Is Globalisation Undermining State Sovereignty?

Is globalization undermining state sovereignty?

Throughout the years it has been argued that globalization has a significant effect on state sovereignty. That ongoing debate between scholars and social scientists is trying to determine whether or not state can still maintain its own sovereignty. Weiss (1998) suggests that there are certain factors such as investments in international economy, multinational corporations and non-governmental organizations which undermine the state sovereignty. On the other hand, Krasner (2001) argues that in the past similar things such as free trade existed and state sovereignty was able to dominate. The essay will focus on defining globalization and sovereignty. Then it will observe how multinational corporations, inter-governmental organizations, open market economy and international crime can reduce state’s power and therefore undermine sovereignty.

Sovereignty is a very broad term which Barkin and Cronin (1994, p.107-30) simply defines as the power of state to make and amend any law within its own state boundaries. Moreover, sovereignty is defined as the “absolute supremacy over internal affairs within its territory, absolute right to govern its people, and freedom from any external interference in the above matters” (Martinez, 1996; Wang, 2004, p.473). The state is the supreme political authority within its territory and therefore it does not recognize any higher political authority outside it. With this definition it would be easier to determine whether or not globalization affects certain aspects of it. Beekens (2003, p.130) illustrates globalization as the “world-wide interconnectedness between nation states supplemented by globalization as a process in which basic social arrangements (such as power, culture, markets, politics, rights, values, norms, ideology, identity, citizenship, and solidarity) become disembedded from their spatial context (mainly, the nation-state) because of the acceleration, massification, flexibilisation, diffusion, and expansion of transnational flows of people, products, finance, images, and information.” Therefore, first we are going to observe how economic factors of globalization – free market, increasing power of multinational corporations affect the state sovereignty.

The end of the World War Two and the Cold War led to a more open world economy market to countries and individuals as a result of globalization. Therefore, international trade between countries increased significantly where foreign direct investments and multinational corporations participated too. Since there was an open free market some countries reached GDP as never seen before. For example, a drastic changes can be seen in countries such as France where the GDP export ration rose almost four times and in the United States where it doubled (Michie, 2011, p.30-40). Michie (2011, p.40-43) also mentions that these examples show us that international trade has grown with time leading to economic dependency between countries which undermine state sovereignty. This dependency gives the power of other countries to manipulate and control the economy of another country. For example, in order to attract more consumers for its goods and services, China buys US bonds to maintain the US dollar currency high. This undermines states sovereignty, because it undermines the “absolute power of a state over internal and foreign affairs within its own boundaries” (Wang, 2004, p.474-76). In this way US is dependent on China to buy their bonds.

Multinational corporations and their foreign direct investments are another part of globalization which undermines state sovereignty. The investments only in the developed countries have risen from 17 to 25 percent between 1990 and 2000 which simply shows that the multinational corporations are a big part of the production and manufacturing of goods and services in few countries (Michie, 2011, p.45-50). Furthermore, between 1960s and 1970s there was an increase in foreign direct investments by EU and US multinational corporations which attracted other countries to get involved too. Strange (1996, p160-80) argues that globalization has increased the powers of multinational corporations making the state sovereignty weaker. Furthermore, Strange notes that the advancements in technology, wider communications, international trade and transportation are parts of the globalization process which is also seen as an impact on state sovereignty. For instance, states do not have full authority over individual businesses which operate in the free market economy. As a result of globalization there is an increased competition between international businesses and therefore, state sovereignty is undermined because it questions the power of the state over its internal affairs (Strange, 1996, p181-99).

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The biggest challenge which state sovereignty is facing even now is international crime. This is when the state cannot protect its citizens from external or internal affairs as for example terrorism. To prevent that governments form inter-governmental organizations. These organizations are not profit organizations and their target is to resolve concerns and problems that affect the world. Such organisation is the United Nations. A good present example of an international group which pose a threat to state sovereignty is Al Qaeda. As Aydinli (2006, p.35-45) says, the attacks on US and Spain in 2000 undermined their state sovereignty because they were not able to protect their citizens. On the other hand, in the same year the United States also intervened Iraq and Afghanistan ignoring the United Nations. This could also be seen as international crime because they ignored state sovereignty and just went into these Middle East countries blaming them for supporting terrorism. Despite the fact that the inter-governmental organizations are supposed to promote peace, sometimes they violate state sovereignty too. For example, in 1999 NATO intervened Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in order to prevent more “humanitarian suffering and more repression and violence against the civilian population” (Solana, 1999). This can be seen as an example of countries, members of NATO, trying to stop this humanitarian catastrophe. Although NATO’s actions were legal and justified, the government of Yugoslavia undermined sovereignty by putting its own citizens in danger. This contradicts to one of the aspects of state sovereignty in which the state should protect its own population.

Another example is Mali. France, which is a key ally in NATO and UN, started a military campaign in Mali again the jihadists which led to an “intensive airstrikes” in order to block them (Hammond, 2013). In this case NATO affects the state sovereignty because they intervene to protect the people, whereas the state has to govern and protect its own citizens. This intervention might lead to further violations of human rights or even ethnic conflicts, even though the purpose of this intervention was to stabilize the country. Therefore, as Albala (2005) says, the actions of these inter-governmental organizations undermine the aspects of state sovereignty as they move into other state`s territory and also participate in the internal and external affairs of the state. Also the international community is currently condemning Russia for undermining the sovereignty of Ukraine. It is unclear if internal sovereignty will be possible. Furthermore, Russia will support protests against the new government even if they have to use military power. Russia has also withdrawn their loans from Ukraine making them dependent on Western financial support. At the same time, the territorial integrity of the country is partly at stake as long as pro-Russian parts of Ukraine might feel threatened by the clear pro-Western course of the new intermediate government.This can also be seen as another example of undermining state sovereignty.

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Globalization is not just a threat to state sovereignty, it is more like a threat to culture and national identity. For example, at no point in the history of the EU or ECC as it was called erasing borders and merging states have been seriously considered. Despite the fact that the European Union is an inter-governmental organization seeking for peace and development, it opens the borders between the member countries. Free market economy, free trade and immigration have shaped the EU more as one state than an organization. That occurs because the open boundaries lead to merging the cultures and national identity is fading away. All this can raise questions to Member states whether or not their national identities and state sovereignty are undermined. Moreover, it does undermine the state sovereignty but in a different way – throughout international law.

International law has been affected by globalization in terms that it makes the international law into a global public law (Garcia, 2005, p.1-2). What it means is that globalization is actually trying to expand the “domain of justice” (Garcia, 2005) from domestic to global. An example is the European Union. When a country in the EU wants to make a law, firstly they have to follow the agreements on European Law and regulations. Garcia (2005, p3) says that “International harms to individuals are understood within a framework of harm to a state’s rights”. Simply, the state cannot claim laws as it wishes and it also has no sovereign power on internal and external affairs

Furthermore, other form of international organizations are the international non-governmental organizations. They start as small community groups where some of them work also with the government, aiming to help where the government is struggling (Baylis, Smith & Owens; 2011). However, these organizations have spread their work on a global scale and their influence has risen. Inter-governmental and international non-governmental organizations have one target which is global governance – where transnational actors aim to solve problems that affect more than one state. Such organizations are the Red Cross, Care International, Oxfarm International. When one of these international NGO goes into a country with a stated purpose as for example to give medical help or fight against violence as Amnesty International does in Somalia, they agree not to get politically involved in anyway. If their work is, for example, then stopped by the government who accuses them of showing a bias in which they treat and expel them from the country then the NGO can complain to the UN and ask for support to continue their work. Recently, Amnesty International has requested the UN Security Council to “tighten arms control embargo on Somalia” (Amnesty International publication; 2014). Last year the UN Security Council allowed Somalia to import small arms and light weapons (Amnesty International publication; 2014)). The intergovernmental organization weakens the state sovereignty in that case because despite the fact that they have stabilized the country on first place, their actions have made the government weaker to defend its sovereignty.

To summarize, we first looked at what state sovereignty and globalization mean followed by criticism about the influence of globalization over states. We saw how foreign investments by the multinational corporations and the increasing dependency between economics markets as such as the case with United States and China. State sovereignty was undermined because governments became more unstable and lost control over international businesses becoming dependent on them for proving jobs and taxes. This also undermines one of the main principles of state sovereignty which was the absolute power of the state over its internal affairs, citizens and freedom (Martinez, 1996; Wang, 2004, p.473). Globalization has also brought international crime and international organizations which undermine state sovereignty in different aspects. Terrorism as we mentioned weakens the state making it unable to protect its own citizens. Globalization has been also seen to undermine national identity and state values as with European Union where the European Supreme Court acts as highest law within the European Union. Since some governments cannot guarantee protection there are inter-governmental and international non-governmental organization such as NATO, Amnesty International, United Nations which intervene to help those countries such as Yugoslavia, Mali and more recently Ukraine and Somalia. Although they have been also seen to undermine state sovereignty because sometimes as with Somalia, the international organizations have even worsen the situation. With all these factors of globalization – free market economy, multinational corporations, foreign direct investments, international crime and international law it can be concluded that state’s sovereignty and control over its territory has declined throughout the years due globalization.

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