International organization as an idea or an approach to political and social conflict management and resolution—now often referred to under the rubric of “global governance”—has been the subject of much discussion by scholars and practitioners, and has taken shape in numerous historical examples. A landmark figure in thinking about war, peace, and statecraft during the earliest period undoubtedly remains the classical Greek general and historian Thucydides (460–395 bce); his History of the Peloponnesian War, chronicling the conflict between the Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta, features prominently in virtually all discussions of the subsequent emergence and development of ideas and practices of conflict management. Succeeding scholars have built upon Thucydides’ ideas. While the earliest theorists and philosophers brought out important discussions of war causation, and basic notions of political-social conflict management in divergent settings, political thinking about the context of state interactions and new mechanisms for constraining state behavior had not yet—by the early seventeenth century—reached the era of preparation for international organization. That would wait another 200 years. In the nearly three centuries from the Thirty Years War to the beginning of World War I, scholars of international organization identified a number of proposals that arguably demonstrate the development, growth, and deepening of thought about such mechanisms.
Alistair D. Edgar
Martin S. Edwards and Jonathan M. DiCicco
International organizations (IOs) such as the United Nations play an important role in war prevention. In theory, IOs reduce the risk of war between belligerents by improving communication, facilitating cooperation, and building confidence and trust. In practice, however, IOs’ war-preventing capacities have sparked skepticism and criticism. Recent advances in the scholarly study of the causes of war have given rise to new and promising directions in research on IOs and war prevention. These studies highlight the problems of interstate and intrastate wars, global and regional organizations, preventive diplomacy and peacekeeping, and the relationship between IOs and domestic institutions. They also offer novel insights that both complement and challenge studies of traditional concepts such as collective security. An interesting work is that of J. D. Fearon, who frames war as a bargaining process between rational states. Fearon articulates a central puzzle of international relations: since war is costly, the question that arises is why rational leaders of competing states choose to fight instead of pursuing less costly, nonviolent dispute settlements. Three general mechanisms account for rational, unitary states’ inability to identify an alternative outcome that both would prefer to war: bluffing about private information, commitment problems, and indivisibility of stakes. Despite the obvious progress in research on IOs and war prevention, there remain methodological and theoretical issues that deserve consideration for further investigation, two of which are: the interaction of domestic and international organizations, and the implications of variations in IO design.
Elena McLean and Muhammet Bas
Natural disasters such as cyclones, droughts, earthquakes, floods, landslides, volcanoes, or pandemics routinely have cross-border implications. Transboundary risks of natural disasters tend to be the greatest for neighboring countries but often extend regionally or even globally. Even disasters with seemingly localized impacts contained within the national borders of a given state may have indirect short-term or long-term effects on other countries through refugee flows, conflict spillovers, volatility of global commodity prices, disruption of trade relations, financial flows, or global supply chains. Natural disasters may increase the risk of interstate conflict because of commitment problems, reduced opportunity costs of conflict, shocks to status quo divisions of resources, or demarcation of territories among countries, or because of leaders’ heightened diversionary incentives in favor of conflict. In some cases, disasters may have a pacifying effect on ongoing hostilities by creating opportunities for disaster diplomacy among conflict parties. Population displacement in disaster zones can send refugee flows and other types of migration across borders, with varying short-term and long-term socioeconomic and political effects in home and host countries. Adverse effects of natural disasters on regional and global economic activity shape patterns of international trade and financial flows among countries. To mitigate such risks from natural disasters and facilitate adjustment and recovery efforts, countries may turn to international cooperation through mechanisms for disaster relief and preparedness. Regional and global governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are common means to initiate and maintain such cooperative efforts.
Timothy J. A. Passmore
UN peacekeeping serves as the foremost international tool for conflict intervention and peace management. Since the Cold War, these efforts have almost exclusively targeted conflicts within, rather than between, states. Where traditional peacekeeping missions sought to separate combatants and monitor peace processes across state borders, modern peacekeeping in civil wars involves a range of tasks from intervening directly in active conflicts to rebuilding political institutions and societies after the fighting ends. To accommodate this substantial change, peacekeeping operations have grown in number, size, and scope of mandate. The increasing presence and changing nature of peacekeeping has sparked great interest in understanding when and how peacekeeping is used and how effective it is in delivering and sustaining peace. Significant advances in peacekeeping data collection have allowed for a more rigorous investigation of the phenomenon, including differentiation in the objectives, tasks, and structure of a mission as well as disaggregation of the activities and impact of peacekeepers’ presence across time and space. Researchers are particularly interested in understanding the adaption of peacekeeping to the unique challenges of the civil war setting, such as intervention in active conflicts, the greater involvement and victimization of civilians, the reintegration of rebel fighters into society, and the establishment of durable political, economic, and social institutions after the fighting ends. Additional inquiries consider why the UN deploys peacekeeping to some wars and not others, how and why operations differ from one another, and how the presence of and variation across missions impacts conflict countries before and after the fighting has stopped.