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Clearing house

Union of International Associations: a profile (Part #3)

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In spite of the fact that the work in this field of research has gone forward now for nearly seventy years there is still no really satisfactory definition of an international organisation. The U.I.A. defines one as an organisation with offices in three countries and a representative administration elected by vote. On this basis there are some 1500 international organisations today, of which 150 are intergovernmental, embodying every possible variety of aims, interest, membership, co-operative tendencies and effectiveness (perhaps not always reflected by the budget). The U.I.A. acts as an unbiased clearing house, obtains detailed information from each of these bodies and the many others which are in their formative stages or still predominantly national in character, and presenting it through their various publications in a form that is easily digested and understood, throws light on the various organisations and their relationship one to the other.

The U.I.A. are the publishers of the standard reference book in the field of international work known as the Yearbook of International Organizations. This publication, whose forerunner in 1910, called perhaps more appropriately the 'Yearbook of International Life', has been brought out every two years since 1949 by the U.I.A., and since 1956 alternately in English and French editions. The value of this work has been recognised by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, a body which is itself very conscious of the role of N.G.O.'s in international work. In fact, the United Nations accept that since this task is performed so adequately by the U.I.A., there is no need for it to duplicate this Yearbook.

The U.I.A. supplements the Yearbook with a variety of other publications. Their accumulation of information is illustrated by the fact that they have a card index of all international meetings held since 1840; they have some three thousand dossiers on all official and private international organisations; they receive regularly up to one thousand periodical publications of international interest, and their specialised library comprises more than 15.000 books on the subject of international organisations and co-operation. In addition, they have unrivalled knowledge and experience of many other problems common to international N.G.O.'s. Purely from the technical point of view the problems of establishing and running international organisations are not made easier by the variation in legal and fiscal requirements between countries and a series of studies has been made on such questions. Experts in the field, linked through the U.I.A. and under the auspices of Unesco, have built up documentation which forms perhaps the first experimental step to one branch of the science of international co-operation.

All these and many other matters are dealt with in the U.I.A.'s monthly review "International Associations'. Quite apart from presenting a co-ordinated picture of current activities in international life, a varied range of articles touch on new possibilities for international co-operation and comment specifically on the possible effects on voluntary associations of development in the work of the United Nations and the Specialised Agencies. Perhaps "International Associations' is unique among pub- lications of international organisations in having built up a substantial revenue from advertising, thereby helping to break down one of the major barriers to international voluntary work-namely financial limitations.

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