Issues such as climate change, terrorism, international crime, religious movements, trade, and human migration impact every state. The need to cooperate to address common problems and attain collective goods has led to the development of a robust if imperfect system of global governance. Global governance helps manage the anarchy of the international system by setting rules and boundaries for state behavior and providing forums for collective action.
International law, created by multilateral treaties, establishes boundaries on state behavior. In a system of sovereign states, with no authoritative overarching governing body, international law helps define norms for interstate conduct. International law creates a sense of obligation and expectations between countries.
The United Nations, a global IGO, coordinates the activities of states in areas of international security and economic development. IGOs like the UN help foster some degree of order and security, helping states work together toward common goals in the international system.
Regional IGOs, such as the European Union, NATO, and the African Union, work on issues of concern to member states, helping maintain peace and promote prosperity in a given region. Because individual states are members of global and regional IGOs, these organizations are often held captive to the desires of the more powerful states.
Unlike IGOs, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are able to exercise influence in given issue areas, improving lives of people around the world and not just within a given region or group of states. Because NGOs are not affiliated with particular states, they rely heavily on charitable funding and can only work directly in states that allow their presence.
There are other non-state actors as well, some legitimate and some not. Corporations, religious groups, nationalist and ethnic groups, terrorists, and organized criminal groups all impact international relations.