Reimagining Sovereignty in a Global Era

When fires in the Amazon affect countries around the world, is there a need to rethink a centuries-old understanding of sovereignty?

Sovereignty is the principle that guarantees countries get to control what happens within their borders and prohibits them from meddling in another country’s domestic affairs. But does this traditional understanding of sovereignty need to be reevaluated in a world where challenges within one country can ripple across borders and affect the entire planet?

The world is more interconnected than ever before, with trillions of dollars, tons of goods, and millions of people crossing borders every year. What was local has gone global, as is the case with climate change, in which one country’s greenhouse gas emissions can threaten the entire world.

In this new era, experts are wondering whether a centuries-old view of sovereignty still holds or whether global challenges require a new understanding of the principle—one in which governments have an obligation not only to their own citizens but also to other countries’ citizens for the consequences of their domestic actions.