The differences between international and supranational organizations

What are the differences between international and supranational organizations? A supranational organization is an administrative structure that goes beyond the boundaries of states. It differs from international organizations in the fact that within it, decisions are made by institutions specific to the organization, and not by meeting of heads of state or their representatives. A supranational organization is a new entity encompassing several states (supra) and not a space of cooperation between states (inter); it also has legislative powers, which is not the case of an international organization.

Concerning the differences between international and supranational organizations, a supranational organization allows member states to have greater power and influence beyond their respective national boundaries. Examples include the EU, or the UNICEF. While the focus of most supranational organizations is to ease trade, the entity may also have political implications or requirements. Supranational organizations may help design activities that promote international standards.

Intergovernmental organizations differ in function and membership. They have various goals and scopes, often outlined in a Treaty or Charter. Some international organizations developed to fulfil a need for a neutral forum for debate or negotiation to resolve disputes.

Others developed to carry out mutual interests with unified aims to preserve peace through conflict resolution and better international relations, promote international cooperation on matters such as environmental protection, to promote human rights, to promote social development… Some are more general in scope, like the United Nations, while others may have subject-specific missions, such as the International Telecommunication Union.

International organizations

Talking about the differences between international and supranational organizations, 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 judgement”.

International organization, institution drawing membership from at least three states, having activities in several states, and whose members are held together by a formal agreement. The two main types of international organizations are intergovernmental organizations and international nongovernmental organizations.

Intergovernmental organizations

Concerning the differences between international and supranational organizations, an intergovernmental organization or international governmental organisation (IGO) is an organization composed primarily of sovereign states (referred to as member states), or of other intergovernmental organizations. Intergovernmental organizations are called international organizations, although that term may also include international non-governmental organization such as international non-profit organizations or multinational corporations.

Intergovernmental organizations are an important aspect of Public International Law. IGOs are established by a treaty that acts as a charter creating the group. Treaties are formed when lawful representatives (governments) of several states go through a ratification process, providing the IGO with an international legal personality.

Intergovernmental organizations in a legal sense should be distinguished from simple groupings or coalitions of states; such groups or associations have not been founded by a constituent document and exist only as task groups.

Intergovernmental organizations must also be distinguished from treaties. Many treaties do not establish an organization and instead, rely purely on the parties for their administration becoming legally recognised as an ad hoc commission. Other treaties have established an administrative apparatus which was not deemed to have been granted international legal personality.

The first and oldest intergovernmental organization is the International Telecommunication Union, founded in 1865, which served as a model for later organizations such as the League of Nations. The role of international intergovernmental organizations is helping to set the international agenda, mediating political bargaining, and providing a place for political initiatives.

Supranational organizations

With the differences between international and supranational organizations, a supranational organization is an international group or union in which the power and influence of member states transcend national boundaries or interests to share in decision making and vote on issues concerning the collective body.

The European Union and the World Trade Organization are both supranational entities. In the EU, each member votes on policy that will affect each member nation. The benefits of this construct are the synergies derived from social and economic policies and a stronger presence on the international stage.

For an organization to be supranational, it must operate in multiple countries. While applicable to multinational corporations, the term is more often used in the context of government entities because they often have regulatory responsibilities within their standard operations. These responsibilities can include the creation of international treaties and standards for international trade.

Although a supranational organization may be highly involved in setting business standards and regulations, it does not necessarily have enforcement authority, which remains with the individual governments with participating businesses.

While the focus of most supranational organizations is to ease trade between member nations, the entity may also have political implications or requirements. For example, it may require that all member nations participate in certain political activities, such as public elections for leadership.

The best example of a supranational is the European Union. The European Union has official legislative oversight and elections. In terms of organizations, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is one of the most well-known groups. Under the umbrella of the United Nations, UNICEF works in more than one hundred and ninety countries and territories for the betterment of children’s lives. Effectively, it was created member nations and is structured to ease and standardize certain activities across international borders.

An example of a supranational organization that is less involved in the regulation of international activities is the International Olympic Committee. The organization creates the standards for events included in the competition, including the scoring standards. The committee that selects the host city for the Summer and Winter Olympics is made up of international members.

Space law and the differences between international and supranational organizations

Article VI of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty states that “States Parties to the Treaty shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities, and for assuring that national activities are carried out in conformity with the provisions set forth in the present Treaty. The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty. When activities are carried on in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, by an international organization, responsibility for compliance with this Treaty shall be borne both by the international organization and by the States Parties to the Treaty participating in such organization”.

What is interesting is to notice that Article VI refers to international organizations and doesn’t mention supranational organizations (which didn’t exist at that time). It would be interesting to thing about the applicability of this article to supranational organizations, like the European Union; could the European Union, a supranational organization, carry out activities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies?