An international organization is an organization with an international membership, scope, or presence. There are two main types:
- International nongovernmental organizations(INGOs): non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that operate internationally. These include international non-profit organizations and worldwide companies such as the World Organization of the Scout Movement, International Committee of the Red Cross.
- Intergovernmental organizations, also known as international governmental organizations (IGOs): the type of organization most closely associated with the term ‘international organization’, these are organizations that are made up primarily of sovereign states(referred to as member states). Notable examples include the United Nations (UN), Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Council of Europe (COE), International Labour Organization (ILO) and International Police Organization (INTERPOL). The UN has used the term “intergovernmental organization” instead of “international organization” for clarity.
The first and oldest intergovernmental organization is the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine, created in 1815 by the Congress of Vienna.
The role of international organizations are helping to set the international agenda, mediating political bargaining, providing place for political initiatives and acting as catalysts for coalition- formation. International organizations also define the salient issues and decide which issues can be grouped together, thus help governmental priority determination or other governmental arrangements.
Regional organizations (ROs) are, in a sense, international organizations (IOs), as they incorporate international membership and encompass geopolitical entities that operationally transcend a single nation state. However, their membership is characterized by boundaries and demarcations characteristic to a defined and unique geography, such as continents, or geopolitics, such as economic blocs. They have been established to foster cooperation and political and economic integration or dialogue among states or entities within a restrictive geographical or geopolitical boundary. They both reflect common patterns of development and history that have been fostered since the end of World War II as well as the fragmentation inherent in globalization. Most ROs tend to work alongside well-established multilateral organizations such as the United Nations. While in many instances a regional organization is simply referred to as an international organization, in many others it makes sense to use the term regional organization to stress the more limited scope of a particular membership.
Examples of ROs include the African Union (AU), European Union (EU), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Arab League (AL), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation(SAARC), and Union of South American Nations (USAN).
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