Impact of Globalization on Foreign Policy

1819 words (7 pages) Essay in Politics

23/09/19 Politics Reference this

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Question: Has the content and conduct of foreign policy changed in an era of increased globalization?

Globalization can be described as the process in which the world has become more integrated among people, companies and governments of nations around the world, thanks to significant advancements in technology, trade and investment allowing for “an intensification of cross-border interactions and interdependence between countries” (Baylis and Smith, 2016). Foreign policy can be described as the behavior and actions of one state or actor that is directed towards another state or actor within the international system (Breach, 2012).  This essay will analyze if globalization has changed the content of foreign policy and the way in which it is conducted by countries and diplomats from around the world, by looking at how relationships between individual states have changed over time as a result of globalization, and how the impact of non-state actors has changed the way foreign policy is conducted, arguing that globalization has allowed for a change in attitudes overall towards foreign policy,   whilst also analyzing the potential negative impacts this may have had.

The first way to analyze whether the content and conduct of foreign policy has changed in an era of increased globalization is to assess how diplomatic relations between states have changed over time. The best way to look at this is to assess how the United States went from being isolationist to an internationalist nation, becoming very much a part of a globalized world. In the past, many nations have taken an isolationist approach to diplomatic relations. Isolationism is the idea that government takes no role in the affairs of other nations, this was especially prominent in the United States throughout the colonial period (Longley, 2018). However, in recent decades the United States has been forced to take an outward looking approach towards foreign policy, particularly due to its involvement in wars across the world, as did other countries – they built alliances to help support one another and particularly throughout the Cold War when the United States was trying to contain the spread of communism from the Soviet Union, they looked to their new European allies for assistance. As a result of the increased tensions between nations, new institutions were set up to prevent further atrocities from occurring in the future. The European Community was set up to prevent war from occurring again in Europe, NATO was founded between key western allies so that in the event of any attack on a nation they could better cooperate, and 1945 saw the founding of the United Nations, which many major nations including the United States played a key role in setting up. The founding of these institutions bought nations together and as a result created the interconnected globalized world we now know today.

Graph showing the total value of global exports, showing a sharp increase since post World War 2 when nations became more interconnected (Our World in Data, 2014).

This increased interconnectedness has caused some conflict with traditional methods of foreign policy that had previously been pursued. Firstly, traditionally the states job was to protect a nation from any external factors, however due to globalization borders have essentially been merged, making it difficult to distinguish what is actually considered as home or abroad, making it difficult to maintain boundaries and it has even been described as turning ‘the world flat’. This has especially been the case within the European Union which has been the champion of freedom of movement. But most importantly, traditionally the state is the main actor in which foreign policy is conducted, but this is no longer the case thanks to the creation of new institutions, new non-state actors have an extremely important role in forming foreign policy (Hughes, 2018).

The previous point briefed on the development of non-state actors and how they now play a significant role in the conduction of foreign policy since the rise of globalization, it is important to analyze the importance of these and how they help shape foreign policy in the 21st century. A very important role in the process of globalization has been by Intergovernmental organizations (IGOs).  An IGO is typically an organization that is made up of sovereign states that come together to help come up with solutions to problems that are usually cross border. IGOs have rapidly expanded, with thousands being set up as a result of globalization and its aim to encourage cooperation between nations (McGrew and Held, 2002). IGOs have become an essential part of conducting foreign policy, nowadays if a state wishes to achieve anything they need to take collective action with other states through IGOs. By signing up to be a member of an IGO, a state usually gives up some of its sovereignty in order to be a member of a body where all member states make a unanimous decision on a particular issue.

A major factor of IGOs has been “the emergence of integrated global economies” (Salmon and Imber, 2008). The emergence of the European single market, and the separation of the U.S. Dollar from the gold standard has resulted in economies that are closely aligned. States heavily rely on IGOs such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization to regulate the international financial market and free trade. This has proved to have its advantages and disadvantages – on the one hand it helps provide protection during times of economic stagnation. However the increased interconnectedness, as seen by the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 meant that when one countries economy hits crisis, others around the world also very quickly feel the effects too, especially if a state’s economy is significantly smaller of that which is entering a financial crisis; in times of crisis states may require assistance from other states or IGOs, proving the significance they have in shaping foreign policy since the emergence of globalization.

NGOs have also had a significant impact on the way in which foreign policy is conducted in a globalized world. They have gained an important position when it comes to negotiations, particularly when relating to issues concerning human rights and the environment. They also assist nations in providing humanitarian assistance in times of crises. However, NGOs have been less effective as they don’t have the backing of large numbers of states like IGOs, and there’s been many questions regarding there accountability as much of what they campaign for can be down to donors (Tortajada, 2016).

Not only do IGOs and NGOs have significant influence but as does the private sector.  Thanks to globalization, businesses are free to set up in any county they wish which helps to increase competition, and free trade has meant that states are constantly dependent on each other to supply products and services no matter what corner of the earth they may be from. Businesses have also contributed largely to sustainable development, providing jobs and also providing financial injections in to countries which are largely still developing (Cranenburgh, 2017).

Although these organizations aren’t necessarily always important, especially as there’s so many of them and due to the fact that nations ultimately still get the final say, they are still important in helping diplomats and leaders of states shape policy decision and were seeing increasingly that states are having to change their approach to foreign policy in order to cater for these organizations – they are becoming significantly influential in shaping foreign policy.

The content and conduct of foreign policy in an era of globalization has also had a significant impact in the way that states conduct national security efforts. Much of this is down to the fact that issues are now cross border, and not contained in the space of a country – making it easier for violence and conflict to spread across in to different nations. Globalization and significant technological advancements has had a significant impact on national security. Free movement of people, the move towards a global economy and free access to information via the internet and other media have been the main cause of this (David, 2003).

Terrorist groups especially have been taking advantage of this change in attitudes towards foreign policy, harnessing the power of the internet and media to gain public attention, recruit new members and ultimately to frighten the public. Thanks to the use of technology, terrorists are no longer just hitting their targets, but also a wide audience due who can see what is happening from their homes. In fact it is estimated that in 2015, 2560 websites contained terrorist material on it (Weimann, 2016). Governments are having to evolve their policies to prevent extremist material, by preventing access to sites deemed to contain this type of material – proving further that globalism and technology has allowed this to become a key threat.

In conclusion, it is clear that globalization has significantly changed the international system and the way in which foreign policy is presented and conducted. Globalization has meant that states can no longer afford to be isolationist as they are more interdependent. It is no longer a case that problems arise in just one nation anymore and therefore solutions must be found as a group and not individually, states can no longer afford to be isolationist. Non-state actors such as NGOs, private sector and IGOs have all played a significant role in bringing countries together and creating a global market, making them significantly more dependent on each other. 

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