International organization

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An International Organization  (IO) is an organization that the Community system or settlement of political, economic, military and cultural affairs at the level of States serves. There is no conclusive definition of the term.

Organizational forms

In principle, one differentiates between two forms:

  • International governmental organizations ( English Intergovernmental Organizations , IGOs ​​for short) are organizations that are jointly founded by states. International organizations under international law that have arisen as a legal entityon the basis of an international treaty between the states, and in particular have an independent status under international law ( subjects of international law ) , such as the UN or the World Trade Organization ,are a special case . Other international government organizations are, for example, umbrella organizations for authorities or government bodies and tasks, such as the International Chamber of Commerce (  ICC), standards institutes such as the International Telecommunication  Union (ITU) (now part of the UN), or they have conference character such as the World Economic  Summit WWG. In some cases, however, the term is only restricted to international law organizations or subjects of international law, and isdifferentiatedfrom private law contracts, even if they are concluded between state or state-related institutions. Therefore, a distinction is also made between international government organizations and, more specifically, international government organizations.
  • International NGOs ( Non-Governmental International Organizations , International Non-governmental Organizations , shortly INGOs) are other organizations for cross-border cooperation, either associations of social actors, such as the International Red Cross ICRC or world interest groups as the author association PEN , or organizations with offices in the countries of the world, such as Greenpeace or Amnesty international . In some cases, profit-oriented transnational companies ( multinational companies  MNOs, business INGOs ) are included or explicitly excluded andfocuson non -profit-making (civil society international organizations) . Here, too, the boundaries are fluid, as organizations with non-profit concerns consistently work at least in a self-financing and economical manner. IGOs can also pursue purely economic goals, such as OPEC , an intergovernmental cartel .

Typically, one speaks of "international" only when at least three states are involved ( multilateral organizations ; for example, the acceptance criteria of the Union of International Associations  UIA in Brussels for state organizations), in other cases one speaks of bilateral state organizations (which is not common in international organizations under international law, where two partners of international law are usually sufficient).

In the case of organizations that are designed from the outset for the participation of all states, one also speaks of global governmental organizations / non-governmental organizations (UN, etc.), in the other case of regional (examples are NATO , Mercosur , African Union  AU) The term supranational emerged, the special meaning of which is that the participating states cede part of their sovereignty. The only real supranational ("supranational") organization is the European Union , in a broader sense also such as the UN Security Council , the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund  IMF.

It is also seen as characteristic that international organizations have their own organs, i.e. are able to act independently. This is what distinguishes it from other international institutions, such as pure conferences, action programs or regulations: A typical case of a treaty that has an executive body and therefore becomes an international organization is the human rights convention with the UNHCR high commissioner  , an example of an action by UNEP , the UN environmental program, with its Governing Council.

The distinction between IGOs ​​and INGOs does not make a statement in political and non-political organizations , even organizations traditionally seen as non-political, such as the IOC or FIFA in sport , have proven to be political actors. Conversely, numerous international, decidedly political organizations do not explicitly refer to the states as subjects and their governments, such as the alliances of political parties. Also among the state organizations there are those of the governments and their authorities, and in the sense of the separation of powers expressly not members of the administrative body (e.g. international courts ). There are also international government organizations in which non-governmental organizations are also involved or at least have observer status ( open multilateral or multipartist organizations) , through to those between states and commercial enterprises as part of the public-private partnership  (PPP). But all of these forms also have political aspects.

The concept of international organization developed in the second half of the 19th century, is the first IO in the modern sense, the result of the true Vienna Congress formed the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine , the oldest global organization, founded in 1863 International Committee of the Red Cross . The term was first used in a legally binding manner when the League of Nations was set up in 1919. However, the institutions of the Holy See in Rome, the representative of the Catholic Church (which, however, also have a special status, are also sovereign subjects of international law due to their advanced age) existing state, the Vatican State ), and the Order of Malta, which dates back to the Crusader states . The number of IOs today (excluding commercial companies) is estimated at around 3–4000, with around a tenth being IGOs ​​(and including around 250 IGOs ​​under international law), while INGOs are developing much faster. Therefore, the term has moved away from its original special meaning under international law, and in its respective definitions does not do justice to the diversity of actors.


  • Uwe Andersen: Concise dictionary of international organizations. 2nd edition, Springer-Verlag, 2013, ISBN 978-3-322-86673-8 , (focus on IGOs).
  • Volker Rittberger, Bernhard Zangl, Andreas Kruck: International Organizations (= basic knowledge of politics. ). 4th edition, Springer-Verlag, 2012, ISBN 978-3-531-19514-8 .

See also

Individual evidence

  1. a b Entry on international organizations in the Austria Forum  (in the AEIOU Austria Lexicon )
  2. a b c d International Organizations. - the definition given at the beginning is somewhat restricted with regard to the further text.
  3. a b c d Lit. Rittberger, Zangl, Kruck: 2013, Chapter 1.2. Differentiation between international organizations. Pp. 21–25 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  4. a b c d e f Lit. Andersen: 2013, section Problem sketch of international organizations , p. VI − X ( limited preview in the Google book search).
  5. a b c d e Julia Leininger; Katja Freistein (Ed.): Handbook International Organizations: Theoretical Foundations and Actors. Series of textbooks and handbooks in political science. Oldenbourg Verlag, 2012, ISBN 978-3-486-58310-6 , Chapter 1. The role of international organizations in global politics , pp. 4–8 ( limited preview in Google Book Search) - this book deals exclusively with international organizations under international law .
  6. a b Lit. Rittberger, Zangl, Kruck: 2013, Chapter 1.1. Definition of international organizations , pp. 19–21 ( limited preview in Google Book search).