Directory of Intergovernmental Organisations

Photo by  David Rotimi

Photo by David Rotimi

Created by sovereign states, intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) are entities established by way of a treaty or other form of formal agreement. These transnational institutions represent one of the embodiments of what we call “global governance” as their main purpose is to create a mechanism for the world’s inhabitants to work more successfully together in areas of peace, security, economic, social and environmental issues.

Traditionally, countries need to be members of IGOs, subject to limitations and approval, which creates inequality among certain countries and loss of sovereignty when facing cross-border challenges. Despite this unwillingness to reform its process and procedure, IGOs remain important in spearheading rules, regulations, and governing principles for the preservation and maintenance of state behaviour. With its diverse remit within international relations, a career with IGOs is an excellent starting place to a niche set of expertise.

Below are some of the more common IGOs you can consider when planning your future career.

World Trade Organisation - Geneva, Switzerland

WTO is the only global organisation dealing with the rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations and ratified in their respective parliaments. WTO creates and embodies the ground rules for global trade among member nations, offering a system for international commerce.  

World Bank - Washington D.C., U.S.

The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to countries for capital projects. It comprises of two institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the International Development Association. The World Bank is a component of the World Bank Group. Not a bank in the ordinary sense but a unique partnership to reduce poverty and support development.  

United Nations - New York, U.S. 

Founded in 1945, the United Nations is the single largest IGO in the world. The UN Charter, the treaty establishing the UN, lists its main purposes as maintaining international peace and security, developing relations among nations, working to solve international issues, promoting human rights, and being a central place for harmonising the actions of nations. The main organs of the UN are: the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice, and the UN Secretariat.   

NATO - Brussels, Belgium

NATO is an intergovernmental alliance between 28 countries with a fundamental goal to safeguard the Allies’ freedom and security by political and military means. NATO remains the principal security instrument of the transatlantic community and expression of its common democratic values. The organisation represents the practical means through which the security of North America and Europe are permanently tied together.  

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) - Paris, France

OECD is the main forum for discussing economic policy and a think-tank that monitors, analyses, and forecasts global economic trends. OECD provides an arena for experts and member nations to discuss best practices for development in fragile and conflict-prone states, with aims of poverty reduction and relief assistance.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) - Washington D.C., U.S.

IMF promotes international monetary cooperation, exchange rate stability, and temporary financial assistance for countries facing balance-of-payments problems. IMF provides post-conflict countries with emergency assistance loans, advice, and technical support for reconstructing government institutions.

International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) - Paris, France

ICC is the largest, most representative business organisation in the world. With its 6 million members in over 100 countries, the ICC has interests spanning every sector of the private enterprise. ICC has three main activities: rule setting, dispute resolution, and policy advocacy.

International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) - Lyon, France

INTERPOL is the world’s largest international police organisation with 194 member countries. In an effort to maintain neutrality, Interpol’s work focuses mainly on transnational crimes, such as drug and human trafficking, money laundering, organised crime etc.

International Criminal Court (ICC) - ‎The Hague, Netherlands

ICC is an international tribunal with the mandate to prosecute individuals for the gravest crimes of concern to the international community. This includes mass crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by world leaders.

Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) - Vienna, Austria

OSCE is an intergovernmental organisation that addresses a wide range of security-related concerns, including arms control, human rights, national minorities, democratisation, policing strategies, counter-terrorism and economic and environmental activities. All 57 participating states enjoy equal status, and decisions are taken by consensus on a politically, but not legally binding, basis.

Financial Action Task Force (FATF) - Paris, France

FATF sets standards and promotes effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.

Organisation of American States (OAS) - Washington D.C., U.S.

One of the oldest regional organisation in the world, the OAS is an organisation formed to promote economic, military, and cultural cooperation among its members. Today, the OAS brings together all 35 independent states of the Americas and constitutes the main political, juridical, and social governmental forum in the hemisphere. In addition, it has granted permanent observer status to 69 states, as well as to the European Union. OAS uses a four-pronged approach to effectively implement its essential purposes, based on its main pillars: democracy, human rights, security, and development.

Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) - Vienna, Austria

Founded in 1960 in Baghdad, OPEC is comprised of 14 nations with the mission to “coordinate and unify the petroleum policies of its member countries and ensure the stabilisation of oil markets”. The organisation is a significant provider of information about the international oil market.

African Union (AU) - Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Consisting of 55 member states over the African continent, the objective of the AU is to achieve greater unity, cohesion and solidarity between African countries. It aims to defend sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its member states, as well as to accelerate political and social-economic integration of the continent.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) - Jakarta, Indonesia

ASEAN is a regional IGO comprising of 10 countries in Southeast Asia with an aim to promote intergovernmental cooperation. Member states regularly engage with one another as well as other countries in the Asia-Pacific region to facilitate economic, political, security, military, educational, and sociocultural integration among its members and other countries in Asia.

European Union (EU) - Brussels, Belgium

Made up of 28 European states, the EU governs common economic, social and security policies of its member states. The objective of the EU is to establish European citizenship, ensure freedom, justice and security, promote economic and social progress, and assert Europe’s role in the world.

Council of Europe - Strasbourg, France

Founded in 1949, the Council of Europe is an international organisation whose stated aim is to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe. The IGO has 47 member states, 28 of which are members of the EU. The organisation aims to achieve greater unity between its members “for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress.”

International Organisation of la Francophonie (IOF) - Paris, France

The IOF represents one of the biggest linguistic zones in the world. Created in 1970, its mission is to embody the active solidarity between its 88 member states and governments (61 members and 27 observers), which together represent over one-third of the United Nations’ member states and account for a population of over 900 million people. IOF organises political activities and actions of multilateral cooperation that benefit French-speaking populations. Its actions respect cultural and linguistic diversity and serve to promote the French language, peace and sustainable development.

International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) - Stockholm, Sweden

International IDEA works to strengthen and support democratic institutions and processes around the world, as well as to develop sustainable, effective and legitimate democracies. Its work includes assisting countries build capacity to develop democratic institutions, providing a forum between policy-makers, academics and practitioners, promoting accountability, transparency and efficiency in election management, facilitating local democracy assessment, and monitoring and promotion by local citizens.

International Energy Agency (IEA) - Paris, France

An autonomous IGO, the IEA advocates policies that will enhance the reliability, affordability and sustainability of energy resources. The agency’s mandate focuses on energy security, economic development, and environmental protection.

International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) - Masdar City, United Arab Emirates

IRENA supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, serving as the principal platform for international cooperation. IRENA has established itself as a repository of policy, technology, resource and financial knowledge on renewable energy. IRENA promotes the widespread adoption and sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy, including bioenergy, geothermal, hydropower, ocean, solar and wind energy, in the pursuit of sustainable development, energy access, energy security and low-carbon economic growth and prosperity.

Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) - Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Founded in 1969, the OIC is the second largest IGO after the United Nations with a membership of 57 states spread over four continents. The mission of the OIC is to represent the collective voice of the Muslim world. It endeavors to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world. The OIC has permanent delegations to the UN and the EU, with its official languages being Arabic, English and French.

Partners in Population and Development (PPD) - Dhaka, Bangladesh

An alliance of 25 developing countries, the mission of PPD is to expand and improve South-South collaboration in the fields of family planning and reproductive health, population and development through the governments, NGOs and private sector organisations . It was created at the International Conference on Population and Development ICPD in Cairo in 1994.

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) - The Hague, Netherlands

The OPCW is the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention. With 193 member states and a seat at The Hague, the OPCW oversees global endeavours for permanent and verifiable elimination of chemical weapons. OPCW promotes and verifies the adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the use of chemical weapons and requires their destruction. Verification consists of the evaluation of declarations made by member states and onsite inspections.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) - Gland, Switzerland

IUCN is a membership union, uniquely composed of both government and civil society organisations. It provides public, private and NGOs with the knowledge and tools that enable human progress, economic development and nature conservation to take place together.

International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) - Rome, Italy

ICCROM works in service to its member states to promote the conservation of all forms of cultural heritage in every region of the world. It operates in the spirit of the 2001 UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, which states that: “Respect for the diversity of cultures, tolerance, dialogue and cooperation, in a climate of mutual trust and understanding are among the best guarantees of international peace and security.”