November 19, 2009
This publication is now archived.
Most people around the world support an international order based on international law and treaties. Majorities in most countries believe that international laws create normative obligations like domestic law, and believe that nations should feel obliged to abide by international law even when doing so is at odds with their national interest. However, people tend to underestimate how much their fellow citizens feel such an obligation. Europeans and Americans express readiness to contribute military force to uphold international law. Limited international data reveal strong support for participation in a variety of international treaties. Download full chapter (PDF).
International polling reveals a strong consensus that world order should be based on a multilateral system led by the United Nations or a group of regional powers, rather than a system based on hegemony or bipolarity. Large majorities in countries around the world reject a hegemonic role for the United States, but do want the United States to participate in multilateral efforts to address international issues. Download full chapter (PDF).
Large majorities around the world have endorsed having a stronger United Nations. Large majorities also support giving the UN a variety of expanded powers, including having a standing peacekeeping force, the power to investigate human rights violations, and the power to regulate the international arms trade. National publics are more divided when it comes to giving the United Nations the capacity to impose a tax. Support for working through the United Nations is somewhat tempered, especially among smaller countries, when poll questions highlight the prospect of subordinating national policies to collective decision-making processes. Download full chapter (PDF).
In international polling, large majorities around the world favor the United Nations having the right to authorize the use of military force for a wide range of contingencies. The approval of the UN Security Council plays a powerful—and in many cases a necessary—role in conferring legitimacy on the use of military force. Among Europeans and Americans, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) does provide some legitimacy, but by much smaller margins than does the United Nations. Download full chapter (PDF).
Robust majorities approve of the United Nations intervening in the internal affairs of states to investigate human rights abuses and to promote human rights in member states. Perhaps most dramatic, equally large majorities approve of the United Nations using military force to forcibly deliver urgent humanitarian aid if the government tries to block the aid, and to protect people from severe human rights abuses even against the will of the government. Download full chapter (PDF).
Publics in most nations say that when there are concerns about the fairness of elections, countries should be willing to have UN observers monitor the elections. Most countries polled, including developed democracies, say that their own country would benefit from such monitoring. Download full chapter (PDF).
Asked whether the United Nations, national governments, or regional organizations should take the lead in dealing with various issues, responses vary according to the issue. The most common view is that the United Nations should take the leading role in addressing aid for economic development, dealing with refugees, and international peacekeeping. The most common view is that national governments should take the leading role on protection of the environment. Views are more mixed on human rights, but most say either the United Nations or a regional organization should take the lead. Download full chapter (PDF).
Large majorities in publics around the world perceive themselves as citizens of the world as well as of their nation, but in all nations national identity is still stronger than global identity. Download full chapter (PDF).
Large majorities of Europeans and Americans alike believe that they have enough common values for transatlantic cooperation on international problems and that it is critical for their own nation to act together with its closest allies on national security issues. Europeans strongly favor cooperation over competition between the European Union and the United States. Internationally, more publics think their government should be more cooperative than it is than think that their government tends to be too ready to compromise. Download full chapter (PDF).
Stewart M. Patrick assesses multilateral cooperation and state sovereignty.
Maximalist finds lessons in the past that anticipate and clarify our chaotic present, revealing the history of U.S. foreign policy in an unexpected new light. More
This clear and authoritative book presents a sweeping account of China's global resource quest and the unrivaled expansion of its economy. More
The story of the tragic and often tormented relationship between the United States and Pakistan, and a call to prepare for the worst, aim for the best, and avoid past mistakes. More
Rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in low- and middle-income countries are increasing faster than in wealthier countries. The Independent Task Force outlines a plan for collective action on this growing epidemic.
This Independent Task Force asserts that elevating and prioritizing the U.S.-Canada-Mexico relationship offers the best opportunity for strengthening the United States and its place in the world.
Campbell evaluates the implications of the Boko Haram insurgency and recommends that the United States support Nigerian efforts to address the drivers of Boko Haram, such as poverty and corruption, and to foster stronger ties with Nigerian civil society.
Koblentz argues that the United States should work with other nuclear-armed states to manage threats to nuclear stability in the near term and establish processes for multilateral arms control efforts over the longer term.
The authors argue that it is essential to begin working now to expand and establish rules and norms governing armed drones, thereby creating standards of behavior that other countries will be more likely to follow.
Learn more about CFR’s mission and its work over the past year in the 2014 Annual Report. The Annual Report spotlights new initiatives, high-profile events, and authoritative scholarship from CFR experts, and includes a message from CFR President Richard N. Haass.
Read and download »
To request permission to reprint or reuse CFR material, please fill out this permissions request form (PDF), referring to the instructions on page 1.
President Obama has heralded a "new era of global engagement." But what do publics in the United States and around the world actually think...
Listen to experts as they launch Public Opinion on Global Issues, the most comprehensive digest ever assembled of existing polling data on...
Ongoing Middle East conflicts, economic storm clouds, and perennial tensions in Asia augur a tough 2015 for global leaders, says CFR’s James...
What CFR.org Editors are reading this week of November 3-November 7.