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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
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
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
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.
A straightforward definition...but questions remain. The watchdog group Global Policy Forum asks some of these questions here.
Wikipedia also has a detailed article about NGOs: what they are, how they can be classified, what they do, and how they are organized, funded, and monitored. The legitimacy of some NGOs is also scrutinized.
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. The Greenwood Encyclopedia of International Relations diplomatically calls this situation “not entirely unproblematic” (1172), which might be one reason some NGOs (like Human Rights Watch) shun government funding.
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
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.
Reef Check: an NGO dedicated to the conservation ofreef ecosystems, here taking data on
the Great Barrier Reef - Wikimedia Commons image by Steveprutz No changes. CC License