International relations are an exceptionally important aspect of citizenship in a global society. As our world becomes smaller and smaller through communication technology, rapid air transportation and a complex international economy, the value of peaceful and cooperative relationships between nations is increasingly important.
Historically, one of the oldest expressions of international relations was the establishment of treaties and agreements between nations. Maintenance of these treaties ensured that ordinary people could go about their everyday tasks of earning a living and raising their families rather than dedicating themselves to armed conflict with neighbors. This function of international relations remains just as relevant today. Though there are still countries out there that have a long way to go before peace treaties can be met, others, like North Korea and South Korea, are making strides for peace that have left the world shocked, yet hopeful.
Positive international relations also promotes effective trade policies between nations, both in terms of importing natural resources and finished products not available in one country and in terms of gaining access to the larger market afforded by exports to foreign countries. International relations define the requirements and limitations of cross-border trade, in terms of taxes, transportation routes, trade sanctions, materials that can and cannot be traded, etc. International relations also demonstrate to the rest of the world in which countries are powerhouses in certain industries, which other countries really need to rely on. For instance, Korea and Japan export the most cars, while China exports many different kinds of electronics and Colombia exports coffee.
Besides the transport of goods over international borders, people also frequently migrate between countries, looking for opportunities to enhance their lives. This travel may be temporary or permanent, but in either case it must be regulated to ensure the rule of law--criminals must be kept out of the country while legitimate business, tourist and immigrant travel is preserved. International relations plays a key role in determining border control policies.
Nations often face global issues that are larger than any specific country or even continent, such as concerns over the environment, pandemics and terrorism. Sound international relations are required for nations to cooperate effectively to meet these challenges, allowing nations to share relevant information quickly and pool resources.
International relations are not only about regulating and controlling the flow of goods and information, they are also advantageous for promoting the advancement of human culture in a general way. The diversity of world cultures can be promoted and shared through enlightened international relations policies, allowing programs such as student exchanges and cultural exhibitions to enhance our understanding of the variety of human expression worldwide. Also, major events like the Olympics or the World Cup allow people from all over the world to come together and appreciate our similarities and differences.