An intergovernmental organization (or international governmental organization; IGO) is an organization composed primarily of sovereign states (referred to as member states), or of other intergovernmental organizations. Intergovernmental organizations are often called international organizations, although that term may also include international nongovernmental organization such as international nonprofit organizations or multinational corporations.
Intergovernmental organizations are an important aspect of public international law. IGOs are established by treaty that acts as a charter creating the group. Treaties are formed when lawful representatives (governments) of several states go through a ratification process, providing the IGO with an international legal personality.
Intergovernmental organizations in a legal sense should be distinguished from simple groupings or coalitions of states, such as the G8 or the Quartet. Such groups or associations have not been founded by a constituent document and exist only as task groups.
Intergovernmental organizations must also be distinguished from treaties. Many treaties (such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, or the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade before the establishment of the World Trade Organization) do not establish an organization and instead rely purely on the parties in their administration, becoming legally recognized as an ad hoc commission. Other treaties have established an administrative apparatus which was not deemed to have been granted international legal personality.
Types and Purposes
Intergovernmental organizations differ in function, membership and membership criteria. They have various goals and scopes, often outlined in the treaty or charter. Some IGOs developed to fulfill a need for a neutral forum for debate or negotiation to resolve disputes. Others developed to carry out mutual interests with unified aims to preserve peace through conflict resolution and better international relations, promote international cooperation on matters such as environmental protection, to promote human rights, to promote social development (education, health care), to render humanitarian aid, and to economic development. Some are more general in scope (the United Nations) while others may have subject-specific missions (such as Interpol or the International Organization for Standardization and other standards organizations). Common types include:
Worldwide or global organizations – generally open to nations worldwide as long as certain criteria are met. This category includes the United Nations (UN) and its specialized agencies, the Universal Postal Union, Interpol, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Customs Organization (WCO), World Nature Organization (WNO), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Regional organizations – open to members from a particular region or continent of the world. This category includes the Council of Europe (CoE), European Union(EU), NATO, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, African Union (AU), Organization of American States (OAS), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Arab League, and Union of South American Nations.
Cultural, linguistic, ethnic, religious, or historical organizations – open to members based on some cultural, linguistic, ethnic, religious, or historical link. Examples include the Commonwealth of Nations, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Community of Portuguese Language Countries, Latin Union, Turkic Council,International Organization of Turkic Culture, or Organisation of Islamic Cooperation
Economic organizations – based on economic organization. Some are dedicated to free trade, the reduction of trade barriers (the World Trade Organization) and International Monetary Fund. Others are focused on international development. International cartels, such as OPEC, also exist. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development was founded as an economics-focused organization. An example of a recently formed economic IGO is the Bank of the South.
Educational organizations – centered around tertiary level study. Academy of European Law offers training in European law to lawyers, judges, barristers, solicitors, in-house counsel and academics. EUCLID (university) chartered as a university and umbrella organization dedicated to sustainable development in signatory countries and United Nations University efforts to resolve the pressing global problems that are the concern of the United Nations, its Peoples and Member States.
Health and Population Organizations- based on the common perceived health and population goals and to address those challenges collectively. An example is the intergovernmental partnership for population and development”Partners in Population and Development
The Union of International Associations publishes an annual directory of organizations and provides ancillary information on most international organizations, both intergovernmental and non-governmental.
Participation and involvement
There are several different reasons a state may choose membership in an intergovernmental organization. But there are also reasons membership may be rejected. These reasons are explored in the sections below.
Reasons for participation:
- Economic rewards: In the case of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), many different countries receive economic benefits from membership in the free trade agreement. For example, Mexican companies are given better access to U.S. markets due to their membership.
- Political influence: Smaller countries, such as Portugal and the Netherlands, who do not carry much political clout on the international stage, are given a substantial increase in influence through membership in IGOs, such as the European Union. Also for countries with more influence such as France and Germany they are beneficial as the nation increases influence in the smaller countries’ internal affairs and expanding other nation’s dependence on themselves, so to preserve allegiance
- Security: Membership in an IGO such as NATO gives security benefits to member countries. This provides an arena where political differences can be resolved.
- Improve democracy and the likelihood of democratic survival: It has been noted that member countries experience a greater degree of democracy and those democracies survive longer.
Reasons for rejecting membership:
- Loss of sovereignty: Membership often comes with a loss of state sovereignty as treaties are signed which require cooperation on the part of all member states.
- Insufficient benefits: Often membership does not bring about substantial enough benefits to warrant membership in the organization.
Privileges and immunities
Intergovernmental organizations are provided with privileges and immunities that are intended to ensure their independence and effective functioning. They are specified in the treaties that give rise to the organization (such as the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations and the Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the International Criminal Court), which are normally supplemented by further multinational agreements and national regulations (for example the International Organizations Immunities Act in the United States). The organizations are thereby immune from the jurisdiction of national courts.
Rather than by national jurisdiction, legal accountability is intended to be ensured by legal mechanisms that are internal to the intergovernmental organization itself and access to administrative tribunals. In the course of many court cases where private parties tried to pursue claims against international organizations, there has been a gradual realization that alternate means of dispute settlement are required, as states have fundamental human rights obligations to provide plaintiffs with access to court in view of their right to a fair trial. Otherwise, the organizations’ immunities may be put in question in national and international courts. Some organizations hold proceedings before tribunals relating to their organization to be confidential, and in some instances have threatened disciplinary action should an employee disclose any of the relevant information. Such confidentiality has been criticized as a lack of transparency.
The immunities also extend to employment law. In this regard, immunity from national jurisdiction necessitates that reasonable alternative means are available to effectively protect employees’ rights; in this context, a first instance Dutch court considered an estimated duration of proceedings before the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organisation of 15 years to be too long.
Strengths and weaknesses
These are some of the strengths and weaknesses of IGOs:
- They hold state authority.
- Their institutions are permanent.
- They provide a forum for discussion.
- They are issue specific.
- They provide information.
- They allow multilateral cooperation.
- Membership is limited. Prohibits the membership of private citizens. This makes IGOs undemocratic. In addition, not all IGOs allow universal membership.
- IGOs often overlap resulting in a complex network.
- States have to give up part of their sovereignty, which weakens the state’s ability to assert its authority.
- Inequality among state members creates biases and can lead powerful states to misuse these organizations.
They can be deemed unfair as countries with a higher percentage voting power have the right to veto any decision that is not in their favor, leaving the smaller countries powerless.
Source and Courtesy :Wikipedia