Even though cooperation is a very
renowned topic, achieving it can prove tricky and very complex in the
international arena. It is quite so difficult because this arena has an anarchical
status as there is no governing body enforcing cohesion throughout nations. In
order to help us understand this, we need to know how to clearly define what some
of these key terms are.
In the context of international
law, a state is recognised when a population within a defined territory is
controlled by a government; such entities are seen as maintaining sovereignty,
which is recognised by other states in the international system (Baylis et al.
2013: 544). Anarchy is what defines the international system as there is no overall
sovereign power. In a realist view, this creates a self-help system as this
environment pushes states in the direction of being suspicious of others and therefore
strive to become self-reliant to safeguard own safety occurs (Baylis et al.
2013: 156). Autonomy theory focuses on the rationality of individuals, in this
cases the states in place of individuals, in reference to their capacity to
make moral choices (McKinnon 2015: 325). State autonomy is an ability to
formulate and act on independent ideas without consideration for others. This
is reflected in an international state system which promotes competition as
opposed to cooperation. State systems are devised from regular communication
and engagement between two or more states, but without any implication of
shared values between them (Baylis et al. 3013: 545). A less realist, more
liberal or constructivist view, contrasts this with the idea of an
international society in which states share common values and perceive themselves
to be bound by rules, such as an agreement not to trade nuclear weapons between
nations (IAEA 1970: 2).
Cooperation is “required in any
situation where parties must act together in order to achieve a mutually
acceptable outcome” (Baylis et al. 2013: 530) and this can only come into
fruition in circumstances with “conflicting and complementary interests” (Axelrod
and O. Keohane 1985: 226). States are not harmonious as this would suggest
states were already acting in a natural order. Nineteenth-century liberals
believed a natural order was somewhat corrupted with distortions, such as the
balance of power1, and that there would be no conflict if these
distortions were not there (Baylis et al. 2013: 534).