International organization

An international organization is an organization established by a treaty or other instrument governed by international law and possessing its own international legal personality, such as the United Nations, the World Health Organization and NATO. International organizations are composed of primarily Member states, but may also include other entities, such as other international organizations. Additionally, entities may hold observer status.
Notable examples include the United Nations, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Council of Europe, International Labour Organization and International Police Organization.


The first and oldest intergovernmental organization - being established employing a treaty, and creating a permanent secretariat - is the International Telecommunication Union. The first general international organization—addressing a variety of issues—was the League of Nations. The United Nations followed this model after World War II.


The role of international organizations is helping to set the international agenda, mediating political bargaining, providing a place for political initiatives and acting as catalysts for the coalition- formation. They facilitate cooperation and coordination among member nations.

Regional organizations

International organizations typically have member states from the whole world, however in some cases organizations have geographic limitations, such as the European Union, African Union and NATO. The United Nations also has regional organizations, such as UNECE and UNECA.
The oldest regional organization is the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine, created in 1815 by the Congress of Vienna.

United Nations Agencies

The United Nations organizes its work into agencies, such as United Nations Relief Works Agency, which are generally considered as international organizations in their own right.
Additionally, the United Nations has Specialized Agencies which are organizations within the United Nations System, that have their member states and are governed independently by them, examples include International Organizations that predate the UN, such the International Telecommunication Union, and the Universal Postal Union, as well as organizations that were created after the UN such as the World Health Organization.

International NGOs

International Organizations are sometimes referred to as Intergovernmental Organizations, to clarify the distinction from International nongovernmental organizations, which are non-governmental organizations that operate internationally. These include international a non-profit organization such as the World Organization of the Scout Movement, International Committee of the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières, as well as lobby groups that represent the interest of multinational corporations, such as the World Economic Forum.