The evolution of international organizations (IOs) can be divided into three phrases. The first phase started with the Congress of Vienna (1814–15), which set in motion a series of innovations, inventions, and learning processes, shaping the core of what we now call IOs. The second phase of international organization in the nineteenth century is characterized by the building of permanent institutions. This is reflected in the new and dominant term “union” for organization. The term “public international union” (PIU) became the overarching term for the by intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. PIUs have been regarded as “early IGOs” which later transformed into specialized agencies of the UN system, with their subdivisions as institutional prototypes for the League of Nations and the UN. The third phase of international organization is the continued existence of IOs during the first half of the twentieth century. The outbreak of World War I can be regarded as an exogenous shock to the evolutionary development of IOs. During the war, the concept of international organization was not lost and was even central to the thinking on international politics in the UK and the US. Detailed plans for an international peace organization, using the term “international government”, were produced and discussed by politicians and citizens. These plans, which became part of the institutional strategy devised by the US, strongly reflected the organizational experiences of the PIUs.
James P. Muldoon
The evolution of international administration in theory and practice mirrors the pattern of development of international organizations and the institutionalization of governance for the international system, which can be divided into three time periods: 1815–1945, which marks the initial organization and bureaucratization of the international system; 1945–91, the period of rapid growth of international organizations and reconstitution of the international system that had been destroyed by World War II; and, 1991–present, which represents the end of the Cold War and a transformational moment for the international system as globalization and the technological revolution challenge the structure and function of international governance system. The bureaucratization of the international system is due to the effectiveness of this type of organization for administration and government on the national level. However, the structure and function of international administration is different from national administration. The bureaucracies of today’s international organizations reflect both the changes in the environment in which they observe and the nature of the issue areas they are tasked to manage. Meanwhile, the creation of the United Nations (UN) in 1945 marked the transition from the first stage to the second in the development of international organizations and the system of governance for a new international order. Finally, the end of the Cold War and the dramatic changes in the world’s political, economic, and social landscape brought about by globalization revived interest in international organizations, and the role that they would play in the “new” world order.
Dennis Dijkzeul and Leon Gordenker
International organizations (IOs) play an important role in addressing the plight of vulnerable groups (VGs), especially when states are either unwilling or unable to do so. Vulnerability as a concept thus provides a unique perspective for analyzing some of the strengths and shortcomings, as well as the challenges, of IOs. Vulnerability implies that the effects of disasters are determined not only by physical events but also by the institutional context. Some definitions of vulnerability suggest that it is a forward-looking concept indicating damage potential for people arising from hazards, which can be social and technological and not just natural. Three cases illustrate how specific forms of vulnerability are constituted, who are (considered to be) vulnerable, and who does what, when, and how to address vulnerability: Herbert Hoover’s Commission for Relief in Belgium during World War I, internally displaced people, and policy attempts by the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations to address different and growing forms of vulnerability. These cases contribute to a history of vulnerability as addressed by IOs, and highlight the incomplete nature of international action to address vulnerability as well as the difficulties faced by IOs in implementation, compliance, and concomitant institutionalization. Future research should devote more attention to issues such as the interaction of the politically powerful and vulnerable groups, the actual pathways that resistance to change or addressing vulnerability takes, and the processes by which vulnerability arises, and why and how it is being addressed—or not, states, IOs, and other actors.
Rodger A. Payne and Nayef H. Samhat
Power plays an important role in the formation of international organizations (IOs), including the formal institutions established by nation-states to promote collective action at the intergovernmental level. Power is commonly defined as the ability or authority to act, to accomplish a task or to create something new. Those who wield power are typically seen as having the ability to influence or even control the behavior of others. The willingness of states to employ material (or “hard”) power to accomplish their goals—whether those goals primarily reflect the interests of the strongest states or the shared preferences of many states—has long been the subject of scrutiny by international relations (IR) scholars. More recent scholarship approaches the topic from different perspectives, with particular attention to both the power generated by collective action and the collective identity created during the recognition and pursuit of common purposes. According to Michael Barnett and Raymond Duvall, there are four types of power: compulsory, institutional, structural, and productive. This typology can be linked to the way four major schools of IR theory view IOs: realism, neoliberalism, constructivism, and critical theory. Realist and neoliberal institutionalist schools use compulsory or institutional views of power to explain the development of regimes and their effects, while social constructivists and critical theorists rely on productive or structural power to tackle the meaning and importance of regimes. Scholars argue that regimes serve a cooperative function very similar to more formal IOs and provide a rationalist account of regime formation and behavior.
Martin S. Edwards and Jonathan M. DiCicco
International organizations (IOs) such as the United Nations play an important role in war prevention. In theory, IOs reduce the risk of war between belligerents by improving communication, facilitating cooperation, and building confidence and trust. In practice, however, IOs’ war-preventing capacities have sparked skepticism and criticism. Recent advances in the scholarly study of the causes of war have given rise to new and promising directions in research on IOs and war prevention. These studies highlight the problems of interstate and intrastate wars, global and regional organizations, preventive diplomacy and peacekeeping, and the relationship between IOs and domestic institutions. They also offer novel insights that both complement and challenge studies of traditional concepts such as collective security. An interesting work is that of J. D. Fearon, who frames war as a bargaining process between rational states. Fearon articulates a central puzzle of international relations: since war is costly, the question that arises is why rational leaders of competing states choose to fight instead of pursuing less costly, nonviolent dispute settlements. Three general mechanisms account for rational, unitary states’ inability to identify an alternative outcome that both would prefer to war: bluffing about private information, commitment problems, and indivisibility of stakes. Despite the obvious progress in research on IOs and war prevention, there remain methodological and theoretical issues that deserve consideration for further investigation, two of which are: the interaction of domestic and international organizations, and the implications of variations in IO design.
The study of international organizations (IOs) has been described as lacking theoretical depth. However, the field actually has a more solid theoretical foundation than some of its critics allege. Moreover, the variety of approaches has entailed multifaceted knowledge of the internal workings as well as the global effects of IOs. Three theoretical traditions have emerged, dealing with institutions, organization, and governance. Institutional analysis has a central position in political science. In the study of domestic institutions, three major schools—rational choice institutionalism, historical institutionalism, and sociological institutionalism—have emerged. Organization theory represents a change of focus from the ideational structures studied by institutionalists to more material and human structures. Whereas both institutional and organizational approaches were originally formulated for domestic structures, institutionalists have been more receptive to exploring domestic-international analogies and contrasts. Even if both institutional and organization theories pay attention to process— institutionalizing rules and practices as well as organizing collective entities are long-term processes— IO studies inspired by these approaches tend to focus on relatively stable structures, asking questions concerning the establishment, persistence or change, and impact of international institutions and organizations. A third, more recent perspective focuses on continuous processes of governance, involving international organizations as well as other types of actors.
Frank G. Madsen
The intersection of international organization and crime and corruption has been garnering increasing interest from international studies scholars and practitioners. An international organization can be defined, following the International Law Commission, as an “organization established by a treaty or other instrument governed by international law and possessing its own international legal personality.” International organizations generally have States as members, but often other entities can also apply for membership. They both make international law and are governed by it. Yet, the decision-making process of international organizations is often less a question of law than one of political judgment. Meanwhile, corruption is a form of dishonest or unethical conduct by a person, or an institution, entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire personal benefit. Corruption may include many activities including bribery and embezzlement, though it may also involve practices that are legal in many countries. Government, or 'political', corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity for personal gain. Strangely, the most important contribution to the field of organized crime did not come from criminology, legal studies, or international studies, but from philosophy. Recognizing both criminal law and international relations as the exercise of power, Michel Foucault introduced radically new thinking in the area of societal control in relation to the study of organized crime.
Alistair D. Edgar
International organization as an idea or an approach to political and social conflict management and resolution—now often referred to under the rubric of “global governance”—has been the subject of much discussion by scholars and practitioners, and has taken shape in numerous historical examples. A landmark figure in thinking about war, peace, and statecraft during the earliest period undoubtedly remains the classical Greek general and historian Thucydides (460–395
David C. Ellis
Human development as a concept seeks to make individuals the driving force behind state development. Even though international organizations (IOs) are formal agreements by and for the benefit of member states and have historically prioritized states’ interests, it can still be argued that human beings have long been the central concern of many IOs, even for some of the oldest surviving ones today. Nowadays, the human development framework appears to serve as the principal intellectual and normative construct regarding how to achieve national economic growth while building broad social justice and opportunity for individuals. Its allure derives as much from its coherent philosophical critique of past empirical development failures as it does from its incorporation of values and ethics appealing to a broad spectrum of professionals working in the development community. The human development approach was in part necessitated by the monopolization of economic development by states even from the advent of the enterprise in the 1950s. But despite the widespread adoption of the human development framework as an operative concept in the practice of development, it is not without controversy. Most of the critique is directed toward the underlying premises of the capabilities approach and the elements its adherents must elucidate in order to effectively implement its tenets in policy.
Before 9/11, the literature on terrorism and international organizations (IOs) was largely event driven. That is to say, the modest nature of the debate reflected a modest empirical record of IO engagement in responding to terrorism. Moreover, this period saw a correlation between the way states acted against terrorism through IOs and the nature of subsequent debates. Famously, states were (and remain) unable to agree on a definition of “terrorism,” precluding broad-based action through IOs. The findings presented in this literature were furthermore often quite bleak. The immediate post-9/11 period, however, was much more optimistic. This period saw an unprecedented increase in action against terrorism in IOs, primarily through the Security Council resolution 1373. Resolution 1373 elaborates a broad—and mandatory—agenda for counterterrorism cooperation. This resolution has had significant and ongoing consequences for the ways IOs are utilized in the effort to suppress terrorism. Furthermore, this and other IO engagements with terrorism brought about an increase in scholarly interest in the area, even giving rise to a sense of optimism in the literature. Thus, from the pre- to the post-9/11 period, there are elements of both continuity and change in the way scholars have discussed terrorism in the context of IOs.