Lesson 3, Topic 2
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International Organisations

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Examples of regional international organisations include the European Union (EU), the African Union (AU), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). These organisations have different characteristics, different levels of power and different purposes.

The EU is a supranational organisation, it is above the level of government: EU law supersedes national law. This is not the case with most other regional organisations. The EU is uniquely economically integrated in that is has a shared currency, a European Central Bank; it is uniquely politically integrated in that all member states send representatives (MEPs) to the European Parliament, and there is a Council of Ministers (where ministers from all EU states meet to discuss areas relevant to their ministerial portfolio, for example, there is a meeting for all the foreign ministers), and a European Commission (the executive branch of the European Union, responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the EU treaties and managing the day-to-day business of the EU).

Read this article about ASEAN, then think about two ways it is different to the EU and two ways it is similar to the EU in the box below.

If you are interested, read this article about the African Union- what challenges and opportunities do you think the African Union might face over the next few decades? And if you are interested in NAFTA, watch this video. Why do you think President Trump does not like NAFTA?


Intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) are organisations that facilitate cooperation between governments. The UN is the most famous intergovernmental organisation. It brings together 193 states to increase the security and prosperity of the world, it does not have power to dictate what those governments do, but it has significant power to convene these states. Checkout this video for an introduction to the UN.

Other IGOs include: The World Bank, The International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation. Together these organisations are referred to as the “Washington Consensus”. In essence, this consensus is the idea that free market capitalism is the best recipe for the development of countries. This idea is embedded in these organisations. The World Bank is focused on reducing poverty and achieving economic development in low income countries, the International Monetary Fund exists to ensure a stable global economy. It has been heavily criticised for its “Structural Adjustment Programmes“ (SAPs) which have been used to rescue economies from financial crisis by giving them large sums of money, but in return the country has to make reforms like reducing welfare and decreasing taxation which have caused much damage to the countries that have signed up to SAPs. The World Trade Organisation regulates international trade by creating a level playing field among its members so that WTO members can trade with each other smoothly.