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Organization Terminology and Organization Types


Published in Transnational Associations 29, 1977, 6, pp. 260-283. [PDF version]
Extract from: International Organizations: diversity, borderline cases, functional substitutes and possible alternatives.


Many attempts have been made to group and categorize international organizations. Few of them reflect the rich variety of organizations and fewer still are of any immediate, practical use. This article explores the significance of the descriptor in the title of an organization as an aid to categorizing organizations. It is extracted from International organisations; diversity, borderline cases, functional substitutes and possible alternatives, which will be published as chapter 2 of Inter­national organisations : a conceptual approachedited by Paul Taylor and A.J.R. Groom, (inpress).

International organizations, whether governmental or non­governmental, use any of an extensive range of terms in their official titles: union, association, office, alliance, centre, etc. There is a great deaf of confusion in the meanings attached to these terms in practice so that it is not usual to attempt to order them in any way (A " centre "can resemble most " associations "and an " association "can be more like a " centre "). The following breakdown of the terms used does however help to clarify the current situation. This is achieved by relating the organizations to meetings by which they were established or through which they work. The numbering system in parenthesis following the term links it, where appropriate, to Diagram. The numbers in parenthesis following each named organi­zation in the text refer to the reference number of that or­ganization as described in Section A or Section B of the 16th edition of the Yearbook of International Organizations 1977.

0. General

The greatest confusion lies in the use of terms such as

  • association
  • fellowship (*)          
  • foundation
  • federation
  • academy (*)             
  • club
  • society
  • college (*)               
  • league
  • confederation
  • brotherhood (*)       
  • movement
  • organization
  • solidarity (*)          
  • brigade {*)
  • union
  • guild (*)                   
  • chamber (*)
  • alliance
  • order (*)

In each case this may mean an organization of individuals, an organization of national organizations, or any possible variation on these. Intergovernmental bodies only use those terms without an asterisk. Examples of use of these terms include :

  • International Chamber of Shipping (A 1492)
  • Association of South East Asian Nations (A0165)
  • Alliance for Progress (A1062)
  • International College of Surgeons (A1513)
  • World Assembly of Youth (A3456)
  • Brotherhood of Asian Trade Unionists (A0200)
  • Rosicrucian Order (A3163)
  • European Broadcasting Union (A0598)
  • Confederation of Asian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (B0390)
  • Society for International Development (A3228)
  • League of Arab States (A2903).

An important variant in the case of some intergovernmental bodies stresses the domain for which the body is respon­sible.

  • West African Economic Community (A3424)
  • East Caribbean Common Market (A4346)

Other interesting variants are illustrated by the following :

  • Bahai International Community (A0180)
  • Boys Brigade (A0195)
  • Salvation Army (A3172)
  • Apostleship of the Sea (B0066)
  • Church of Christ Scientist (A0275)
  • World Citizen Party (B0365)
  • Mondcivitan Republic (A3668)
  • International Rehabilitation--Special Education Network
  • European Parliament (A0667)
al Rehabilitation--Special Education Network
  • European Parliament (A0667)

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