The Role of Non-State Entities & International Organizations in World Conflicts

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  • 0:01 What Are Non-State Entities?
  • 1:12 International…
  • 4:11 Collective Security…
  • 6:03 Terrorist Organizations
  • 6:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nate Sullivan

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will learn about the role of non-state entities and international organizations in modern world conflicts. We will identify notable examples and see the part they have played in 20th-century conflicts.

What Are Non-State Entities?

We usually tend to think of war as taking place between two or more states. You know, between Germany and France, for example, or between Great Britain, France, and Russia on one side and Germany, Italy, and Japan on the other. While state-against-state war is generally the norm, non-state entities have played an important role in 20th-century conflicts.

In this lesson, we will be exploring the role of non-state entities. Most of the non-state entities we are familiar with are international peacekeeping organizations, like the United Nations, but terror groups, like Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah, are also non-state entities. Just so we are clear, a non-state entity is an organization not connected to national government. It is independent and 'stateless,' if you will. For example, the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda operates throughout the Middle East and is not connected with one singular national government.

International Peacekeeping Organizations

International peacekeeping organizations seek to keep peace and promote international harmony by providing nations with a forum to resolve differences diplomatically. The United Nations is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term 'international peacekeeping organization,' but these type of organizations have a long history.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) was established in 1889 by a Frenchmen and a Briton, who wanted to create a platform where national parliaments could be represented in one grand multinational body. Think of it this way: it was a parliament for parliaments. Prior to the outbreak of World War I, the IPU was composed primarily of European national parliaments and was intended to be a place where international disputes could be resolved peacefully. In many ways, the IPU was a forerunner to the League of Nations.

The League of Nations was an international peacekeeping organization founded in 1920, following the end of World War I. American President Woodrow Wilson was instrumental in its founding. See, World War I was such a horribly brutal conflict that the major powers wanted to ensure that a war like it never happened again. It was supposed to be the 'war to end all wars.' Of course, we know it didn't quite work out that way. An even more destructive world war broke out a mere 20 years later. Although the League of Nations was largely ineffective, it was important because it helped inspire another peacekeeping organization, one that has been largely effective. Yep, this would be the United Nations.

The United Nations, commonly called the U.N., is an international peacekeeping organization aimed at preventing war and promoting international cooperation. The United Nations officially came into existence after the United Nations Charter was ratified on October 24, 1945 in San Francisco. Since World War II, the U.N. has played a vital role in global conflicts and at times even engaging in military operations in order to maintain peace or thwart aggression. For example, in the early 1960s, U.N. peacekeeping forces were deployed to the Congo in order to prevent the Katanga region from breaking away from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Between 1999 and 2006, the U.N. also intervened in the Sierra Leone Civil War.

Collective Security Organizations

Collective security is basically the concept that there is strength in numbers. In a collective security arrangement, numerous states commit to defend any individual member state with a collective response. It would be like 15 kids standing up to a bully, with all them saying, 'If you mess with one of us, you mess with us all!' Collective security organizations played an important role throughout the Cold War.

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