Intergovernmental organization

Intergovernmental organization

An intergovernmental organization (IGO) is an organization comprised primarily of sovereign states (referred to as "member states"), or of other intergovernmental organization. Intergovernmental organizations are often called international organization, although that term may also include international nongovernmental organization such as international non-profit organizations (NGOs) or multinational corporations.

Intergovernmental organizations are an important aspect of public international law. IGOs are established by treaty that acts as a charter creating the group. Treaties are formed when lawful representatives (governments) of several states go through a ratification process, providing the IGO with an international legal personality.

Intergovernmental organizations in a legal sense should be distinguished from simple groupings or coalitions of states, such as the G8 or the Quartet. Such groups or associations have not been founded by a constituent document and exist only as task groups.

Intergovernmental organizations must also be distinguished from treaties. Many treaties (such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, or the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade before the establishment of the World Trade Organization) do not establish an organization and instead rely purely on the parties for their administration becoming legally recognized as an "ad hoc" commission. Other treaties have established an administrative apparatus which was not deemed to have be granted international legal personality.

Types and purposes

Intergovernmental organizations differ in function, membership and membership criteria. They have various goals and scopes, often outlined in the treaty or charter. Some IGOs developed to fulfill a need for a neutral forum for debate or negotiation to resolve disputes. Others developed to carry out mutual interests in a unified form.

Common stated aims are to preserve peace through conflict resolution and better international relations, promote international cooperation on matters such as environmental protection, to promote human rights, to promote social development (education, health care), to render humanitarian aid, and to economic development. Some are more general in scope (the United Nations) while others may have subject-specific missions (such as Interpol or the International Organization for Standardization and other standards organizations). Common types include:

*Worldwide or global organizations - generally open to nations worldwide as long as certain criteria are met. This category includes the United Nations (UN) and its specialized agencies, the Universal Postal Union, Interpol, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
*Regional organizations - open to members from a particular region or continent of the world. This categories includes the European Union (EU), African Union (AU), Organization of American States (OAS), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and Union of South American Nations.
*Cultural, linguistic, ethnic, religious, or historical organizations - open to members based on some cultural, linguistic, ethnic, religious, or historical link. Examples include the Commonwealth of Nations, La Francophonie, Community of Portuguese Language Countries, Latin Union, or Organisation of the Islamic Conference
*Economic organizations - based on economic organization. Some are dedicated to free trade, the reduction of trade barriers (the World Trade Organization) and International Monetary Fund. Others are focused on international development. International cartels, such as the Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries (OPEC), also exist. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development was founded as an economics-focused organization. An example of a recently-formed economic IGO is the Bank of the South.

Some organizations, such as NATO, have collective security or mutual defense provisions.

The Union of International Associations publishes an annual directory of organizations and provides ancillary information on most international organizations, both intergovernmental and non-governmental.


While treaties, alliances, and multilateral conferences had existed for centuries, IGOs only began to be established in the 19th century. Among the first were the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine, initiated in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, and the future International Telegraph Union, which was founded by the signing of the International Telegraph Convention by 20 countries in May 1865.

ee also

*List of intergovernmental organizations
*List of organizations with .INT domain names
*International organisations in Europe
*International trade/list of international trade topics
*List of international organizations
*Multilateral development bank
*Non-aggression pact
*Supranational aspects of international organizations
*Supranational union
*Trade bloc
*World government

Further readings and External References

* Claude, I.L. (1959). "Swords into Plowshares: The problems and progress of international organization". New York: Random House
* [ IGO search] Free service allowing search through websites of all intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) as recognized and profiled by the Union of International Associations.

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