7.5.2- Internationalism and the United Nations

Should internationalism be pursued?

Big Ideas:

  • Nation states take part in regional and global affairs for many reasons.
  • Nation and state involvement in regional and global affairs impacts individual and collective identities
  • Internationalism can be promoted in foreign policy

When nations have specific goals they want to achieve as part of their national interests, they may join international organizations along with other nations looking to achieve similar goals. As you can see from the diagram below, several international organizations promote internationalism in an effort to support the common motives and goals of many countries. The United Nations is involved in all of these goals, and member nations all work together to address issues that impact the achievement of these goals in the global community.

Member nations of the United Nations recognize that addressing and resolving global challenges is the responsibility of the international community, and as such, countries need to balance national and international interests. While the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a start to addressing these issues, the work of the UN is ongoing. As you can see from the image below, United Nations' membership has increased since 1945, with 193 member nations in 2017. However, with the addition of new members comes the challenges of balancing member nations' self-interests with the UN financial contributions, participation in UN missions, and effective support of the SDGs.

Just as there are challenges to an international approach, there are also benefits. Billions of people have been influenced by the global community's approach to solving various problems. People are involved daily in trying to combat such global issues as poverty, hunger, unemployment, disease, and illiteracy. By supporting these actions, the United Nations (as well as other international agencies) hopes to work toward world peace. 

Canada has been involved with the United Nations since its inception, and continues to support the UN's mandate and goals. However, questions around support of Indigenous rights, UN peacekeeping efforts, international business practices, immigration detention, and other issues has pushed Canada to evaluate their efforts, and the extent that these efforts are effective in the support of international initiatives.

Go to your textbook, Understanding Nationalism, and read pages 218 to 219. These pages will further your understanding of internationalism.

Take notes on the 7.5.2 Notebook Organizer (Word, PDF, Google Doc)about what you have read. When you are done, return here to continue.

Critics of the international efforts of some agencies (particularly the United Nations) argue that the structure of the current United Nations no longer reflects the realities of the shift in global power. Others note that the need for large-scale and rapid military responses to conflict has put tremendous financial pressure on nations and the United Nations should consider creating a permanent force of its own (rather than relying on the military resources of member nations).

There are also concerns with international foreign aid being allocated to increase living standards. Donor nations are worried that their aid is not reaching those who need it most because of corruption, competing motives, tied aid, a lack of consultation, complex delivery systems, and bureaucracy. There are also concerns that the high demand for short-term aid for immediate relief of suffering impacts the UN's ability to offer long-term support of aid, and sustainable growth.

Go to your textbook, Understanding Nationalism, and read page 235. Add to your notes to clarify your understanding of the issues around provision of foreign aid. If you need help taking notes, click here.

Methods of international cooperation are not perfect and can sometimes be misdirected, but there is a growing demand for greater cooperation in international affairs. Increased contact between countries (through technological advancements in communications and transportation) have increased the importance of international cooperation.