The globalization of communication has increased the relevance of international actors regardless if they are recognized nation-states, non-state actors, or large enterprise. Governments or traditional nation-states used to have a monopoly on information. Social media and 21st century technologies have increased the speed and reduced the cost of transportation of goods and ideas. This has given rise to transnational bodies, which are able to spread their ideologies across borders and garner loyalty faster that nation-states that struggle with the management and use of data.
The Atlantic Council has labeled this era, the Westphalian Plus Era. Meaning, the importance of the nation-state has not gone away but it is important to fully recognize major non-state actors and adapt communication and governance around it. The ability for an entity to traverse borders (physical, theoretical or symbolic) of communication can give rise to power. ISIS serves as a prime example of this emerging paradigm. According to UN member nations, ISIS is a non-state actor, however according to them they are an official body. Their reign currently spreads over two states. They have leaders, a mission and a very intricate communication network. Through social media and other forms of digital propaganda, ISIS has been able to attract recruits even in the western world. The US and England subsequently has recognized this and engaged in developing entire departments and internet space towards countering ISIS and violent extremism through social media. Regardless if their efforts have any positive effects, it is important to note that these sovereign Wesphalian nations have acknowledged the strength and gave relevance to ISIS’s international strategic communication agenda.
NGOS and corporations also play a major role in communication and the possibilities of power. These organizations have significant capacities in the domain of energy, cyber, security and technologies. All of which are main tools for statecraft. The main issue with these entities arise when answering the questions of who has the power or whose responsibility is it to prosecute when a transnational issue arises. For instance, this past summer, FIFA, the governing body of association for international football was admist a scandal of key leadership involved in bribery, election rigging and corruption. This isn’t some PTA, neighborhood club meeting scandal that has localized affects, it is magnetized by the fact that the organization deals with international contracts and government commitments. As a intermediary body dealing in part with public finance, this scandal has major implications. Who is to prosecute this organization with no national boundaries? The U.S DOJ under the RICO ACT was able to work with Swiss authorities to have executives arrested and extradited to the United States. How was a US federal law, allowed to be applied to a transnational body, with whom the contract under question did not apply?
The Economist explains it clearly here:
“What laws are the Americans using?
The case is essentially about bribery, yet there are no bribery charges. That is because federal bribery laws cover only bribery of government officials, not those from non-governmental bodies like FIFA. So prosecutors had to get creative—something they are increasingly doing in America, sometimes controversially. One of the laws they are bringing charges under is the Travel Act, points out Heather Lowe of Global Financial Integrity, an advocacy group. The relevant part of the law essentially says that it is illegal to engage in interstate or foreign travel, or use the mails or “any facility in interstate commerce” to promote, manage, establish or carry on an illegal activity. That activity can be illegal under either federal or state law. Bribery is definitely included on the list of what is considered an illegal activity under the Travel Act. Any relevant transaction, even if it is only tangentially related to America, can be targeted. In one instance, a representative of FirstCaribbean International Bank in the Bahamas flew to New York to pick up a cheque for $250,000 (the alleged bribe) from the bribe recipient to transport it safely back to the defendant’s bank account.
Why does America have the ability to do this sort of thing?
The arm of American law is famously long. The country’s law enforcers claim the right to go after anyone using dollars, its banking system or its territory to plan or conduct an illegal act. It can try them in its courts, subject to successful extradition. Chuck Blazer, a defendant who turned co-operator, was based in New York. Accused FIFA officials and marketing executives allegedly discussed or engaged in palm-greasing while passing through America; several of the more than 30 banks and branches that handled tainted transactions are American. For any bank or company that does substantial business in the country, corporate charges have to be taken very seriously—and are usually settled promptly.”
This case study takes me back to the main point that the Atlantic Council makes about the new Westphalian Plus Era. While non-state actors have enormous influence over business, people and ideas, nation-states are still called up upon, to assist with prosecution, security, and stabilization of issues arising from these non-governmental mega-strucutes.
I would like to leave you with a few thoughts. Coca-Cola is the most intrusive brand in the world. It arguably has the most loyal customer base on the planet. What would it look like if he company happened to develop a political agenda? Its logistical network just have digital power, it has street sense. What does it mean when people and corporations have larger Twitter and Facebook followings than some countries have populations? As information technologies continue to evolve, governments will need to learn how to stay ahead of the curve, with the management and use of data as they attempt to connect with their own citizens and foreign entities.