Globalization Affect the Key International Actors

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Contrary to the global populace's high hopes for the benefits of globalization, the phenomena has unintended effects that are frequently contentious and conflicting in nature. The advancements in the global economic, political, and cultural contexts have impacted the international economy on numerous platforms, either positively or badly. Globalization has recently emerged as a prominent problem in the study of international relations, with scholars attempting to identify both the benefits and drawbacks. Simply said, globalization comprises the integration and interaction of global economies across multiple platforms, including political, economic, technological, and cultural components. The aspect of globalization not only breaks the international boundaries and made the world to be a small village but also altered the international system in a significant way. This article seeks to ascertain how globalization affects the key international actors, including the States, international governmental organizations (IGOs), as well as the non-governmental organizations (NGOs). For instance, it takes a critical look at how globalization affects the state instruments, including its sovereignty, the citizenry, boundaries, and culture among other factors. More importantly, it utilizes the Idealism-Liberal Internationalism, which emphasizes on the need for nations to adopt global approaches in addressing national problems and challenges. The author argues that globalization affects the key international actors both positively and in a negative way.

Background of globalization

The concept of globalization dates back to late twentieth century when the global populace started to witness economic, political, social, and cultural changes worldwide. The development of communication and transport systems, for instance, brought forth the need and ease of interaction among the global populations and economic activities between nations in a manner that ignored the national boundaries. Since then, globalization process has expanded, and its role is imminent in both the first world countries and the developed economies across the world (Canclini 2001).

The process of globalization has made the world a small village, where states are interdependent on economic, political, cultural, and social platforms, and not even territorial boundaries can restrict it. Of more importance to note is the fact that neither state actors nor non-state entities, including NGOs and IGOs are spared by the developments encapsulated in the globalization process (Dollar 2001). Globalization has transformed the functioning and operations of intergovernmental organizations, particularly in the political field and global governance (Steger 2010). In a nutshell, the process of globalization has transformed the way the global populations, states, and corporations pursue their day-to-day businesses.

How Globalization Affect the State

The process of globalization has had significant impacts on the different international players, and the state is no exception. According to Chang (2003), globalization, in its basic definition enables us to ascertain the changes in the relationship between different nations across the globe as they seek to integrate and interact with one another in an interdependent small global village. Due to the process of globalization, nations have become more interdependent than ever before as they ignore the territorial boundaries to pursue economic, political, and social activities in the international arena (Steger 2010). Before the onset of globalization era, states prioritized their national interests than any other issue. They not only put much emphasis on the safety of their citizens and security of the country but also inclined towards addressing challenges and issues at the domestic level rather than on the international perspective (Okeke 2015). However, the onset of globalization period brought forth several challenges that compelled the states to adopt different approaches in handling challenges and opportunities alike. The problems and challenges have also transformed from the domestic nature to become global issues, and their solution must be international in nature (Stiglitz 2004). In this respect, states are unable to solve their problems and protect their citizens alone, and thus, require collaboration and collective action with partner states or international organizations.

Idealism Theory

The above notion concurs with the idealism model which puts much emphasis on the adoption of an “international mind” in solving domestic problems (Aron 2003). The idealism theory dates back to the 1880s when the philosophers of the tradition commenced to front it to the global populations as a viable political tool in international relations (Aron 2003). According to the model, states should think of designing their foreign policies in a manner that it prioritizes the nation’s internal political philosophy as its primary goal. Although global leaders may have divergent perception on the idealism approach, globalization has made it as the most viable option in handling challenges and problems in the contemporary society. For instance, states can only address terrorism and other aspects of global insecurity through tackling such issues from the global perspective (Aron 2003). Notably, problems facing states in the contemporary society may seem national but there is need to adopt a global approach to effectively address them.

Realism Model

Realism model, on the other hand, points out to the fact that states play central role in the international political system compared to international organizations or individuals (Guzzini 2013). Unlike the liberalism or idealism models which encourages cooperation among states as the global players in the international system, political realism emphasizes the fact that such states should act in the best interest of their country, their own security, as well as struggle for power (Guzzini (2004). According to Guzzini (2004), the model also puts emphasis on the anarchic system of international politics, thereby arguing that states remain supreme and no supranational authority can challenge by enforcing rules (p. 533). It is notable that such emphasis on self-interest and power by the realism model presents a skeptical perception of the ethical norms in international relations (Guzzini (2004). The theory asserts that international politics exhibits conflicts between states and amounts to heightened injustices in the international arena, compared to national politics which is the realm of law and authority (Guzzini 2013).

Sovereignty of the States

Sovereignty is an important political issue to states as it forms the central attribute of nations as political institutions (Sassen 2015). According to Sassen (2015), there have been challenges and difficulties in establishing the difference between statehood and sovereignty due to their close links. The above-stated author explains that sovereignty of a nation not only signifies a given level of power but also encompasses the power or right to act. Due to globalization, the power of states to determine their political systems; influence and direct their economies have declined. The above assertion conforms to the idealism theory of liberal internationalism, which attribute the decline in the power of states to the antagonistic increase in the power of the global community and non-state actors (Aron 2003).

The globalization process has contributed towards the opening of up of territorial boundaries as nations seek to enhance interdependence, particularly in handling global issues. In so doing, the concerned states have to give up certain aspects of their sovereignty to a common body put up by the member states and governed by the collective will of such nations. Such international agreements and treaties had not been in existence before, were it not for the changes in the global problems from being national to international such as abuse of human rights and terrorism threats among others (Li and Reuveny 2003). While states may not subscribe to the decisions made by a majority of member states in the joined sovereignty, they have no option but to comply with such undertakings to address the global problem at hand (Roudometof 2014). The above scenario implies that states have to depend on each other in the international scene to help in dealing with certain challenges and problems, even though their national policies and interests may not be in tandem with the decision made by the majority of the member states.

The state as a traditional actor in the international arena feels the wrath of globalization as the latter erodes much of its sovereignty and promotes pressure from all sides, an issue that threatens the state’s pursuit of diplomacy. According to Roudometof (2014), such players like multinational corporations, transnational non-governmental organizations, international law, and international institutions pile pressure on the state from above, thereby shaping its diplomacy. On the other hand, the local civil society, grass root organizations, student unions, public opinion, labor movements, and the press exert pressure on the state from below, thus, attempting to undermine its dominance in the diplomatic field (Mingst & Arreguín-Toft 2013).


Through globalization, many countries across the globe have become more interdependent as they open up their territorial boundaries to enhance free international trade. Through globalization, the territorial boundaries separating different markets have diminished as the global populace seek to engage in international trade (Sassen, 2006). For instance, the advances in communication and transportation sectors have contributed towards the abolition of autonomous national boundaries. The globalization process has made it possible for companies from one different country to set up a business and operate in another country without any difficulties. In so doing, states have become dependent on each other now than before as they seek to be more attractive to investors than their peers (Sassen, 2006). While the intention of free trade was to enhance business activities across borders and open up opportunities in other countries, such an international move may not be fair to all the players in the global arena. As a result, some countries have opted to impose tariffs and quotas to shield their economies. In this respect, the trade restrictions have adversely affected international trade among nations across the globe.

The Citizenry

The global changes orchestrated by globalization have considerable impacts on the well-being of individuals across the world. According to Rothkopf (1997), globalization affects the lives of individuals throughout the world, whether positive or negative. The author argues that every person in the contemporary society can attest to the effects of globalization. Rothkopf (1997) once noted that in the global labor pool will absorb almost 2billion workers from the emerging markets. He asserts that "You are either someone who is threatened by this change or someone who will profit from it, but it is almost impossible to conceive of a significant group that will remain untouched by it" (1997, p. 38). Through globalization, the developing countries have managed to improve the living standards of their citizens through increased healthcare delivery and education among other sectors. According to Thirlwall (2003), the net effects of globalization on economic growth have been positive in many developing countries, as witnessed across several; economic attributes, including foreign direct investments, capital flows, GDP per capita and openness. Through such positive economic growth, the life expectancy in such countries have improved, so is the literacy levels and living standards. Thirlwall (2003) argues that doctors and other scientists have been able to discover not only diseases but also their medication, an issue that hinges in part on globalization.

However, globalization has a fair share of its challenges despite the benefits mentioned above. For instance, WHO (2014) explains that international travels have contributed towards the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, bird flu, swine flu among other diseases, more so from the developed to the developing world. Such issues contribute enormously towards the reduction of life expectancy and living standards in the affected countries. The World Health Organization estimated that the HIV/AIDS menace had reduced the life expectancy to as low as 33 years in some parts of Africa, an issue that requires urgent redress (WHO, 2014).

On another perspective, the critics of globalization argue that the economic and political ramifications of the process pose adverse effects to democracy. According to Roudometof (2014), the industrial revolution created jobs to the global population while technological revolution is destroying more jobs than it is creating in the contemporary world. Besides, the author asserts that globalization will enlarge the social and economic classes between people in the global society. Notably, globalization may facilitate the transfer of wealth from the semi-skilled middle class to the already rich owners of capital assets, an issue that is likely to enlarge the income disparity (Roudometof 2014). Such transfer of wealth together with political power may compromise the achievement of democracy, particularly in the developing countries.

Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs)

Several international actors have come up other than states in the globalization process. The various issues in the regional and global arena have facilitated the formation of intergovernmental organizations with the intention of addressing such problems. Intergovernmental organizations are entities formed by two or more countries through treaties to address specific issues of common interests. Such organizations conform to the international laws, and therefore more advantageous. While the primary role of IGOs was to ensure the global populace work together to achieve political stability, security, economic, and social issues, its role has become more pronounced in the current setting due to heightened globalization process. They have become not only influential in the global political system but also active in the global governance.

An issue of great concern to many member states in such treaties is the fact that they have to sacrifice many things, including their sovereignty and national interests to achieve the international objectives at the expense of national goals. The UN Security Council provides a suitable example where the member states depend on each other to steer the global agenda. For instance, the five permanent member states have to consult with one another, and with other member states to reach a consensus, particularly in passing a resolution at the global level. The international governmental organizations (IGOs) have profound powers over their countries in various spheres. For instance, they may obligate the member nations to act in certain ways under specific circumstances. For instance, the member states NATO, for example, may opt to act in unison or in support by other member states to ward off any challenges, such as attacks by other foreign entities. Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty allows the member states to take action against another state or states, or other groups in a dispute that the treaty deems to be an attack against its member. Such action may include the use of force if need be, particularly when the member state is under armed attack. It is worth noting that such initiatives dispel the notion that states are independent and sovereign and therefore unaffected by the challenges and circumstances happening in other countries.

The operations and decisions of Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) are another notable examples of how few nations can greatly affect several countries across the globe. In the 1970s, OPEC raised the oil prices, an issue that affected multiple countries in the world, even though it had only 12 states as members of the organization as at that time.

Other than the IGOs with member states, cross-border connections between different regions and countries also play a critical role in encouraging the interdependency between nations across the globe. The member states do not necessarily take part in decision making, but their regions or constituent provinces do. Such decisions have profound impacts on these countries and a wider part of the world. The European Union’s Committee is an example of such organizations which have influenced their member countries for several years. Such organizations have enabled the countries to become more interdependent because of the actions of their regions and not necessarily their actions or decisions.

The Global Civil Society

Globalization process has given rise to a more power transnational corporations which can challenge even the most powerful sovereign states in the world. While previous studies have discussed the problems posed by the transnational corporations, globalization has given rise to another set of the international organization known as the global civil society. According to Brown, Khagram, Moore, and Frumkin, (2000), the global civil society encompasses various players, including international non-governmental organizations, transnational networks (TNs), as well as non-governmental organizations. These non-state actors are not only individuals but also groups serving international interests with more common issues with partners internationally than with the local people or groups. While NOGs and INGOs have a specific structure conforming to a given traditional line with membership and headquarters, and so on, Networks neither have centers nor a person at the top as the head. The contemporary, powerful non-state actors have interests and have since grown to become a force to reckon with both regarding their impact as well as their number. According to Brown, Khagram, Moore, and Frumkin (2000), the financial muscle of such networks and even their expertise sometimes exceed smaller nations and international governmental organizations in the global arena. Kraemer, Gibbs, and Dedrick, (2005) affirm that NGOs in the current setting often offer development assistance than the UN system in its entirety. It is notable that although the number of such networks has increased tremendously in the past few decades, the non-governmental organizations often prioritize women’s rights, human rights, and the environment as their primary agenda. They take advantage of their strategies, ideas, and information to take part in policy-making, either through arm-twisting or persuasion.

How Globalization Affect the NGOs

The process of globalization has impacted on the operations of non-governmental organizations in various ways. According to Roberts, Jones, and Fröhling (2005), the number of NGOs have skyrocketed in the past few decades as a result of the heightened globalization process. Besides, the influence of such organizations has continued to soar in the contemporary society. Roberts, Jones, and Fröhling (2005) note that NGOs have become more powerful in the global arena as they exert pressure on the governments and governmental organizations, especially on issues of international decision-making initiatives and governance. According to Lofdahl (2002), the social alliances and NGOs have been active for several years, particularly on governance and policy-making. For instance, women’s rights activists and anti-slavery advocates have often participated in shaping both national and international decision-making process for several decades. However, the NGOs have expanded both in number and influence, an issue attributed to the heightened globalization process witnessed currently. Their visibility and activities in the global arena, as well as their number have exploded in the recent times, partly as result of the rapid advances in communication, production, and transportation sectors.

While governments have substantial control over the economy and organizations that operate in their states, globalization has played a central role in reducing such powers through exerting pressure for democratic accountability. The developments above provide a suitable opportunity and political space for the civil society as the government’s watchdog in policy formulation and enforcement and as policy entrepreneurs. The expansion of globalization and subsequent blossoming of the political space enables the civil society to advocate for the rights of the marginalized groups in the society under the previous regime.

It is quite interesting that the rapid development of globalization goes hand in hand with the blossoming of NGOs and social alliances. However, the reason behind such concurrent expansion of both globalization and the NGOs remains a mystery (Spar & La Mure 2003). While a section of the world populations may treat such an issue as a mere coincidence, others cannot go without asking questions. For instance, they may want to know if there is a globalization factor that spawns the blossoming of these civil societies and non-governmental organizations in the current world (Spar & La Mure 2003). Besides, the potential impacts of such enterprises on the globalization processes may also be interesting to establish.


Whereas globalization has presented excellent benefits to the global populace, its unanticipated consequences are equally immense. The impacts of globalization process on both the state and non-state actors are immense as highlighted in this article. Notably, the globalization process has not only transformed the international political system but also improved the interconnection and interdependence of states in the current global setting. The global actors appreciate the fact that the world has become a unified small village, and the problems are global in nature too. As a result, the solutions to such problems requires a global approach, involving the interaction and interdependence among nations. Through globalization, countries have become together in tackling global issues. For instance, nations have formed entities through treaties to address challenges of common interests such as increased insecurity, economic crisis, and political and social problems common to the member states. However, globalization has compromised the political and economic sovereignty of nations on various platforms. Due to globalization, the non-state actors such as NGOs and IGOs have become more powerful and instrumental in exerting pressure on the state and contributing to the process of policy making. Although globalization has improved education and health status of the developing world through enhanced economic growth, it has also contributed to the decline in life expectancy by encouraging the spread of diseases to such countries through international travels. In a nutshell, globalization process present both positive and negative effects on the key international actors, including the state and non-governmental organizations.


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May 02, 2023


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