An international organization is one that includes members from more than one nation. Some international organizations are very large, such as business corporations. Others are small and dedicated to a specific purpose, such as conservation of a species.
Many international organizations are intergovernmental. Intergovernmental organizations form as multiple governments form an international organization. There are more than 300 intergovernmental organizations around the world.
The United Nations (UN) is the largest and most familiar intergovernmental organization. In 1945, at the end of World War II, governments wanted to avoid future wars. They formed the UN.
The UNs main goal is to keep peace. A UN peacekeeping mission is when the UN sends representatives to countries or regions in conflict. The UN currently has peacekeeping missions all over the world. In the nations of Sudan, Chad, and the Central African Republic, UN peacekeepers monitor the conflict in the area known as Darfur. On the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus, UN peacekeepers supervise the buffer zone in the dispute between Greek and Turkish claims to the island.
The UN has several specialized subgroups, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank. WHO is responsible for giving direction on international health issues, setting standards, and providing information for governments to make decisions. For example, WHO took the lead during the swine flu outbreak in 2009. It tracked the spread of the flu, offered recommendations about who should get vaccines, and told people how to avoid becoming sick.
The World Bank is a bank for nations, not people. The World Bank has two separate groups. One group, the International Development Association, provides loans to the world's poorest countries. The other group, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, gives loans to developing countries.
The UN also has groups focused on culture (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)), justice and law (the International Court of Justice (ICJ)), and immigration (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)), among others. Each of the subgroups has headquarters in a different place. The main UN offices are in New York City, New York. The World Health Organization has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The World Bank is based in Washington, D.C. The International Court of Justice is in The Hague, Netherlands. Most countries of the world belong to the UN and its subgroups.
Many countries form regional multi-country organizations with military, economic, or political purposes. For example, the United States, Canada, many European countries, and Turkey belong to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). NATO is a defense organization, meaning these nations have promised to support each other during times of conflict.
Other intergovernmental organizations are based on trade. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is a group of 12 nations that export large amounts of oil. OPEC includes many members in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, the worlds largest exporter of oil. However, African nations such as Nigeria, and South American nations such as Venezuela, are also members of OPEC. OPEC members meet regularly to address issues concerning oil use and prices.
Some international groups exist for profit. Toyota, the world's largest automaker, is an international corporation, often called a multinational corporation. It is headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. Toyota has factories around the world, including in the United States, China, and South Africa. Although the chief executive officer (CEO) of Toyota is responsible for the work of the entire company, Toyota employs managers and workers from the region in which the factory is located.
Toyota sells, as well as manufactures, cars in different countries around the world. The company must advertise in dozens of languages. Multinational corporations like Toyota must consider local culture and traditions when establishing a factory or selling a product. For instance, an advertisement with models in bikinis may appeal to customers in the United States, but would probably not appeal to customers in Saudi Arabia, a much more conservative culture.
Other large multinational corporations are Coca-Cola (based in Atlanta, Georgia), the de Beers diamond company (based in Johannesburg, South Africa) and Adidas (based in Herzogenaurach, Germany.)
Several well-known nonprofit organizations are international. Nonprofit means these groups do not seek to make money from their efforts. Nonprofits usually have a focus or shared interest, such as the environment, humanitarian aid, or entertainment.
The National Geographic Society is a nonprofit organization. It was formed in 1888, and has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. It is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world. National Geographic is primarily focused on exploration, geography, archaeology, and natural science. It also promotes environmental and historical conservation, with its logo, "Inspiring people to care about the planet."
The National Geographic Society also supports international research and exploration. It has sponsored or assisted with more than 9,000 projects. Some of the most famous expeditions associated with the National Geographic Society include the expedition to the South Pole by Robert Peary and Matthew Henson in 1905; exploration of the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu, Peru, in 1913; discovery of the final resting place of the Titanic by Robert Ballard in 1985; and the National Geographic Bee, an annual geography contest for American students.
Other international organizations share a more specific interest. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is an international nonprofit based in Lausanne, Switzerland. The IOC organizes and regulates the summer and winter Olympics. The IOC includes administrators, sports officials, and former athletes from all over the world.
The Red Cross provides food and other aid to people and areas in distress. The International Red Cross has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The organization is officially called the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The Red Crescent honors members from primarily Muslim countries. The Red Crystal, a diamond shape, honors Israeli members of the organization.
The Red Cross is probably the most recognizable aid organization in the world. It helps survivors of hurricanes, such as Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast of the United States in 2005. The Red Cross helped provide shelter for victims of Hurricane Katrina whose homes were destroyed, for instance. The Red Cross also helped survivors of the earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010. It worked to provide medical care for those injured in the quake and helped organize sites so survivors could find missing family members.
Other International Organizations
Some international organizations combine parts of all three types of organizations. There are parts of the National Geographic Society that are run as a corporation, for instance. They create revenue, or profit, to support themselves.
Perhaps the most familiar type of international organization that does not fit neatly into the three categories is organized religion. Sometimes, a religion directly influences government. The government of Israel, for instance, supports Jews and Judaism around the world. Jews from other nations have a legal law of return to Israel, meaning they can emigrate there and establish citizenship. Jews from countries as diverse as Russia, Ethiopia, and Mexico have settled in Israel.
Organized religion can indirectly influence governments, too. Priests and bishops of the Catholic Church, for instance, do not usually run for political office. But their influence on their congregations can be enormous. Catholics are led by the pope, with headquarters in Vatican City in Rome, Italy. In many ways, the Catholic Church is run like an international corporation. There is a similar structure for religious ceremonies (such as Mass) and organization (such as the way dioceses are divided) for Catholics all over the world. Local priests, nuns, and bishops work with their congregations to make life better for their communities. This is similar to the way an international corporation organizes its workers in other countries.
World's First Multinational Corporation
The Dutch East India Company was the world's first international corporation. It was established in 1602 in the Netherlands and gained enormous amounts of power. It could wage war, establish colonies, create (coin) money, and negotiate treaties.
Oil and gas companies dominate the list of the most-profitable multinational corporations:
1. Wal-Mart, retail (Bentonville, Arkansas, United States)
2. Exxon-Mobil, oil and gas (Irving, Texas, United States)
3. Royal Dutch Shell, oil and gas (The Hague, Netherlands)
4. BP, oil and gas (London, England)
5. Sinopec, oil and gas (Beijing, China)
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry administrator Noun
person who organizes and manages the policies, rules, and requirements of an organization.
study of human history, based on material remains.
Encyclopedic Entry: archaeology athlete Noun
person who participates or competes in sporting events.
to stay away from something.
women's two-piece swimsuit.
leader of a church's diocese.
having to do with the Christian denomination with the Pope as its leader.
chief executive officer (CEO) Noun
highest-ranking leader of a company or other organization.
member of a country, state, or town who shares responsibilities for the area and benefits from being a member.
to produce money.
people and land separated by distance or culture from the government that controls them.
a disagreement or fight, usually over ideas or procedures.
group of people who worship at the same church.
management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.
Encyclopedic Entry: conservation conservative Adjective
traditional or reluctant to change.
the act of working together.
business made up of a group of stockholders, or people who own interest in the business.
learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.
region in western Sudan.
to ruin or make useless.
type of crystal that is pure carbon and the hardest known natural substance.
division of many churches or organized religions, led by a bishop.
debate or argument.
a group of 12.
Dutch East India Company Noun
(1602-1798) corporation established to expand trade and carry out colonial activities in Asia.
the sudden shaking of Earth's crust caused by the release of energy along fault lines or from volcanic activity.
having to do with money.
to move from one's native land to another.
to hire or use.
performance or material produced to interest and amuse.
conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.
to form or officially organize.
journey with a specific purpose, such as exploration.
study and investigation of unknown places, concepts, or issues.
good or service traded to another area.
(influenza) contagious disease, characterized by fever, exhaustion, and difficulty breathing.
study of places and the relationships between people and their environments.
Encyclopedic Entry: geography government Noun
system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.
Gulf Coast Noun
land in the United States surrounding the Gulf of Mexico.
place where an organization or project is chiefly located.
having to do with relief, aid, or other support to people in need.
tropical storm with wind speeds of at least 119 kilometers (74 miles) per hour. Hurricanes are the same thing as typhoons, but usually located in the Atlantic Ocean region.
process of moving to a new country or region with the intention of staying and living there.
people and culture native to the Andes Mountains and Pacific coast of South America.
to encourage or persuade a person or organization to act a certain way.
having to do with the national governments of more than one state.
International Court of Justice (ICJ) Noun
United Nations body dedicated to resolving legal disputes between nations.
international organization Noun
unit made up of governments or groups in different countries, usually for a specific purpose.
Encyclopedic Entry: international organization island Noun
body of land surrounded by water.
Encyclopedic Entry: island Judaism Noun
religion based on the holy book of the Torah and the teaching surrounding it.
administration of law.
set of sounds, gestures, or symbols that allows people to communicate.
law of return Noun
Israeli law allowing Jews from all over the world to emigrate to Israel and establish citizenship.
money, goods, or services given to a person or organization with the intention that the person or organization will return it.
Middle East Noun
region of southwest Asia and northeast Africa.
to preside and reduce conflict over a debate.
to observe and record behavior or data.
multinational corporation Noun
business that manages the production of goods or delivers services in several countries.
having to do with Islam, the religion based on the words and philosophy of the prophet Mohammed.
political unit made of people who share a common territory.
Encyclopedic Entry: nation National Geographic Society Noun
(1888) organization whose mission is "Inspiring people to care about the planet."
North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Military alliance of 28 North American and European countries.
natural science Noun
study that focuses on physicial characteristics, nature, and natural environments.
to discuss with others of different viewpoints in order to reach an agreement, contract, or treaty.
nonprofit organization Noun
business that uses surplus funds to pursue its goals, not to make money.
fossil fuel formed from the remains of marine plants and animals. Also known as petroleum or crude oil.
international sports competition divided into summer and winter games held every four years.
Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. As of winter 2018, OPEC members are Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.
sudden occurrence or rapid increase.
art and science of producing still or moving images using the chemical reaction of light on a sensitive surface, such as film or an electronic sensor.
set of actions or rules.
leader of the Catholic Church.
title of religious leader in many faiths.
first or most important.
money earned after production costs and taxes are subtracted.
to identify or acknowledge.
Red Cross Noun
international organization focused on humanitarian aid and disaster relief. Formally called the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
person who flees their home, usually due to natural disaster or political upheaval.
a system of spiritual or supernatural belief.
someone or something who acts in place of a group of people.
scientific observations and investigation into a subject, usually following the scientific method: observation, hypothesis, prediction, experimentation, analysis, and conclusion.
income, or money earned before production costs are subtracted.
structure that protects people or other organisms from weather and other dangers.
exact or precise.
to support and finance.
buying, selling, or exchanging of goods and services.
beliefs, customs, and cultural characteristics handed down from one generation to the next.
official agreement between groups of people.
the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
Encyclopedic Entry: UNESCO United Nations Noun
international organization that works for peace, security and cooperation.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Noun
United Nations agency whose goal is to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another country, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally, or to resettle in a third country.
UN peacekeeping mission Noun
United Nations project to send armed representatives to regions in conflict.
pathogenic agent that lives and multiplies in a living cell.
money or goods traded for work or service performed.
large-scale armed conflict.
World Bank Noun
United Nations organization that loans money to poor and developing nations.
World Health Organization Noun
United Nations agency concerned with public health.
World War II Noun
(1939-1945) armed conflict between the Allies (represented by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union) and the Axis (represented by Germany, Italy, and Japan.)