International Organizations Research

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 an overview of some of this work, and one can explore more specific topics of interest in more depth in other research areas.

Important work the UIA undertakes on the theme of international associations include classifying and documenting organizations, the legal status in which these organizations work, documenting and reflecting on trends in international civil society, recording organizations' executives' biographies, and sustainable community and transformative conferencing.

Classifying and Documenting International Organizations

A central part of UIA’s work is to profile international non-governmental (INGOs) and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), including general information on their contact details, aims and activities. This information is maintained in the UIA's extensive database of entries on international organizations which is made available in the Yearbook of International Organizations.

The Yearbook also has a bibliographic dimension, documenting international organizations’ publications (see Bibliography research), and a biographical dimension, documenting executives’ biographies (see below).

However, creating something like the Yearbook poses problems relating to how to classify the information and which categories to use. One such difficulty stems from the sheer variety of organizational forms which need to be considered. The page on Types of International Organization describes the classification of organizations designed specifically for the Yearbook and the logic behind this system.

A second difficulty arises because of the multiplicity of concerns international organizations have, and their different ways of working. This is especially true when their interlinkages and interdisciplinary nature preclude effective use of conventional approaches. A special functional classification system was therefore developed that has been used to organize that information in a 'subject matrix'. This system is explained in more detail in a commentary written by Anthony Judge entitled Functional Classification in an Integrative Matrix of Human Preoccupations.

Trends in International Civil Society

Related to the documentation of international organizations carried out by the UIA is the analysis and commentary of trends in civil society. The Yearbook of International Organizations records these trends through tracking geographical locations and subject interests of its bodies, and generating statistics and graphical interpretations of these phenomena.

Further analysis of the preoccupations of international organizations has been conducted in Transnational Associations, the UIA’s former journal, which addressed major problems within the perspective of international civil society, and particularly nongovernmental organizations profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations. It was intended to provide a forum for authoritative information and independent reflection on the increasing role played by non-state actors in the international system, and on its philosophical, political, economic or cultural implications. The approach is intrinsically interdisciplinary.

Other research conducted by the UIA related to the tracking of activities of civil society is the recording of websites and online materials produced by and about these bodies. Resources are provided in our link directory, and include selected links to international organizations from the Yearbook of International Organizations, and web resources on global civil society.

Legal Status of International Organizations

An important area of UIA’s research into international organizations includes the legal context within which they operate. The International Association Statutes Series (1988) includes the official texts of 393 statutes of international nongovernmental organizations with membership in countries in at least two continents. Its appendices include the texts of conventions and national laws in related areas, lesser known or forgotten documents and proposals dealing with the legal status of international associations, as well as those currently under discussion or in processes of ratification.

International Organization Executive Biography Research

An important area of our research into international organizations is in the field of biographies. Having recorded the 'what' we were keen to investigate the 'who' - the people driving global civil society today.

Our main biographical project is the annual production of Volume 6: Who's Who in International Organizations of the Yearbook of International Organizations, listing profiles of officers of international organizations. A second publication of interest is the International Biographical Dictionary of Religion (1994) which contains more than 4,000 biographies of eminent individuals from the major world religions including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Baha'i, Confusianism, Jainism, Shintoism and Judaism.

Our work on biographical profiles also involves recording relevant publications written by the leaders of civil society, which links to our bibliography research area.

Transformative Conferencing, Dialogue and Sustainable Community

From the 1980s, research and experimentation has focused on three concerns which overlap in a number of ways: transformative conferencing; dialogue; community.

The idea of sustainable communities is a sub-theme of our research on international organizations. For instance, many of the international organizations and networks we document in the Yearbook of International Organizations can be understood as communities, and in many cases understand themselves to be communities (especially when they become on-line electronic communities of discourse). Similarly, the international conferences we document in the International Congress Calendar can also be understood as "instant communities", and may see themselves as such (especially when they form part of a regular series).

Dialogue has also emerged as a key concern amongst international organizations, in relation to the question of sustainable community. It has been the subject of a number of studies by the UIA, whether linked to or separate from the question of conferencing. With the increasing interest in "sustainability", the psycho-social dimensions of "sustainable community" are seen to be associated with those of "sustainable dialogue".

The assumption is made that key insights into sustainable community can be achieved through explorations of the possibilities and constraints on transformative conferencing. Profiles of processes, conditions and criteria facilitative of transformative approaches to conferencing have been made available in the 1986 edition of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential.

Research on transformative conferences and dialogue can also be found in our Index of Past Research Papers.

Other Relevant Resources: