An intergovernmental organization, sometimes rendered as an international governmental
organization and both abbreviated as 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 organizations, although that
term may also include international nongovernmental organization such as international nonprofit
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 (IGOs) 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
Types of IGOs
• 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 category includes the Council of Europe (CoE), European Union
(EU), African Union (AU), Organization of American States (OAS), Association of
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Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and Union of South American Nations.
• Cultural/linguistic/ethnic/religious/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 – These organizations are dedicated to free trade, the
reduction of trade barriers while 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.
World Wide Organizations
The United Nations (UN) is an international
organization whose stated aims are facilitating
cooperation in international law, international
security, economic development, social progress,
human rights, and the achieving of world peace.
The UN was founded in 1945 after World War II to
replace the League of Nations, to stop wars between
countries, and to provide a platform for dialogue. It
contains multiple subsidiary organizations to carry
out its missions.
There are currently 192 member states, including
nearly every sovereign state in the world. From its offices around the world, the UN and its
specialized agencies decide on substantive and administrative issues in regular meetings held
throughout the year. The organization is divided into administrative bodies, primarily:
• General Assembly: The General Assembly is the main deliberative assembly of the
United Nations. Composed of all United Nations member states, the assembly meets
in regular yearly sessions under a president elected from among the member states.
Over a two-week period at the start of each session, all members have the opportunity
to address the assembly.
• Security Council: The Security Council is charged with maintaining peace and
security among countries. While other organs of the United Nations can only make
'recommendations' to member governments, the Security Council has the power to
make binding decisions that member governments have agreed to carry out, under the
terms of Charter Article 25. The decisions of the Council are known as United
Nations Security Council resolutions.
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• Economic and Social Council: The United Nations Secretariat is headed by the
Secretary-General, assisted by a staff of international civil servants worldwide. It
provides studies, information, and facilities needed by United Nations bodies for their
meetings. It also carries out tasks as directed by the UN Security Council, the UN
General Assembly, the UN Economic and Social Council, and other UN bodies.
• Secretariat: The Secretariat is headed by the Secretary-General, who acts as the de
facto spokesman and leader of the UN.
• International Court of Justice: The International Court of Justice (ICJ), located in
The Hague, Netherlands, is the primary judicial organ of the United Nations.
Established in 1945 by the United Nations Charter, the Court began work in 1946 as
the successor to the Permanent Court of International Justice.
Universal Postal Union
The Universal Postal Union (UPU) is
an international organization that
coordinates postal policies among
member nations, and hence the
worldwide postal system. Each
member country agrees to the same
set of terms for conducting
international postal duties. Universal
Postal Union's headquarters are
located in Berne, Switzerland.
Prior to the establishment of the
UPU, a country had to conclude a
separate postal treaty with each other country that it wished to carry international mail to or
from. The United States called for an international postal congress, which was held in 1863.
This led Heinrich von Stephan, Royal Prussian and later German Minister for Posts, to found
the Universal Postal Union, the third oldest international organization.
One of the most important results of the UPU treaty was that it ceased to be necessary, as it
often had been previously, to affix the stamps of any country through which one's letter or
package would pass in transit; the UPU provides that stamps of member nations are accepted
for the whole international route.
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International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol)
Interpol, whose full name is the
International Criminal Police
Organization – INTERPOL, is an
organization facilitating international
police cooperation. It was established
as the International Criminal Police
Commission in 1923 and adopted its
common name in 1956.
Its membership of 186 countries
provides finance of around $59 million
through annual contributions. The
organization's headquarters are in
Lyon, France. It is the second largest
intergovernmental organization after
the United Nations.
Its current Secretary-General is Ronald
Noble, formerly of the United States
Treasury. Noble is the first non-
European to hold the position of
In order to maintain as politically neutral a role as possible, Interpol's constitution forbids its
involvement in crimes that do not overlap several member countries, or in any political,
military, religious, or racial crimes. Its work focuses primarily on public safety, terrorism,
organized crime, war crimes, illicit drug production, drug trafficking, weapons smuggling,
human trafficking, money laundering, child pornography, white-collar crime, computer
crime, intellectual property crime and corruption.
Each member country maintains a National Central Bureau (NCB) staffed by national law
enforcement officers. The NCB is the designated contact point for the Interpol General
Secretariat, regional bureau and other member countries requiring assistance with overseas
investigations and the location and apprehension of fugitives.
Interpol maintains a large database charting unsolved crimes and both convicted and
alleged criminals. At any time, a member nation has access to specific sections of the
database and its police forces are encouraged to check information held by Interpol whenever
a major crime is committed. The rationale behind this is that drug traffickers and similar
criminals have international ties, and so it is likely that crimes will extend beyond political
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Interpol also maintains its help to remove video piracy and unauthorized copying of protected
movies and video tapes. Starting September 8 of 1977, a resolution was adopted which states
that any unauthorized reproduction or exhibition is prohibited without the prior written
consent of the producer or the copyright owner and is subject to civil and criminal penalties
under the laws of the country the offender comes from.
World Trade Organization
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an international organization designed by its
founders to supervise and liberalize international trade. The organization officially
commenced on January 1, replacing the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade
(GATT), which commenced in 1947. The World Trade Organization deals with regulation
of trade between participating countries; it provides a framework for negotiating and
formalizing trade agreements, and a dispute resolution process aimed at enforcing
participants' adherence to WTO agreements which are signed by representatives of member
governments and ratified by their parliaments. Most of the issues that the WTO focuses on
derive from previous trade negotiations, especially from the Uruguay Round. The
organization is currently endeavoring to persist with a trade negotiation called the Doha
Development Agenda (or Doha Round), which was launched in 2001 to enhance equitable
participation of poorer countries which represent a majority of the world's population.
However, the negotiation has been dogged by "disagreement between exporters of
agricultural bulk commodities and countries with large numbers of subsistence farmers on the
precise terms of a 'special safeguard measure' to protect farmers from surges in imports. At
this time, the future of the Doha Round is uncertain."
The WTO has 153 members, representing more than 95% of total world trade and 30
observers, most seeking membership. The WTO is governed by a ministerial conference,
meeting every two years; a general council, which implements the conference's policy
decisions and is responsible for day-to-day administration; and a director-general, who is
appointed by the ministerial conference. The WTO's headquarters is at the Centre
William Rappard, Geneva, Switzerland.
Among the various functions of the WTO, these are regarded by analysts as the most
• It oversees the implementation, administration and operation of the covered
• It provides a forum for negotiations and for settling disputes.
Additionally, it is the WTO's duty to review and propagate the national trade policies, and to
ensure the coherence and transparency of trade policies through surveillance in global
economic policy-making. Another priority of the WTO is the assistance of developing, leastdeveloped
and low-income countries in transition to adjust to WTO rules and disciplines
through technical cooperation and training. The WTO is also a center of economic research
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and analysis: regular assessments of the global trade picture in its annual publications and
research reports on specific topics are produced by the organization. Finally, the WTO
cooperates closely with the two other components of the Bretton Woods system, the IMF and
the World Bank.
Agreements of WTO
The WTO oversees about 60 different agreements which have the status of international legal
texts. Member countries must sign and ratify all WTO agreements on accession. A discussion
of some of the most important agreements follows.
Agreement on Agriculture (AoA)
The Agreement on Agriculture came into effect with the establishment of the WTO at the
beginning of 1995. The AoA has three central concepts, or "pillars": domestic support,
market access and export subsidies.
General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)
The General Agreement on Trade in Services was created to extend the multilateral trading
system to service sector, in the same way the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
(GATT) provides such a system for merchandise trade. The Agreement entered into force in
Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPs)
The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights sets down
minimum standards for many forms of intellectual property (IP) regulation. It was negotiated
at the end of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in
Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary Agreement (SPS)
The Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures - also known as
the SPS Agreement was negotiated during the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on
Tariffs and Trade, and entered into force with the establishment of the WTO at the beginning
of 1995. Under the SPS agreement, the WTO sets constraints on members' policies relating to
food safety as well as animal and plant health (imported pests and diseases).
Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT)
The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade is an international treaty of the World Trade
Organization. It was negotiated during the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on
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Tariffs and Trade, and entered into force with the establishment of the WTO at the end of
1994. The object ensures that technical negotiations and standards, as well as testing and
certification procedures, do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade".
International Monetary Fund
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an
international organization that oversees the global
financial system by following the macroeconomic
policies of its member countries; in particular those
with an impact on exchange rates and the balance of
payments. It is an organization formed to stabilize
international exchange rates and facilitate
development. It also offers highly leveraged loans
mainly to poorer countries. Its headquarters are
located in Washington, D.C., United States.
The International Monetary Fund was created in July
1944, originally with 45 members, with a goal to
stabilize exchange rates and assist the reconstruction
of the world's international payment system. Countries contributed to a pool which could be
borrowed from, on a temporary basis, by countries with payment imbalances.
The IMF describes itself as "an organization of 186 countries (Kosovo being the 186th, as of
June 29, 2009), working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability,
facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth,
and reduce poverty". With the exception of Taiwan (expelled in 1980), North Korea, Cuba
(left in 1964), Andorra, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Tuvalu and Nauru, all UN member states
participate directly in the IMF. Most are represented by other member states on a 24-member
Executive Board but all member countries belong to the IMF's Board of Governors.
Any country may apply for membership to the IMF. The application will be considered first
by the IMF's Executive Board. After its consideration, the Executive Board will submit a
report to the Board of Governors of the IMF with recommendations in the form of a
"Membership Resolution." These recommendations cover the amount of quota in the IMF,
the form of payment of the subscription, and other customary terms and conditions of
membership. After the Board of Governors has adopted the "Membership Resolution," the
applicant state needs to take the legal steps required under its own law to enable it to sign the
IMF's Articles of Agreement and to fulfill the obligations of IMF membership. Similarly, any
member country can withdraw from the Fund, although that is rare.
The primary mission of the IMF is to provide financial assistance to countries that experience
serious financial and economic difficulties using funds deposited with the IMF from the
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institution's 186 member countries. Member states with balance of payments problems, which
often arise from these difficulties, may request loans to help fill gaps between what countries
earn and/or are able to borrow from other official lenders and what countries must spend to
operate, including covering the cost of importing basic goods and services. In return,
countries are usually required to launch certain reforms, which have often been dubbed the
"Washington Consensus". These reforms are thought to be beneficial to countries with fixed
exchange rate policies that may engage in fiscal, monetary, and political practices which may
lead to the crisis itself. For example, nations with severe budget deficits, rampant inflation,
strict price controls, or significantly over-valued or under-valued currencies run the risk of
facing balance of payment crises. Thus, the structural adjustment programs are at least
ostensibly intended to ensure that the IMF is actually helping to prevent financial crises rather
than merely funding.