Non-state actor
Non-state actors are categorized as entities

(i) participating or acting in the sphere of international relations
International relations
International relations is the study of relationships between countries, including the roles of states, inter-governmental organizations , international nongovernmental organizations , non-governmental organizations and multinational corporations...

; organisations with sufficient power to influence and cause change in politics which are
(ii) not belonging to or existing as a state-structure or established institution of a state
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

; are not holding the characteristics of this,these being legal sovereignty and some measure of control over a countries people and territories.

The admission of non-state actors into international relations theory is inherently a rebuke to the assumptions of realism
Realism (international relations)
In the study of international relations, Realism or political realism prioritizes national interest and security over ideology, moral concerns and social reconstructions...

 and other black box theories
Black box theory
Black box theories are things defined only in terms of their function. The term black box theory is applied to any field, philosophy and science or otherwise where some inquiry or definition is made into the relations between the appearance of something , i.e...

 of international relations, which argue that interactions between states are the main relationships of interest in studying international events.

Types of non-state actors

  • Non-governmental organization
    Non-governmental organization
    A non-governmental organization is a legally constituted organization created by natural or legal persons that operates independently from any government. The term originated from the United Nations , and is normally used to refer to organizations that do not form part of the government and are...

    s (NGOs)
These groups are typically considered a part of civil society
Civil society
Civil society is composed of the totality of many voluntary social relationships, civic and social organizations, and institutions that form the basis of a functioning society, as distinct from the force-backed structures of a state , the commercial institutions of the market, and private criminal...

  • Multinational Corporations (MNCs)
Multinational corporations are for profit organizations that operate in three or more sovereign states.
  • The International Media
  • Violent non-state actor
    • Armed groups, including groups such as Al-Qaeda
      Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

    • Criminal organizations, for example drug cartel
      Drug cartel
      Drug cartels are criminal organizations developed with the primary purpose of promoting and controlling drug trafficking operations. They range from loosely managed agreements among various drug traffickers to formalized commercial enterprises. The term was applied when the largest trafficking...

      s such as the Gulf Cartel
      Gulf Cartel
      The Gulf Cartel is one of the most powerful drug cartels in Mexico, and perhaps the oldest organized crime group in the country...

  • Religious Groups
The Quakers are quite active in their international advocacy efforts and their supportive role at international conferences. They have in part founded other non-state actors such as Amnesty International
Amnesty International
Amnesty International is an international non-governmental organisation whose stated mission is "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."Following a publication of Peter Benenson's...

, Greenpeace
Greenpeace is a non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over forty countries and with an international coordinating body in Amsterdam, The Netherlands...

, and OXFAM
Oxfam is an international confederation of 15 organizations working in 98 countries worldwide to find lasting solutions to poverty and related injustice around the world. In all Oxfam’s actions, the ultimate goal is to enable people to exercise their rights and manage their own lives...

  • Transnational diaspora communities
    Diaspora politics
    Diaspora politics is the political behavior of transnational ethnic diasporas, their relationship with their ethnic homelands and their host states, as well as their prominent role in ethnic conflicts...

Most types of non-state actors would be considered part of civil society
Civil society
Civil society is composed of the totality of many voluntary social relationships, civic and social organizations, and institutions that form the basis of a functioning society, as distinct from the force-backed structures of a state , the commercial institutions of the market, and private criminal...

, though some function within the international market (e.g. MNCs and organized crime).

The effects of non-state actors on the Westphalian State Model

The proliferation of non-state actors in the post–Cold War era has been one of the factors leading to the theorizing of the Cobweb Paradigm in International Politics. Under this paradigm, the traditional Westphalian
Westphalian sovereignty
Westphalian sovereignty is the concept of nation-state sovereignty based on two things: territoriality and the absence of a role for external agents in domestic structures....

The nation state is a state that self-identifies as deriving its political legitimacy from serving as a sovereign entity for a nation as a sovereign territorial unit. The state is a political and geopolitical entity; the nation is a cultural and/or ethnic entity...

 is experiencing an erosion of power and sovereignty, and non-state actors are part of the cause. Facilitated by globalization
Globalization refers to the increasingly global relationships of culture, people and economic activity. Most often, it refers to economics: the global distribution of the production of goods and services, through reduction of barriers to international trade such as tariffs, export fees, and import...

, NSAs have challenged nation-state borders and claims to sovereignty. MNCs are not always sympathetic to the home country's or host country's national interests, but instead loyalty is given to the corporation's interests. NGOs are challenging the nation-state's sovereignty over internal matters through advocacy for societal issues, e.g. human rights and the environment.

There exist many armed non-state actors, e.g. opposition groups, that operate without state control and are involved in trans-border conflicts. The prevalence of these groups in armed conflicts has added layers of complexity to traditional conflict management and resolution. These conflicts are often fought not only between non-state actors and states, but also between non-state actors. Any attempts at intervention in such conflicts has been particularly challenging given the fact that international law
International law
Public international law concerns the structure and conduct of sovereign states; analogous entities, such as the Holy See; and intergovernmental organizations. To a lesser degree, international law also may affect multinational corporations and individuals, an impact increasingly evolving beyond...

 and norms governing the use of force for intervention or peacekeeping
Peacekeeping is an activity that aims to create the conditions for lasting peace. It is distinguished from both peacebuilding and peacemaking....

 purposes has been primarily written in the context of the nation-state. So, the demands of non-state actors at the local and international level have further complicated international relations.

Definition under the Cotonou Agreement

The term Non State Actors (NSA) is also widely used in development cooperation, particularly under the Cotonou Agreement
Cotonou Agreement
The Cotonou Agreement is a treaty between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States . It was signed in June 2000 in Cotonou, the largest city in Benin, by 78 ACP countries and the then fifteen Member States of the European Union...

 between the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 (EU) and the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific ACP countries
ACP countries
The African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States is a group of countries , created by the Georgetown Agreement in 1975. The group's main objectives are sustainable development and poverty reduction within its member states, as well as their greater integration into the world's economy...

. In the formal language of the Cotonou Agreement
Cotonou Agreement
The Cotonou Agreement is a treaty between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States . It was signed in June 2000 in Cotonou, the largest city in Benin, by 78 ACP countries and the then fifteen Member States of the European Union...

, the term is used to refer to a wide range of nongovernmental development actors whose participation in ACP-EU cooperation is now formally recognized. According to Article 6 of the Cotonou Agreement, non-state actors include:
  • Civil society in all its diversity, according to national characteristics;
  • Economic and social partners, including trade union organisations and;
  • The private sector.

In practice, it means that participation
Participation (decision making)
Participation in social science refers to different mechanisms for the public to express opinions - and ideally exert influence - regarding political, economic, management or other social decisions. Participatory decision making can take place along any realm of human social activity, including...

 is open to all kind of actors, such as community-based organisations, women's groups, human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 associations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), religious organizations, farmers' cooperatives, trade union
Trade union
A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...

s, universities and research institutes, the media, the private sector, etc.

Also included in this definition are informal groups such as grassroots organizations, informal private sector associations, etc.

The private sector, however, is considered only insofar as it is involved in non-profit activities (e.g. private sector associations, chambers of commerce, etc.)

Role of non-state actors

Non-state actors have increasingly become vital for opinion building in international fora and actively participate in a number of multilateral processes, such as the Human Rights Council. International Organizations also rely on non-state actors, particularly NGOs in the form of implementing partners in the national context. An example of the crucial role non-state actors can play in peace-building, is the contribution of COHRE (Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions) for the international protection of housing, land and property (HLP) rights in Kosovo
Kosovo is a region in southeastern Europe. Part of the Ottoman Empire for more than five centuries, later the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija within Serbia...

 by conceptualizing the Housing and Property Directorate (now Kosovo Property Agency) within the framework of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo.

Further reading

  • Chickering, Lawrence A., et al. Strategic Foreign Assistance: Civil Society in International Security. Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 2006.
  • Keck, Margaret E. and Kathryn Sikkink. Activists beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics. London: Cornell University Press, 1998.
  • Sobelman, Daniel. "Four Years After the Withdrawal from Lebanon: Refining the Rules of the Game", Strategic Assessment, Vol. 7 No. 2, August 2004.
  • Warkentin, Craig. Reshaping World Politics: NGOs, the Internet, and Global Civil Society. New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2001.

External links

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