GCE A Level 2004: Can small countries have a significant role in world affairs?

A quick perusal of the happenings of the world today is testament to the nation that national boundaries are no longer sacrosanct. Globalisation has enabled for the integration of both large and small economies, allowing them to come to a consensus on global affairs. Small economies, such as Maldives, Denmark and Singapore are also plagued by their fair share of problems that are also international concerns and are therefore able to contribute significantly to world affairs, hence, I am of the opinion that small countries can indeed have a significant voice in world affairs.

Skeptics may laments that small nations are incapable of creating change on the global arena because they lack the strong legislatures and are dwarfed by larger nations. This is a dangers assumption because in the 21st century, we see that an increasing number of small countries are able to collaborate with other small countries to amplify their voice. This is best exemplified by the formation of blocs and coalitions. Through strategic alliances, the world is more likely to take the views of small countries seriously because of the greater credibility they attain by joining regional bodies. Furthermore, participation in regional bodies means that a consensus has already been made by small countries on the most pertinent problems that not only jeopardise national, but international interests. For instance, Denmark’s participation in the European Union (EU) allowed Denmark to take the lead in peace-building and tackling issues of the existing political and bureaucratic institutions’ incompetency in dealing with post-conflict building. Denmark, a country that is highly reputed for its efficient public safety and security, now enjoys a certain legitimacy related to peace-building. Another prominent example would be the Alliance of Small Island Staes (AOSIS), consisting of low-lying coastal islands like Maldives, Bahamas and Singapore. The AOSIS aims to consolidate the voices of small island states to address global warming – a pressing issue that has been in our radar for years. Small island states are able to voice their discontentment about how the burning of fossil fuels in larger nations is taking a toll on the environment of smaller island states. hence, it is highly evident that the formation of such alliances is an imperative catalyst in enabling the voices of smaller countries to be heard.

Cynics may also point to the fact that small nations cannot have a significant voice in world affairs because bigger nations have stronger labour forces and military strength , leading to stronger and wealthier economies. However, irrespective of size, every country has the capability of exploring into a niche area and developing a comparative advantage. This would give small countries a larger sphere off influence and hence a greater voice in world affairs. For example, Ivory Coast has a niche in producing cocoa beans and many large economies are highly dependant on Ivory Coast for their cocoa beans. This allows Ivory Coast to establish market power and control the demand and supply of the beans. Furthermore, small nations also have the ability to build up their military capacity , enabling them to rise in times of crisis in other countries. For example, the Republic of Singapore Armed Forces (RSAF) has a strong military capacity and has played a pivotal role in rescue efforts during calamities such as the Nepal earthquake. Therefore, it is conclusive that a country’s size is not proportional to the influence it can have on the world because so long as a country has an abundant of resources, like a strong labour and military capabilities, it will be able to contribute sigincaaly to world affairs.

Pragmatists also postulate that a small country can still have a significant voice on global affairs because they aid in policy diversity. Small countries have different perspectives from large countries on current policy debates. This allows small countries to participate actively in international discourses on issues such as the nature of banking regulation and tax competition (Ireland), limits to fiscal stimulus (most EU countries) and macro-prudential or exchange rate policies (Switzerland and Singapore) . The participation of small nations in debates also acts as a balance to the potentially dominating views of large countries that could translate to Bills being passed that only take into consideration the needs of large economies. For instance, policies on global warming or trade need to consider the views of small countries as well because larger countries like the US have the tendency of passing policies that only take into account the needs of large business that exploit every possible source of energy to the detriment of smaller counties. Policies must also ensure that large countries do not establish monopoly power in small countries to take advantage off their smaller workforce. Thus, small nations are critical players in the global arena.

However, while small countries are able to offer the aforementioned elements, apologists contend that the overpowering voices of some large counties completely silence out those of the smaller counties. This renders any international agreement as futile because larger economies will always have an inherent greed to have their concerns addressed and meet, leaving smaller economies helpless. An extremely relatable example would be China’s belligerence in the South China Sea. China has been claiming areas that are deemed to be the Philippines’ territory, as China has claimed that areas within the ‘nine-dash line’ belong to her. The United Nations Conventions on law off the Sea (UNCLOS), which sets regulations on the areas of seas which a country can claim, is practically pointless in this case because China’s aggression blatantly violates the UNCLOS, and the Philippines has no say in what should be done because of China’s abilities to threaten the Philippines using her military prowess. Therefore, I must concede that small countries still cannot have their voices heard if larger nations continue to myopically pursue their self-interests without giving smaller countries a say.

Moreover, small nations cannot have a significant voice in world affairs because when it comes to discussions of crucial issues, like war, as a big body is needed to stand up to get their job done. Larger countries like the US are more likely to command respect from the rest of the world, because as a large economy,it is undeniably true that the US has more resources, expertise and experience. For example, during the Iraq War in 2003 , it was the US who’s end her troops down. Smaller counties like Singapore were not heavily involved because the US had more experience in dealing with such a war, based on her past experiences such as the World War II and Vietnam War. Therefore, smaller countries do have a limited voice in certain affairs as they are less experienced in dealing with conflicts in geographically larger countries.

Nonethesless, while there is a degree of truth in the naysayers’ arguments, one who subscribes entirely to their view has yet to thoroughly examine the significant contribution smaller conies have in world affairs. While wars still prevail, they have definitely decreased as people today acknowledge that peaceful dialogues , and not violence, should be the way for conflict resolution. This enables even smaller countries to play a significant role in mediating the dialogues. Leaders in small countries today believe that they have the capacity to be a key player in world affairs by looking for ways to contribute to policy making. To sum it all up, national boundaries are indeed no longer sacred and small countries can definitely have a significant voice in world affairs.

Score: 40/50


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