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People wearing open-toed sandals are just visible at the edges of a photograph of four freshly caught fish laid out on a dirt floor. One person points at one of the fish.
Figure 15.1 According to the Seychelles News Agency, yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean is the most overfished tuna in the world. Under pressure from the European Union and numerous nongovernmental organizations, Indian Ocean Tuna Commission countries met in 2021 to discuss the sustainability of fishing practices.1 In this photo, buyers and sellers negotiate prices of different varieties of tuna at a market in Mogadishu. (credit: "2013_03_16_Somalia_Fishing m" by AMISOM Public Information/Flickr, Public Domain)

No individual or state “owns” the oceans and the wildlife in them. They are a shared, finite resource. Overfishing is an unsustainable global problem, especially now that technological advancements allow thousands of fish to be harvested at once. Only through the establishment of rules can the fish continue to be a source of food and income for future generations.

In a system of sovereign states, managing international resources like the fish in the sea is no easy task. As discussed in earlier chapters, state sovereignty is the concept that states have an inherent right to independence and a right to formulate policies and take actions that they deem to be in their own national interests. Managing international resources requires navigating the claims sovereign countries have on those resources, understanding the needs of individuals who depend upon them for their livelihood, and thinking about the sustainability of those resources for the future. No individual state can do this alone.

International law and non-state actors, especially international organizations, participate in global governance in order to address complex issues like managing global fishing or preventing conflict. Along with governments, thousands of organizations engage in collaborative problem-solving, encourage broad and transparent international communication, and assist those in need. By creating and following norms and rules and advocating for the impoverished and marginalized, international law and non-state actors shape state behavior and promote a more peaceful and prosperous international system. The importance of international law and non-state actors to the outcomes of international relations is a subject of some debate among proponents of the various theories of international relations discussed in Chapter 14: International Relations, but there is little doubt that the era of globalization has enhanced their visibility and influence.

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