Case Study


UNAIDS was set up as a programme of the WHO in 1986 in response to the spread of the new disease, along similar lines to its other disease fighting arms. In 1996, however, UNAIDS became a UN programme in its own right, co-sponsored by ten UN agencies including the WHO, World Bank, UNESCO, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), UNDP, United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDCP). This reflected the scale of the threat posed by AIDS, necessitating a response beyond the means of the WHO, but also, according to some, a lack of faith in the WHO to lead such a venture. UNAIDS is based in Geneva with a secretariat of over 900, divided between the headquarters and various country offices (UNAIDS 2009). It was the first UN organisation to include pressure group representatives in its executive, although voting rights in the Programme Coordinating Board are restricted to the twenty-two government representatives, elected by ECOSOC according to geographical quotas. The ten co-sponsors also have permanent representation on the board without voting right and many of their field workers carry out UNAIDS work in developing countries. The UNAIDS annual budget has grown from a modest $60 million in 2001–2 to $469 million for 2008–9 and it has been widely lauded for its fundraising activities.

IGOs and the Libyan intervention of 2011

When a major massacre of people in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi by Libyan dictator Gadaffi seemed imminent, several intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) established emergency meetings to discuss how this could be averted. UN Security Council Resolution 1973 called on the international community to take ‘all necessary measures’ to stop the bloodshed, but this came to be interpreted differently by an array of regional IGOs concerned at the situation and keen to assert their leadership. African Union (AU) called for a ceasefire and put forward a transition plan for the country. The Libyan rebels – mindful that Gadaffi had long been an important sponsor for the AU and the organisation’s poor track record in averting government massacres – rejected this and called instead on other IGOs to act. A London meeting of rebel group representatives, NATO, the EU, Arab League and Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) but no AU delegation was convened, which put together a ‘no fly zone’ plan in which government forces could be attacked if they defied the decree and Gadaffi would be removed from power. This policy was duly implemented and the rebels completed a successful revolution occurred in which Gadaffi was killed.

Was this intervention a successful illustration of intergovernmental security cooperation? From a positive point of view it was since an imminent major massacre appeared to have been averted and the civil war was ended with the chief villain in the affair deposed. However, the intervention was also controversial. Many analysts and onlooking governments asserted that NATO exceeded their UN-granted authority in an old-fashioned exercise of Western neo-imperialist meddling in the affairs of an oil rich Middle Eastern state. Muscling in on the scene in this way may have served to undermine the UN and make countries like China and Russia suspicious of future UN ‘Responsibility to Protect’ missions. The intervention could also be said to have undermined regional bodies more obviously appropriate to deal with Libya as well as confusing the mandate of NATO to defend Europe.


Established in 1923, Interpol is undoubtedly the best known global institutional response to the problem of transnational crime. Its membership is impressively universal with 190 member states. Each member-state is represented by delegates at the organisation’s headquarters at Lyon, France and each hosts a National Crime Bureau (NCB) which serve as the nodes in an information network to aid state police forces and promote cooperation amongst them. The 190 NCBs are linked by a computerised database which contains pooled information resources on known criminals and stolen goods, such as cars, to aid in the detection of transnational criminals and speed up the process of their extradition (although the process of extradition is still a bilateral matter between the governments concerned).  In addition to this chief function of facilitating the exchange of information, Interpol also seeks to promote greater regional cooperation between police forces (as, for example with the Mercosur countries: Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) and act as a ‘value-added service provider’ giving advice to governments on how to develop extradition agreements and to state police forces on updating their information technology resources. Interpol as an intergovernmental organisation has a conventional decision-making structure. Each member state is represented by a government-appointed delegate at an annual General Assembly, which votes by simple majority on the adoption of new procedures. The General Assembly also elects an Executive Committee of thirteen member state delegates, which meets three times a year and prepares the agenda for the General Assemblies, as well as managing the implementation of decisions.  Day-to-day administration is carried out by a permanent secretariat at Lyon headed by the Secretary General, elected for a five-year term of office by two-thirds majority of the General Assembly.