Political Studies

Intergovernmental Organizations

An intergovernmental organization (IGO) is a group of members (sovereign states, countries) working together on issues of mutual self-interest. Some IGOs are legal entities – i.e. they have been ratified by charter. The United Nations is a good example of a legally constituted IGO. Its charter links the interests of 192 member nations.
IGOs that are not chartered do not “exist” in a legal sense. But in other significant ways they certainly do exist. For example the non-chartered G7 (Group of Seven) has annual meetings dealing with the substantive political and economic concerns of the world's industrial leaders (the G7 was the G8 until 2014, when seven members suspended Russia for its annexation of Crimea).
  • African Union - The former Organization of African Unity is comprised of 54 of the continent's states, and has a vast slate of interests and objectives: solidarity, defense, peace, human rights, development, education, poverty, inter-state economic integration, etc.
  • Arab League - Use “Select Language”. A 22-member group of states concerned with the region's economic improvement, dispute resolution, and coordination of political interests
File:Emblem of the Arab League.svg
Emblem of the Arab League
   Wikimedia Image
Attribution Jeff Dahl. No changes. CC License
  • Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation - 21 Pacific-rim countries aiming at economic cooperation, free/freer trade, and sustainable growth
  • Commonwealth - Commonwealth of Nations is a 53-member association of former British-empire territories. Objectives and interests include peace, democracy, individual liberty, free trade, equality, and development  
  • East African Community - Regional economic cooperation, with a stated goal of a political federation of states
  • European Union - Political-economic union of 28 member states
  • International Criminal Court - The ICC is an IGO and international tribunal that tries cases of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity
  • International Criminal Police Organization / Interpol - International organization of police forces. Political Handbook of the World identifies Interpol as an IGO, but Wikipedia calls it an NGO. If you define an IGO as a group of nations, then Interpol is arguably an NGO. Or it might have qualities of both
  • Inter-American Development Bank - IDB is the largest source of development financing in Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Islamic Development Bank - Finances infrastructure, modernisation, and education projects in its member states and non-member Muslim countries
  • OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) - A cartel of oil-states with the fairly limited aim of coordinating and unifying the oil production policies of its members
  • South African Development Community - 15 states in Africa that want improved social & economic cooperation, political integration, and enhanced security
  • United Nations - The largest IGO, it deals with issues of peace, security, development, & human rights
  • World Trade Organization - The successor organization to GATT regulates and supervises the international trade of its members 

Other resources on IGOs:   


Nongovernmental Organizations

What is an NGO?
NGO.org says that an NGO:
  • is a non-profit, voluntary citizens' group;
  • is organized on a local, national or international level;
  • can perform a variety of service and humanitarian functions;
  • is usually organized around specific issues such as human rights, environment or health.
Technically, at least, NGOs do not promote a government agenda. However, many NGOs are funded by government – for example, a lot of non-military government foreign aid is channelled through NGOs. 

NGO project worker in Rwanda 2010 
Wikimedia Commons - No changes. CC License
  •  Acumen Fund - An American “transformative” investment and loan organization supporting projects to reduce global poverty
  • Amnesty International - AI’s objective: "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."
  • Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT)  - International organization focussed on prevention of torture, or cruel and degrading treatment
  • Barefoot College - Development activities in Least Developed Countries
  • BRAC (Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) - Largest development NGO in the world, working to reduce poverty, illiteracy, and disease
  • CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere) - International humanitarian and development agency
  • Cultural Survival - A small American NGO dedicated to the defense of the human rights of indigenous peoples
  • Food for the Hungry (FH) - International Christian relief and development organization
  • Greenpeace (Canada) - Peace & environment NGO concerned with issues like deforestation, overfishing, genetic engineering, & nuclear power
  • Human Rights Watch - Conduct research, raise awareness, advocate for basic human rights (e.g. freedom of religion; freedom of the press), and oppose violations of rights (e.g. capital punishment; discrimination based on sexual orientation)
  • Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) - “Doctors” was in the vanguard of the “without borders” NGOs, and has a reputation for providing medical assistance under conditions of great duress and difficulty. The vast majority of its funding is from private philanthropists, meaning the organization is independent of the institutional interests of governments
  • Oxfam - Supports development programs, disaster response and anti-poverty initiatives
  • Save the Children - Provides relief and support for children in developing countries
  • World Vision - Christian humanitarian aid, development, and advocacy
Other Resources on NGOs:
  • WANGO (World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations) - An umbrella organization that facilitates partnership, communication, and resource-sharing among NGOs. Their directory of members (there are many thousands of them) is here.       
File:Reef check survey buddy pair.png               
 Reef Check: an NGO dedicated to the conservation ofreef ecosystems, here taking data on
Great Barrier Reef - Wikimedia Commons image by Steveprutz No changes. CC License