This guide provides an overview of international organizations, arranged by theme. Use this guide, and the guide to Foreign & International Law, to start your research, and contact Julie Lavigne, Legal Studies Librarian, for online or telephone consultations.
The two most common types of international organizations are intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), which are based on formal agreements between the governments of three or more countries, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), also known as civil society organizations, which are groups independent of government, generally driven by people with a common interest. IGOs and NGOs can operate at local, national and international levels.
See also the library's guides on Grey Literature, Think Tanks, and the United Nations.
For more information about international organizations see:
- Routledge handbook of international organization
- Union of International Associations
- What is a Non-Governmental Organization?
Lists of international organizations:
- World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (worldwide directory)
- Northwestern University Library list of intergovernmental organizations
Finding publications produced by international organizations
- Start with the organization's website. Most international organizations tend to make their most recent publications freely available. They may also have archives for the older ones.
- Many larger international organizations have their own digital libraries. Tip: Search the library's database listing by name of organization or type the name of the organization and "library" in Google; eg, "United Nations" library.
- Search the library's discovery tool Omni: Type in the name of the organization and use quotation marks to capture the exact name. When the results display, use the "Author/creator" filter and check the appropriate box. This will lead you to publications authored by the organization.
Finding statistics produced by international organizations:
- UNdata (covers a wide range of statistical themes from multiple UN partners)
- UN Comtrade Database (global trade data)
- OECD Data (economic development statistics)
Finding laws governing international organizations:
See also the Library's Subject Guide on Foreign & International Law.
International law includes the rules accepted as binding between nation states or countries (rather than individuals), and helps define how international intergovernmental organizations like the United Nations operate, as well as how treaties are applied and enforced. IGOs will normally be established according to some kind of formal instrument or agreement of the member parties, whereas NGOs will not normally have these formal documents in place (though sometimes they will have other official documentation or policies that are akin to law).
- Library of Congress Research Guides include guides on topics in international law, and the Law Library of Congress' website links to many useful research papers and reports on a wide range of topics
- The American Society of International Law (ASIL) produces a lot of very good quality research on a number of topics related to international law issues; look in particular under the headings "Topics" and "Resources", as well as at their e-Resource Guides.
- NGOs accredited with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
- Non-governmental environmental organizations (UC-Berkeley)
- Environmental organizations (Wikipedia)
This International Environmental Law guide (from the American Society of International Law) includes resources on environmental law issues, including climate change, sustainable development, biodiversity, trans-frontier pollution, marine pollution, endangered species, hazardous materials and activities, cultural preservation, desertification, and uses of the seas. The Center for International Environmental Law produces research and publications on a number of issues related to environmental law, including climate, corporate accountability, extractives, finance and development, forests, human rights, plastic, toxics, and trade.
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a UN body that assesses the science on climate change
- UN Environment Programme (UNEP) helps set the global environment agenda
- World Meteorological Organization (UN) coordinates international cooperation and development of meteorology, climatology and operational hydrology
- The International Labour Organization (ILO) supports the Green Jobs Assessment Institutions Network (GAIN), which studies green policies on employment
- 350.org : targets climate change and the elimination of fossil fuels
- C40 Cities : network of megacities working toward bold climate action
- Circumpolar Conservation Union (CCU) : protects the ecological and cultural integrity of the Arctic
- Greenpeace International : campaigns for global environmental solutions (see also its archive)
- Internet resources of organizations and networks dealing with global issues (BC Teachers' Federation)
- NGOs in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (UNESCO)
- International educational policy organizations (Harvard)
- International educational organizations (Wikipedia)
- NGOs working in global health (NIH)
- International medical and health organizations (Wikipedia)
- Labor Union Research for the Labor Relations Community: Foreign and International Organizations (Rutgers)
- List of international labor organizations (Wikipedia)
- 15 organizations fighting poverty in developing countries (Borgen Project)
- Poverty-related organizations (Wikipedia)
- International Labour Organization (ILO) is a UN agency setting labour standards, and developing policies and programmes promoting decent work
- United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) works toward international cooperation in education, science, and culture
United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal 1: No Poverty
World Health Organization (WHO)
Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights
The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)
UN Women, including its Digital Library
Non governmental organizations:
International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA)
Non governmental organizations:
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)
Non governmental organizations:
International Rescue Committee