An International Organization Theoretically Politics Essay

The history of international organizations is old and deeply rooted within the world society. Many scholars consider the Congress of Vienna in 1814 as the very origin of the process, in any case, is fair to state that international organizations are broadly recognized as permanent institutions within the international community.

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Throughout the time, international organizations have evolved and expanded their field of study and interest. At the very beginning the role of the state and government was crucial. In fact, the very first purpose, for the creation of these particular kinds of institutions, was the necessity for the countries to have a neutral forum where to debate and consider interests, which by their nature or extension not find effective protection in State level. According to this model, within the first type of international organizations the role of the government and the political aspect were crucial. Easily these institutions were often the reflection of states’ policies and decisions. In addition there were few possibilities for non-state actors to operate within the international community. The international relations were dominated by states and their power; the “Realpolitik” doctrine imposed the core functions of the state above every other institution.

With the evolution of the international society in to a contemporary environment the situation started radically changing. Non-state actors became more and more important and effective both in a theoretical and practical way. This change allowed, international organizations, to expand and develop across the whole world. A key change affected the purposes and objectives for the creation of an international organization. If at first they were following the need of governments, while the time passed many “independent” organizations started flourishing. International organizations started reflecting the needs of people rather than those of states, thus resulting in an environment where organizations had different purposes, goals and means to act.

Nowadays International organizations exist with a number of objectives, including increasing international relations, promoting education, health care, economic development, environmental protection, human rights, humanitarian efforts, contacts and intercultural conflict resolution. This shifted the importance that governments had on certain fields of the society. As it is clear to recognize, nowadays many international organizations are able to operate in a more efficient way than the political counterpart. This leads to a core question; while international organizations are so developed and rooted within the global society, has the role of the state become less important in solving issues?

Chapter 1: Political necessity?

With the broadening of such institutions the role of governments may seem less important and less relevant for the pursue of goals and achievements. Nowadays, many international organizations exits prior to the support of a government and they can operate on a wider scale than a state itself. In addition, certain international organizations act much widely than single governments and they cover unique fields that, otherwise, would not be acknowledged (e.g. Greenpeace)

Though, such a general concept would be difficult to identify in the broad concept of international organizations. It is important to acknowledge that when we talk about international organizations, there are several groups and categories that identify the whole movement. It is crucial to categorize the model of IO considered because certain concepts could be applicable for one but could not be applicable for another one.

It would be rather difficult to analyze international organizations as a whole. Such field is so diversified that to put all the concepts in one single bowl would be erroneous and misleading. International organizations have many shades that need to be considered once analyzed.

The process to understand whether the political role is still crucial, or if international organizations have replaced this figure, leads to the distinction between the two main groups of international organizations. The first one includes the nongovernmental organizations, while the second one includes intergovernmental organizations. This differentiation is necessary since the same political role is widely separated within the two main models.

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), as nature, are legally constituted organizations that operate independently from any form of government. The NGO have often been described as an extremely diverse and heterogeneous sector, which brings together organizations with objectives, structure and motivations very different. In terms of legal status, therefore, it is not possible to find a common denominator, given the great diversity of legal regimes governing the activities of NGOs, which can be, for example, charities, non-profit associations or foundations.

Some NGOs have clear political purposes and are organized across national boundaries to achieve them, thus influencing international politics: these organizations can have an endless variety of missions, some, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross or Amnesty International, are well known and, having numerous resources, work in virtually every country of the world.

Other NGOs, however, play an increasingly important role in the implementation in developing countries. NGOs, in fact, have been shown to be more interested in development policies and the international balance of power and a more mature attention by the European Union, led to an increased interest in the need to provide more concrete in front to the problems of underdevelopment, linking the development to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law.

Therefore, the scope and size of NGOs can vary greatly: some are made of a very limited number of people, while others have thousands of members and hundreds of employees. However, the absence of the purpose of personal enrichment, the presence of voluntary participation, independence from government or other public authorities and the desire to participate actively in public life, speaking on issues and problems associated with the general interest of the population, are some of the features that are common to different types of NGOs. At the functional level, NGOs can focus basically operational activities, helping to provide security services, or the defense of certain interests, by influencing of public policy and public opinion.

Intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) are composed primarily of sovereign states. IGOs are established by treaty that acts as charter or statue. Later member states have to sign and ratify the treaty in order to give to IGOs an international legal personality. They are based on the sovereign state view on international relations and they focus on the level of government-to-government relations.

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 in a unified aims are 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).

IGOs are created by governments and have the purpose to solve issues related to those same governments. Within these kinds of international organizations the role of the state and of politics is crucial to the functions of the same organization. The importance that states have in IGOs usually gives them an effective and very strong operational process. Nevertheless the resources that IGOs have are many time huge. Intergovernmental organizations work as a prolongation of the national power of the state. In many cases international countries unite within a single organization that has the resources and powers to fight issues that are not limited to the boarders of member states.

On the other hand NGOs operate in completely independence and do not enjoy the support of states or governments. Nevertheless nongovernmental organizations are, nowadays, highly effective and spread globally. The actions of NGOs are not limited to the interests of the single members, as it happens in IGOs. They tend to adopt more universal purposes and they can count on the support of donors spread all over the world. In addition, the goals that NGOs have are often filling the gap left by states. National and international politics contrast problems which are considered as priorities and do not embrace other issues that are not seen as necessary to be solved. In this sense, NGOs were created to solve those problems that states are not willing or unable to solve. As said by different scholars nongovernmental organizations have a tendency for social issues while intergovernmental organizations maintain a more political scope. As an example the NGO “Emergency” [2] operates in a field that is not issued as a priority question by the Italian government.

The necessity for the state highly differs among intergovernmental and nongovernmental organization. In order to better define this concept the analysis will focus on two specific study cases, one representing an IGO, the other representing an NGO. This focus will allow the user to understand how, nowadays, the international scenario is interlaced and if, international organizations overtook the role of governments. The case of the IGO will consider the most important organization of the category: the United Nations. This organization created in 1945 perfectly expresses the importance of states within the creation of an IGO. In addition the UN has the clearest case of government-to-government type of relations.

The second case will analyze the NGO Amnesty International. Within this nongovernmental organization the independent factor and the social aspect are much evident. In addition Amnesty International has a really universal problem and it is clearing performing a duty that in many cases replaces the role of single states.

Chapter 2: The case of the United Nations

The United Nations are nowadays the biggest and most influent international organization existing. Such an institution is even hard to classify as an IO, or more specifically as an intergovernmental organization, due to the extent of its actions and coverage.

Evaluating the UN from an empirical point of view, according to its aims, membership and means, it operates as an IGO. The UN can count on the work of 193 members which all are sovereign states. In addition, the UN is the organization that perfectly identifies the importance of the legal personality of an IO, within the UN charter.

The work of the United Nations reaches every corner of the globe. Although best known for peacekeeping, peace building, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance, there are many other ways the United Nations and its System (specialized agencies, funds and programs) affect our lives and make the world a better place. The Organization works on a broad range of fundamental issues, from sustainable development, environment and refugees protection, disaster relief, counter terrorism, disarmament and non-proliferation, to promoting democracy, human rights, gender equality and the advancement of women, governance, economic and social development and international health, clearing landmines, expanding food production, and more, in order to achieve its goals and coordinate efforts for a safer world for this and future generations. [3]

Despite the fact that from its foundation, in 1945, the UN have expanded their range of action, it remains today fundamental the role of states. In particular in the crucial functions of the organizations the role of governments can’t be replaced. The political core remains intact and this is clearly visible in the actions of one of the main bodies of the UN: the Security Council (UNSC)

The Security Council is one of the principal bodies of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action. Its decisions are issued and enforced throughout the, so called, resolutions. The Security Council is formed by 15 representatives of the member states. In this body of the UN the role of states is even more important when we consider its permanent members and their functions. There are 5 permanent members: USA, China, Russia, UK and France. The members represent the great powers considered the victors of WWII Each of the permanent members has power to veto, enabling them to prevent the adoption of any resolutions, regardless of the international support for its approval. Member states and in particular permanent members have great decisional powers upon issues that affect the whole international community.

In addition, the reasons and purposes for the creation of the UN involved the governments in first place. International cooperation, international security and achievement of world peace were arguments that involved sovereign states. After the WWII, developed countries wanted to prevent massive international conflicts to happen again. For this reason they started thinking about an organization able to coordinate and relate the main world powers. States were much involved in creating such an organization able to benefit them with peace, security and so on. The priority and attention of heads of states were all directed towards this process.

Within the UN organization, states play a fundamental and irreplaceable role. Even though nowadays the United Nations have evolved and expanded, becoming something bigger than states, the importance of sovereign governments was crucial to the creation and development of the organization itself.

Chapter 3: The case of Amnesty International

Amnesty International is a nongovernmental organization that deeply focuses on the protection and respect of human rights. The objective of the organization is “to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated.” [4]

The organization was founded in 1961 by the lawyer Peter Benenson and nowadays counts more than 3 million members and supporters. Amnesty draws attention to human rights abuses and campaigns for compliance with international laws and standards. It works to mobilize public opinion to put pressure on governments that let abuse take place.

The organization serves both with activist methods (actions of the field) and both as an observer (it observes trials, monitors global and local media, etc.) In addition, in order to fight abuses of human rights, they act through lobbying, demonstrations, protests, etc.

Amnesty International has developed several techniques to publicize information and mobilize public opinion. The organization considers as one of its strengths the publication of impartial and accurate reports. Reports are researched by: interviewing victims and officials, observing trials, working with local human rights activists, and monitoring the media. It aims to issue timely press releases and publishes information in newsletters and on web sites. It also sends official missions to countries to make courteous but insistent inquiries. Campaigns to mobilize public opinion can take the form of individual, country, or thematic campaigns. Many techniques are deployed, such as direct appeals (for example, letter writing), media and publicity work, and public demonstrations. Often, fund-raising is integrated with campaigning. In situations which require immediate attention, Amnesty International calls on existing urgent action networks or crisis response networks; for all other matters, it calls on its membership. It considers the large size of its human resources to be another of its key strengths. [5]

Amnesty International was created with the purpose of defending human rights in every corner of the world. In its structure it is divided in regional areas that perform ground activities every day. The global scope of the organization can be seen on how Amnesty International issued reports about human rights in different countries around the world. In a statistical data that considers the period between 1986 and 2000 the reports issued by the organization mainly affected: United States, Israel, Indonesia, Turkey, China, Serbia, UK, India, USSR + Russia, Rwanda and Sri Lanka. Amnesty, as an organization, wants to prevent human rights abuses without considering the status or GDP of the guilt country.

The issues that this NGO faces are often not considered and avoided by governments. Furthermore many times Amnesty has to work in replacement of the government or directly “against” it. The existence of Amnesty International becomes crucial for the same existence of “someone” protecting and facing such delicate problems. The role of this NGO would be difficultly replaced by some government or state. The independence and objectivity of the organization are vital for the success of its scopes and actions.

This element really represents an overtaking of political necessity. Addressing problems of social nature and acting as independent and disinterested actors, NGOs are able to fulfill the gap left by governments. Furthermore, nongovernmental organizations, thanks to their nature, are able to act beyond states and they can redirect wrong policies or defaults. In the specific case Amnesty International faces vital issues, it is able to act as an independent and objective actor and practically contribute to raise up human rights standards thanks to its financial and practical resources.


Nowadays international organizations are incredibly useful machines able to affect the international community. Their mixed interests and their various ways of acting represent powerful resources to the success of their goals. In addition, the universal scope that the majority of them have enables international organizations to address problem that do not concern a single region or single community but that interest the whole globe.

These facts are clearly visible in organizations such as Amnesty International, in which the universal purpose and the actions on the field, allowed the organization to achieve important goals and to be as efficient as a political entity. On this particular argument, international organizations are showing that the role of the government can be replaced and overtaken by a nongovernmental entity that is able to address in a more efficient way particular kind of issues (human rights in the case of Amnesty International)

Despite the huge importance reached by international organizations within the international community, the role of the political power (state) still keeps its essentiality. International organizations, as discussed, represent in many ways a filler of the void areas uncovered by governments. On the other hand there are macro arguments, fundamental within international relations, in which the role of the state is irreplaceable: diplomacy, foreign affairs, international security, etc.

The support for this argument was given by the case of the United Nations. Despite the fact of being an international organization, the UN shows the importance of political necessity and government-to-government collaboration. Within the biggest machine that regulates the international community, the role of the state is essential for the efficiency of the organization itself. The same role would be hardly, if not impossible, be replaced by an international organization without any political power.

In conclusion it is hard to take a specific side between international organizations and states. The clear thing is that international organizations obtained great achievements and power during the development process. Nowadays IOs are independent, efficient and well-structured. They are able to address problems that concern the whole humanity and, at the same time, they are able to solve and fight issues not only on a theoretical point of view, but with ground actions. International organizations truly became a necessary and useful machine for the international community.

Nevertheless it is hard to say that the strong position of IOs cancelled the need of states, government or any political entity. Nowadays, even though, the international community is not anymore state-centric as it was years ago, the role of the primary actors is still crucial. States are still the main players concerning argument as: diplomacy, international security, international law, etc. The core arguments of the international relations are being held by states, but, within the periphery the role of international organizations is becoming more and more essential. Rather than the supremacy of one over the other, I think that, the integration of these two elements (IOs and states) will result in an even more efficient global society.