Some international agreements create international organizations, which are institutions that set rules for nations and provide venues for diplomacy. There are two types of international organizations: international governmental organizations (IGOs) and international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs or, more commonly, NGOs). In recent years, multinational corporations (MNCs) have also had a significant impact on the international system.

IGOs and NGOs exist for a variety of reasons, such as controlling the proliferation of conventional and nuclear weapons, supervising trade, maintaining military alliances, ending world hunger, and fostering the spread of democracy and peace.




Date Founded

Members as of 2006

Amnesty InternationalNGO19611.8 million members in 150 countries
European Union (EU)IGO199225 states, including the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Estonia
International Olympic Committee (IOC)NGO1894115 individuals, who represent the IOC in their home countries
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)IGO196011 states, including Venezuela, Qatar, and Indonesia
Salvation ArmyNGO1878Runs programs in more than 100 countries; has 3.5 million volunteers
Save the ChildrenNGO1932Helps children in poverty around the world, including the United States and Nepal
United Nations (UN)IGO1946191 states, including Burkina Faso, Denmark, the United States, and Jamaica
World BankIGO1945Offers loans to more than 100 states, including Cameroon and Senegal

International Governmental Organizations

IGOs form when governments make an agreement or band together. Only governments belong to IGOs, which are sometimes also known by the acronym IO (for international organization). The United Nations (UN), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the European Union (EU) are all examples of IGOs.

Nongovernmental Organizations

Unlike governmental organizations, NGOs are made up of individuals, not businesses or governments. NGOs serve a variety of functions and represent numerous interests. Organizations that are not affiliated with governments but that nevertheless play an important role in international politics are called nongovernmental actors. Not all NGOs have a positive impact on global politics. Although Amnesty International has helped defend human rights, for example, the international terrorist organization al Qaeda has killed civilians in an effort to cripple economies and topple governments. Since the end of World War II, nongovernmental actors have become more important in the global arena.

Multinational Corporations

MNCs, or businesses that operate in more than one country, are another type of nongovernmental actor in the international system. Although MNCs are nongovernmental actors, they are not NGOs: As businesses, MNCs cannot be considered NGOs. Their primary aim is to make money. In the twenty-first century, MNCs dominate the global economy: According to the Coca-Cola corporation, for example, more than 70 million Coke products are consumed daily in Africa.

Example: Some MNCs—such as Coca-Cola, Microsoft, and IBM, to name a few—are worth more than many small countries, which means that they have the power to be major players in international politics. In 2000, for instance, the Central Intelligence Agency declassified several documents that incriminated ITT, the International Telephone and Telegraph Company, of having funded rebels to topple the government of Chile and establish a new, more business-friendly government in the early 1970s.

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