• The standardized shipping container is an example of how simple changes can have complex
• In the twentyfirst century, more different kinds of actors than ever participate in international
• The growing importance of nonstate actors signifies a significant power shift.
• These new actors address a great variety of issues. Two of the core issues, security and
international political economy, have evolved in new ways:
o State security is increasingly conceptualized as human security.
o Economic decisions made by multinational corporations (MNCs) affect national balances
of payments and ability of workers to make a living wage.
o Global communications and the technology revolution undermines the primacy of
II. HEALTH AND COMMUNICABLE DISEASE—PROTECTING LIFE
IN THE COMMONS
• Public health and disease are old issues that have never respected national boundaries.
Eradication of diseases has always been a global challenge.
• The international community was caught unawares by the new realities spawned by globalization.
Ebola, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Avian bird flu, and HIV/AIDS outbreaks have
been acerbated by increased global mobility.
• HIV/AIDS as a Transnational Issue
o AIDS has rapidly become a major health and humanitarian problem with over 3.1 million
deaths annually and between 33 and 46 million people living with the disease:
1. AIDS is an economic issue, disproportionately affecting those in their primary
productive years, between 15 and 45.
2. AIDS is a social issue, as families are torn apart and children are orphaned.
These children are often forced to turn to prostitution or join the military in order
3. AIDS is a human rights and ethical issue as well as a security issue. In 2000 the
UN Security Council identified AIDS as a threat to global security, the first time
that health has been so recognized.
o Many different actors have responded to the AIDS problem, but individual states are key:
1. Uganda, Botswana, and Brazil took initiatives very early on, and each has seen
rates of infection decline.
2. South Africa, China, and India have been slow to acknowledging the problem.
o IGOs took the leadership role at the early stages:
1. The World Health Organization (WHO) took steps to help states create national
AIDS programs beginning in 1986. 2. In 1996, the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) was created, which
coordinates cooperative projects among numerous UN agencies.
3. The United Nations initiated the practice of convening global AIDS conferences
every two years to raise awareness and mobilize responses.
• Many NGOs have been actively involved. Some work at the grassroots level while others train
healthcare workers in AIDS care.
• With the development of antiretrovirals to extend the life of people living with AIDS, the
multinational pharmaceutical companies have become a major actor, albeit a controversial one:
o Indian drug companies began manufacturing generics reducing the cost of treatment,
which a controversial practice.
o Brazil took its case to UN human rights bodies, arguing that patients have a human right
• Transnational communities of experts, or epistemic communities, are composed of experts from
IGOs, NGOs, and states and substate agencies.
• Beyond AIDS
o Health issues also involve regulations to insure quality and control unhealthy behaviors.
o Health is also recognized as a development issue.
• A Theoretical Tale
o Health is an example of a quintessential functionalist issue, as health was one of the first
areas of international cooperation.
• Where liberals, realists, and radicals may disagree is on the correct approach to addressing health
1. Liberals are more apt to focus on international responsibility for dealing with health
2. Realists are more apt to stress individual state responsibility and to acknowledge the
importance of health when state security is threatened.
3. Radicals see health as an issue that illustrates the economic differential between the
wealthy developed world and the poor developing world.
III. THE ENVIRONMENT—PROTECTING THE GLOBAL COMMONS
• Conceptual Perspectives
o The notion of collective goods: Collective goods help conceptualize how to achieve
shared benefits that depend on overcoming conflicting interests.
o Sustainability: Employing the criterion of sustainability forces individuals to think about
policies to promote change that neither damage the environment nor use up finite
resources so that future generations will benefit.
o Over time, principles and norms have evolved in customary international law:
Nosignificant harm principle: states cannot initiate policies that cause significant
environmental damages to another state.
Goodneighbor principle: cooperation between states.
“Soft law principles”: expressed in conferences, declarations, declarations, or
resolutions. They are nonbinding but informally describe acceptable norms of
behavior. These include:
1. Polluterpays principle
2. Precautionary principle 3. Preventiveaction principle
• Population Issues
o In 1798, Thomas Malthus posited that population increases will outstrip food production.
This is referred to as the Malthusian dilemma.
o An independent report, The Limits to Growth, issued by the Club of Rome in 1972,
concluded that the Earth would reach natural limits to growth within a relatively short
period of time.
o Malthus did not predict the demographic transition—that population growth rates
would not proceed unchecked.
o Population growth rates have increased dramatically, though not unchecked. Three key
observations make these populations growth rates disturbing:
The population increase is not uniformly distributed. The developing world has
much higher population growth rates than the developed world.
Both rapid rates of overall population growth and high levels of economic
development mean increased demands for natural resources. For certain countries
like China and India with large populations already, the problem is severe.
High population growth rates lead to numerous ethical dilemmas for policy
makers: how can population growth rates be curbed without infringing on
individual rights to procreate?
o Population becomes a collective good problem: what is economically rational for a
family is not environmentally sustainable.
o What actions can be taken with respect to population to alleviate or mitigate the
dilemmas just discussed?
Prohibiting procreation is politically untenable and pragmatically difficult.
Relying on group pressure to forces changes in behavior will not work in the
Some individuals desire smaller families but family planning methods may be
unavailable to them.
• What is clear about the problem is that it is an international one, affecting states, IGOs, and
• Natural Resource Issues
o The belief in the infinite supply of natural resources was a logical one throughout much
of human history. Trading for natural resources became a necessary activity as it was
recognized that those resources never uniformly distributed.
o Freshwater is a key natural resource for all forms of life. Agriculture accounts for two
thirds of the use of water; industry, about onequarter; and human consumption, about
It is estimated that by 2025, twothirds of the world’s people will live in countries
facing moderate or severe water shortage.
International controversies regarding water have occurred in the United States
with irrigation of the Colorado River, Israel’s control of scarce water on the West
Bank, and China’s rechanneling of the Yangtze River to northern cities.
o In the 1950s and 1960s, several events dramatically publicized the deteriorating condition
of the commons. The natural world was being degrade by human activity associated with
agricultural and industrial practices.
o Economic development both in agriculture and industry has negative externalities— costly unintended consequences—for everyone, as well as positive effects:
1. Environmental damage
2. Ozone depletion
3. Climate change
• The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 provided for stabilizing the concentration of greenhouse gases and
delineated goals for reducing emissions by 2010. Developed countries are to reduce their overall
emissions, and provide flexibility mechanisms designed to make reaching the emission targets
o Trading of international emission shares is permitted.
o Credits can be earned from “carbon sinks.” States can offset their emissions by gaining
credits for planting forests.
o Joint implementation permits countries to participate in projects for emission reductions
and allows each to receive part of the credit.
• In the United States, the George W. Bush administration refused to agree to any binding
commitment on emissions, objecting on several grounds:
o The economic costs of moving away from a fossilfuel based economy are too high and
an unacceptable number of jobs would be lost.
o The administration believes that markets will bring about the necessary changes, and
opposes international regulations imposed by an unrepresentative and unaccountable
o Both European states and Japan have signed the protocol and are making efforts to reduce
• In 2009 President Barak Obama attended a followup conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. The
Copenhagen Accord provided little in the way of specific commitments.
• Environmental NGOs in Action
o NGOs perform a number of key functions in environmental affairs:
1. They serve as generalized critics, often using media to publicize their
dissatisfaction and to get environmental issues on the agenda.
2. NGOs may function through IGOs, working to change the organization itself.
3. NGOs can aid in monitoring and enforcing environmental regulations, either by
pointing out problems or by actually carrying out onsite inspections.
4. NGOs may function as part of transnational communities of experts, serving with
counterparts in IGOs and state agencies to try to change practices and procedures
of an issue.
5. NGOs can attempt to influence state environmental policy directly, providing
information about policy options and lobbying directly through a state’s
legislature or bureaucracy.
• A Theoretical Tale
o What has made many environmental issues so politically controversial at the international
level is that states have tended to divide along the developeddeveloping—NorthSouth—
o The challenge in addressing g