Global Challenges in 2030

Photo of child playing in India

How will trends in international relations affect today’s young people over the years? This worker’s child in India plays in salt piles, 2009. [Reuters]

Welcome back to InternationalRelations .com! This fall, instead of being driven by daily events, I’m going to look at bigger, longer-term themes and concepts in IR that apply to today’s events and relationships.

For the 2010 edition of our textbook International Relations, Jon Pevehouse and I asked eight prominent IR scholars to write short essays on “Global Challenges in 2030.” As of this fall, these essays no longer appear in the print edition of the textbook, but instead will appear here on Each week I will post another of these excellent analyses and invite comments.


JOSEPH S. NYE, JR. — Diversifying American Power
BETH A. SIMMONS — Institutionalizing Human Rights
SHIBLEY TELHAMI — Understanding Attitudes on Middle East Peace
JOHN GERARD RUGGIE — Governing Transnational Corporations
CHARLI CARPENTER — Securing the Seas
ANDREW MORAVCSIK — Affirming Democracy in International Organizations
DANIEL W. DREZNER — Regulating Global Complexity
MICHAEL W. DOYLE — Democratizing World Politics


Every generation of students and practitioners of international relations confronts new challenges. Some of these issues, such as the challenges of globalization or human rights, arise from long-standing trends of which we are aware, but still struggle to confront for one reason or another. Other issues take us by surprise, coming onto our collective “radar screen” with little or no warning. Prior to 2008, for example, piracy had not been a particularly salient issue to students or policymakers, yet now we are well aware of the dangers posed by nonstate actors on the high seas.

This set of essays is an attempt to place (or re-emphasize) issues on our collective “radar screen.” We asked eight prominent scholars of international relations to imagine the challenges facing your generation as you evolve from students of international relations to more active practitioners. Looking forward to your future, we asked these professors to envision global challenges
in 2030. These scholars are all considered key figures in their areas of study, but in addition, they all have also engaged with policy communities throughout
their careers. Thus, they are not simply presenting you with academic problems, but with real-world problems that, as our textbook indicates, are the practical concerns of the field of international relations.

The answers we received from these scholars are quite varied, ranging from the challenge of creating new democracies to respect for human rights to Middle East peace. All of the writers point out challenges facing the international system for the next (and often the current) generation, while noting that none have easy answers.

We begin with Professor Joseph Nye outlining the challenges to the future of American power. Professor Beth Simmons then discusses a key challenge
in the area of global governance: the promotion and protection of human rights through international law. Shifting to the Middle East, Professor Shibley Telhami highlights trends in public opinion in the Middle East that will shape the prospects for peace in that region for years to come. Returning to the issue of global governance and human rights, Professor John Ruggie discusses the potential tensions between transnational businesses and human rights in the context of international anarchy— the lack of a central system of international governance.

Professor Charli Carpenter then highlights the challenges of an issue currently garnering significant global attention—piracy on the high seas. Professor Andrew Moravcsik then delves into the debate over whether the growing number of international organizations presents a challenge to democratic rule in the very member states that form these institutions. Professor Daniel Drezner reflects on the global implications of the 2008 recession noting that new ideas may be needed to understand how to prevent such events in the future. Finally, Professor Michael Doyle turns to the issue of domestic governance, suggesting the challenges inherent in attempts to further the spread of democracy around the globe.

Following each essay are references to sections of the textbook that discuss the issue raised in the essay. As you work your way through the book, recall these authors’ contributions and think about how what you have learned can help shed light on the causes of these problems or, perhaps more importantly, on the solutions that can address them.

We hope that these guest essays will not only educate you about challenges that will confront your generation, but will also inspire you to use the knowledge you gain in your course to begin to tackle these nettlesome issues. Indeed, while the steps needed to address these problems may be many, we hope that you will take the first one through your studies of international relations.



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