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The Rise of International

An “international organization” is a body that promotes voluntary
cooperation and coordination between or among its members”.

International organizations are often central to the functioning of an

international regime, giving structure and procedures to the “rules of the
game” by which nations must play.

International organization is the process by which states establish and

develop formal, continuing institutional structures for the conduct of certain
aspects of their relationships with each other. It represents a reaction to the
extreme decentralization of the traditional system of international relations
and an effort by statesmen to adapt the mechanics of that system to the
requirements posed by the constantly increasing complexity of the
interdependence of states. Particular international organizations may be
regarded as manifestations of the organizing process on the international

The Development of International Organizations

For some, the earliest IGO was the Amphictyonic Council of ancient
Greece but this existed primarily for the very limited purpose of enabling
the Greek city states to engage in common religious observance and
protect the shrine at Delphi. Similar points may be made about other
ancient international societies. All had system of rules that sought to
establish some measure of order in areas such as trade, war, boundaries,
or water rights.

The process of international organization had its origins in the 19th century,
largely in Europe. Innovations associated with the rise of industrialism and
the introduction of new methods of transport and communication stimulated
the creation of special- purpose agencies, usually called public international
unions, designed to facilitate the collaboration of governments in dealing
with economic, social, and technical problems.
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It was not until the nineteenth century that IGOs, properly so called, begin
to appear in conjunction with the industrial and technological revolutions of
that time. The profound changes in the political, economic, and social
landscape during that period were instrumental both in establishing a
favorable climate for the proliferation of IGOs and in determining their

As more and more of the globe was penetrated by European imperialism,

so a highly complex worldwide economic network emerged. This influenced
the growth of international institutions in four distinct ways.

1. The greater number of international transactions increased the risk of

conflict arising out of some trivial dispute.

2. Agreed regulations and common standards had to be determined for

such purposes as patenting inventions, classifying goods for customs
duties and deciding exchange rates between currencies.

3. The traditional insistence by states upon a rigid interpretation of their

sovereign rights was emerging as a significant barrier to the efficient
conduct of international business.

4. The economies of the major powers were becoming increasingly

interdependent, which provided them with certain mutual interests to
set against their many rivalries.

These 19th century beginnings provided, in large measure, the basis for the
phenomenal development of international organization since World War I.
Certain distinctions which emerged during this period- between political and
non- political agencies, between the status of great powers and that of
small states, between regional and geographically undefined organizations-
were to prove significant in the later course of international organizations.
Basic patterns of institutional structure and procedure were evolved. The
trend toward broadening the conception of international organization to
include entities beyond the confines of the European state system was

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Most importantly, the dual motivations of international institution building:

a. the urge to promote coordinated responses by states to problems of

peaceful intercourse in an era of growing economic, social, and
technical interdependence
b. the recognition of the necessity for moderating conflict in the political
and military spheres- became operative in this period.

The establishment of the League of Nations and its affiliate, the Internal
Labor Organization, at the end of the World War I represented the first
attempt to combine into one general organization the disparate elements of
organizational development which had emerged during the previous
century. After World War II, the League was superseded by the United
Nations, a general organization which derived its major features form the
19th century heritage and the lessons of experience, both positive and
negative, provided by the League.

In actuality, the organizational system of the post- World War II era has
involved the operation of approximately a dozen specialized agencies,
many of them newly created, and coordinated with varying degrees of
effectiveness by the United Nations. The post- 1945 system has also
involved the proliferation of regional organizations of every sort, most of
them functioning quite independently.

The conception of international relations underlying international

organization is frequently described as idealistic, in the sense that it
minimizes the element of conflict and emphasizes the potentialities of
harmony and cooperation in the relationship of states. Most accurately,
international organization can be said to rest upon a dualistic conception of
international relations, one which acknowledges both conflictual and
cooperative relationship as basic features of the multistate system.

General international organization in the 20th century is a reaction to the

grim reality of violent conflict among states and a response to the danger of
future conflict.

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 States seem increasingly willing to join international organizations

and subject themselves to more international obligations than ever

 IGOs also continue to exist, even to thrive, after their original purpose
has disappeared or become far less relevant

 Continuing expansion in their numbers and functions

o Ever- increasing complexity and intensity of international
transactions, particularly in the era of globalization

 IGOs develop a bureaucratic dynamic of their own

 Governments have grown accustomed to setting up institutions,

including international ones, as a response to new problems, while
the bureaucracies of such organizations immediately acquire an
interest in enhancing the importance and indispensability of their IGO.

Insofar as international organization represents a reformist movement

within the multistate system, it expresses the awareness of national leaders
that international order is requisite to the promotion and protection of the
most basic interests of their states.

The quest for order through international organization does not

involve repudiation of national interests or subordination of
national interests to an overriding internationalism, but at most
involves the redefinition of national interests in conformity with the
demands of increasing interdependence and the commitment of
statesmen to the pursuit of those interests within the revised
framework provided by international organization.
International organization reflects the view that world order is not more
important that national interests, but that it is important to national interests.

The Character of International Organizations

1. Internationalism
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- IOs have generally functioned as loose associations, heavily

dependent upon the voluntary acceptance by states of the obligations
of membership, upon the development of consensus among
governments as to programs and policies, and upon techniques of
persuasion and political influence rather than command and coercion.

2. Supranationalism

- A supranational body is thought to be superior to its member states

and relatively independent of their consent and support in its
- It symbolizes the proposition that certain international organizations
have achieved substantial emancipation form the control of national
governments and acquired an autonomous role in international
- It does indicate that, under appropriate circumstances, the
innovations associated with supranationalism may facilitate the
development and implementation of the willingness of governments
to move ahead in ambitious programs of common action.

3. The prevention of war

- The crucial test of international organization has to do with its

relevance to the task of preventing the destruction of the multistate

4. Collective Security

- As a plan for maintaining peace through an organization of sovereign

states, whose members pledge themselves to defend each other
against attack.

5. Defensive Alliances
- International agencies have a realistic role to play in deterring or
defeating military ventures by major powers, it is evident that this role
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devolves upon regional or selective- membership agencies,

composed of states perceiving a common threat to their security and
resolved to combine their strength in support of a common defensive

6. Operationalism and Politics

- from the minimal function of providing facilities for multilateral

diplomatic interchange to the actual administration of programs and
execution of operations in the both the economic and political realms
- Expansion of the executive function and capacity

Three essential conditions for an international governmental organization to

exist are:

1. Independent political communities

2. Rules agreed among such communities that purport to regulate their
relations with each other
3. A formal structure to implement and enforce the rules

It is important to note that none of these landmarks in the history of

international organization had an untroubled birth, nor did they hint at any
prospect of more ambitious undertakings being successful.

Instead, the mosaic of international organizations continues to expand,

particularly as new communications and information-processing
technologies make international groups more practical and effective.

International organizations have emerged as important actors in

international relations. The interdependence of nations in the modern world
means that no single nation can dictate the outcome of international
conflicts. Nor can private groups and individuals rely on national
governments to solve major world problems. Therefore, both governments
and individuals will continue to turn to international organizations as an
important way to address these problems and to protect their own interests.

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