Another kind of demand governments must try to meet comes from ethnic and religious groups that in some cases seek autonomy from the government. Some of these conflicts result in attempts at genocide, and the rest of the world appears powerless to intervene. These problems are not limited to Third World countries. NATO has revised its original purpose of preventing an invasion of western Europe to a strategy of maintaining smaller mobile forces to prevent the internal breakup of nations. But these internal conflicts continue to have the potential to produce anarchy and chaos, threatening entire regions.
In modern times national governments have become increasingly involved with one another in supranational systems. The League of Nations, established in 1919, grew to include more than 90 members. It collapsed in World War II but was succeeded by the United Nations (UN). The UN, like the League, is a voluntary association generally without power to act unless the five permanent members of the Security Council agree. It has, however, served as a forum for international debate and a convenient meeting ground for negotiations. The UN has also committed military forces of member nations in an attempt to limit the scope of conflicts that cannot be solved by national governments. UN forces have suffered casualties in some of these conflicts. The United Nations is now an international government in both theory and reality, and the organization will continue to face many serious challenges in many parts of the world.
Associated with the UN are a number of specialized organizations that perform important governmental functions. They include the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Court of Justice (World Court), the International Labor Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Health Organization, and the International Telecommunication Union.
The specialized agencies have enabled national governments to cooperate in many practical matters such as setting standards, extending technical and financial assistance to developing countries, eliminating or controlling epidemic diseases, and establishing an international monetary system.
Regional associations of nations have usually existed in a loose confederation for national security purposes or for vaguely defined geographical and political purposes. The European Union of 15 member nations has taken the concept of regional association to a much higher level. It has moved to create a political union among sovereign states, and its Common Market constitutes one of the major economies of the world.