Purpose and Objectives


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UIA Portrait (PDF download)

Since its foundation in 1907 as the Central Office for International Associations, the Union of International Associations (UIA) has focused on documenting the nature and evolution of international civil society.

UIA is a non-profit, independent research institute, a repository for current and historical information on the work of international associations. UIA documents the work of International Nongovernmental Organizations (INGOs) and Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs) and promotes the public awareness of their activities.

UIA’s focus today is on promoting the internationality of these organizations and in representing the collective views of international bodies.

UIA collects, hosts and provides up-to-date, reliable information on global civil society and maintains the most comprehensive source of information on international associations, their activities and concerns, and their meetings activities.

The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) defines an INGO as "any organization which is not established by inter-governmental agreement" (Resolution 288 (X) the 27th February 1950), "including organizations which accept members designated by government authorities, provided that such membership does not interfere with the free expression of views of the organizations" (Resolution 1296 (XLV) of 25th June 1968).

An IGO is an organization composed primarily of sovereign states, or of other intergovernmental organizations. IGOs are established by treaty or other agreement that acts as a charter creating the group. Examples include the United Nations, the World Bank, or the European Union.

The UIA is a non-profit-making international nongovernmental organization having a scientific aim, with activities such as research, study, information, consultation, promotion and service.


The UIA is a platform for global civil society cooperation, collaborating with, providing services to, and promoting international associations. It encourages and facilitates cooperation between international associations, between international associations and the public sector, and between international associations and the private sector, by providing easily accessible, reliable and comprehensive information on global civil society actors.


  • Facilitate the development and efficiency of nongovernmental networks in every field of human activity – especially non-profit and voluntary associations – considered to be essential components of contemporary society
  • Collect, research and disseminate information on international bodies, both governmental and nongovernmental, their interrelationships, their meetings, and the problems and strategies with which they are concerned
  • Experiment with meaningful and action-oriented ways of presenting such information to enable these initiatives to develop and counterbalance each other creatively, and act as a catalyst for the emergence of new forms of associative activity and international co-operation
  • Promote research on the legal, administrative and other problems common to these international associations, especially in their contacts with governmental bodies
  • Contribute to a universal order based on principles of human dignity, solidarity of peoples and freedom of association and communication

The UIA has collected, published and disseminated information on international non-profit organizations as its central activity, since its foundation in 1907. We believe that this information is important as non-governmental and voluntary associations are crucial actors in today’s society. It is through these groups and their networks that we can hope to respond to the increasingly complex problems facing the world.

Within this concern with civil society, our special areas of interest can be loosely divided into several categories, listed below. It should be noted that these categories reflect arbitrary divides, and much of our work crosses these boundaries. Nonetheless, we hope it serves as an introductory outline for those unfamiliar with the extent of our work.

International Organizations

All of UIA’s research relates in some way to the documentation and study of international non-profit organizations and their preoccupations. This section provides a brief overview of some of this work.

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International Meetings and Conferences

Significant research at the UIA revolves around documenting meetings and events organized by international organizations in the form of the International Congress Calendar. Other work includes commentary on technical challenges of international conferences, participant interaction, knowledge sharing, and the progressive potential of transformative conferencing.

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Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential

Research for the Encyclopedia represents some of the most progressive and innovative work conducted at the UIA. It is the result of an ambitious effort, since 1972, to clarify the networks of problems humanity is faced with, and the challenges they pose to concept formation, values and development strategies.

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Bibliographical Research

The bibliographical work of the UIA has taken several distinct approaches, including: publications produced by international organizations and by organization executives; conference proceedings; studies of international organizations; and bibliography relating to the themes of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential.

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United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Volume 6 of the Yearbook of International Organizations is entitled Global Civil Society and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (the UN SDGs) are informed by and in turn inform all global civil society actors. What, we asked, is the link between these actors and the UN SDGs? Which of the UN SDGs concern them? With which SDGs should they be concerned? What communities of international bodies form around each of the SDGs?

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Visualization and Sonorification

The UIA conducts research into new ways of presenting and conceptualizing debates and ideas around international civil society to inform debates on strategies for a better world order. Our pioneering work into alternative means of conceptualizing information and networks includes experiments with non-textual visualization or sonorification of information and the presentation of complex dialogue and strategy through metaphor.

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Integrative Knowledge and Transdisciplinarity

A cross-cutting theme at the UIA relates to the challenge of integrating the mass of complex information generated through the various research areas, into a manageable, coherent and useful form. The need for this integration and inter- or trans-disciplinary approach is the growing realisation that a holistic perspective on current problems and strategies will yield the most effective results.

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