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Geographic characteristics


Types of international organization: classification categories (Part #5)


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A number of bodies which may be called "international" can be usefully characterized by peculiarities in their geographic orientation or distribution of membership. These may be grouped as follows:

4.5.1 Geographically focused: This group is distinguished by mention of a specific, and generally small, geographic feature in the name of the organization.

4.5.1.1 Region: In this case a region is named, generally an area where three frontiers meet.

  • European Group for the Ardennes and the Eifel
  • Liptako-Gourma Region Integrated Development Authority

4.5.1.2 Lake: This is similar to the previous case.

  • Lake Chad Basin Commission
  • International Commission for the Protection of Lake Constance

4.5.1.3 River: There are a number of examples of

organizations concerned with rivers flowing between two or more countries.

  • Danube Commission
  • Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine
  • Organization for the Development of the Senegal River

4.5.1.4 Place: A number of bodies are concerned with specifically named locations.

  • International Auschwitz Committee
  • International Campaign for the Establishment of the Nubia Museum in Aswan
  • International Association for the Lambaren Hospital
  • International Foundation of the High Altitute Research
  • Station of Jungfraujoch and Gornergrat
  • International Association for Fundamental Research on the Furnace at Ougre
  • Nordic House in Reykjavik

Of special interest are those associated with schools for children of international officials:

  • United Nations International School
  • Scandinavian Folk High School in Geneva

Some of these may be established by a special intergovernmental agreement:

  • Board of Governors of European Schools

4.5.1.5 Territory:In some cases a whole territory is named.

  • Committee for the Control of the International Zone of Tangier
  • Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands
  • Allied Commission for Austria
  • Agudath Israel World Organization

A special case occurs where there is some intent to inhibit activity in the territory, such as by boycott.

  • (Arab) Bureau for Boycotting Israel
  • Consultative Group Cooperation Committee for the embargo on export of strategic goods to the Eastern bloc
  • International Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa

4.5.2 Geographical displaced: This group includes those bodies which have some unusual combination of geographic features.

  • Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America
  • World Association of Estonians
  • World Federation of Hungarian Jews
  • European Branch Association of Commonwealth Language and Literature Studies with secretariat in Denmark

This also includes exile organizations.

  • Assembly of Captive European Nations
  • Christian Democratic Union of Central Europe
  • Russian Nobility Union

4.5.3 Regional organizations with extra-regional membership:

Some bodies whose names appear to limit the distribution of membership in fact have members from other regions with equal voting rights.

  • Asian Development Bank
  • Scandinavian Society for Plant Physiology

4.5.4 Secretariat-location organizations: In those countries with a long tradition of international activity an umbrella type of body may be created.

  • Federation of International Associations established in Belgium
  • Federation of Semi-Official and Private International Institutions established in Geneva
  • Union of International non-governmental Organizations established in France

Not to be forgotten in this connection are the personnel associations described under 4.2.2.2 above.

4.5.5 Geographically fragmented membership: A number of bodies, which may be termed "regional", in fact have a dispersed membership.

  • Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
  • Coordinating Bureau for Non-aligned Countries

Other examples, which have not yet given rise to permanent international bodies, may be found associated with land-locked countries and arid, tropical or mountainous regions.

4.5.6 Place-named organizations: This group is distinguished by the presence of a city name in the title or acronym of the organization. The city may be that of the secretariat and regular meeting point:

  • The Hague Conference on Private International Law
  • Rehovot Conference on Science in the Advancement of New States
  • OXFAM

or the place of signature of a relevant treaty (which may also be the secretariat of place of the first meeting):

  • Paris Union - International Union for the Protection of Industrial Property
  • Berne Union - International Union for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Property
  • Warsaw Treaty Organization

or the place of the first meeting (which may also be the location of the secretariat):

  • Colombo Plan for Cooperative Economic and Social Development in Asia and the Pacific
  • Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs
  • The Club of Rome

4.5.7 Internationally-operating national organizations:

There are many organizations which are primarily national but which nevertheless are mainly concerned with operational programmes (usually aid or relief) in other countries.

  • American Council of Voluntary Agencies for Foreign Service
  • Cooperative American Relief Everywhere

Such bodies may in fact acquire consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council on a par with conventional INGOs. An older variation on this form is the missionary society, although increasingly such societies dispatch missionaries from several base countries.

  • Council for World Mission
  • Combonian Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus

4.5.8 Internationally-focused national organizations: Whilst usually without operational programmes in other countries, there is a range of national organizations which is primarily interested in international relations and world affairs. The preoccupation is generally academic but may include an attempt to educate a selected group (eg policy makers) or the public.

  • International Peace Research Institute, Oslo
  • Pakistan Institute of International Affairs

4.5.9 Nationally-supported international organizations: Some otherwise quite conventional international bodies are mainly supported (eg funding, services or office facilities) by one national body, possibly a government agency.

  • Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
  • International Children's Centre
  • Confrérie de la chaîne des rotisseurs

4.5.10 Minimally-international organizations: There is a tendency for some national organizations to attempt to stimulate their development into international bodies by adopting a name which created the impression that such a development has been accomplished. This may be for prestige reasons but it may also be based on an honest but very simple, interpretation of the meaning of "international". There is a whole range of organizations based in the United States, possibly with a small proportion of membership in other countries (often Canada or Mexico) which are named "International...". This is especially true of labour unions and trade associations.

  • International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Unions
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
  • International Oxygen Manufacturers Association

It is useful to note that federated states may legitimately give rise to a wide range of "inter-governmental" organizations at the federal level with names having a form indistinguishable from that of conventional intergovernmental bodies.

4.5.11 Bilateral and similar bodies: The well-established bilateral form of organization is not usually considered as belonging to the general range of international organizations. There is however a development of this form in which one of the partners is a continental grouping but in which each member is of equal status.

  • Italian-Latin American Institute
  • Association Europe-Japan
  • Federation of European American Organizations

The last example is in fact a federation of bilateral organizations. These are of special interest in the case of inter-governmental bodies, which may not exclude extension of membership to other countries:

  • Senegambia Confederation
  • Mano River Union

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