.

This all-encompassing definition of globalisation is a good illustration of how our world is changing. It highlights the transition from a reality where entities (states and their national societies) were distinct and interacted with a degree of independence, to a world where there is now a shared social space, thanks in large part to technology, international travel and economic interconnection. In this context, issues, challenges and opportunities are no longer solely national, but have an international dimension. For example, environmental, security, economic and even social issues are increasingly addressed in a global context. This calls for greater international cooperation, while raising new challenges in terms of governance, human rights, equity and sustainable development.

An Exploration of Liberalism[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Liberalism has played a central role in promoting and facilitating globalisation. It is a political and economic philosophy that advocates individual freedom, representative democracy, human rights, private property and the market economy. In an international context, liberalism supports interdependence between nations and encourages the free movement of people, goods, services and ideas. This vision is reflected in the promotion of international trade, open borders, support for international organisations, multilateral cooperation and respect for international law. As far as globalisation is concerned, the spread of liberal ideas has facilitated the creation of international institutions, the establishment of global trade rules and the formation of a global culture. This has encouraged connectivity and interdependence between societies around the world.

Free trade is a fundamental principle of economic liberalism that supports the minimisation of trade barriers and government intervention in the international exchange of goods and services. This means that there are no tariffs, quotas, subsidies or government-imposed restrictions on imports or exports. Over the last few decades, this principle has been widely adopted at a global level, thanks in part to international institutions such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which promote free trade between countries. This has led to increased economic integration and interdependence between national economies, a phenomenon often associated with globalisation.

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The World Trade Organisation (WTO) plays a fundamental role in maintaining and expanding the global free trade system. Bringing together almost all the world's states as members or observers, the WTO facilitates trade negotiations, settles trade disputes and works to reduce barriers to international trade. Membership of the WTO implies adherence to the principles of free trade, as well as to a series of rules and standards designed to make international trade more predictable and equitable. This includes reducing or eliminating tariffs and other barriers to trade, ensuring the transparency and predictability of trade regimes, and respecting intellectual property rights, among other obligations. States with observer status are generally in the process of joining the WTO. This status allows them to participate in WTO discussions and meetings, while giving them time to prepare for full membership. These countries generally work to align their trade policies and regulations with WTO standards, with the ultimate aim of becoming full members. That said, while the green card represents the vast majority of the world's states, it is important to note that WTO membership and the practice of free trade are not without challenge or criticism. Some voices question the fairness of the global trading system, suggesting that it favours the richest and most powerful countries, and can exacerbate economic inequalities both between and within countries.

Observer status at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is often a preliminary step towards full membership. Observer countries are generally those that have expressed an interest in joining the WTO and are in the process of aligning their national trade policies with WTO standards and regulations. During this period, they can attend WTO meetings and participate in discussions, but they cannot vote on decisions. It is important to note that the process of joining the WTO can be complex and time-consuming. Applicant countries must negotiate with existing members and demonstrate their commitment to free trade principles and WTO standards. These negotiations can cover a wide range of issues, from tariffs to sanitary and phytosanitary standards and intellectual property rights. In terms of geographical coverage, the WTO is truly a global organisation, with members in almost every region of the world. However, as mentioned earlier, the WTO and the free trade system it promotes are the subject of criticism and debate. Some voices point to the challenges associated with globalisation and free trade, particularly in relation to economic inequality, workers' rights and the environment.

According to the liberal theory of international relations, trade and economic interdependence between nations can contribute to international stability and reduce the risk of conflict. This is sometimes referred to as the "democratic peace theory" or the "peace through trade" hypothesis. The basic idea is that when countries are economically linked to each other, they have a financial interest in maintaining peaceful relations. As a result, the economic cost of war would become prohibitive, discouraging conflict. Furthermore, economic interdependence can encourage international cooperation and the peaceful resolution of disputes. States are more likely to settle their disputes through negotiation and dialogue, rather than force, when they have strong and mutually beneficial trading relationships.

There is also a peace project linked to the idea of opening up economic markets. This notion is often referred to as 'peaceful trade theory' or 'liberal peace theory'. This theory suggests that increasing trade links between nations can reduce the likelihood of conflict because the economic costs of war would be too high. In other words, countries that trade a lot with each other have more to lose in the event of conflict, which would make them less inclined to fight. Proponents of this theory often point out that trade can not only make war more costly, but can also help to build interpersonal and intercultural links, promote mutual understanding and encourage international cooperation. They also stress that trade can contribute to economic prosperity and therefore political stability, which could also reduce the chances of conflict.

The second transformation, particularly since the 1990s, has been the triumph of democracy. Since the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, democracy has become increasingly predominant on a global scale. Several factors have contributed to this trend, including the end of the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, which paved the way for major political changes in many countries. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, many Eastern European countries adopted democratic forms of government. In Latin America, Africa and Asia, similar transitions took place, with the fall of many authoritarian regimes and their replacement by democratic governments. In many cases, these transitions have been accompanied by economic reforms aimed at opening up economies to global competition.

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The end of the Cold War and the fall of communism in many countries has given rise to a wave of optimism about the potential of democracy and international cooperation. Francis Fukuyama's "End of History" symbolises this era, suggesting that liberal democracy could be the culmination of human socio-political evolution. The increase in the number of democratic states, as illustrated by the blue line, suggests a growing acceptance of democratic principles such as free and fair elections, separation of powers and respect for human rights. At the same time, there has been a decline in the number of authoritarian states, as illustrated by the red line. These developments have certainly created new opportunities for international cooperation, including the sharing of expertise and the joint resolution of global challenges. Democracies, in general, tend to be more open to international cooperation and respect for international norms and rules.

Francis Fukuyama, in his famous book The End of History and The Last Man, argued that the end of the Cold War represented the final triumph of liberal democracy over other political ideologies, notably communism and fascism.[5] In his view, this marked the end of humanity's ideological evolution and the ultimate culmination of human progress towards a universally acceptable form of government. Fukuyama envisaged a world where the majority of countries adopted a democratic form of government and respected human rights and free market principles. He also foresaw an increase in international cooperation through supranational organisations, which would contribute to a more stable and prosperous world.

Globalisation and the growing interdependence of states have brought many challenges and counter-movements. These include the rise of nationalism and protectionism, mistrust of international institutions, and social and political polarisation exacerbated by the spread of social networks and false information. At the same time, we are faced with pressing global problems, such as climate change, pandemics, economic inequality and mass migration, which require greater international cooperation. The question is how to balance these contradictory trends and shape a world order that is both equitable and stable. International relations theories can offer us tools for understanding these dynamics. For example, realism emphasises conflicts of interest and the struggle for power between states, while liberalism stresses the importance of international cooperation and global governance. Ultimately, the direction that the global system takes will depend on the political choices and actions of the key players on the international stage.

We have talked about the internationalisation of the international system, globalisation and the spread of liberalism, but we also need to talk about the proliferation of international organisations and the increasing use of the courts.

The Role of International Organisations, Judiciarisation and Regional Integration[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Proliferation of intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

This table is a quantitative summary of the proliferation of international organisations. The data comes from the Union of International Organisations, which provides statistics on these issues. The number of international organisations, both intergovernmental and non-governmental, has increased over time. This is partly due to globalisation and the growing need for international coordination and cooperation on a variety of issues, ranging from economics and trade to the environment, health and human rights. IGOs, such as the UN, WTO, EU, NATO, WHO and others, play a crucial role in facilitating cooperation between states. On the other hand, NGOs, such as Amnesty International, Médecins Sans Frontières, Greenpeace and others, play an important role in championing certain causes and providing expertise and pressure for change on a global scale. The growth of these organisations reflects both the increasing complexity of the international system and the diversity of global issues that need to be addressed.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect is not simply the creation and proliferation of international organisations and NGOs, but rather the real influence that these institutions can exert. The question is whether they emerge as autonomous political forces or whether, in the case of intergovernmental organisations, they simply remain platforms where states negotiate. In the case of NGOs, the question concerns their role: are they entities that raise their voices without having any substantial political impact? The problem then lies in assessing the real influence of these international players.

Measuring the impact of international organisations and NGOs can be done in several ways, and will largely depend on the specific objective of the organisation in question.

  • Influencing policies and laws: Some international organisations, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) or the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have a significant impact on the policies and regulations of member countries. Similarly, some NGOs, particularly large international organisations, can influence policy by conducting advocacy campaigns and providing information and research on specific issues.
  • Problem-solving and conflict resolution: Organisations such as the UN play a crucial role in conflict resolution and the prevention of humanitarian crises. Their impact can be assessed by examining their ability to resolve or mitigate conflicts and to provide humanitarian assistance when needed.
  • Development and humanitarian aid: Many international NGOs are involved in development and humanitarian aid efforts. Their impact can be assessed by looking at progress in the specific areas they target, such as reducing poverty, improving access to education, health, etc.
  • Stakeholder engagement: International organisations and NGOs can also have an impact by mobilising the public, raising awareness of the issues they champion, and stimulating dialogue and debate on these issues.

The potentially most significant aspect is not limited to the emergence and expansion of international organisations and NGOs. It also lies in the concrete impact that these institutions can have. The question is whether they become independent political forces or, in the case of intergovernmental organisations, simply serve as platforms for inter-state negotiations. In the case of NGOs, the question is whether they are simply actors who make their voices heard, without really influencing the political landscape. The challenge is therefore to measure the actual impact of these players on the international scene.

The power and impact of international organisations and NGOs at the political level is a subject of debate. On the one hand, some observers believe that these entities exert a substantial influence on global policies, while others maintain that they are merely instruments in the hands of states. In the case of international organisations such as the United Nations or the World Trade Organisation, they are seen by some as autonomous political forces that can shape policy and influence the political decisions of member states. They have the potential to set standards, propose policies and arbitrate disputes between states. However, these organisations are often constrained by their intergovernmental nature, which means that their power ultimately comes from the member states and is often limited by the consensus needed between these states to make decisions. NGOs, meanwhile, are playing an increasing role in global governance, ranging from activism to the provision of essential services to advocacy for specific policies. However, their ability to influence policy is often indirect. They can put pressure on governments and companies, highlight global problems, and sometimes provide solutions, but they generally do not have the power to make binding decisions.

The concept of judicialisation was developed to analyse the influence and power of international organisations. It is based on the idea that law and judicial institutions are playing an increasingly important role in international affairs. This is seen in the emergence of international courts and tribunals, as well as in the increasing use of law and judicial procedures in international negotiations. As far as intergovernmental organisations are concerned, judicialisation can be assessed by examining the extent to which the international norms drawn up by these organisations are binding. In other words, it is a question of measuring the extent to which these standards are respected by the Member States and what the consequences are in the event of non-compliance. For example, consider the decisions of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). If a WTO member state breaches its rules, it can be subject to trade sanctions. This demonstrates a degree of judicialisation, as WTO rules are legally binding and there are tangible consequences for non-compliance.

To assess the degree of obligation that international standards impose on States, which are the main addressees of these standards, three distinct aspects can be considered:

  1. The level of obligation: In other words, to what extent are the standards binding on governments? Are they formulated in strong, binding terms, or are they more in the form of recommendations or guidelines? The first aspect, the "level of obligation", concerns the binding nature of these international standards for States. Not all international instruments are explicitly binding. For example, the 1948 United Nations General Assembly Declaration on Human Rights is explicitly non-binding. However, some standards have acquired the status of "jus cogens", i.e. a right that is binding on States, even if they have not ratified the treaty concerned. This is the case, for example, with the norms prohibiting genocide and torture, or the rule of non-refoulement, which prohibits returning a refugee to a territory where his or her life or freedom would be threatened. Despite violations, this does not call into question their legitimacy and validity. Between these two extremes, there are different degrees of obligations linked to international standards.
  2. Proliferation of international standards: This involves determining how many international standards exist in a given area. A proliferation of standards may indicate a high level of international regulation, but it may also mean that the standards are complex and potentially contradictory. The second aspect concerns the "proliferation of international standards" and their degree of judicialisation and precision. This involves assessing whether these standards are sufficiently general to leave states a wide margin of manoeuvre in their implementation, or whether they are so precise that they can be applied as they stand, without the need for transposition at national level. To illustrate this point, let's take the example of the climate negotiations. The Kyoto Protocol imposed no obligations on developing countries, including major emerging powers such as China and India. The United States, although a signatory to the Framework Convention, was not bound by the standards of the Kyoto Protocol. The Protocol's standards were fairly vague, specifying only a level of greenhouse gas emissions for each signatory state, without indicating how this reduction was to be achieved, or setting up monitoring and assessment mechanisms to verify compliance with these obligations. As a result, the framework established by the Kyoto Protocol was rather imprecise and left a great deal of latitude to the States.
  3. The existence of an enforcement body: In other words, is there an institution or organisation responsible for ensuring that states comply with the standards? This body may also have the power to impose sanctions in the event of non-compliance. The third aspect concerns the application of international standards. In other words, to what extent is there a body responsible for applying and enforcing these standards if states fail to comply with them? On a global scale, there is no international court comparable to a national court. Although the International Court of Justice exists, it can only intervene if the two states involved in a dispute agree to submit to a legal process, otherwise the Court has no jurisdiction. However, in recent years we have seen an increase in the use of more legal dispute resolution processes. For example, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has an elaborate system that also includes sanction mechanisms for states that fail to comply with WTO trade standards. Similarly, the International Criminal Court is another example of a legally strong institution in the field of human rights, capable of condemning individuals for crimes against humanity such as genocide and systematic torture. As far as the climate issue is concerned, the question arises as to what mechanisms will be used to implement the new obligations of States. Will there be a system of reporting between states, where each state documents its measures at international level, and these reports are then evaluated and recommendations made? Or will there be the possibility of sanctions in the event of non-compliance with certain obligations, and if so, by whom? Will it be an independent body that has this authority? Overall, it can be said that over the last twenty years we have seen a trend towards greater judicialisation of international organisations. It's true that many organisations are blocked, like the WTO for example, but this blockage may also be the result of the fact that these organisations have become more restrictive and that states are less inclined to tie their hands. Perhaps states want to retain their flexibility, and this could indicate a move towards a greater role for international organisations.
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In terms of the decision-making process and agenda-setting, it is possible to apply concepts similar to those of the political cycle to international relations. Agenda setting involves determining which members of an organisation have the capacity to propose new standards. For example, within the European Union, the European Commission, which operates independently of the Member States, has this capacity. This is a sign of advanced judicialisation and supranationality, which is not systematically the case in all international organisations.

The second aspect concerns the decision-making process itself. We need to determine whether decisions are taken by consensus, unanimously by States, or by States alone. If this is the case, it can be said that the international organisation produces standards that reflect the individual will of each State. In this sense, these norms are compatible with the concept of State sovereignty, since each State has voluntarily given its agreement to these norms.

Where we have a majority voting system, as is the case within the European Union or the United Nations Security Council, States can be bound by a decision even if they have voted against it. In this way, these international institutions acquire a more supranational character, since they can in fact establish norms that are binding on their members, even in the absence of their explicit agreement.

This raises a series of interesting and important questions about the operation of global governance and the tensions between national sovereignty and international cooperation. For example, is it acceptable for a state to be bound by a decision it has opposed? How can minority states be protected in such a system? This can also lead to conflicts between Member States, especially if the decision taken has major consequences for national interests. At the same time, it is also an effective way of taking decisions and making progress on complex, global issues.

By allowing decisions to be taken by majority rather than unanimity, these institutions can overcome the vetoes of a small number of states and take action on urgent issues. This can be particularly important in situations where inaction or delay could have serious consequences, as in the case of climate change or global security issues. However, it also requires checks and balances to prevent abuse and ensure that the interests of all Member States are taken into account.

The European Union is a good example of this tension. Decisions taken by the European Commission and the European Parliament can have profound effects on Member States, even if they have voted against those decisions. This has led to debates about the sovereignty and power of these institutions, and how Member States can influence decisions taken at this level. The case of the UN Security Council is slightly different, as its five permanent members (the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France) have a right of veto over resolutions. This means that these countries can block any decision, even if all the other members agree. This has often been criticised as unfair and representative of a bygone era in world politics. However, it also serves to protect the interests of these major powers and to prevent major conflicts. In short, majority decision-making in international organisations is a key element of international cooperation, but it also raises important questions about sovereignty, representation and fairness.

In the European Union (EU) system, the complexity is compounded by the fact that decision-making does not rest solely with the Member States meeting in the Council of the European Union, but also involves the European Parliament, a co-legislative institution independent of the Council. The European Parliament is directly elected by the citizens of the EU Member States, which strengthens its democratic legitimacy and independence from national governments. This makes the European Union a very unique supranational entity. No other international organisation shares such a governance structure in which citizens have a direct role in supranational decision-making. In this sense, the EU stands out for its ability to transcend national sovereignty in certain policy and legislative measures.

Transgovernmental and Transnational Relations[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The growing interdependence of societies and the emergence of cross-border problems have led to a growing interest in joint solutions. The more globalised societies become, the more problems transcend state borders, requiring more extensive cooperation. Consequently, the creation of international organisations and the development of international standards are essential to meet these shared challenges. These international organisations and standards make it possible not only to regulate cross-border areas of activity, but also to harmonise the policies and practices of different countries. In this way, they contribute to more effective management of global issues, whether climate change, migration, global health or international trade. That said, their effectiveness depends on the willingness of Member States to comply with international standards and to adopt implementing measures at national level. However, the complexity of global issues and the diversity of national contexts make this a difficult task, underlining the importance of the continued engagement of states, international organisations and civil society in addressing these global challenges.

We have seen a trend towards greater judicialisation of international organisations and norms. This judicialisation, i.e. the tendency to resort to law and legal proceedings to resolve international problems, is not uniform across all areas and all organisations. However, the phenomenon is present and notable. Since 1945, we have seen not only an increase in the number of international organisations and multilateral treaties, but also a trend towards making them more binding. The aim is to establish collective discipline and strengthen compliance with commitments made at international level. The application of these standards and agreements can vary, however, depending on countries' adherence to them, their capacity to implement commitments and existing implementation and monitoring mechanisms. Despite the significant challenges, this move towards greater judicialisation is an encouraging sign of the global effort to manage international problems through cooperation and international law.

Another notable phenomenon in the political organisation of states, in addition to their cooperation in intergovernmental organisations, is regional integration. There is a proliferation of regional integration initiatives around the world. For example, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in North America represents such an initiative. However, this agreement is essentially economic and is limited to the creation of a free trade area, with no greater ambitions, unlike the European Union, which extends to various policies of all kinds. It is important to note that regional integration can vary considerably in terms of ambition and scope. While some agreements may focus primarily on economic issues, others, such as the European Union, may aim for deeper integration covering a wide range of policies and areas of cooperation.

In southern Latin America, we find MERCOSUR, an organisation that brings together Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela and Bolivia. While also a free trade area, MERCOSUR has higher ambitions. Members aspire to a customs union, a common market, and possibly a common currency in the future, although this is not yet the case. MERCOSUR is ambitious; its member countries have developed common policies on the environment, social rights and labour rights for their citizens. The rise of left-wing governments in recent years has led to a shift towards the social sphere. However, with recent political changes, notably in Argentina and Brazil, this focus could change. Nevertheless, MERCOSUR remains a well-established and functional organisation.

The African Union (AU), created at the start of the new millennium in 2002, is also an important regional organisation. Its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, focused primarily on decolonisation. The African Union, on the other hand, has much broader ambitions. It relies on sub-regional organisations, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The AU aims for deeper economic and political integration between its member states, inspired in part by the European Union model. A number of sub-regional organisations in Africa share a similar action plan, the main aim of which is to liberalise trade between their member states with a view to creating a common market and eventually a common currency. In some parts of Africa, currency unions already exist, although this is often a legacy of colonial times. The African Union also envisages the unification of these various sub-regional common markets into an Africa-wide common market. However, there have been delays in implementing these plans. Some sub-regional bodies are more effective than others, but it is interesting to note this trend towards regional organisation. The African Union is not only active on the economic front, but also in the field of security. It has a Security Council which, in much the same way as the UN Security Council, can envisage military intervention on the territory of its member states in the event of a crisis, a fairly recent phenomenon. So we are seeing a replication of the UN system at African level, with varying degrees of effectiveness. This major phenomenon goes beyond what the European Union does in terms of security.

In South-East Asia, we also find ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations), a network of states that have come together to create a common market. Although the initial objective was to create this zone by 2015, this is still far from being achieved. However, they have a plan to integrate not only economically, but also culturally and socially. They are developing joint activities, including a system of university exchanges. The concept of cultural and social exchanges is strongly encouraged within ASEAN.

There is also the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), an organisation of Gulf countries which also aspires to establish a monetary union. In addition, the Eurasian Union was more recently launched by Vladimir Putin, bringing together Russia and several former USSR states. This customs union aims to rival the European Union, particularly in the context of the Ukrainian conflict. Russia's ambition is to include Ukraine in this organisation and in this process of economic integration dominated by Russia. This would be incompatible with a deep association agreement with the European Union. It is therefore clear that these regional organisations can also compete with each other.

The phenomenon of regionalism, characterised by the emergence and multiplication of regional organisations, is relatively recent and essentially dates back to the 1990s. It is a response to increasing globalisation and cross-border challenges. Regional organisations provide a framework for states to collaborate and coordinate their efforts to address common and transnational issues, be they economic, political, environmental or security-related. The idea behind regionalism is that countries sharing geographical, historical, cultural or economic links can benefit from closer cooperation. This can take the form of establishing common markets, implementing coordinated policies, or even, in some cases, adopting a single currency. It is important to note that the degree of integration and the nature of the agreements vary considerably from one regional organisation to another. For example, the European Union represents a very high level of integration, with a common currency and supra-national governance in many areas. Other organisations, such as ASEAN or MERCOSUR, are less integrated, but nevertheless pursue objectives of economic and political cooperation. However, despite their growth and potential, regional organisations face many challenges, particularly in terms of coordination between member states, meeting commitments and managing disputes.

Despite the general increase in judicialisation and integration through international organisations, there is a certain weariness with the current multilateral system. Organisations such as the WTO and the UN often find it difficult to advance their agendas because of blockages and conflicts between member states. At the same time, however, we are seeing an increase in cooperation at a more micro level, often referred to as 'network diplomacy' or 'second track diplomacy'. This involves direct interaction and collaboration between technocrats, bureaucracies and administrative departments in different countries. For example, the environment or education ministries of different countries may collaborate directly on specific initiatives, independently of the official positions of their respective governments. These types of collaboration can often be more agile and effective in solving specific problems, due to their more technocratic and less politicised nature.

There is a growing trend towards collaboration between various non-governmental entities, such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs), research bodies, businesses and even individuals. These actors work together on common international problems, often in an informal and flexible way, exchanging information, best practice and resources. This type of cooperation, sometimes referred to as "civil society diplomacy", can be a crucial part of the international architecture. These international networks, whether formal or informal, are important because they enable a wider range of actors to participate in solving international problems. They can also provide platforms for information exchange, consensus building and policy implementation at a level that formal intergovernmental organisations may not be able to achieve. It should be stressed, however, that these networks are not a panacea. While they can play an important role in solving international problems, they cannot completely replace the role of states and formal international organisations. These entities have the legal power to take binding decisions, apply rules and adopt sanctions that go beyond what non-governmental networks can do.

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision is an excellent example of a transnational organisation that wields considerable influence over the regulation of international finance. Founded in 1974 by the central banks of the G10 countries, the Basel Committee issues recommendations on banking regulation with the aim of improving the stability of the global financial system. It drew up the Basel Accords, a series of recommendations on banking regulation and supervisory standards. Although these standards are not legally binding, they have considerable influence as they are generally adopted by central banks and national regulators around the world. The Basel Committee played a key role in the response to the global financial crisis of 2008. In response, it developed the standards known as Basel III, which tightened banks' capital and liquidity requirements and introduced new regulations to improve bank risk management. However, membership of the Basel Committee has traditionally been limited to central banks in developed countries. This has led to criticism of the representativeness and fairness of the committee, although efforts have been made to include representatives from developing countries, such as China. The example of the Basel Committee illustrates the important role that transnational organisations can play in regulating international issues, but also the challenges they face in terms of representativeness and legitimacy.

These standards are often described as "soft law", which does not have the binding legal force of "hard law". However, although they are not legally binding, these standards can exert strong political and social pressure on states to adopt and implement them. These standards, developed in trans-governmental networks such as the Basel Committee, can become very influential, particularly in areas where international cooperation is essential to solve common problems. For example, in addition to financial regulation, we can also see these kinds of standards in areas such as the environment, public health and labour standards. These informal standards can play a key role in international regulation. For example, they can serve as a basis for the development of more formal international treaties. Furthermore, even in the absence of a formal treaty, these standards can help to create an international consensus on certain issues and guide the behaviour of states.

International cooperation and inter-state relations have evolved well beyond formal diplomatic interaction between states. They now involve a multitude of actors, including non-governmental organisations, multinational companies, international organisations and transnational policy networks. These actors often operate outside formal diplomatic channels, but can nevertheless play an important role in solving global problems and setting the international policy agenda. It is also important to note the impact of information and communication technologies on international cooperation. The Internet and social media have enabled individuals and groups of all sizes and geographical locations to participate in international political discussions. This has led to a partial democratisation of international politics, with ordinary citizens now able to influence international policy decisions. In short, to understand the complexity of international cooperation and interstate relations today, it is crucial to look beyond traditional diplomatic interactions and take into account the multitude of actors and processes that shape the international political world.

The way in which the new emerging powers integrate into the international system is an issue of crucial importance. These countries are not simply passive participants on the international stage, but are increasingly active in setting the global agenda. They do so not only through formal diplomatic channels, but also through informal trans-governmental networks, where they can sometimes find more productive opportunities for cooperation. These trans-governmental relations can be more nuanced and complex than formal diplomatic relations, as they involve a much wider range of actors. They can sometimes be more cordial and productive, as they allow for a more informal and technical form of dialogue. However, they are also often fragmented and dependent on the specific issue or technical area in question. It is essential to understand that states are no longer simply represented by their leaders or foreign ministers on the international stage. Instead, they are increasingly acting through their sub-units, such as specialist ministries, government agencies and even non-state actors. This move towards more decentralised and diversified participation in global governance reflects the growing complexity of the international system and the need for a more multidimensional approach to international cooperation.

Today, the conduct of international affairs goes well beyond formal diplomatic exchanges. Many actors within states - including various government agencies, regulators, local authorities and even parliaments - are actively involved in international affairs. For example, parliaments may participate in international forums, while government agencies may collaborate with their foreign counterparts on specific technical issues. This process of disaggregation reflects the increasing complexity of the modern world. Many of the problems we face today - such as climate change, terrorism or pandemics - cannot be solved by a single state acting alone. On the contrary, they require transnational cooperation and involve a multitude of actors. What's more, this also reflects the growing interdependence of states in our globalised world. Actions taken in one country can have a significant impact on other countries, making international coordination and cooperation necessary.

Evaluating the Influence of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The term "transnational relations" or "transnationalism" refers to the multiplication and intensification of exchanges between non-governmental actors across national borders. These actors may be multinational companies, NGOs, social movements, scientific networks or even individuals. In the context of transnationalism, states are no longer the only players on the international stage. Non-governmental actors are playing a growing role in defining and implementing international policies. For example, NGOs can influence international policies on issues such as human rights or climate change by putting pressure on governments and international organisations, organising awareness-raising campaigns and providing technical expertise.

Transnationalism can also occur alongside traditional inter-state relations. For example, multinational companies may conduct commercial activities across national borders while being governed by international trade agreements negotiated between states. Similarly, NGOs can work internationally while collaborating with governments and international organisations. This means that the conduct of international affairs is increasingly complex and requires an understanding of the interactions between a wide variety of actors at different levels.

The terminology "NGO" (Non-Governmental Organisation) is quite broad and can cover a multitude of organisations with different objectives, structures and working methods. Generally, an NGO is a non-profit organisation that operates independently of government. NGOs can be active in many fields, such as human rights, education, health, sustainable development, etc. The UN has established a number of criteria for accrediting NGOs. These criteria are generally linked to the organisation's mission, objectives and operations. For example, to be recognised by the UN, an NGO must generally :

  • Have objectives and goals that are consistent with those of the UN
  • Operate in a transparent and democratic manner
  • Have an impact on a national or international scale
  • Have a defined organisational structure
  • Have transparent sources of funding

Once accredited, an NGO may attend certain UN meetings, present written or oral statements, participate in debates, collaborate with Member States and other actors, and have access to UN information and resources. UN accreditation of an NGO does not necessarily mean that the UN supports or approves of the NGO's actions. It is simply recognition of the NGO's ability to contribute to UN debates and processes.

Who isn't an NGO?

The diversity of organisations that can achieve NGO status reflects the complexity and variety of issues facing the world. This includes organisations focusing on issues such as development, health, education, human rights, the environment and so on. However, it is important to stress that not all the organisations listed, such as the Yakuza or Nestlé, have NGO status. The Yakuza, for example, is a criminal organisation and Nestlé is a multinational corporation. These entities are very different from the typical non-profit organisations that make up the majority of NGOs. The UN has a strict accreditation procedure for NGOs, which ensures that organisations recognised as such are engaged in activities that comply with the UN's objectives and principles. In any case, this observation highlights the variety of players on the international scene, as well as the complexity of the relationships and interactions between these different players. It also shows the importance of these organisations in the international decision-making process, and how they can influence policies and standards on a global scale.

The criteria listed above are essential to ensure that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that are recognised by the UN adhere to minimum standards of governance, independence and integrity. It also ensures that these organisations have a mission and objectives that are aligned with those of the UN, allowing for fruitful collaboration. In addition, these criteria make an important distinction between NGOs and other types of organisations, such as for-profit companies and government entities. They also ensure that NGOs are accountable and transparent in their operations, while respecting democratic principles. While these criteria are useful for UN accreditation, they do not necessarily apply to all NGOs worldwide. The definition and status of NGOs may vary from country to country, depending on national legislation. In any case, the diversity of NGOs operating globally, in terms of size, scope and mission, is an illustration of the complexity and variety of the global issues we face. Each NGO plays a crucial role in bringing its unique expertise and working on specific issues, contributing to the global effort to improve the lives of people everywhere.

If we assume that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) exert a significant influence on international politics, it becomes interesting to examine the different stages of the political process where these organisations can intervene. With the aim of highlighting a subject or initiating a debate on a specific issue, these organisations can act both outside and inside the formal political framework. Externally, NGOs may organise events or awareness-raising campaigns to draw the attention of the public and the media to a given issue. In addition, they may engage in educational and informative activities to broaden public understanding of specific issues. Within the political sphere, they may resort to lobbying and the presentation of in-depth research, studies and reports to political decision-makers. These efforts can help shape policy, influence the opinions of policy-makers and steer decisions in a direction that is consistent with their objectives and missions.

At the policy and standard-setting stage, NGO expertise can play a key role in influencing these processes. In fact, the UN Charter and the ECOSOC (United Nations Economic and Social Council) statutes provide various opportunities for NGOs to contribute, both in writing and orally. They can also participate as part of national delegations, which means that official NGO representatives have access to almost every forum and decision-making process. It is also common for NGOs to help fund national delegations and support delegations from countries that do not have the means to become fully involved in international negotiations. This is particularly relevant for developing countries, where the cost of travelling to international negotiations can be prohibitive, not to mention the expertise needed to participate effectively. As a result, NGOs can play a significant role in the policy development phase by strengthening the negotiating skills of national delegations.

At the decision-making stage, the role of NGOs is mainly expressed through lobbying. They also have an indirect influence through their representation on national delegations. They play an even more crucial role at the policy implementation stage, in particular through the drafting of reports on compliance with international standards. Many NGOs are renowned for their expertise in drafting these reports and have very specific resources at their disposal. For example, Amnesty International, as a non-state organisation, has access to certain institutions and individuals that would be inaccessible to states. Amnesty International can, for example, obtain authorisation to visit prisons in third countries to verify respect for human rights in terms of conditions of detention and to examine the extent to which torture is or is not used in these institutions. This would be unthinkable for another state, such as a visit to a prison in Afghanistan, as this would violate the principle of non-interference. Although access to these resources is always negotiated, private actors generally find it easier to obtain them and therefore have very specific resources at their disposal to accomplish their mission.

The process of "naming and shaming", often used by NGOs in their advocacy efforts, involves publicly denouncing states or other entities that violate international norms or obligations. The aim of this approach is to put pressure on offenders to change their behaviour. By exposing their actions to public opinion, the aim is to provoke sufficient shame to prompt change. Let's take the example of human rights violations. If a state is constantly identified and criticised for its failure to respect human rights, the international pressure and media attention this generates can force it to review its practices. Organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch often use this strategy in their work. However, the effectiveness of this method depends largely on a number of factors. For example, a state may be more sensitive to shaming if its international image is important to it. In addition, the impact of this approach also depends on the weight of the media and public opinion in the country concerned. In addition, NGOs play a key role in evaluating state practices. They can carry out independent research and investigations, provide detailed reports on problems identified, and closely monitor states' compliance with international standards. This helps to maintain transparency and hold states accountable for their actions. In conclusion, the role of NGOs in "naming and shaming" and evaluation is crucial to upholding international standards. However, the effectiveness of these efforts depends on many factors, including the sensitivity of states to their international reputation and the weight of the media and public opinion.

Case Study: NGO Access to International Organisations from 1950 to 2010 in Different Fields[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The interaction between international organisations (IOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has attracted considerable interest in international relations research. This interaction has evolved over time, both in quantity and quality, particularly since the 1950s. In the first decades after 1950, most NGOs had observer status in the IOs. Their main role was to provide valuable information and expertise to governments. They were generally consulted on specific issues, but had no decision-making power. However, from the 1980s and especially the 1990s, NGOs began to play a much more active role in international governance. Their numbers increased considerably and they began to participate more directly and substantially in the decision-making processes of the IOs. Today, NGOs can influence IOs in a number of ways. For example, they can contribute to policy formulation by providing information, analysis and recommendations. They can also participate in the development of international standards, by proposing amendments or participating in working groups. In addition, some NGOs have acquired considerable technical and legal expertise, enabling them to make a significant contribution to international negotiations. They can also help to monitor the implementation of decisions taken by IOs, for example by reporting violations of international standards.

Jonas Tallberg's article "Governance Problems, Policy Approaches, and Institutional Design" provides an in-depth analysis of how NGOs have gained increasing access to international organisations (IOs) in various policy areas from 1950 to 2010.[6] The article provides an interesting overview of trends, challenges and opportunities for NGO involvement in global governance. Tallberg notes that NGO access to IOs has changed significantly over this period. In 1950, NGOs had very limited access to IOs. However, over time this access has gradually widened, both in terms of the number of NGOs involved and the diversity of policy areas in which they are active. The article also examines the challenges and obstacles that NGOs face when trying to influence international policy. For example, despite their increased access, NGOs may still encounter resistance from IO member states, which may see their participation as a threat to their own influence. Finally, Tallberg offers some thoughts on how NGO access to IOs could be improved in the future. He suggests that the institutional design of IOs could be changed to facilitate more active NGO participation. For example, IOs could adopt more transparent and inclusive rules for NGO participation, or establish specific mechanisms to facilitate their involvement. Tallberg's article provides a valuable analysis of the evolving relationship between NGOs and IOs, and offers food for thought for the future of global governance.

Lavenex Exemple d’une analyse empirique accès des ONG aux OI dans différents domaines 1950 – 2010.png

This graph is a useful tool for visualising the evolution of NGO involvement in different areas of international policy from 1950 to 2010. It provides an overview of how the scope of NGO involvement has expanded into various sectors over time. The horizontal axis, which represents the timeline from 1950 to 2010, allows us to track trends over time. The vertical axis appears to be divided into different categories that represent the various policy sectors - ranging from security and environment to trade and development. For example, the development sector might include NGOs working on issues such as poverty reduction, education and health in developing countries. The environment sector might include NGOs that focus on issues such as climate change, biodiversity conservation or sustainability. Similarly, the trade sector might involve NGOs focusing on trade policy issues, while the security sector might involve NGOs focusing on issues such as disarmament, non-proliferation or conflict resolution. This chart provides a useful overview of how NGO engagement in these different sectors has evolved over time. It allows key trends to be identified, such as the increase in NGO engagement in certain areas or the emergence of new areas of engagement for NGOs over time.

They have also counted and analysed the conditions of NGO access to these organisations, establishing an index that can take on a maximum value of 2.5. The index, which can reach a maximum value of 2.5, is a quantitative tool used to measure the level of access NGOs have to different international organisations. This index can be determined according to various criteria, such as the ability of NGOs to participate in meetings, submit documents, speak at meetings or take part in formal decision-making processes. A higher index would mean wider and deeper NGO access to a given international organisation, while a lower index would indicate limited access. By analysing these indices across different organisations and policy sectors, and over a period of time, researchers can identify key trends and make valuable observations about the changing role of NGOs in international governance. It is important to note that access does not always translate into influence. While access can enable NGOs to make their voices heard and share their perspectives and expertise, the actual impact of their contributions on policy decisions can vary depending on a variety of factors, such as the organisation's openness to NGO views, the relevance and quality of NGO contributions, and the wider policy context.

The active involvement of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is particularly marked in the field of human rights. These NGOs play a crucial role in highlighting human rights violations, advocating for victims and influencing international policies and standards. In fact, the increased presence of NGOs in the field of human rights can be explained by several factors. Firstly, human rights abuses are often the result of state policies, and NGOs can act as an important counterweight, highlighting these abuses and pressing for change. Secondly, the field of human rights is universal in scope, affecting all individuals regardless of their nationality or status. This gives NGOs global legitimacy and relevance.

In contrast, the field of the environment, although important, has seen less NGO participation in international organisations. This could be due to a variety of reasons, including the scientific and technical complexity of environmental problems, conflicts of economic and political interest, or the difficulty of reconciling the interests and perspectives of various stakeholders. However, given the increasing urgency of environmental problems such as climate change, deforestation and biodiversity loss, we can expect to see greater involvement of NGOs in this field in the future.

The role of NGOs in the environmental field is sometimes less visible within formal international organisations. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, there are fewer international organisations with a broad environmental mandate. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), for example, has an advisory rather than a regulatory role. Secondly, environmental issues are often dealt with under specific international treaties, such as the Paris Climate Agreement, rather than through permanent international organisations. This means that the role of NGOs may lie more in influencing the formulation of these treaties, advocating for their implementation and monitoring compliance. Thirdly, many of the most pressing environmental issues are complex and require multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral approaches. As a result, environmental NGOs are often active in a range of organisations and forums, from local to international, and may collaborate with actors from different sectors, such as business, academia and government. Finally, environmental NGOs can also play an important role outside formal structures, for example by raising public awareness, lobbying governments and companies, and working directly on conservation and sustainability projects on the ground. While this may not be reflected in their presence in international organisations, it in no way diminishes the importance of their contribution to global environmental governance.

Conclusion: Transformation of the International System[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Lavenex pyramide transformation du système international 2015.png

To sum up this section on internationalisation and the international system, at the top of the pyramid are formal intergovernmental and diplomatic relations. These are interactions between representatives of states working to develop international law. In recent years, we have witnessed a certain judicialisation of these processes, with increasing emphasis on the application of the law and the resolution of conflicts through legal mechanisms. Below this level, we find a myriad of transgovernmental and transnational interactions. Transgovernmental relations involve state actors acting more independently, outside traditional diplomatic channels, while transnational relations involve non-state actors, such as non-governmental organisations and corporations. Although these levels are presented hierarchically, they are not isolated from each other, but rather are interconnected and often overlap. For example, NGOs can influence intergovernmental negotiations through lobbying and the dissemination of information, while decisions taken at intergovernmental level can in turn shape the activities of transgovernmental and transnational actors. Overall, this structure illustrates the complexity and diversity of interactions within the modern international system.

To fully understand the contemporary international system, it is imperative not only to focus on formal interstate relations, but also to take into account transgovernmental and transnational relations. Transgovernmental relations refer to interactions between parts of different states, often at the level of bureaucracies, which act more independently of their central political leaders. For example, regulators, civil servants or government agencies from different countries may work together informally to solve common problems or coordinate policies. Similarly, transnational relationships refer to interactions between non-governmental entities that operate across national borders, such as multinational companies, non-governmental organisations, civil society groups and even individuals. Both types of relationships play an increasingly important role in international governance, and are often involved in key areas such as global standards, environmental protection, human rights, and more. Therefore, to understand how the contemporary international system works, we need to broaden our gaze to include these forms of interaction in addition to traditional relations between states.

The Three Major Theoretical Perspectives on the International System[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

There is a plurality of views and theories in the field of international relations concerning the effect of internationalisation on the principle of state sovereignty. These perspectives seek to determine whether this global trend represents a substantial challenge to traditional state sovereignty. They also question whether we are witnessing a transformation in which sovereignty is gradually shared through international institutions, and whether this could lead to the emergence of a kind of global society. These points of view are varied and form the basis of the main notions of the three major theoretical paradigms of international relations.

Neorealism[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

John Mearsheimer, an important theorist of neorealism, explored the limits of international institutions in depth in his 1994 article, "The False Promise of International Institutions."[7] In this essay, Mearsheimer articulates the neorealist view that international institutions are essentially tools at the service of the most powerful states: "Realists... recognize that states sometimes operate through institutions. However, they believe that those rules reflect state calculations of self-interest based primarily on the international distribution of power. The most powerful states in the system create and shape institutions so that they can maintain their share of world power, or even increase it. In this view, institutions are essentially 'arenas for acting out power relationships.' ...institutions largely mirror the distribution of power in the system". He highlights the limitations of international institutions".

Mearsheimer admits that states sometimes act through institutions. However, in his view, these rules and interactions mainly reflect states' calculations of self-interest, based largely on the international distribution of power. In other words, the most powerful states create and shape international institutions in order to maintain, or even increase, their share of global power. From this perspective, Mearsheimer sees international institutions as essentially "arenas for playing out power relations". They reflect the distribution of power in the international system, rather than being independent entities capable of effectively influencing or regulating the behaviour of states. This view offers an incisive critique of the idea that international institutions can be a vehicle for cooperative world order or a means of overcoming the fundamental anarchy of the international system. Instead, Mearsheimer argues, they are largely instrumentalised by powerful states to promote their own interests, limiting their ability to act as balancing or stabilising factors in international relations.

Realist thinkers, while accepting the existence of international institutions, consider that they are above all a reflection of the hierarchy of world powers, or the distribution of power between states. These institutions, according to the realist perspective, remain largely under the control of the most powerful states, which support them as long as they serve their interests. When they cease to be useful, these powerful states can choose not to respect them any more, because there is no binding international force capable of ensuring that they are respected once these states are no longer satisfied with them. So, from a realist point of view, the relevance and influence of international organisations depend on the support of the major powers. On the other hand, the dominant states are able to use these international institutions as levers to impose certain standards on less powerful states. These standards are often those that favour the interests of the dominant powers. In this way, international institutions can become a tool through which influential states can exert their power and shape the world in their own interests. The impact of international organisations depends largely on the support of the major powers behind them. Institutions are not independent, but rather tools at the mercy of influential states, ready to be used to advance their global agendas.

It has been observed that governments withdraw from certain discussions when they do not serve their interests. Take, for example, the United States, which chose not to participate in the Kyoto Protocol. This decision was largely due to the fact that emerging nations were not constrained by this institutional framework. As a result, the United States anticipated the negative effects and costs it would incur if it participated. As a result, it chose not to engage in this process. In the case of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the United States also expressed its opposition. Their reluctance stems from a refusal to submit to a supranational entity that could potentially incriminate American citizens for crimes against humanity. This is another example of how powerful states can choose not to comply with international institutions when they perceive that their participation could run counter to their national interests.

The choice of major powers whether or not to participate in international institutions is based on a strategic assessment of their own interests. These interests may be political, economic or security-related. This perspective is in line with realism in international relations, which sees states as rational actors pursuing their national interests in an anarchic environment. For example, a powerful country may choose to participate in an international organisation if this enables it to exert influence over other countries, to shape international rules and norms to its advantage, or to reap economic benefits. At the same time, such participation may also provide a mechanism for resolving disputes with other states in a peaceful and structured manner. On the other hand, if an international institution is perceived to run counter to the interests of a major power, the latter may choose not to participate or even to oppose it. This was illustrated by the United States, which chose not to participate in the Kyoto Protocol and to oppose the International Criminal Court, fearing that these institutions would harm its national interests. However, abstention from or opposition to international institutions can also have consequences, particularly in terms of international image, diplomatic relations or pressure from the international community. The major powers must therefore constantly weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of their involvement in international institutions.

Liberalism[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Liberalism in international relations focuses on the notion of interdependence between states and argues that this growing interdependence encourages mutually beneficial cooperation. This cooperation is seen as rational and beneficial to all states, as it can lead to mutual gains and help solve cross-border problems. For example, in the area of trade, increased cooperation can facilitate free trade, which can stimulate economic growth and create benefits for all participants. Similarly, in the face of environmental challenges such as climate change, collective action is necessary to achieve effective results, as these challenges cannot be solved by a single state. Furthermore, liberals argue that international institutions play a key role in facilitating this cooperation by providing a framework for negotiations, setting rules and standards of behaviour, and helping to resolve disputes. Thus, liberalism sees international institutions not as instruments of power for the strongest states, but as important actors in their own right, capable of shaping international relations and encouraging cooperation between states.

Despite the growing interdependence and mutual interest in cooperation, it does not happen spontaneously or easily. There are a number of obstacles to cooperation, such as divergent interests, communication problems, coordination challenges, and the risk of opportunistic or "free-riding" behaviour where one state benefits from the efforts of others without contributing itself. This is where international institutions come in. They can help overcome these obstacles and facilitate cooperation. For example, they can provide a forum for negotiation and dialogue, help build trust between states, promote transparency and accountability, coordinate collective action, and put in place mechanisms to resolve conflicts and ensure compliance with agreements. In this way, international institutions are seen as valuable tools for facilitating cooperation, rather than simply as instruments of power for powerful states. According to the liberal perspective, their role and influence in international relations go far beyond simply reflecting on the distribution of power between states.

The phenomenon described is often referred to as the 'free rider' problem. In the context of international relations, this refers to the tendency of one state to benefit from collective efforts without making a fair contribution. This can compromise the success of collective action, because if all states act selfishly, then the common good is not achieved. International institutions play a crucial role in overcoming this problem. By establishing common standards, facilitating coordination and monitoring compliance with obligations, they can encourage states to cooperate rather than act selfishly. For example, an international treaty can specify the obligations of each state, while monitoring and enforcement mechanisms can ensure that each state meets its commitments. In the event of non-compliance, international institutions can also provide dispute settlement mechanisms to resolve conflicts. In addition, these institutions can encourage cooperation by promoting transparency and information. By providing information on the actions and policies of states, they can help build trust and deter 'free rider' behaviour.

For Robert Keohane in International Institutions: Two Approaches published in 1988, "...This research program ... assumes ... rationality on the part of the actors. It begins with the premise that if there were no potential gains from agreements to be captured in world politics ... there would be no need for specific international institutions. ... Conversely, if cooperation were easy ... there would be no need for institutions to facilitate cooperation. ... It is the combination of the potential value of agreements and the dfficulty of making them that renders international regimes significant. In order to cooperate in world politics on more than a sporadic basis, human beings have to use institutions.... Even in the absence of hierarchical authority, institutions provide information (through monitoring) and stabilize expectations. They may also make decentralized enforcement feasible, for example by creating conditions under which reciprocity can operate...".[8]

Robert Keohane stresses the importance of international institutions in facilitating cooperation between states. He assumes that actors are rational and see potential value in international agreements. However, he also recognises that cooperation is difficult to achieve because of the challenges posed by the anarchic international system. For Keohane, international institutions play a key role in overcoming these challenges. Firstly, they provide information, notably through monitoring mechanisms, which can help states to assess the behaviour of others and develop stable expectations. This information can reduce uncertainty, promote trust and deter opportunistic behaviour. Secondly, international institutions can facilitate the decentralised application of agreements. For example, they can create favourable conditions for reciprocity, a key principle of international cooperation. According to this principle, if one state respects its commitments, others are more likely to do the same, and vice versa. By facilitating reciprocity, international institutions can encourage states to honour their commitments and cooperate on a more regular basis. However, as Keohane points out, the value and effectiveness of international institutions ultimately depend on the willingness of states to cooperate and honour their commitments. Although institutions can facilitate cooperation, they cannot guarantee it.

The liberal perspective emphasises the importance of international institutions as facilitators of cooperation between states. Such cooperation can be difficult to achieve in an international system characterised by anarchy, where no supreme power imposes order. In such a context, states may be reluctant to cooperate for fear that others will exploit their efforts for their own gain, a problem known as the "prisoner's dilemma" in game theory. International institutions help to overcome these challenges in several ways. Firstly, they can promote transparency by disseminating information about the behaviour of states. This can help states to assess the credibility of others' commitments and to make informed decisions about their own behaviour. Secondly, international institutions can help to stabilise expectations by establishing clear norms and rules for state behaviour. This can reduce uncertainty and promote trust, thereby facilitating cooperation. Thirdly, international institutions can facilitate the implementation of agreements by providing dispute resolution mechanisms and monitoring compliance with commitments. This can deter opportunistic behaviour and encourage states to respect their commitments. However, as the realist perspective emphasises, the will and interest of states remain crucial factors for international cooperation. International institutions can facilitate cooperation, but they cannot guarantee it. States remain the main actors on the international stage and their behaviour is largely determined by their own calculations of national interest.

Within the framework of liberalism, states are perceived as rational and oriented towards achieving their national objectives. In an increasingly interconnected world, the problems facing states are often transnational and require international cooperation and coordination. International institutions are set up to facilitate this cooperation. States join these institutions and comply with their standards not because they are compelled to do so by a higher authority, but because they recognise the benefits of cooperation and compliance with internationally recognised standards. In other words, they see compliance with the rules of these institutions as being in their own long-term interests. International institutions can then use different mechanisms to encourage compliance. For example, they can monitor the actions of member states and publicise any breaches of the standards, which can have an impact on the international reputation of the state concerned. In addition, some institutions also have dispute settlement mechanisms to resolve disputes between Member States in a peaceful and orderly manner. In addition, some institutions may also impose sanctions on states that violate their standards. These sanctions can be economic, diplomatic or even military. However, the effectiveness of these sanctions depends largely on the willingness of other Member States to apply them. It is important to note that although international institutions can exert a certain amount of pressure on states to comply with international standards, state sovereignty remains paramount. States retain the right to withdraw from an international institution if they feel that membership is no longer in their national interest.

International institutions play a crucial role in shaping the behaviour of states on the world stage. By establishing clear norms and rules, these institutions provide a framework for states, guiding their actions and policies. The basic idea is that by joining these institutions, states commit themselves to certain standards of conduct. Once they have accepted these standards, it can be politically and socially costly to break them. Furthermore, failure to comply with these standards can result in sanctions, ranging from diplomatic isolation to economic penalties, creating an incentive to comply. It is important to note, however, that while international institutions can exert some influence over the actions of states, they generally do not have the coercive means to force a state to act in a certain way. The power of these institutions often lies in their ability to coordinate the actions of states, to facilitate dialogue and cooperation, and to implement dispute resolution mechanisms when conflicts arise. However, the power of these institutions is always dependent on the willingness of Member States to respect norms and comply with rules, as these institutions are, by definition, intergovernmental entities that depend on the cooperation of their members to function effectively.

Constructivism[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Constructivism is another important paradigm in international relations theory. Unlike realism and liberalism, which focus respectively on power and economic interdependence between states, constructivism places particular emphasis on ideas, norms and identities in world politics. Constructivism is concerned with how international actors, including states, perceive themselves and interpret the world around them. It suggests that these perceptions and interpretations then shape the behaviour of these actors. In other words, constructivism argues that the behaviour of international actors is not simply dictated by material interests or power calculations, but is also influenced by their beliefs, values and identities. For example, a constructivist might examine how international norms, such as the norm against the use of chemical or nuclear weapons, are established and evolve over time. These norms are largely constructed by international actors themselves, and once established can influence the behaviour of those actors. In this sense, constructivism offers a different perspective on the role of international institutions. Instead of seeing them simply as arenas for power competition (as realism does) or as facilitators of economic cooperation (as liberalism does), constructivism sees international institutions as important actors in the creation and maintenance of international norms. It is important to note that constructivism, as a paradigm, is not unified and includes a variety of different perspectives and approaches. For example, some constructivists place more emphasis on the role of ideas and norms, while others focus on the role of identities and cultures. However, they all share the basic idea that social structures and ideas have a significant impact on the behaviour of international actors.

Constructivism attaches great importance to social and cultural forces that transcend national borders, which fits in well with the phenomenon of globalisation. This paradigm considers that our interconnected world allows not only a growing flow of goods and services, but also an exchange of ideas, norms, values and identities. These cultural and ideological exchanges can have a significant impact on world politics, according to constructivists. NGOs, for example, are non-state actors that play a crucial role in shaping international norms and promoting ideas on issues ranging from human rights to climate change. They often operate across national boundaries and can influence policy at both national and international level. Similarly, social media and other traditional media contribute to the rapid spread of information, ideas and standards across borders. They can amplify the voices of marginalised groups, raise awareness of issues and influence public opinion and policy decisions. Constructivism emphasises these dynamic and complex interactions, arguing that our understanding of international relations is incomplete without taking these social and cultural factors into account. In short, this paradigm highlights the way in which cross-cultural exchanges and cross-border communications, accentuated by globalisation, are shaping the global political landscape.

Constructivism attaches great importance to the socialisation aspect offered by international organisations. These institutions, according to constructivists, are not just arenas for negotiating material interests or places for cooperation based on rational calculations, but they are also places of socialisation where state and non-state actors can influence the identities, norms and values of others. By being a member of an international organisation, a state is frequently in contact with other states and can therefore be influenced by their norms and values. For example, by joining an international organisation such as the UN, a country may be encouraged to respect certain international standards on human rights or environmental protection. Similarly, an international economic organisation such as the WTO can encourage the adoption of liberal economic and trade standards among its members. This socialisation can also take place through interaction with other non-state actors within the organisation, such as NGOs, multinational companies, or think tanks, all of which can play a role in promoting certain norms and values. Thus, according to the constructivist view, international organisations can have a profound and lasting effect on the behaviour of states, shaping their identities, interests and actions through processes of socialisation.

Participation in international organisations such as the UN, or their sub-bodies such as the Human Rights Council or the climate negotiations, can have a significant impact on how decision-makers perceive and respond to global issues. Within these forums, policy-makers are exposed to a variety of viewpoints and problem-solving approaches, which can sometimes challenge their own beliefs and methods. This exposure to diversity and differences can foster a form of socialisation, where decision-makers begin to develop a shared understanding of the issues and adopt common values and objectives. For example, in climate negotiations, politicians from different countries are brought together to discuss and negotiate solutions to global environmental problems. Over time, this ongoing interaction can lead to a greater understanding and acceptance of environmental problems and the need to take action to address them. Similarly, participation in the UN Human Rights Council can lead to decision-makers becoming more familiar with international human rights standards and integrating these standards into their own national policies. That said, it should be noted that this socialisation process is not automatic and can vary depending on many factors, including the openness of decision-makers to new ideas, peer pressure within the organisation, and the political and social context in their home country.

Climate change is a perfect example of the influence of constructivist processes on international norms. For a long time, the issue of global warming was controversial, and evidence of the impact of human activity on the climate was questioned. However, thanks to the sustained commitment of scientists, non-governmental organisations, citizens and other non-state actors, understanding and acceptance of the reality of climate change has gradually evolved. This process has involved persuasion strategies, awareness-raising campaigns, educational efforts and a series of complex interactions within various international institutions and platforms. These actors have used international platforms, such as UN climate conferences, to disseminate information, share research and data, and promote a discourse on the need to take action to mitigate climate change. They have also used these opportunities to build networks and alliances, to influence policy and to lobby for climate action. Over time, this process has helped to create a "community of states" sharing a common understanding and concern about climate change. This is a good example of how constructivist processes can play a role in shaping international norms and influencing the behaviour of states. That said, it is important to note that the process is not over. Despite the progress that has been made, there are still differences between states as to how they respond to the challenge of climate change. Furthermore, although increased awareness of the problem has led to stronger commitments to reduce emissions, it remains to be seen to what extent these commitments will be met.

Current Challenges in International Relations[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The world is witnessing a major shift in international power dynamics with the emergence of non-Western states on the world stage. Countries such as China and India, with their fast-growing economies, are gaining increasing influence and reshaping power relations within existing international structures. This is unprecedented for a number of reasons. Historically, power in the international system has been dominated by Western states, with institutions and norms largely designed and controlled by them. The emergence of non-Western powers in this system could lead to a re-evaluation and reform of these structures.

The rise of these powers also poses unique challenges. For example, China, as a rising power, has a political system that differs significantly from those of the dominant Western states. This can lead to tensions and conflicts over issues of global governance, human rights and trade. Moreover, the process of emergence of these new powers is not uniform. Some countries, such as China, have made enormous economic progress and have become major players in the global economy, while others, such as India, despite their size and economic potential, are still struggling with internal challenges such as poverty and inequality. It is clear that the emergence of these new powers is transforming the international system. This may offer opportunities for greater diversity and more balanced representation in global governance. However, it also raises new challenges for international cooperation and the management of global disputes.

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Maddison's data provides a rich historical perspective on the evolution of the global economy over the last two millennia. By quantifying and comparing the gross domestic product (GDP) of different regions of the world throughout history, it is possible to observe changes in global economic trends and understand how the balance of economic power has shifted over time. Taking the Roman era as a starting point, for example, we can see the rise and fall of different economic powers. The data could show how, at certain periods, the Roman Empire dominated the world economy, and then how the centre of the world economy gradually shifted westwards, towards Europe and North America, with the Industrial Revolution. Similarly, Maddison's data could show how, in recent decades, the centre of the world economy has begun to shift eastwards, with the rapid emergence of the Asian economies. This trend is clearly reflected in the current economic performance of countries such as China and India. This data, when visualised in graphical form, can help to put historical fluctuations in global economic power into perspective and anticipate possible future trajectories. It is a valuable tool for understanding the dynamics of the global economy, both historically and prospectively.

Maddison's analysis of historical data shows that the centre of the world economy was located near the border of India and China 2,000 years ago. Although these two civilisations were already major economic powers at the time, their influence was not absolute, as the Roman Empire was also a major economic force. The Roman Empire, with its vast territory spanning Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, wielded considerable economic power. Its economic activities, including trade with other regions, therefore helped to shift the centre of the world economy westwards. This analysis demonstrates the dynamics of global economic power throughout history. The major economic forces are not static, but evolve according to the development of civilisations, technological innovation, available resources, economic policies, international trade and many other factors. Past trends are no guarantee of future positions, which makes analysis of the global economy both complex and fascinating.

The era of the Industrial Revolution, which ran from around 1820 to 1913, brought about a significant upheaval in the world's economic structure. During this period, Western nations made unprecedented technological advances that radically altered their modes of production and, consequently, their position in the global economy. The Industrial Revolution marked the transition from an economy based primarily on agriculture and handicrafts to one characterised by mechanised industrial mass production. The West, particularly countries such as Great Britain, Germany and the United States, were at the forefront of these changes, developing textile, steel, coal and railway industries, among others. The modernisation that accompanied this revolution gave these Western nations a significant lead in terms of industrial production, economic power and global wealth. This resulted in a significant shift in the centre of the world economy towards the West.

After the Second World War, the position of the United States as the world's leading economic power began to consolidate. This was mainly attributed to its relatively intact economy after the conflict, its dominance in many key industries, and its ability to innovate and adapt quickly to new technologies. In Europe, the post-war period was marked by a period of intense reconstruction and the establishment of the European Economic Community, the forerunner of the European Union. These initiatives helped to make Europe a major economic pole, drawing the centre of economic power westwards. However, with the introduction of economic reforms in China in the late 1970s, the centre of economic power began to shift eastwards again. These reforms, which led to greater economic openness and gradual market liberalisation, transformed China into a major economic power, with rapid growth and a growing influence on the world economy. As a result, the centre of the world economy, once firmly anchored in the West, has begun to shift eastwards, reflecting the emergence of new economic powers in Asia. This underlines the dynamic and ever-changing nature of the global economy.

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China's economic growth over recent decades has been spectacular. It is one of the fastest growing countries in the world, transforming a closed socialist economy into a dynamic, open market economy. In contrast, growth in the United States has been more stable, reflecting the maturity of its economy. Other emerging markets, such as India, Brazil and Russia, have also experienced relatively high growth rates, although they are often more volatile. As for other wealthy countries such as Europe, Australia and Japan, their economic growth has generally been more modest, due to the maturity of their economies and challenges such as an ageing population. However, these countries remain important players in the global economy due to their large economic size and their political and cultural influence.

China has enjoyed impressive economic growth since the early 2000s, thanks in part to its policy of economic reform and its increasing integration into the global economy. Its contribution to global growth was particularly notable after the 2008 global financial crisis, when most developed economies were hit hard and growth in China remained relatively robust. However, it is also important to note that economic power does not translate directly into political or military power on the world stage. While China has certainly increased its influence, notably through initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative, it also faces a number of challenges, such as an ageing population, regional inequalities and tensions with other countries. Furthermore, although China has overtaken the US in terms of GDP at purchasing power parity, the US remains the largest economy in terms of nominal GDP and still leads in areas such as technological innovation and military influence. This underlines the complexity of the concept of 'power' on the world stage, which cannot be fully measured or compared simply in terms of economic size.

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As one of the world's largest economies, China has a considerable impact on global trade. Its position as a major importer means that fluctuations in its domestic demand can have global consequences, particularly for countries whose economies rely heavily on exports to China. In addition, China is also a major exporter, which means that its production and trade policy decisions can influence global markets for a variety of products and services. China's position as a major economic power also gives it significant negotiating power in international trade policy discussions. For example, it can influence world trade rules, standards and regulations through forums such as the World Trade Organisation. Furthermore, as a major economic player, China also has the opportunity to promote its own economic and political interests on a global scale. That said, economic power does not translate directly into political or military influence. Despite its economic size, China still has to navigate a complex international landscape and face considerable domestic challenges.

In realist international relations theory, an increase in a state's economic power is often seen as a prelude to an increase in its military power. Realists assume that in an anarchic international system, states are always seeking power and security. As such, substantial economic growth offers the means to invest more in military capabilities, and thus to strengthen state power and security. As far as India is concerned, its rapid economic growth could, according to realistic logic, lead to an increase in its military power in the long term. However, this process will not necessarily be linear or without obstacles. For example, India faces significant challenges in terms of development and social inequality, which could potentially slow down its economic growth and, consequently, its military expansion. However, economic power does not automatically translate into military power. Other factors, such as strategic decisions, technological capabilities, political will and threat perception, also play a role in determining a state's military power. Moreover, in today's context, where economic warfare, cultural influence and soft power have become key elements of the international game, military power is only one aspect of a state's overall power.

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China's military spending has increased significantly in recent years, reflecting its economic growth and its ambition to increase its international power and influence. This is one aspect of what is known as "offensive realism" in international relations - the idea that a state that is gaining in economic power will seek to use it to increase its military power and thus strengthen its position and security on the international stage. It is important to note that increasing military spending does not automatically mean a corresponding increase in military power. The way in which this money is spent, the technology available, the training and experience of the armed forces, and many other factors also come into play.

It is also worth mentioning that comparing military spending between countries can be misleading because of differences in labour costs and other factors. For example, the same amount of money could employ more soldiers or build more equipment in China than in the US because of differences in labour costs. Nevertheless, the trend of increasing military spending in China is a clear indicator of its growing defence and security ambitions, and this is increasingly recognised by other international players.

Realism, as a theory of international relations, postulates that states are motivated by the pursuit of their own national interests, and that military and economic power is the key to a state's security and influence. Through the realist prism, China's rapidly increasing economic and military power could be seen as a potential threat to other states, especially those that currently hold the most power in the international system, such as the United States. According to neo-realist theory, the international system is intrinsically anarchic, i.e. it has no higher authority to regulate the behaviour of states. In such a system, states would naturally be suspicious of other states that were rapidly acquiring power, because they could use that power to threaten their interests. Powerful states could therefore seek to counter the rise of China by various means, such as strengthening their own military capabilities, forming alliances with other states, or implementing policies designed to limit China's economic and political influence.

The Three Theoretical Perspectives on Current Challenges[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

We will now try to apply these theories to the rise of China.

Neorealism[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Neo-realism sees states as the main and most important players on the international stage. According to this view, international institutions are often created and shaped by the most powerful states to serve their own interests. This is where the concept of the "security dilemma" comes in. A security dilemma is a situation where actions taken by one state to increase its own security (such as increasing its military capabilities) have the effect of increasing the sense of insecurity in other states. This can lead to a spiral of escalation, where each state feels obliged to constantly strengthen its own security in response to the actions of others.

In the case of China, some states may perceive its rapid increase in economic and military power as a threat to their own security. In response to this perception, these states might seek to strengthen their own military capabilities, which might in turn lead China to further strengthen its own capabilities, and so on. According to neo-realism, this dynamic could make international cooperation more difficult, as each state would be primarily concerned with its own security rather than solving common problems. This could potentially limit the effectiveness of international institutions, if they are seen to serve the interests of the most powerful states rather than those of the international community as a whole.

Neo-realism argues that the creation and operation of international institutions reflect the distribution of power in the international system. So, according to this view, if a state like China increases in power, it may seek to create or influence international institutions that better reflect and serve its own interests. We can see this with China's creation of institutions such as the New Development Bank (also known as the BRICS Bank) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). These institutions can be seen as China's attempts to challenge the dominant role played by Western institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in international finance and development. Moreover, these institutions can also help China to promote its own vision of development and international relations. For example, the New Development Bank and the AIIB focus on infrastructure financing, which is in line with China's Belt and Road initiative to develop infrastructure and trade links around the world. While these new institutions may challenge existing ones, they do not necessarily replace them. For example, many countries are members of both the World Bank and the AIIB. Moreover, these new institutions may also work in partnership with existing institutions in certain cases. So the structure of international institutions is changing, reflecting the changing distribution of power in the international system.

According to the realist perspective, the anarchic nature of the international system means that states can never be sure of each other's intentions. States are seen as being primarily concerned with their own security and seeking to maximise their relative power. In this context, international institutions are often seen as being of little use in guaranteeing security, as they are ultimately subordinate to the interests and power of sovereign states. In this context, becoming a hegemon, or the dominant power in the international system, is seen as the surest way to guarantee one's own security. Hegemony gives a state the power to shape the rules and norms of the international system to its advantage, and reduces its vulnerability to the actions of others.

The realist perspective tends to expect great powers to be in constant competition for power and influence. According to this view, as China develops and strengthens its economic and military power, it will probably seek to extend its influence in Asia and challenge the dominant position of the United States in the region. This could lead to increased tensions between the US and China, and potentially even conflict, if the US seeks to maintain its position as the world's superpower and thwart China's rise. The Monroe Doctrine, first enunciated in 1823, stated that any European intervention on the American continent would be considered an act of aggression requiring intervention by the United States. It was a clear statement of the United States' intention to become the dominant power in the Western Hemisphere. It is a classic example of foreign policy realism, with the US seeking to maximise its own security and influence by limiting the influence of other major powers in its immediate neighbourhood. Today, some observers argue that China may be seeking to establish a kind of "Monroe Doctrine" in East Asia, seeking to oust the US as the dominant power in the region and establish its own sphere of influence. This could explain some of China's actions, such as its territorial claims in the South China Sea and its efforts to isolate Taiwan.

According to the theory of offensive realism, the anarchic structure of the international system forces states to seek power and anticipate conflict. In this context, China's emergence as a global superpower could inevitably lead to conflict with the United States, as each country seeks to maximise its own security by increasing its relative power. According to Mearsheimer, the current situation between the United States and China is an example of what he calls the "Thucydides trap": when the power of a growing nation threatens that of an established power, conflict is almost inevitable.

Realists see international institutions not as autonomous actors with their own power, but rather as tools at the service of the most powerful states. According to this view, institutions reflect the global balance of power and are used by the major powers to promote their own interests. In the current context, this would mean that China could seek to create or reshape international institutions to better reflect and promote its own interests, especially if it perceives that current institutions are heavily influenced by the United States or other Western powers.

Constructivists and liberals see international institutions in a fundamentally different way to realists. For constructivists and liberals, institutions serve to cooperate with each other.

Liberals argue that international institutions play a crucial role in facilitating cooperation between states. They argue that, even in an international system where each state pursues its own interests, institutions can help overcome problems of trust and uncertainty that might otherwise hinder cooperation. International institutions can serve as forums where states can negotiate agreements, exchange information, monitor compliance and resolve disputes. For example, the World Trade Organisation provides a framework for trade negotiations and the resolution of trade disputes. Similarly, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change have provided a framework for international environmental cooperation. These institutions can also help to create transparency and reduce uncertainty, by providing information on the policies and behaviour of states. This can help overcome the 'security dilemma' in which states may be encouraged to adopt aggressive policies for fear of the hostile intentions of others.

Constructivists see international institutions as spaces where ideas, norms and values are discussed, negotiated and contested. According to this perspective, institutions can influence the interests and identities of states through processes of socialisation, persuasion and the dissemination of norms. Institutions can therefore play an active role in shaping the behaviour and policies of states, and are not simply tools at the service of the most powerful states. Liberals, on the other hand, argue that international institutions can foster cooperation by reducing uncertainty, providing information and facilitating conflict resolution. For them, institutions can be neutral actors that facilitate cooperation between states, even if they can also be influenced by the most powerful states. Realists, on the other hand, see international institutions as instruments at the service of the most powerful states. In their view, institutions reflect the distribution of power in the international system and are used by powerful states to promote their own interests.

According to realist theory, the influence of states on international institutions is largely determined by their relative power. The most powerful states are likely to control and shape institutions according to their own interests. If another state becomes sufficiently powerful, it may be able to take control of certain institutions or create new ones that reflect its own interests. This can lead to institutional rivalries, where different institutions are controlled by different states and promote different agendas. For example, if China becomes increasingly influential at a global level, it may seek to promote its interests through institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, while the US and Europe continue to exert considerable influence through institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. However, it is also important to note that even the most powerful states cannot fully control international institutions. These institutions have their own rules, procedures and standards that can resist manipulation by a single state. In addition, international institutions often need the cooperation of many states to function effectively, which can limit the amount of influence a single state can exert.

Realists and neo-realists consider that international institutions are not independent, but rather reflect the distribution of power within the international system. In other words, the most powerful states, according to this perspective, are able to shape the institutions according to their own interests and use them as tools to exert their influence. This is why, in the context of China's rise to power, we might realistically expect China to seek to gain influence within existing institutions or to create new ones that are more aligned with its own interests. However, other theories of international relations have different perspectives. For example, liberals and constructivists tend to see international institutions as important actors in their own right, which can play a role in facilitating cooperation between states and have the potential to moderate certain aggressive or confrontational behaviours. Liberals, for example, believe that international institutions can help facilitate cooperation by reducing uncertainty and making commitments more credible. For constructivists, institutions can be important sites of socialisation and identity formation, where states can be led to adopt certain international norms and practices.

The UN Security Council is a good example of how international institutions can reflect the distribution of power in the international system. During the Cold War, when the system was clearly bipolar, with two superpowers (the USA and the USSR), the Security Council was often paralysed by disagreements between these two players. After the end of the Cold War, the world became unipolar with the United States as the sole superpower, and during this period the UN Security Council became more active. It was during this period that the Security Council authorised a number of military interventions, for example in Iraq (1991), Somalia (1992) and Libya (2011). However, as the international system becomes increasingly multipolar, with the emergence of new powers such as China, we are once again seeing deadlock within the Security Council. This reflects the growing tensions between these major powers and shows how international institutions can be influenced by power relations between states.

Liberalism[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Liberals see international institutions as arenas for information and communication. These institutions, they argue, can facilitate cooperation by reducing uncertainty and increasing transparency between states. International institutions can provide valuable information that helps to understand the intentions and actions of other states. For example, they can provide information on economic policies, military spending, human rights commitments and so on. This can help build trust and facilitate cooperation between states. Institutions can also help solve coordination and cooperation problems by establishing common standards and rules. For example, institutions such as the World Trade Organisation or the International Monetary Fund establish rules for international trade and economic policy that can help coordinate the actions of states and resolve conflicts. Finally, international institutions can also play a role in reinforcing the credibility of states' commitments. When a state makes a commitment within the framework of an international institution, it is more difficult for it to renege on that commitment without suffering consequences. This can help to strengthen trust and cooperation between states. Overall, Liberals see international institutions as an important means of facilitating cooperation and managing international relations in a more peaceful and stable way.

Liberals argue that international institutions play a crucial role in reducing uncertainty in international relations. In their view, these institutions can facilitate cooperation by providing information about the intentions and actions of other states, by establishing internationally accepted standards of behaviour, and by providing mechanisms for resolving conflicts. By providing a forum for communication and negotiation, international institutions can help to clarify states' intentions, reduce misunderstandings and minimise the risk of conflict. In addition, they can help promote transparency by requiring states to disclose information about their policies and actions, which can help build trust and facilitate cooperation. In addition, by establishing norms and rules of behaviour, international institutions can help to stabilise expectations and make the behaviour of states more predictable. This can also help to strengthen the credibility of states' commitments and facilitate cooperation. Finally, by providing mechanisms for resolving conflicts, international institutions can help to manage disputes between states in a peaceful manner. They can facilitate the negotiation process, provide arbitration and mediation mechanisms, and even impose sanctions for non-compliance with agreements. So, unlike Mearsheimer's realist perspective, the liberal perspective sees an active and beneficial role for international institutions in the management of international relations.

From the liberal perspective, international institutions, such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), serve several important functions that can facilitate cooperation between states and minimise conflict. They can serve to :

  • Providing information: International institutions can help reduce uncertainty by providing valuable information about the intentions, capabilities and actions of other states. For example, the WTO requires its members to publish their trade policies, which helps to make these policies more transparent and predictable.
  • Setting rules and standards: International institutions play a crucial role in establishing rules and standards of behaviour that are accepted by the international community. These rules and norms can help to stabilise expectations, make the behaviour of states more predictable and minimise the risk of conflict.
  • Facilitating the resolution of disputes: International institutions often offer mechanisms for the peaceful resolution of disputes between states. For example, the WTO has a dispute settlement mechanism that allows states to resolve their trade disputes in a peaceful and orderly manner.
  • Promoting cooperation: By facilitating communication and negotiation between states, international institutions can help promote cooperation on a variety of issues, from trade to the environment to security.

In this sense, even major powers such as China have an interest in participating in these institutions and abiding by their rules, as this can enable them to protect their interests, manage their relations with other states in a more predictable and stable way, and resolve disputes peacefully.

Liberals argue that international institutions can help create conditions that facilitate cooperation by clarifying the rules of the game, setting standards of behaviour, providing valuable information and helping to resolve disputes. Liberals also believe that international institutions can influence the behaviour of states by creating incentives for cooperation and costs for non-compliance. For example, if a state does not comply with WTO trade rules, it may be subject to trade sanctions. In addition, non-compliance can damage the state's reputation and credibility, which may deter it from breaking the rules in the future. However, unlike constructivists, liberals do not necessarily argue that international institutions can fundamentally change a state's interests. Instead, they focus more on how institutions can help coordinate the actions of states to achieve their existing interests more effectively and peacefully. So, within the liberal school of thought, the importance of institutions lies in their ability to promote cooperation and stabilise international relations, rather than in their ability to transform the fundamental interests of states.

Examining China's international position through the prism of liberal theory, we are presented with an intriguing picture. China has managed to insert itself significantly into the landscape of international institutions, despite the fact that it did not participate in their creation and remains outside certain key entities, such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The central question here is why China has chosen to join these institutions, given that they are dominated, for the most part, by the United States and other Western powers. The answer to this question lies in the fundamental principles of liberalism, which holds that international institutions promote cooperation and help overcome the dilemmas of cooperation by reducing uncertainty and transaction costs. Thus, China has entered these institutions not because it necessarily agrees with their structure or direction, but because it recognises the potential benefits of their participation. Even if these institutions are dominated by other powers, China can use their platform to promote its interests, gain access to valuable information and actively participate in shaping the rules that govern international relations. A clear example of this strategy is China's active participation in the Basel Committee, an international institution dedicated to banking supervision. Despite the predominant influence of Western central banks, the People's Bank of China works actively with other members to develop common rules. This enables it to anticipate and influence international financial regulations and adapt its own policy accordingly. In short, from a liberal perspective, China's involvement in international institutions is not a sign of conformity to Western norms, but a pragmatic strategy to navigate, influence and benefit from global governance.

Liberal theory offers a more optimistic view of international relations. It sees conflict not as inevitable, but as a challenge that states can overcome through cooperation and dialogue. From this perspective, international institutions play a crucial role. They provide forums where states can negotiate, debate and seek common solutions to their differences. The rules and mechanisms of these institutions help to structure these interactions, reduce uncertainty and facilitate collective decision-making. In addition, international institutions create networks of cooperation that transcend borders. These networks may include not only states, but also a variety of other actors, such as non-governmental organisations, multinational companies and financial institutions. These networks can facilitate information sharing, build mutual trust and foster cooperation on a range of issues, from international trade to environmental protection. So, from a liberal perspective, it is entirely possible for China and the United States, or any other great power duo, to manage their differences and cooperate for the common good. However, this requires political will on both sides, as well as effective use of international institutions and cooperation mechanisms.

Constructivism[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Constructivists believe that international institutions play a fundamental role not only in structuring the interaction between states, but also in shaping their identities and interests. According to constructivism, interactions within institutions can change the way states perceive themselves and others. Through dialogue and negotiation, states can modify their interests, learn to understand the views of others, and even adopt new norms and values. This transformation of perceptions and interests can, in turn, affect their behaviour on the international stage. This is why, from a constructivist point of view, diplomacy and dialogue are of paramount importance. By providing forums for debate and negotiation, international institutions can help states to overcome their differences, forge consensus and even transform their relations for the better. In this way, constructivism offers a more dynamic and evolving vision of international relations, where change is not only possible, but also the product of social interaction.

The constructivist approach offers tools for understanding how global actors, such as Gorbachev, were able to change their perspective and adopt more liberal approaches. Constructivism considers that norms, ideas and beliefs can evolve through interaction and dialogue. Thus, the end of the Cold War, marked by the rapprochement between the USA and the USSR and the adoption of liberal reforms by the latter, can be interpreted through a constructivist prism. This implies that Gorbachev, through various interactions at the international level, was influenced by liberal ideas and began to incorporate them into his own worldview and politics. From a realist or liberal perspective, this change in political orientation might be more difficult to explain, given that these approaches emphasise power and material benefits respectively as the main drivers of international politics. Constructivism, on the other hand, highlights the importance of shared ideas and norms in shaping the behaviour of international actors.

Constructivism emphasises the role of ideas, values, norms and perceptions in the way we understand and interpret the world, including the nature of threats. In the case of climate change, it is a perfect example of how our perceptions of a threat can evolve over time. A few decades ago, climate change was largely ignored or considered a marginal issue. However, thanks to years of scientific research, activism and diplomacy, it is now recognised as a major global threat that requires collective action. The work of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), experts and scientists has been essential in changing the perception of this threat. They have helped to disseminate information, raise public awareness and put pressure on political decision-makers to take climate change seriously. This example illustrates the important role of ideas and norms in shaping our understanding of threats and our responses to them. According to the constructivist perspective, our perceptions of what constitutes a threat can be shaped and changed through dialogue, interaction and the exchange of ideas.

Constructivism insists that security and threats are not objective realities, but rather are defined by our perceptions and interpretation of reality. In the context of Sino-American relations, this means that the way in which China and the United States perceive and interpret each other's actions can have a significant impact on their relationship. For example, if the US sees China's economic and military expansion as a threat to its hegemony, it may adopt policies of counterbalance and deterrence. Similarly, if China perceives US actions in the Asia-Pacific region as an attempt to contain its rise, it may adopt a more aggressive posture. However, according to constructivism, these perceptions are not fixed and can be changed through dialogue, information exchange and interaction. For example, if the US and China manage to understand each other and build mutual trust through discussion and negotiation, they may come to see each other's actions in a less threatening light. In this way, constructivism encourages us not to take perceptions of security and threats for granted, but to recognise that they can be shaped and changed through dialogue and interaction.

Constructivism would argue that the meaning we attribute to an event, such as China's construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea, is the result of our interpretation of that event and not an inherent feature of the event itself. In the case of the construction of the artificial islands, for example, it can be interpreted as a purely defensive move on China's part, seeking to strengthen its security by establishing stronger control over its regional environment. From this perspective, the construction of the islands is not necessarily a threat to other countries, unless they interpret it as an attempt by China to extend its influence or upset the balance of power in Asia. Conversely, if China is seen as seeking to challenge US regional leadership or unilaterally claim disputed territories, then the construction of the islands could be seen as a threat. It is important to note that these interpretations are constructed and shaped by a range of factors, including pre-existing beliefs, strategic interests, the history of Sino-US relations and current political discourses. For this reason, a constructivist approach to international security would emphasise the need for dialogue and open communication to demystify each other's intentions and to minimise misunderstandings and misperceptions of threat.

In neo-realist and liberal theories, threat is generally perceived as something tangible and objective, often linked to the balance of military and economic power between states. Thus, border tanks, in these theoretical frameworks, are generally interpreted as a clear indicator of a potential threat. However, the constructivist perspective insists that threat perception is subjectively constructed and is shaped by a variety of factors, including history, culture, social norms and political discourse. Border tanks, for example, might be interpreted not as an imminent threat, but as a defensive or preventive measure, depending on the context. From this point of view, the perception of the threat is not fixed, but can evolve according to the evolution of discourse and collective perceptions. The enemy is not a fixed entity, but a social construct that can change according to the relationships and discourses between actors. This is what distinguishes the constructivist perspective from the neo-realist and liberal perspectives.

Constructivist theory emphasises the importance of discourse, perception and the social construction of international relations. At the start of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union were allies in the fight against the Axis during the Second World War. However, after the war, their relations quickly degenerated into intense rivalry, despite the fact that there was no major change in their respective material capabilities. To explain this, constructivists point to the major transformations in discourse and perceptions that took place during this period. Both countries began to perceive each other as ideological and security threats, and these perceptions were reinforced by political discourses, media narratives and cultural representations that painted the other as the enemy. These perceptions and discourses have had real effects on world politics, fuelling mistrust and hostility, and ultimately leading to decades of Cold War. Thus, according to constructivism, the changing nature of US-Soviet relations cannot be fully understood simply in terms of power or strategy, but must also take account of these social and discursive processes.

The three theories - realism, liberalism and constructivism - approach the situation from different angles, highlighting different facets of international relations. Realism focuses on the aspect of power and security, putting forward the idea that the primary national interest is to obtain and maintain power. Thus, the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union is seen as an inevitable struggle for power and hegemony. Liberalism, on the other hand, puts forward the idea that international cooperation and institutions can help mitigate conflict and promote peace. Thus, liberals might explain the Cold War as a failure to resolve divergent interests through peaceful and institutional means, such as disarmament agreements. Constructivism, however, focuses on how international actors construct and modify their perceptions and discourses about others. Thus, for a constructivist, the key aspect of the Cold War would be the way in which the United States and the Soviet Union constructed the image of the other as a threat, which had profound consequences for their relations and policies. Analysis of these discourses offers a more nuanced and richer view of international relations that can complement, and even challenge, the more traditional perspectives of realism and liberalism.

From a constructivist point of view, the perceptions and identities of international players are fluid and likely to change over time. This can make predictions difficult. Nevertheless, this perspective also emphasises the crucial role of institutions in structuring international interactions and defining norms of behaviour. International institutions, such as the UN, the EU, the WTO and many others, provide frameworks for cooperation, dialogue and conflict resolution. By promoting shared norms and values, they can influence the way in which international actors perceive and interact with each other. For example, institutions can help reinforce norms of non-aggression and respect for human rights, which can help mitigate perceptions of threat and promote peace. Similarly, they can help foster dialogue and mutual understanding, which can facilitate the peaceful resolution of conflicts and ease international tensions. So, while precise predictions may be difficult to make from a constructivist perspective, it can still offer valuable insights into the potential dynamics of international relations and the role that institutions can play in shaping them.

The English school of constructivism, also known as the "International Society" or "English School", developed the concept of the "proto-international society". This term is used to describe a phase in the evolution of international relations when states begin to share certain common interests and values, but do not necessarily form a complete and fully integrated international society. According to theorists of the English school, the increasing institutionalisation of international relations and the development of shared forums and processes help to foster this convergence of perceptions and interests. States may begin to see certain issues in a more similar light as a result of their ongoing participation in these shared forums and processes. So, for example, international institutions and organisations such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation or the International Monetary Fund can play an important role in the formation of this proto-international society, by providing a space for dialogue and negotiation between states, as well as promoting certain shared norms and values. That said, theorists of the English school also emphasise that this proto-international society is far from uniform or coherent, and is subject to tensions and contradictions. Different states may interpret and apply shared norms and values in different ways, and there may be conflicts between these interpretations and applications.

For constructivists, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) play a crucial role in the dynamics of international relations. Unlike liberal and realist theories, which focus primarily on states as the main actors, constructivists see a wider variety of actors on the international scene, including NGOs, social movements, international organisations and other non-state actors. Constructivists promote the idea that NGOs have the power to influence international discourse, shape public opinion, and change perceptions and beliefs through awareness-raising campaigns, advocacy and other activities. This enables them to influence policy and decisions taken by governments. For example, an NGO working on environmental issues can help to make climate change a central issue on the international political agenda by highlighting the associated risks and pushing for more sustainable policies. Similarly, an NGO working on human rights issues can help to highlight human rights abuses in certain parts of the world, influence public opinion and push governments to take action to address these issues. It is important to note that, although NGOs can play an important role in shaping discourse and perceptions, they do not have the formal power to make decisions on international policy, as this power remains primarily in the hands of states. However, their influence on ideas, norms and perceptions can have a significant impact on how states and other international actors act.

Case study: The issues surrounding the South China Sea[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

From a neo-realist perspective, the extension of China's presence in the South China Sea through the construction of artificial islands could be seen as a strategic move to increase its regional power and influence. Indeed, neo-realists assume that states act primarily according to their security and power interests in an anarchic international system. By building these islands, China is seen as seeking to extend its influence and secure its territorial claims in a strategically important region. It is a demonstration of its power and an attempt to assert its sovereignty over a disputed area that is rich in resources and a key shipping lane for international trade. It could also be seen as an attempt by China to challenge the presence and influence of the United States in the region, rather like the US Monroe Doctrine in the 19th century, which asserted American dominance over the Western Hemisphere. Finally, from a neo-realist perspective, China could be seen to be using these artificial islands as a deterrent or as a means of projecting its military power, thereby strengthening its strategic position in the region.

From a liberal perspective, the South China Sea dispute can be viewed through the lens of international norms and institutions that govern the law of the sea. One such framework is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This convention, often described as a 'constitution for the oceans', sets out the rights and responsibilities of nations regarding the use of the world's oceans, establishing guidelines for business, the environment and the management of marine resources. In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague issued a ruling in a case brought by the Philippines against China, claiming that China's expansive claim to the South China Sea was contrary to UNCLOS. However, China has rejected the ruling, claiming that it has no binding legal force. This highlights one of the challenges of liberal approaches: the reliance on the willingness of states to adhere to international norms and accept the jurisdiction of international institutions. Moreover, the failure of the United States, a major maritime power, to ratify UNCLOS may also hamper the effectiveness of these institutions by creating inconsistencies in their application and enforcement. Nevertheless, Liberals argue that these problems do not necessarily demonstrate the failure of international institutions, but rather the need to improve and strengthen them. They also stress the role that these institutions can play in facilitating dialogue, resolving conflicts and promoting cooperation between states.

From a liberal perspective, conflicts such as cyber espionage between the US and China can be resolved through cooperation and institutionalised dialogue. Recently, an agreement was reached to create a trans-governmental working group to facilitate communication between these two powers. The aim is to foster a better understanding of each side's intentions and prevent misunderstandings that could lead to tensions. These institutional arrangements can help build trust and stabilise relations by providing mechanisms for exchanging information and resolving disputes. They can also define common rules and acceptable standards of behaviour in emerging areas such as cyberspace, where a lack of clarity about expectations and responsibilities can lead to conflict. However, the effectiveness of these mechanisms depends on the willingness of the parties involved to commit themselves in good faith and to respect the agreements reached. This is where liberals see the crucial role of international institutions: as guardians of the international rule of law, facilitating cooperation and providing a forum for the peaceful settlement of disputes.

From a constructivist perspective, whether or not a threat is perceived depends very much on how it is discursively constructed. In the case of the artificial islands in the South China Sea, the United States can choose to interpret China's actions as a threat to its presence in Asia, or as a regional problem that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) could manage. According to this approach, these two different interpretations can lead to very different consequences in terms of international relations. If the United States sees China's action as a threat, this could lead to an escalation of tensions between the two countries. On the other hand, if they see it as a regional problem that can be managed by ASEAN, this could lead to a more peaceful and cooperative solution to the conflict. That's why, from a constructivist point of view, discourse - the way situations are described and interpreted - is so important. It is not just a question of understanding the actions of other states, but also of understanding how these actions are perceived and interpreted, and how these perceptions and interpretations can influence the behaviour of a state.

Realistically, the fight against climate change can be seen as a "prisoner's dilemma". In this scenario, each country has a self-interest in continuing to emit greenhouse gases to support its economic growth, while hoping that other countries will reduce their emissions to solve the problem of climate change. This is known as the "free rider" problem: each country has an interest in letting other countries bear the costs of reducing emissions, while enjoying the benefits of these reductions. If all countries act in this way, the result is a collective failure to solve the problem of climate change. For China, as the largest emitter of CO2, the decision whether or not to reduce its emissions has important implications for the international climate change regime. If China chooses not to reduce its emissions, it may benefit economically in the short term, but this could compromise global efforts to combat climate change in the long term. This is where the role of international institutions, such as the Paris Climate Agreement, can be crucial. They can help coordinate the actions of different countries and establish rules and mechanisms to incentivise countries to reduce their emissions, in order to overcome the 'free rider' problem.

From a realist perspective, ecology and, in particular, climate change, are complex issues to tackle. Nevertheless, if we adopt liberal or constructivist approaches, the hope of finding solutions becomes brighter. For example, the Paris negotiations provide an appropriate institutional framework for sharing ideas. Finance is also a major issue. In particular, China's attempt to internationalise its currency could be interpreted as a challenge to the dollar, which occupies a central position in the world economy. As far as investments are concerned, they can be viewed in the same way. Each of these topics can be illuminated using the lenses of the three main theories of international relations: realist, liberal and constructivist. These different perspectives can help to better understand the complex dynamics at work in these key areas.

Here is how these three theories might analyse some of these topics:

  1. Climate change :
    • Realistic: Climate change could be seen as a security issue in its own right, with countries seeking to minimise their own economic costs while maximising the benefits.
    • Liberal: International agreements such as the Paris Agreement are necessary to facilitate cooperation and solve the climate change problem. They can create an environment in which states have an incentive to cooperate to solve a common problem.
    • Constructivist: States, NGOs and international institutions can play a role in the social construction of climate change as a global problem requiring collective action.
  2. The internationalisation of China's currency:
    • Realistic: China could seek to internationalise its currency to increase its relative power on the international stage, challenging the dominance of the US dollar.
    • Liberal: The internationalisation of China's currency could be facilitated by international institutions such as the IMF. This could create a more diversified and stable currency system.
    • Constructivist: The internationalisation of China's currency could be seen as a threat or an opportunity depending on how it is discursively constructed by international actors.
  3. Investment :
    • Realistic: Investment could be seen as a means of increasing a state's power and influence.
    • Liberal: International institutions can facilitate investment by creating a stable and predictable environment, and by regulating conflicts.
    • Constructivist: Investment can be seen as a form of soft power, shaping international relations through the dissemination of ideas and cultural values.

Each theory offers a unique perspective that can enrich our understanding of these complex issues. The complexity of international phenomena means that no single theory can claim to provide a complete and univocal understanding. Each perspective - realist, liberal or constructivist - sheds its own light, revealing certain dynamics while leaving others in the dark. The use of several theories can therefore help to build a richer and more nuanced understanding of a given phenomenon. It is also crucial to recognise that each theory has its own limitations and that there are always aspects of a problem or phenomenon that may remain unexplained or poorly understood, even with the application of several perspectives. Interdisciplinarity is therefore essential if we are to fully understand the complexity of international relations and world politics. It means combining different theoretical, methodological and disciplinary approaches to provide a more comprehensive and nuanced view of global issues.

We are currently witnessing an ongoing transformation of the international order, characterised by a mixture of integration and disintegration. On the one hand, China is increasingly positioning itself within the existing international system, as evidenced by its membership of numerous international institutions. This demonstrates a desire to integrate and adhere to established global norms and rules. On the other hand, China is creating new institutions, such as the Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which could be interpreted as a sign of disintegration, or at least a challenge to the existing international order. It is important to stress that this process is ongoing and that the long-term impact of these developments is still uncertain. The parallelism of these trends of integration and disintegration reveals the complexity of current global dynamics, as well as the delicate balance between cooperation and competition on the international scene. It also underlines the importance of keeping a close eye on these developments in order to understand future transformations in world order.

The choice of which theory to use often depends on the specific issue we are trying to understand. Each international relations theory has its own lens, focusing on different factors and mechanisms, and may therefore offer a more convincing explanation for some phenomena than others. For example, if one is interested in the question of China's rise and its implications for regional security, neorealism with its emphasis on the balance of power might provide a particularly useful perspective. If, on the other hand, one is looking at international efforts to tackle climate change, a liberal approach that emphasises the importance of international cooperation and institutions might be more illuminating. Finally, if one is interested in how international norms evolve and are interpreted, constructivism, which focuses on ideas, discourses and social norms, could offer valuable insights. It is therefore essential to choose the most relevant theory according to the specific issue of interest. However, it may also be useful to consider several perspectives in order to obtain a more complete and nuanced understanding of the complex and multidimensional problems that characterise international relations.

Annexes[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

References[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

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