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Structural characteristics


Types of international organization: classification categories (Part #2)


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A number of international bodies may be usefully characterized by peculiarities in their structure. These may be grouped as follows. (The sub-headings indicate broad classes of structural peculiarity).

4.2.1 Hybrid character: This group is distinguished by the manner in which conventional international organization categories (IGO, INGO, multinational) are blurred in some way. Although not uncommon, little attention has been given to them.

4.2.1.1 Inter-governmental profit-making corporations: Such bodies are created by international convention:

  • European Company for the Chemical Processing of
  • Irradiated Fuels
  • European Company for the Financing of Railway Rolling
  • Stock

Some international financial bodies are of this kind:

  • Asian Development Bank
  • International Finance Corporation

4.2.1.2 International profit-making corporations with governmental shareholders: Other shareholders may include inter-governmental financial bodies:

  • Andean Development Corporation
  • Sifida Investment Company
  • Leeward Island Air Transport Company
  • West Indies Shipping Corporation

Many of the regional development corporations are of this kind. Non-governmental institutional investors may also be shareholders in some of these bodies, particularly in the case of regional airlines:

  • Air Afrique

Another interesting example, owned by the Governments of the UK, Australia and New Zealand is the British Phosphate Commission.

4.2.1.3 International profit-making corporations linked to inter-governmental organizations:

  • East African Airways Corporation (one of four corporations of the East African Community)
  • European Investment Bank (under a provision of the Treaty of Rome)

Others may be created by an inter-governmental body.

  • Arab Livestock Development Corporation
  • Arab Chemical and Pharmaceutical Corporation

A body like the World Bank may find it useful to stimulate the creation of ad hoc consortia of governmental and private enterprises to undertake or finance certain projects.

4.2.1.4 Multinational corporations with major governmental shareholders: A conventional multinational enterprise may well have extensive participation by one or more governments as shareholders:

  • British Petroleum
  • FIAT
  • Royal Dutch Shell

In some cases the multinational corporation may be completely state-owned.

4.2.1.5 Multinational corporations operating as non-profit organizations: A unit of a multinational enterprise, incorporated under the law of one country, may operate on a non-profit basis for tax reasons. Funds are provided as transfer from other units of the same enterprise.

  • Esso Research Laboratories (engaged in "research" but not sales)
  • ITT Europe (engaged in "administration" but not sales)

4.2.1.6 Not-for-profit corporations:Some research-oriented international bodies operate on a non-profit basis, although in other respects they may resemble multinational enterprises.

  • Battelle Memorial Institute
  • Stanford Research Institute

4.2.1.7 Multinational enterprises created by non-profit bodies: For operational or tax reasons, one or more international non-profit organizations may create a multinational enterprise:

  • Cercle graphique européen (created by bodies including the European Cultural Foundation)

4.2.1.8 International non-profit body created by multinational enterprises: A trend in this direction may already be seen in the creation of international trade or employer associations by enterprises, some of which could be called multinational. The limiting case of cartels or price-fixing rings may be considered non-profit bodies since the cartel is usually designed to increase the profit-making capacity of its members rather than to make a profit itself. This is also the case of the numerous freight and shipping conferences. There also exist bodies like the

  • Business and Industry Advisory Committee to OECD

created by industry federations of OECD member countries. Although there do not yet seem to be any clear examples of this form, it is probable that it will at some stage be in the interest of one or more multinational enterprises to create more conventional international non-profit organizations. Such bodies could range-from personnel associations through social welfare and collective security bodies to specialist pools. Perhaps an early example is the

  • International Centre for Industry and the Environment

created to represent industry views on the environment, mainly to the United Nations Environment Programme.

Another interesting example is the:

  • International Frisbee Association

Frisbee is the registered trade mark of the Wham-O Manufacturing Company for Flying Saucers used in sports games. The company undoubtedly derives considerable benefit from its interest in the association.

A "user association" may be established on the initiative of concerned clients rather than by a multinational enterprise.

  • Honeywell Large Systems Users Association (Europe)

Government airlines have created common service organizations to facilitate resource pooling:

  • KSSU
  • ATLAS

An interesting variant arises from IBM's initiative in facilitating the creating of a:

  • European Research Information Network

4.2.1.9 International non-profit bodies created as operational fronts: It may be in the interest of a governmental, (or inter-governmental) group to stimulate the creation of a conventional non-governmental body, and ensure its financial viability, in order to promote some particular political or other viewpoint. Examples of this sort emerged as a result of disclosure of indirect CIA financing of bodies such as the

  • Coordinating Secretariat of National Unions of Students

Many argue that a significant number of conventional INGOs based in the Eastern bloc countries fell into this category.Clearly some INGOs with commercial or industrial groups as members could be considered as operational fronts to provide the expression of non-partisan support for a particular position.There is also the possibility that some INGO-type organization could in fact become a front or vehicle for some form of international criminal activity as has been the case at the national level (eg those labour unions in the USA alleged to be "mob-run" or with strong "mob-connections" - many with "international" in their title).

4.2.1.10 International non-profit bodies created by inter-governmental organizations: It is occasionally in the interest of an inter-governmental body to stimulate the creation of a conventional INGO. This may be done as a method of decentralizing an activity which the IGO would otherwise be obliged to support. It is also a means of ensuring the existence of a supportive constituency. The clearest examples are the groups of INGOs created "under UNESCO auspices":

  • International Music Council
  • International Political Science Association
  • International Social Science Council
  • Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences
  • International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies

Some of these bodies may in fact receive subsidies from UNESCO, have their offices in the UNESCO Secretariat, or even have some of their secretariat services performed by UNESCO. An interesting example of this is the:

  • Conference of INGOs Approved for Consultative Arrangements (A and B) with UNESCO

Although this body is not given the usual consultative status recognition by UNESCO, its offices are in the Secretariat, its meetings are provided with considerable UNESCO support (rooms, interpreters, etc), and revision of its Constitution is conducted with the approval of UNESCO. Its resolutions are very supportive of UNESCO programmes.

4.2.1.11 International non-profit bodies created with government support: Particularly in those developing countries where there is little independent organizational activity, a government may be intimately involved in the creation of a conventional INGO and the provision of support for its ongoing activities. The INGO may be created and supported partly for prestige reasons linked to the promotion of certain political viewpoints. This is often the case with regional INGOs in Africa which for this reason are usually rather fragile. Examples are the many short-lived efforts at establishing regional trade unions, student organizations or professional bodies (eg journalists). Another characteristic of such bodies is that the national member organizations are often closely linked to the dominant political party.

The special support of one government is not confined to regional bodies. It occurs particularly with institute-based organizations.

  • International Commission for Small Scale Vegetation Maps

4.2.1.12 Secret groups (other than orders): The need for secrecy in criminal groups, politically subversive groups, or groups engaged in industrial or conventional espionage (or counter-espionage) may be such as to erode and blur the attributes they might otherwise have as governmental, commercial or associational activities. For example, a terrorist group has been described as functioning rather like a multinational corporation. "An operation would be planned in West Germany by Palestine Arabs, executed in Israel by terrorists recruited in Japan with weapons acquired in Italy but manufactured in Russia, supplied by an Algerian diplomat, and financed with Libyan money." (18)

The international network of terrorism, based on transnational links between governmental bodies sponsoring and supporting terrorism, has been reviewed by Yohan Alexander. (19)

4.2.1.13 Inter-governmental organizations with a special relationship to one government: For historical, financial or other reasons a government may have a special relationship (possibly extending to effective control) with an otherwise conventional inter-governmental body.

  • International Children's Centre

which has an "Administrative Council of 17 - 6 being appointed conjointly by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Public Health and Population, and 11 being coopted by the first 6."

  • Italian-Latin American Institute

4.2.1.14 International non-governmental organizations with governmental-related membership: There is a range of organizations whose members are strongly linked to governments either as government agencies, nationalized industries or with government funds. The distinction between governmental and non-governmental then becomes rather fine, particularly since some bodies of this kind have been subsequently transformed into inter-governmental organizations.

  • International (Railway) Carriage and Van Union
  • Inter-Parliamentary Union
  • Association of Secretaries-General of Parliaments
  • Commonwealth Parliamentary Association
  • Interpol - International Criminal Police Organization
  • International Union of Official Travel Organizations

The last example has been transformed into the inter-governmental body:

  • World Tourism Organization

4.2.1.15 International non-governmental bodies with special status in international law: There are a few organizations in this group:

  • International Committee of the Red Cross (recognized by the Geneva Conventions of 1929 and 1949)
  • Sovereign Military Order of Malta (has a legal position similar to that of the Holy See after the end of the Pontifical States in 1870 and before the creation of the Vatican State in 1929; has plenipotentiary ministers accredited to, and recognized by, a number of countries)

Bodies such as:

  • International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
  • International Council of Scientific Unions

may acquire special status by being cited in legal instruments establishing programmes of the United Nations Environment Programme.

The Roman Catholic Church is centred on the Holy See which is recognized on a par with governments by some countries and as such has a special status in international law (20). Ivan Vallier notes that the "notion of the Roman Catholic Church as a transnational actor is both intriguing and elusive. Its global empire, and thus its transnationality, ties it to many situations, no two of which are exactly alike." (21)

4.2.1.16 Revolutionary movements: Such movements are more or less loosely linked into transnational organizations of national parties. Such world revolutionary movements, with or without a formal secretariat, generally recognize Peking, Moscow or Havana as the first among equals.

  • Organization of Afro-Asian Latin American Peoples
  • Solidarity

Universal ideologies that have not secured a power-base in the form of a liberated nation-state, such as the Anarchists or the Fourth (Trotskyite) International have escaped centralization but at the cost of coherence and the benefits of secure sanctuary. There is a great variety of host society/revolutionary movement relationships, ranging from total support to total opposition. "The major curiosity is that every revolutionary organization aspires to eliminate the necessity for most "revolutionary" transnational contacts as rapidly as possible and to begin acting as a normal, if militant, government no longer dependent on the mesh of world revolutionary society or the uncertain world of illicit agreements, mini-summits, and secret conferences." (22)

4.2.1.17 Political parties: Such bodies naturally have a special relationship to government, but are linked as NGOs through such bodies as:

  • Socialist International
  • European Christian Democratic Union
  • European Peoples Party

4.2.2 Dependent character: This group is distinguished by various kinds of dependence on another organization such that in a particular case if the other ceased to exist there would be no further reason for the dependent body to continue.

4.2.2.1 Supporting bodies: Some organizations, usually INGOs, only exist to stimulate public support for other bodies, usually IGOs.

  • International Student Movement for the United Nations
  • World Federation of United Nations Associations
  • International Union of League of Nations Associations

4.2.2.2 Personnel associations: Large inter-governmental agencies tend to give rise to personnel or staff associations. These may be for general purposes (eg salary negotiations) as for example:

  • Association of Former FAO and WFP Staff Members
  • Staff Association of OECD
  • UN Staff Association
  • UN Staff Defence Movement

Some of these have links between agencies which are more extensive than the permissible formal relationships. Such cross-cutting membership can lead to secretariat work stoppages in several agencies as occurred in 1975 and 1976 during salary and pension negotiations. All these are members of the Federation of International Civil Servants Associations. Some of the above bodies are based on individual regional secretariats:

  • ECLA Staff Association
  • WHO Staff Association, Copenhagen
  • WHO Staff Association, Alexandria
  • WHO Staff Association, Geneva

In which case the interlinking body may exist in name only, if at all.

Some of the staff associations may be organized in terms of distinct political parties:

  • Union of European and International Public Services
  • Trade Union of International and European Civil Servants
  • European Civil Service Federation

Some of the associations may be for specific purposes as is the case with the:

  • United Nations Meditation Group
  • United Nations Touring Group
  • United Nations Staff Recreation Council
  • United Nations Theatre Group

These are not commissions of the United Nations, but of its personnel, as are these delightful specimens:

  • Association coopérative des automobilistes et des motocyclistes des secrétariats et bureaux des organisations internationales et des institutions accréditées
  • Meditation Group of the Staff of the United Nations Office at Geneva
  • International Astronomy Group

Slightly different is the case which includes women staff members and women (or wives of delegates) in national delegations:

  • Inter-American Development Bank Wives Association
  • United Nations Women's Guild

Different again are those providing social services to agency officials:

  • Provident and Insurance Group of International Officials
  • International Civil Servants Mutual Association

The multinational corporations are giving rise to a new kind of dependent body, namely trade unions of employees of specific multinationals:

  • World Council of Trade Unions of Nestlé Workers
  • Permanent Council of Unilever Workers
  • Permanent Council of Workers in Multinational Tobacco Enterprises
  • Comité syndical internationale de Solvay

4.2.2.3 Consultative bodies: A number of INGO bodies have been created specifically for purposes of facilitating consultation with inter-governmental agencies:

  • Conference of Non-governmental Organizations in
  • Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council
  • Conference of International Non-governmental Organizations approved for Consultative Arrangements (A and B) with UNESCO

4.2.2.4 Pressure groups: Somewhat similar to the consultative bodies are the several hundred commercial, industrial and professional groups created to clarify and express their positions with respect to the many regulations formulated within an emerging economic community:

  • Association of Glucose Producers in the EEC
  • Consultative Committee of the Bars and Law Societies of the European Economic Community
  • Union of EEC Advertisers Associations

4.2.2.5 Opposition bodies: Just as there are supporting bodies, so it could perhaps be argued that some groups are in fact created to oppose the activities of other bodies.

  • World Anti-Communist League
  • Organization of Afro-Asian Latin-American Peoples
  • Solidarity, against imperialism and colonialism
  • Anti-Monopoly Committee of Petroleum Workers of the
  • Mediterranean, Black Sea and Middle East

4.2.2.6 System dependent bodies: Some bodies are created in response to the existence of a technological system as user organizations.

  • Honeywell Large Systems Users Association
  • Suez Canal Users Association

4.2.2.7 Parliamentary groups: General assemblies and parliaments may give rise to political groupings:

  • Group of European Progressive Democrats of the European Parliament
  • Socialist Group in the European Parliament

Others may be based on language:

  • Group of Delegations speaking French or using it as a Working Language within the United Nations Organization

Delegates may meet within a social setting which itself may be recognized as a pressure group:

  • Crocodile Club

4.2.2.8 Administrative tribunals: These may have jurisdiction over disputes between officials and a range of institutions, including that which established it.

  • Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organisation
  • Administrative Tribunal of the United Nations

4.2.3 Semi-autonomous character: In contrast to the dependence stressed in connection with the previous group, this one is characterized by some degree of autonomy despite close links to a particular inter-governmental body. As such it is more typical of some inter-governmental bodies.

  • World Food Programme
  • World Food Council
  • International Rice Commission
  • International Popular Commission (which is one of several bodies established by FAO conventions and agreements)
  • International Book Committee
  • Inter-governmental Copyright Committee
  • Inter-governmental Oceanographic Commission

A somewhat different case is that of a body like the:

  • Joint Inspection Unit of the United Nations

set up with an independent status by the UN General Assembly to examine finance-related matters of the United Nations and its Specialized Agencies. Mention should also be made here of the semi-autonomous nature of some regionally or functionally specialized bodies of larger organizations. (These are considered separately below).

4.2.4 Relationship to leadership: This group is characterized by the special nature of the leadership and the less-than-democratic control it is presumably in a position to exercise over the policies of the organizations. In effect the membership of such bodies exchange democratic procedures for some other ordering mechanism in which they have greater confidence.

4.2.4.1 Chartered bodies: Some organizations receive a special patent of charter (or other form of patronage), often from a religious authority such as the Pope.

  • Apostleship of the Sea
  • International Association of the Children of Mary
  • Caritas Internationalis
  • Consilium de Laicis
  • Movement for a Better World
  • Motamar, World Muslim Congress
  • Rabetat al-Alam al-Islami, Muslim World League

In the case of the United Kingdom, the Crown authorizes many "royal societies" with Commonwealth-wide membership.

  • Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth
  • Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind
  • Royal Commonwealth Society

Although organizations of this kind may be democratically structured in all other respects, it is clear that any such charter may be revoked and this possibility would tend to ensure a special sensitivity to the wishes and interests of the Pope and the Crown respectively. In practice this may lead to the appointment within the organization of "advisory" councils largely made up of people with the desired sensitivity.

4.2.4.2 Orders: There are orders of various kinds where the leadership is believed to possess greater knowledge of wisdom than the general membership, such that the degrees of such insight are supposed to determine the levels within the order.

  • Rosicrucian Order
  • International Supreme Council of World Masons
  • Sovereign Military Order of Malta
  • Sufi Order

There exist a great number of Catholic orders, both for men and for women:

  • Order of Friars Preachers
  • Society of Jesus
  • Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul

These are also referred to as "first" (male) and "second" (female) orders. In addition there are many kinds of "third" (mixed) lay orders, confraternities and secular "institutes":

  • Opus Dei
  • Confraternity of the Most Holy Name of Jesus
  • Third Order Secular of Our Blessed Lady of Mt Carmel and
  • St Teresa of Jesus

Aside from the reasonably visible orders cited above, the many secret societies also belong to this type although because they are secret it is not usual to take them into consideration as varieties of INGOs.Orders of chivalry are of special interest because of their historical importance as an early form of non-governmental actor (for example the Europe-wide role of the Order of Knights Templar and its network of commanderies prior to its dissolution in the 14th century) and their intimate relationship to monarchies and nobility, religious or military hierarchies, or other powerful and well-connected groups - even at the present time. Boalt et al (23) have examined the European orders as organizations from a sociological perspective. A register of genuine orders of chivalry has been produced by the International Commission for Orders of Chivalry (24) whose secretary-general has reviewed the problems of distinguishing between such orders, although without considering non-chivalric orders such as the freemasons which he notes as having been allegedly created following the suppression of some of the early orders of chivalry (25).

4.2.4.3 Military structures: A military system of ranking may be preferred to clarify the distinction between different levels of ability.

  • Salvation Army
  • Boys' Brigade
  • Sovereign Military Order of Malta

4.2.4.4 Charismatic leadership: Where the organization has

in effect been created as a vehicle for the communication of the views of one individual, the formal structure (however it is arrived at) does not have the same significance as in conventional bodies.

  • Divine Light Mission
  • Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of Christianity
  • International Meditation Society

4.2.5 Regional (sub) groupings: Some well developed international bodies with membership in several continents may give rise to regrouping of the membership at the regional level. It is not always clear whether such regional groupings are deliberate creations of the international body (and thus a form of sub-grouping) or whether they are independent bodies which may establish (or break) formal links to the international body.

  • Asian Football Confederation
  • African Table Tennis Federation
  • Inter-American Regional Organization of Workers of the
  • ICFTU

4.2.6 Functional (sub) groupings: As with the regional regroupings discussed above, some international bodies may give rise to regroupings of the membership around specific topics or activities. Again it is not always clear whether such functional groupings are deliberate creations of the international body or whether they are independent bodies which may establish (or break) formal links in the international body.

  • International Commission for the Nomenclature of Cultivated Plants
  • International Society of Developmental Biologists

Both the above are part of the International Union of Biological Sciences.

4.2.7 Heterogeneous membership: The organization in this group have members which may constitute a mixture of governmental, non-governmental, or business organizations and be international or national. The membership may also include individuals.

  • International Institute of Administrative Sciences (includes: governments, national and international types, corporate bodies and individuals).
  • International Council of Scientific Unions (includes: scientific academies, national research councils, associations of institutions, governments and international scientific unions).
  • Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (includes: African, Asian and Inter-American-Development Bank; the Commission of the European Communities; the Ford, Rockefeller and Kellogg Foundations; the International Development Research Center; 13 governments.)

4.2.8 Complex character: This group is distinguished by the structural complexity which results from conventional INGOs or IGOs becoming members of an INGO or of an inter-governmental body, respectively. Clear examples in the case of INGOs are:

  • Conference of International Catholic Organizations
  • Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences
  • Conference of World Organizations interested in the Handicapped

Some of these may in their turn become members of such bodies as the:

  • Conference of NGOs in Consultative Status with UN ECOSOC
  • Conference of INGOs approved for Consultative Arrangements with UNESCO

An equally complex situation occurs with the various independent international scientific unions (some with other international scientific bodies as members) which are themselves members of the International Council of Scientific Unions. In addition these members may group together in various combinations (with the encouragement of ICSU) to form interunion commissions on special topics. In the case of the IGOs, examples are:

  • Protein-Calorie Advisory Group of the United Nations
  • Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research
  • Inter-American Committee for Agricultural Development

4.2.9 Minimal structure: This group of bodies is characterized by an explicit awareness of the weaknesses of the structural options open to international bodies and a deliberate attempt to work (or experiment) with some minimal structure.

  • International Movement
  • Club of Rome
  • Geneva Informal Meeting of International Youth Non-Governmental Organizations
  • UNISIST, World Science Information System
  • United Nations University
  • Mankind 2000

Such "organizations" when contacted will often vigorously deny that they are organizations and will particularly insist that they do not belong to the same class as conventional IGOs or INGOs, which they may well perceive as ineffective. Highly publicized intergovernmental groups of this kind include:

  • Group of 77
  • Frontline African States
  • Group of African, Caribbean and Pacific States
  • Group of Ten

A very special case of interest is the:

  • Diplomatic Corps

Preferential trading areas as such may be considered in this light:

  • Arab Common Market
  • Eastern and Southern African Preferential Trade Area

With these might be included the:

  • European Monetary System

4.2.10 Multi-national structure: Related to the previous group are those "non-organizations" which avoid any formal international structure. More or less formal organizations within a number of countries simply recognize each others' existence and engage in informal exchanges, possibly leading to a harmonization of policies or various forms of joint action. At one extreme this merely constitutes a normal stage prior to the formation of any conventional international body (or any substitute for it), but of more interest is the deliberate use of this approach as a means of avoiding the international formalization of a well-developed multi-national relationship, as is the case with various movements: guru-based, alternative-technology, alternative-lifestyle, radical or revolutionary politics, etc. This is also a characteristic of invisible colleges and some scholarly networks which do not need to be encumbered with any formal organization because of the frequency of contact between those involved. (26)


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