International Organizations

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.

For more information about international organizations see: 

Lists of international organizations:​

Finding publications produced by international organizations

General tips:

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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.

Select databases:

Finding statistics produced by international organizations:

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).

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. UC-Berkeley also has an excellent guide on NGOs, which includes a section on environmental organizations

Select IGOs:

Select NGOs:


Intergovernmenal organizations:

Non governmental organizations:

Overseas Development Institute (ODI)

Content last reviewed: May 15, 2020