Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley
After 1945, two powerful and opposing nations emerged within the INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY: the Soviet Union and the United States. When the Soviet Union fell apart in 1990 and the Cold War ended, a new order began, with the US as the world’s only superpower.
The US is now the world’s most powerful country, giving it a leadership role in global issues. Its global leadership is balanced by regional powers, such as the nations of the European Union (EU), the Middle East (Arab League), and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Their relationships are marked by both cooperation and conflict.
The Cold War order was made stable by SECURITY alliances between nations, to align themselves with the might of the two superpowers. Nations must now find other reasons to work together, because stability will depend on countries agreeing on shared goals.
Trends such as GLOBALIZATION will affect how economic power is shared between nations. Regional powers, such as the European Union, may become stronger to counter US power. Security issues such as terrorism may remain a focus worldwide.
Globalization has brought new wealth and new problems to the world. When the Cold War ended, a vast global economy emerged. Trade and migration between countries became easier, and big businesses set up bases across the world. The term also describes the spread of Western culture.
Creating a truly global market that includes every nation could make business more efficient, improving everyone’s quality of life. But if some people are excluded, the gap between the rich and poor of the world could grow. Governments must also make sure that the economic power of a huge business does not undermine the rights of individual people.
The term “globalization” was first used in the 1980s, but trade on a global scale has been going on for centuries. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, and Britain built up trading empires that spanned the world. The Industrial Revolution of the 19th century also helped to unite the world’s markets. Global trade slowed down during the two World Wars, but began to build up again in the late 1980s, toward the end of the Cold War.
Individual nations may not have much power on their own, but they can open up their economies to the world as a whole by working as part of larger organizations. Nations can also work together to agree on a set of international rules, which should apply to businesses wherever they are based.
Representatives of the world’s 193 countries meet and talk in different forums, such as the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank. These countries make up a community of nations, which can act together to deal with global problems.
The major goals of the United Nations are defined in its charter. The first is to recognize each nation’s sovereignty, or the right to govern itself. The second is to encourage a policy of nonintervention in a country’s affairs. The UN also seeks to prevent conflict by providing a forum for cooperation.
The United Nations Security Council can ask member nations to send troops to war zones to keep the peace. UN soldiers do not normally fight, but they do try to keep enemies apart.
The international community aims to maintain global peace, which is vital for social progress. It also provides aid for countries facing great difficulty, such as those devastated by famine, debt, or war. Aid might come in the form of food or medicine, or a deal to cut one nation’s debt to another.
The government of every country needs a security system to protect its citizens. Governments must have the resources to defend the country from attack, and gather good information to warn against future attacks. Under the new world order, the need for global security requires nations to work together.
After the Cold War, many nations hoped to cut military spending and put the money into social projects, such as poverty relief, instead. But the new world order created new tensions and pockets of resistance across the globe, so that defense spending started to grow again in 1995.