Has there been a power shift in relations between states and other actors

Has there been a power shift in relations between states and other actors?






Has there been a Power Shift in Relations between States and other Actors? 


The role of the non-state actors is changing, and they are coming out as powerful participants in the field of politics and governance. According to Alkoby (2003), some of the actors are now posing a challenge to the power and the authority of the sovereign states by interfering with its roles. Examples of the non-state actors are the NGOs, multinational corporations, religious groups, and the civil society, many of which act as the voices of the citizens (Campins-Eritja & Gupta2002). The non-state actors have a lot of bargaining power and knowledge, and there is a relocation of authority from public to quasi-public and the private agencies as Campins-Eritja and Gupta (2002) assert in their work. As the power of the state reduces, the NGOs are flourishing with most of them getting support from the civil society and the common citizens (Daase 2013). Nowadays the state is not the sole source of authority and power, and in many cases, the power comes from the international systems or the domestic arena. Power is shifting to businesses, citizens, organizations, ethnic groups crime cartels, and the governments are struggling to deal with the dilution of their monopolized power they enjoyed before (Daase 2013). Some of the non-state actors are

The civil society and Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Studies show that non-sate governance is becoming more powerful each day than it was before (Feltenius 2014). There is power distribution among the states, markets, and the civil society to allow participation of the citizens in governance and leadership as observed by Jensen (2013) in his work on multi-level governance. The fact is that the national government is not losing power, but it is distributing the political, social, and security functions with NGOs, business organizations, and international organizations (Johnston 2014). Powershift is not in the lesser powerful states but is shaping even the most powerful states to heed to the public opinion in its governance styles. The main contributor and driver of the rising non-state actors and the declining of the state power is the advancement in technology through computerization (Johnston 2014). Before the digital era, the government was the key source of the information about the state. Nowadays, things have changed, and the public can access information instantaneously on the social media or the other forms of communication. The modern technology changes peoples’ views about the community and the internet plays a big role in connecting people across many countries regardless of the geographical separation (Kabdiyeva 2013). The interconnection can have an effect on the political and social effects and sometimes create divisions separating the ordinary people from the elites as Losier (2013) notes. More so, technology has the power to destroy hierarchies and distribute power among many groups, which reduces the power of the state.

NGOs are growing at a very high rate and gaining popularity from the citizens leaving the government struggling to exercise authority over the state. NGOs have a big influence on the way citizens perceive the government and can make then hate or like the governing body through their campaigns.

Through funding from various bodies, such as donations, governments, and international organizations, NGOs are exceedingly outdoing the government in many ways. Through their funding, NGOs offer help to the needy and the poor, which enables them to gain popularity compared to the governing state (Losier 2013). Many NGOs operate huge budgets every year, and their expertise and management exceed that of some government as Marshall (2005) asserts. Some countries like China, Japan, and the Middle East limit the role of the civil society and maintain authoritarian forms of governments as noted by McEvoy (2013) in his journal of government and opposition. The non-actors, such as the NGOs and the civil society deliver services that the government cannot, thereby gaining more popularity and trust. Many NGOs are in the field of education, health, community income generating projects, and poverty alleviation as observed by Marshall (2005) in his work. In fact, the government cannot outmatch the NGOs, and this poses great threats to the small governments. NGOs can manipulate even the largest governments, and interfere with their policies as observed by Marshall (2005). An example is a case where the US and Mexico planned a trade agreement, but the NGOs could not allow it to happen. Governments can longer make closed-door decisions and implement them like before (Nunnenkamp, & Öhler 2012). The NGOs and the civil society have a big influence on what the government implements since they can penetrate in many countries with much ease than the government.

Religious organizations

Other actors that are taking the government power are the religious organizations, such as the church, and the Islamic group as Moustafa (2013) observes in his work on religion and the state. The religious groups nowadays can dictate on the implementation of certain laws or the passing of the constitution without any considerations, such as the cost of the program. The government, in many cases, has to negotiate with the religious groups before implementing some programs, such as the immunizations or the population control programs (Sebentsov 2011). An example is the Catholic Church that opposes the use of contraceptives as birth control methods, in which case, the government‘s authority is suppressed by that of the church. Religious groups also have very many projects at the grassroots, and therefore command more respect and trust by the citizen (Sebentsov 2011). Sometimes religion determines the voting patterns in some countries, through supporting some candidates.

Multinational Corporations

The other non-state bodies possessing a lot of governing power are the business corporate organizations. Corporations are getting involved in the international political process and shaping the political and the environmental agenda as observed by Sroka (2010) in his work on multinationals. Some organizations, for instance, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) concerns itself with promoting partnership between the environmentalists, international society, and the private sector (Sroka 2010). Environmental governance depends on the outcomes of the market and not the state imposed regulations as noted by Sroka (2010) in his work on multinational and power. Corporations set their regulations and principles governing their business environment without the intervention by the state. According to Staples (n.d.), the advantage of the private actors in setting their regulations without the interference of the state is to promote the managerial roles and views in the global markets. The state respects the regulations of various corporations so long as they do not undermine the state security or pollute the environment. Various bodies deal with those businesses that cause environmental harm by disposing of harmful substances. Other areas, such as banking and joint ventures out power the role of the state, because of their geographical distribution (Staples n.d.). Some corporations and the business organizations engage in various activities, such as operating in any country, evading taxes, and undermining the sovereignty of their home country. Initially the government used to set the foreign exchange rates, but nowadays the private currency traders can exchange about $1.3 trillion in a single day (Staples n.d.). The amount is far beyond the total foreign reserve of all governments since the traders regulate themselves. There are many conflicts between various governments in the trade rules, yet private capital flow is growing at a very high rate.

Politicians and the other bodies

The world of politics is changing, such that elected and nominated ministers of various governments can overrule some of the decisions made by the executive in their country (Waghmore 2012). The judiciary can also overpower the state law with a lot of ease and it is possible to find national ministers colluding with other ministers from the other countries to oppose their colleagues in their government. For example, it is possible to find the health minister opposing the education minister yet they are serving the same government. Units that fall below the national level of governance are engaging in formal international role by opening trade offices abroad, which their government has no control (Waghmore 2012). For example, German Lender and British local governments have offices at the EU headquarters in Brussels, which are not under the control of their national government as Yamamoto (2008) asserts.

On the other hand, the state still has powers of some areas that the non-state bodies cannot perform with effectiveness. The state is the only body that can impose orders involuntarily unlike the non-state (Yamamoto 2008). According to Yamamoto (2008), the state is the only one that can meet the essential needs of its citizens that the private sector cannot provide regardless of their resources. Some of the needs are job security, poverty alleviation, consumer protection, environment preservation, and controlling population explosion to its citizens and any other residents in the country (Yamamoto 2008). The state is the only one mandated to make governing laws concerning all the individuals and institutions in the country. There are other areas with little interference by the non-state bodies, such as the security. Matters of security are very sensitive, and it is the role of the central government to provide both internal and external security of their citizens (Yamamoto 2008). It is the role of the state to deal with the recent trends in insecurity, such as terrorism, organized crimes, ethnic crashes, and drug trafficking. Other issues, which do not need interference by the non-state agencies, are control of the population, environmental degradation, political instability and the increasing poverty levels.


The non-state actors are taking almost all the functions of the state in various sectors such as the corporate, the Civil society, and in politics as asserted by Alkoby (2003). The religious group, some corporations, and NGOs are taking up the state role in regulating and controlling the citizens. The banking and the financial sector are also major non-state bodies exercising their regulations on their profit making activities. However, there are areas that the state cannot ignore, and the non-state bodies cannot sustain. The areas are security, reduction of unemployment, education, among others, which are essential to the lives of the citizens.


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