The world is essentially governed by institutions. At first, you might not think you’d know about this but their names come up all the time. This includes the European Union, the United Nations and the International Court of Justice. Most of these institutions work as forums for states to have dialogue and use conversation and negotiation to avert trade wars, military conflict and the escalation of tensions.
Most of these institutions are have some kind of hierarchy, whether or not its official. The United Nations Security Council, for example, has five permanent members who hold a veto. This puts them above states who don’t. This can also be seen within the European Union, where EU law will always take precedence over laws created by the state. This takes away some of their sovereignty, which was a key campaign issue for the Leave campaign during the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Ah yes, world leaders. Don’t we all love them?
They’re at the forefront of world politics, often representing their states and governments at world events and forums. Different states will offer their leaders different levels of authority but for the most part, they are the number one representative. It is their job to lead their state through negotiations and engagement with other countries. It is not uncommon to see world leaders visiting another state or having phone calls with another head of state.
Possibly the scariest part of world politics - but ironically, perhaps the thing that has stopped world wars. That is obviously a huge statement to make but the idea of mutually assured destruction, since 1950 and onwards, has been enough to deter major powers from engaging with one another directly. This has been seen in the example of the USSR and the US - they were in the Cold War for decades but never exchanged direct military confrontation. This is comparable to the current situation with the US and Russia - the tensions are not on the same level as that during the cold war but the threat of nuclear conflict has driven the two rivals to a more dialogue based bilateral relationship.
Civil wars and proxy wars
There have been several civil wars since the turn of the century - Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are just to name a few. A civil war is fairly self explanatory; a war between two or more sides kept within the borders of a state. A proxy war is slightly more complicated; it’s when great powers, who don’t want to engage in direct conflict with one another, support the opposing side to their rival in the civil war. This can be seen in the Syria, again with Russia and the States. Russia is currently supporting the Assad regime whilst the States are backing rebels (however, it should be noted that there are more than two sides to the Syrian conflict and there is far more to it). It allows them to spread their sphere of influence and show a military might against their rival without having to worry about large scale consequences.
Different kinds of governments and world leaders
As explained in my article on British politics, the UK currently holds a representative democracy with a bicameral decision making Parliament. That, however, is just one type of government among many. We also have a Queen, who is listed as the head of state of Australia and Canada, despite having their own independently elected President or Prime Minister. Meanwhile, Russia has a president and a prime minister and North Korea has a supreme leader. Saudi Arabia has a king and a crown prince, and the States has just a singular president. There are so many different kinds and combinations of state governments and their heads, and chances are they all function differently.
Military alliances are another major factor in the world balance. The biggest and most notable is NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), who recently celebrated 70 years since the signing of their first document. It was created during the Cold War to counter threats from the USSR. Meanwhile, there are several smaller military alliances and doctrines that require one state helping the other(s) in the event of a military attack.
Is it all bad?
It’s easy to assume, based on current world news, that global politics is depressing. It certainly could be seen that way, given the current internal divides of countries and tensions between others. With that said, it’s hard to give a simple yes or no answer. It’s important to remember that the media purposely portray things as negative or shocking - they get more clicks that way. In reality, there is always dialogue going on between countries and it’s important to remember how newspapers and online sources spin things to make appear as one thing, when they are in fact another.