In the three centuries or so since the modern international system began flo take on its present shape, its component members have come together in a wide variety of organizations, for a wide variety of purposes. Those who act on behalf of the nations have turned to international organizations to oversee peace settlements, to strengthen their collective defense capacity, to mediate conflicts between themselves, to discourage interference from the outside, to harmonize their trade relations, to supervise international waterways, to accelerate the production of food, to codify diplomatic practice, and to formalize legal proceedings. Some organizations are established primarily for the neutral purpose of making coexistence possible, others for the more affirmative purposes of positive cooperation. Some have been directed toward the modification of the system, others toward the preservation of its status quo.
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