Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
International organization
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

International organization

An international organization is an organization of international scope or character. There are two main types of international organizations: international intergovernmental organizations, whose members are sovereign states; and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which are private organizations. Generally the term international organization is used to mean international governmental organizations only. It is in this sense that the term is used in the remainder of this article.

Legally speaking, an international organization must be established by a treaty providing it with legal recognition for it to be an international organization. International organizations so established are subjects of international law, capable of entering into agreements among themselves or with states. Thus international organizations in a legal sense are distinguished from mere groupings of states, such as the G-8 and the G-77, neither of which have been founded by treaty, though in non-legal contexts these are sometimes referred to as international organizations as well. International organizations must also be distinguished from treaties; while all international organizations are founded on a treaty, many treaties (e.g. NAFTA) do not establish an international organization and rely purely on the parties for their administration.

International organizations can be categorised in two main ways: by their membership, and by their function.

International organizations differ in who their members are and in who is permitted to join them. Membership of some organizations (global organizations) is open to all the nations of the world. This category includes the United Nations and its specialized agencies, as well as the World Trade Organization. Other organizations are only open to members from a particular region of the world. Finally, some organizations base their membership on other criteria: cultural or historical links (the Commonwealth, La Francophonie), level of economic development or type of economy (OECD, OPEC), or religion (Organization of the Islamic Conference).

Were it to come about, the ultimate international organization would be a federal world government.

Examples of global organizations

Examples of regional organizations

Organizations formed on miscellaneous membership criteria

International organizations can also be considered functionally, based on the areas and fields in which they operate.

Financial international organizations

The Union of International Associations provides information on international organizations.

See also