International Relations in the 21st Century

Posted in Democracy , UN | 03-Oct-10 | Author: Ruba Zinati

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century the distribution of power in the international system began to change and the world witnessed and had experienced a devastating world war; WWI. In the aftermath of this war, the then major power holders realized the need for an international body that among its major priorities was the preserving of world peace and security, and preventing the

international community to lapse into wars like WWI. The League of Nations was created to serve such goal. In its covenant the primary goal was to prevent wars through collective security as well as disarmament and the settling of international disputes by negotiations and arbitration. The challenges to such a body were great as the world was moving to a new set of power distribution. The League of Nations didn't cope with this changing environment, thereafter, it proved to be inadequate to face the challenges posed to it by the change in power distribution and the shifting of the world into a new set that its features were not so clear. As such it failed in preventing the world to head into confrontation and war.

The league of Nations was created by the mentality that ran the pre-charge world system and with the mechanisms that fitted the same world system; because of this it failed in its tasks and mission and one more time the world had experienced yet another devastating world war WWII resulting in the introduction of the nuclear age, and the shifting of world system from a multi-polar system to bipolar system with its poles the US and the USSR. It settled on this power distribution till the end of the 1980s.

One could best describe the years between the two world wars of I and II as a transitional phase through which the world order has shifted from one system to another. This period of transition consisted of an imbalance in the equilibrium of the distribution of power coupled with inadequate world institutions to deal with such world environment, which eventually led to WWII. One more time world leaders realized the need for an international body to preserve world peace and security and for this end the San Francisco conference was held and the UN Charter was agreed upon and signed. In this Charter most of the shortcomings of the League of Nations' covenant were remedied and addressed. Also, a new set of institutions were established to support the aim of dealing with the challenges of post-WWII world system, including most importantly the inhibitions of the Cold War. To meet all the requirements of the new world system a sound, strategic economic system was essential to serve the demands of this system. Accordingly, the Breton Woods system was introduced in July 1944, it organized and managed the world monetary policies among independent nation-states and directed the world economy. Though, its negotiations were originally rooted in the 1930s in the US; during and post- the great depression as well as in the identification of the inadequacy of the then institutions to meet the requirements of that period which led to the realization for the need for a new system. That fitted the required mechanism to build post WWII destruction as well as manage the requirements of the Cold War and run the bipolar system.

The Breton Woods system was carefully crafted and tightly built to meet the requirements of post-WWII world system. In this system the main power holder was the US, in fact its foreign policy directed world affairs all through the Cold War era, whilst the campus of the US foreign policy was fighting communism and the containment policy aiming at winning the Cold War. Connected to this aim all the institutions that were created and modified including the military institution were to serve such goal, which needed a strong open economy such as that of the US provided, to support the military establishment and to serve and foster the containment policy, which eventually paid off by weakening the former USSR economy to the level that it became ineligible to run a vast country with a vast army and finally the collapse of the USSR and its ideology.

With the collapse of the USSR at the end of the 1980s, the Cold War as well as, it's inhibitions has ended, but the system of world institutions remained the same while facing a new world order where the distribution of power has changed and once again the "equilibrium" of the world's distribution of power was significantly shaken as one of the two pillars of world system has collapsed.

The twentieth centaury ended with this state of world system which consisted of one major power holder, well equipped to face the challenges of an ended world system and poorly equipped to face a new world system that even the definition of power itself is altering. A system that needs the understanding for a new institutions and the modification of the already existing ones to meet the requirements of this changing environment of international affairs and above all the need for a mentality that comprehend the twenty-first century's international environment of power distribution in order to run the twenty-first century's institutions.

Having said so, the twentieth century ended and many of its conflicts were deported to the twenty-first centaury where its set of power distribution is different than the set of power distribution where these conflicts originated. In fact many of these conflicts' causes and complexities could be attributed to the previous pi-polar world system's cold war and to its power distribution.

Hence, for facing the challenges and to meet the requirements of the twenty-first century's world system it is very important to address these conflicts particularly the protracted ones in the purpose of solving them, otherwise their escalation would continue and impose dangerous threats to world peace and security, as the margin of action for their actors and other actors that might find it a good opportunity for their gains is becoming much wider.

To be fully prepared and well equipped to meet the twenty-first century's world system; the need for the realization among all world entities that the mutual cooperation between power holders and less powerful entities is the only way to handle world issues and challenges because there is no other way in contemporary or future international relations to reach the desired aims of all. To reach this cooperative world relationship a proper groundwork should be first achieved through tackling the issues of; protracted conflicts, poverty, recognition of others' needs and culture and not the alienations of the others. The meeting of these issues and incorporating them into the world affairs will ease the environment of international relations and help in developing suitable norms and forcible laws. In this domain the need for an international body that is suitable to the contemporary and the developing world system which facilitates the international relations between world entities that represents the citizens' needs and preserve international law is a pressing need. Differently the world will face a new range of conflicts, challenges and lapses to wars that its devastations will affect all. The least example is the recent world's economic crisis. The need for such world institutions is very much relevant: in this regard the support for the UN as a global body with a strong role in maintaining international law and international relations is a vital demand. For this end the G 20 group could serve as an interim body to run international relations and facilitates world cooperation and at the same time take the initiative to restructure the UN Charter in order to be able to carry on its responsibilities in the new world's set of power distribution as a strong, well equipped UN that is adequate to serve this new world system. Furthermore the world needs a well developed economic system where there is a place for all whether it is a strong or weak economy, to guarantee a world system capable to meet the requirements for implementing the peace and security that are for long desired.