Interdependence, cooperation and cooperative agreements have never been limited to a particular era. However, we are living in an era in which the fortunes of some and sometimes all countries are interconnected and interdependent, and the need for collective and coordinated action to find effective policies for better global governance and development of cooperation is being felt more than ever.
On the other hand, the impact of imperialism, the rising shift in the states' understanding and expectations of "cooperation" along with the international actors' instrumental misuse of international cooperation as well as the international organizations' insufficiency have hindered the best practices of global governance.
In light of this, the focus here is neither on a specific region or geography nor on engaging in a detailed academic discussion since scholars have already offered excellent explanations but rather on a general discussion that could shed some light on the impact of imperialism and globalization on global governance and international cooperation.
Imperialism vs. globalization
Imperialism and globalization impact global governance. Ample evidence proves this argument. Globalization would have provided grounds for the development of global governance and international cooperation in conditions that no other external factor like that of imperialism had influenced. That is, globalization itself has a potential universal applicability for interaction, interconnection, cooperation and convergence. If its potential manifests, globalization will boost universal tendencies.
On the other hand, imperialism with its expansionist tendency has not shared any potential profits with its target countries or regions. It, in fact, prevented globalization from manifesting its potential as well as hindered the best practice of global governance. The following parameters are given for deeper understanding of these definitions:
With globalization gaining popularity after the Cold War, modern everyday life with its particular cooperative arrangements was shaped. Similarly, the nature of global expectations gradually shifted, and the functionality of global governance was negatively affected. Inevitably, international cooperation was influenced since global governance focuses on solving global problems through cooperation based on certain regulations.
Along this line, imperialism took political and economic control of the globe during its third phase. It provided grounds for the instrumental misuse of global governance by a limited group of international players.
The world has witnessed two of the most savage and devastating world wars and many bloody civil wars. Imperialism and imperial rivalries provided both the cause and context for nearly almost all of them. These wars have had reverberations and affected the foundation of global governance and cooperation.
They were either caused by treaties, as many historians believe that the harsh Treaty of Versailles was one of the causes of World War II, or brought with them many new agreements, resolutions and treaties that are still the underlying factors of huge challenges, both short and long term, in the specific states and regions.
Since the end of World War I many alliances have either served the interests of one side of the cooperation-cooperative agreement or to the detriment of other side; many subsequent wars and conflicts have been the outcomes of such alliances and international treaties. All cooperative agreements have been understood and defined as reaffirming the strength of partnerships and alliances in the short run but, in the long run, have caused more challenges as the result of immeasurable geopolitical alteration.
Consequently, a handful of countries are automatically given rights to easily bet on the fate and future of some geographically violable regions – a trend that has obstructed the function of global governance.
Adding more fuel to the fire, international organizations like the U.N., with its antiquated voting system and decision-making bodies like the Security Council comprised of a limited number of states with veto rights, have become increasingly insufficient and unable to shape global governance and the development of international cooperation.
Some inbound factors such as bureaucratism, dictatorship and fake democratic mechanisms are some of the most damaging elements institutionalized by imperialism in the regimes and systems in many developing and underdeveloped countries.
This, in fact, indicates the importance of domestically originated factors that ultimately affect global governance, since we consider each society and/or country as part of a bigger region or the globe that plays its role in the process of global governance.
A brief history
According to various resources, cooperation and cooperative agreements have their roots in ancient eras. Greek historian Thucydides was one of those who discussed how states could practice cooperation through diplomacy and treaties. From 5 B.C. till well before the 19th century, international cooperation was not institutionalized. That is, it was based on a historical consensus that did not focus much on the way different communities and societies could connect and cooperate.
The 19th century was actually the century that global governance manifested itself, since collective intentions were formed and maintained, while states began to address global problems through joint commitments and diplomacy.
At the end of World War I, international cooperation was institutionalized and agreements and treaties were signed as well as alliances established, resulting in the framework for the cooperation; though it still lacked accountability, transparency and functionality for collective interests.
Although international cooperation intensified in the early 19th century and strengthened during the 20th century it did not help, for instance, to prevent many civil wars, political and economic pressure, annexations and occupations in which most international actors were involved directly or through their proxies.
Many cooperative initiatives have not delivered on their goals due to a lack of consistency and harmony for consensus on what the states agreed on and committed to, and that of accountability and transparency that states agreed to and were bound to. Influenced by many such factors, the understanding of cooperation between states has gradually changed as well. States tend to understand the concept of cooperation based on the necessities of time and space, and we observe that the efforts of one side of a treaty or cooperative agreement to upgrade itself in a certain field has challenged the alliance's or treaty's resilience since the other side has always felt insecure with the upgrade. A climate of distrust governs all agreements and treaties. This means that states are unable to cooperate for the real purpose of international cooperation, even with shared resources, thanks to imperialism.
The heart of the matter
There is no doubt that international cooperation is always a possibility and one of the best alternatives for states. With the first and second waves of globalization, technology breakthroughs and industrialization emerged and with the rise in economic cooperation among states, cooperation in other fields became possible. International trade and investments were facilitated.
Countries' international financial flow, assets and liabilities increased. International cooperation gradually evolved as a cornerstone of international relations and global policy and tried to shape the political and economic patterns of the world.
Despite its evolution, international communities and international state-actors have not attended to or complied with the cooperative initiatives or their compliance has not helped the sustainability and consistency of the global policy-making process.
In such pandemonium, global governance has not yet been able to reach its determined goals. Global governance has been impeded by imperialist devastation as well. Today, imperialism is dressed up as democracy and manifests itself as new imperialism and/or democratic imperialism.
Cooperative agreements are understood and defined as reaffirming the strength of partnerships and alliances while, in the long run, more challenges emerge as a result of immeasurable geopolitical alteration.
More devastation at the hands of global governance through imperialism is yet to come. Potential targets should be aware that imperialism does not follow its previous tactics and does not need colonial subjection since it is already strong enough to withstand any strategy and project for confrontation by target states.
Reliance on international cooperation under these conditions is like boarding a leaky boat, and global governance takes it one step further by putting a blind man at the helm.
* Iranian researcher, Middle East political and security analyst