The Role of Small States in International Relations

The Role of Small States in International Relations

Produced By Dennis Grech, Date: May 25, 2020

Despite their generally insignificant size and lack of hard power, small states tend to be very active in international relations. Indeed, small states tend to play an important role in multilateral diplomacy.

Small states generally tend to advocate and uphold the rule of international law, promote the United Nations as well as the importance of cooperation in all spheres.  Recognising that no single country, irrespective of its size and power, can solve all the problems the world is facing, small states turn towards an international, multilateral, rules-based system to strengthen cooperation between all nations. Small states, due precisely to their lack of hard power are, and considered to be, honest brokers, without national agendas, who present proposals and ideas that benefit all of mankind.

In an environment characterised by a multilateral, rules-based system, which sets a level playing field for all, small states, especially if united together, have the opportunity to present their ideas and proposals across to all nations, irrespective of the latter’s size and power.  There have been numerous occasions where small states, including Malta through its role in the formulation of the International Law of the Sea, managed to push forward proposals to strengthen and develop different aspects of the international legal framework.  Small states have also been at the forefront in drawing the international community’s attention to severe problems the world is facing, such as climate change.

The very smallness and lack of hard power of these states serve to remind the international community of its obligations and commitments to the rules-based order which has been created during the past decades. 

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