Non-State Actors and Foreign Policy

Frank A. Stengel, Rainer Baumann
  • September 2017, Oxford University Press (OUP)
  • DOI: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.013.456

Foreign Policy is increasingly made also by companies, NGOs and others

What is it about?

The article discusses what the growing influence of non-state actors on foreign policy means for theory and practice. It begins with an overview of the many ways in which non-state actors influence foreign policy. Once seen as exclusively the business of states and their agencies (such as foreign offices), today all kinds of non-state actors (such as business companies, international organizations, NGOs, terrorist and criminal networks) influence foreign policy. Not only do they pursue their own goals, which might clash with states' goals, but they are also increasingly integrated in states' own decision-making procedures. Based on this overview, the article assesses to what extent current theoretical perspectives are still adequate to explain how foreign policy is made. The article closes with an agenda for future research, stressing the need for comparative research, the development of theories that can explain why some states are more open to non-state actors than others, and the normative consequences of increased non-state actor involvement.

Why is it important?

The article takes stock of the relatively wide-ranging involvement of non-state actors in foreign policy-making and highlights (some of) its consequences. In particular questions of democratic legitimacy are highly relevant also for practice because as opposed to at least democratic governments, non-state actors are not democratically legitimated nor accountable to the public. If foreign policy is increasingly influenced by these actors, it will become less democratic. Given the potentially devastating consequences of foreign policy, this development should not be neglected.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Frank A Stengel