International Governmental Organizations

With a growing agenda of international challenges where a body to govern or regulate the behavior of states is in absence, such a task falls on the wider international community. The emergence of international organizations in securing international peace and creating global development policies has been immense since the end of WWII.

International FlagsPowerful engines of globalization as much as global transmitters of ideas and knowledge, international organizations have left big footprints in the fields of health, human rights, agriculture, labor, development aid, gender, demography, and ecology. Today, several international organizations manage and regulate large sectors of social activity across the globe, functioning as influential global governance. To most of the world, they symbolize for international peace and security through global cooperation and mutual economic benefit. Most international organizations operate as part of one or more international regimes. They are often central to the functioning of an international regime, giving structure and procedures to the “rules of the game” by which nations must engage.

One of the underlying reasons behind the need for international organizations was the accelerating rate of globalization. The latter affects all spheres of human activity including economic, social, cultural, technological, environmental, as well as political and has deepened global inequality between the haves and the have-nots. Globalization, in due course, contributed to the changed international political environment, the growth of transnational civil society, and shifts in the nature of state sovereignty. The weaknesses of the state system became increasingly apparent primarily after the mid-nineteenth century with increasing international trade, migration, democratization, technological innovation, transnational organized crime, and other developments that weakened the capacity of states to effectively address such challenges individually. States have become increasingly dependent on international decision-making and regulation. Fostering cooperation in multilateral forums and finding common solutions became inevitable. To this effect, the United Nations has been the central piece of global governance. It is the only intergovernmental organization with global scope and universal membership whose mandate encompasses the broadest range of global governance issues.

A further striking development in international organization in the postwar period has been the rise of regional organizations. Some perform a range of functions within a given geographical area such as the Organization of American States, the Arab League, the Organization of African Unity, and the Association of South East Asian Nations. Others are specifically security-related, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Most have narrow mandates focusing on economic issues such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

Global problems represent serious challenges for the international community because managing them is beyond the reach of even the most powerful states. Global governance also involves making and sustaining the rules and the norms of world order. But it should also be borne in mind that the nature of global governance remains contested.

Who makes the rules and whose values should be privileged in the world order?
How are the rules made and the norms institutionalized?
Who benefits and who loses in the process of global governance?
How is change affected?