International Relations Actors

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International Relations Actors

International Relations Actors in International Relations

Introduction to International Relations Actors

The participants in international relations, often called actors, have a great influence on the relationships between nations and on world affairs. The major participants include the nations themselves, the leaders of those nations, substate actors (groups or organizations within a nation), transnational actors (organizations operating in more than one country), and international organizations. ” (1)

Principles Governing relations between States

The general principles governing friendly relations between States are set out in UN General
Assembly Resolution 2625. It states that the progressive development and codification of the
seven principles below would secure their more effective application within the international
community and would promote the realization of the purposes of the United Nations.

Therefore, the resolution sets out the consensus in the international community on the content of the following seven principles:

  • States shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force
    against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other
    manner inconsistent with the purpose of the United Nations
  • Pacific settlement of disputes
  • Non-intervention in matters within the domestic jurisdiction of any State, in
    accordance with the Charter
  • Co-operation with one another in accordance with the Charter
  • Equal rights and self-determination of peoples
  • Sovereign equality of States
  • States shall fulfil in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with
    the Charter

Other Basic Elements of the International Law

International Legal Personality

This refers to the entities or legal persons that can have rights and obligations under international law. Learn more about International legal personality here.

Sovereignty of States over Territory

It is the exclusive right to exercise supreme political authority over a defined territory and the people within that territory. Learn more about Sovereignty of States over Territory here.

Sources of international law (International Obligations)

These sources are listed in the Article 38(1) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice. Learn more about sources of international law (International Obligations) here.

Jurisdiction of States

This section covers mainly the Principles of Jurisdiction, and Immunities from Jurisdiction.

The Role of International Court of Justice (ICJ)

It is the chief judicial organ of the United Nations, and has jurisdiction over disputes between all members of the United Nations. Learn more about the International Court of Justice roles here.

Ambassadors, Executive Agents, and Special Representatives

“International relations involve negotiations between the governments of nation-states, which are conducted by their executive branches under the auspices of their heads of government. Since each state is sovereign, agreement is reached only when the parties involved in an issue reach unanimous agreement among themselves. Those nations that do not agree with the consensus among the participants do not sign the resulting agreement and hence are not bound by its provisions. Diplomatic negotiations are difficult and time-consuming, since all those involved must agree on every aspect and word of the agreement. When the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) adopted the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948 amid the tensions following the Second World War, over 1,400 separate votes were required before the full declaration was adopted.

Achieving unanimous consensus requires extensive, constant, and precise communications between the heads of government of the nations involved. Such communications are conducted through a variety of representatives. The number and types of such representatives have proliferated throughout history and in particular during the twentieth century, when rapid communications increased the need for speedy and ongoing contacts. The end of colonialism during the second half of the twentieth century meant that many more nations and peoples were involved in global and regional issues.

These trends increased the need for representatives abroad as the United States became a global power and then a superpower during the twentieth century, and then the sole global superpower in the last decade of that century. During this period the United States found itself involved in virtually every major issue in international affairs, regardless of the part of the world in which it occurred. Not surprisingly, the increasing complexity of American foreign relations necessitated increased numbers of envoys and new forms of representation.

Ambassadors, executive agents, and special representatives are different categories of envoys conducting the constant negotiations between the governments of the world’s nations. The type of envoy that is appropriate varies with the circumstances of each issue and the parties involved. Use of each type has evolved through modifications since the founding of the United States. Technically, each of these types of envoys serves as the representative of the president to foreign governments.” (2)


Notes and References

See also

  • International Arbitration
  • Mediation
  • Conciliation
  • Ambassadors
  • Intelligence
  • Counterintelligence
  • Executive agents
  • International Intervention
  • Nonintervention
  • Special representatives
  • International Recognition

Further Reading

  • Bemis, Samuel Flagg. The Latin-American Policy of the United States. New York, 1943.
  • Bemis, Samuel Flagg, and Robert H. Ferrell, eds. The American Secretaries of State and Their Diplomacy. New York, 1928-.
  • Brzezinski, Zbigniew. Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Adviser: 1977-1981. New York, 1983.
  • Destler, I. M., Leslie H. Gelb, and Anthony Lake. Our Own Worst Enemy: The Unmaking of American Foreign Policy. New York, 1984.
  • George, Alexander L. Presidential Decisionmaking in Foreign Policy: The Effective Use of Information and Advice. Boulder, Colo., 1980.
  • Graebner, Norman A. An Uncertain Tradition: American Secretaries of States in the Twentieth Century. New York, 1961.
  • Grieb, Kenneth J. “Reginald Del Valle: A California Diplomat’s Sojourn in Mexico.” California Historical Society Quarterly 47 (1968).
  • Grieb, Kenneth J. The United States and Huerta. Lincoln, Nebr., 1969.
  • Halperin, Morton H. Bureaucratic Politics and Foreign Policy. Washington, D.C., 1974.
  • Harriman, W. Averell, and Ellie Abel. Special Envoy to Churchill and Stalin: 1941-1946. New York, 1975.
  • Hastedt, Glen P. American Foreign Policy: Past, Present, and Future. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J., 2000.
  • Henkin, Louis. “Foreign Affairs and the Constitution.” Foreign Affairs 66 (winter 1987-1988).
  • Henkin, Louis. Foreign Affairs and the United States Constitution. 2d ed. New York, 1996.
  • Hill, Larry D. Emissaries to a Revolution. Baton Rouge, La., 1973.
  • Inderfurth, Karl F., and Lock K. Johnson, eds. Decisions of the Highest Order: Perspectives on the National Security Council. Pacific Grove, Calif., 1988.
  • Kissinger, Henry. Diplomacy. New York, 1994.
  • Munro, Dana G. Intervention and Dollar Diplomacy in the Caribbean, 1900-1921. Princeton, N. J., 1964.
  • Munro, Dana G.. The United States and the Caribbean Republics: 1921-1933. Princeton, N.J., 1974.
  • Ripley, Randall B., and James M. Lindsay, eds. U.S. Foreign Policy after the Cold War: Processes, Structures, and Decisions. Pittsburgh, Pa., 1997.
  • Rosati, Jerel A. “United States Leadership into the Next Millennium: A Question of Politics.” International Journal (spring 1997).
  • Rosati, Jerel A. The Politics of United States Foreign Policy. 2d ed. Fort Worth, Tex., 1999. Provides an effective overview of the evolution of foreign policy instruments and offices.
  • Rubin, Barry. Secrets of State: The State Department and the Struggle over U.S. Foreign Policy. New York, 1985.
  • Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr. The Imperial Presidency. New York, 1989.
  • Scott, James M., ed. After the End: Making U.S. Foreign Policy in the Post-Cold War Era. Durham, N.C., 1998.
  • Seymour, Charles, ed. The Intimate Papers of Colonel House. 3 vols. Boston, New York, 1926. Provides the personal records of House’s missions.
  • Robert E. Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History. 2d ed. New York, 1950.
  • Smith, Jean E. The Constitution and American Foreign Policy. St. Paul, Minn., 1989.
  • Wriston, Henry M. Executive Agents in American Foreign Relations. Baltimore, Md., 1929; Gloucester, Mass., 1967.

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