8.4.3 Nation's Foreign Policy Promoting Internationalism

Should internationalism be pursued?

Big Ideas:

Depending on a nation's motives for getting involved, their foreign policy can promote international cooperation and support international initiatives. In today's world filled with rapid air transportation routes between countries, super fast satellite communication, and global economies managed by transnational corporations, no country can claim to be 100% self-sufficient or isolated from the needs or resources of other nations.

Countries must interact. This mandatory interaction brings together large and small countries, developed and undeveloped nations. For this reason, countries must form relationships with other nations that will allow them to interact in a manner where all can benefit to some degree. These international relationships are guided by an individual nation's foreign policy, which can have a significant impact on the global community.

Canada's role in the international community continues to evolve, from its beginning as a small commonwealth nation to a nation with shifting priorities in a changing world. View a brief history of Canada’s foreign policy in the last 150 years.

What Impacts a Nation's Foreign Policy?

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Whenever nations interact, there are motives behind and methods to their actions. Nations are motivated by basic needs such as security and prosperity. A nation's foreign policy, therefore, is shaped by its geography, culture, and history, and is designed to meet its national interests.

A nation has many influences that affect foreign policy, such as their political system (dictatorship, democracy, monarchy), their goals or self-interests, and even multinational corporations or international organizations. When governments assign foreign policy priorities, they must choose action plans that meet national interests. There isn't one main strategy. Nations often have several action plans guiding their foreign interactions.

Foreign Policy Methods of Promoting Internationalism

Usually, a nation will be concerned about actions that may limit its independence. Sovereign nations are not willing to give up their ability to protect their national interest. This refusal to give up some power can be considered a major failing of the foreign policies of multilateralism and supranationalism. There are other methods countries can use to promote internationalist goals such as peace and peacekeeping, foreign aid, and international laws and agreements.

Click on tabs below to see how foreign policy actions can support international goals. As you read and view the websites, take notes using the 8.4.3 Notebook Organizer (bottom of page).

UN Palace of Peace
Geneva, Switzerland
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Nations have often joined together to maintain peace in troubled regions. In some cases, groups of nation-states pursue a policy of active diplomacy and negotiation to try to bring together countries that have conflicting policies. At other times, nations unite to take military action against countries acting aggressively. The United Nations often uses military of member nations to form a peacekeeping force. These peacekeepers act as a buffer between groups and provide humanitarian aid for people affected by the conflict. By promoting peace, nations hope to maintain the collective security of all nations.


View the history of Canadian Peacekeeping missions by going to the CBC Digital Archives and listening to "Peacekeeping, at what cost to Canada" and the roles of Canada's peacekeepers role over the last 40 years in "Blue Berets in Bosnia." Take notes using the 8.4.3 Notebook Organizer. Once you have finished, return here to continue.

There are still many nations who cannot meet the basic needs of their people. Developing nations that do not have the infrastructure to create and sustain industrial development must rely on their traditional (primary) industries of hunting and gathering to meet needs of its citizens. These countries cannot compete in a modern global economy. Developed nations, such as Canada, feel a responsibility towards developing nations, and they provide direct foreign aid in the form of education, food, medical supplies, information expertise, and financial aid through loans or direct money. Foreign aid agencies such as the World Bank, which provides loans to developing nations and humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF, help manage relief efforts in the wake of disaster.

The map below shows the global divide in the world average GDP (the total income of a country). Why is it important to help those who are below the world average GDP (in orange) with foreign aid? Take notes using the 8.4.3 Notebook Organizer. Once you have finished, return here to continue.

Many nations in the global community accept the "rule of law" as the main platform for the actions of governments both in their nation-states and in international relations. This means that governments' actions must stand by a global set of rules that are accepted as law within an established framework.

Many of the laws have been developed over a long period of time and have become accepted as law. In Canada, this type of law is known as the English Common Law. In international relations, these laws guide the treatment of diplomats, tourists, and passages of supplies. In many cases, these laws have been formalized in agreements between nations.

Nations will also enter into agreements to help regulate trade and to create an atmosphere of equality. Trade agreements help to set quotas, reduce barriers to trade, and create exchanges of goods.

Another type of law that guides relations between governments and people are rules written in a code of conduct. In these cases, governments write formal documents that list appropriate behaviours and actions to manage behaviours. Many nations have a constitution, which outlines government powers and citizen rights, while international formal agreements, such as the Geneva Convention, regulate actions between nations.

View an example of international law at work in the International Committee of the Red Cross' (ICRC) video "Rules of war (in a nutshell)".

Go to your textbook, Understanding Nationalism, and read pages 227 to 233 and 235. Take notes using the 8.4.3 Notebook Organizer. These pages will further your understanding of internationalism being promoted by foreign policy.

Go to your textbook, Understanding Nationalism, and read pages 224 to 226 (if you need help on how to take notes, click here). These pages will help you understand what impacts the development of a nation's foreign policy.

Take notes on the 8.4.3 Notebook Organizer (Word, PDF, Google Doc) on what you have read on this page and in your textbook. When you are done, return here to continue.