Intergovernmental organizations sometimes take on the same role as private sector actors. There are many examples of this such as IOs buying goods and services from others, or IOs themselves selling particular services. See the links below for more information!
IOs Themselves Operating as Private or Market Actors
The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL) is a civil-military international organisation working to support air traffic management in Europe.
Our raison d’être is to support European aviation and we do this by delivering technical excellence and civil-military expertise across the full spectrum of air traffic management.
EUROCONTROL's activities include service provision, research and development, and project implementation EUROCONTROL also aims to provide “coordination with key aviation players at various levels” and support "the future evolution and strategic orientations of aviation.”
© EUROCONTROL's Services
The International Civil Aviation Organization provides services to its Member States through its Technical Cooperation Bureau (TCB) established in 1952. It is involved in around 250 projects each year in all the fields of civil aviation: safety, security, environmental protection and sustainable development.
As part of ICAO, a non-profit organization, TCB can offer its services under most favourable and cost-effective condition and guarantees strict neutrality, objectivity and transparency, as it does not represent any particular national or commercial interest, nor the interest of any donor in general.
© ICAO Technical Cooperation Bureau
More specifically, TCB’s clients can get help concerning the recruitment of professionals, receive training, get expert advice or obtain procurement opportunities for instance.
©ICAO TCB Portfolio
Through ESA Space Solutions, the European Space Agency seeks to promote space innovation by financially supporting entrepreneurs in Europe and encouraging businesses to enter the space economy. It provides several different programmes for funding directed to private actors, such as ESA Business Applications and ESA Business Incubation Centres.
ESA Business Applications offers funding and support to businesses from any sector who intend to use space (satellite navigation, earth observation, satellite telecommunication, space weather, space technologies) to develop new commercial services.
On top of zero-equity funding which can go up to 50% of the project cost, ESA offers technical and commercial guidance, access to ESA’s network and partners and the use of ESA’s brand to provide credibility to the business.
© ESA's Business Applications
One example of such project opportunity is the NHS future hospital initiative “promoting innovative solutions exploiting space technologies for the benefit of the NHS ecosystem.”
© NHS' Future Hospital Initiative
For start-ups, the ESA Business Incubation Centres provide extra support. “Over 700 start-ups have been fostered throughout Europe with thousands of new high tech jobs created thanks to the applications of space systems, the valorization of ESA intellectual properties and the space technologies transfers - and more than 180 new start-ups are taken in yearly at the ESA BICs.”
© ESA's Business Incubation Centres
The Third Party Missions programme consists of around 50 Earth observing satellite missions that are not owned or operated by ESA. ESA has agreements with the owning organisations, institutions and private companies to acquire, process, and distribute the data collected in their missions. This programme provides Earth observing data for research and development to users all around the world, including businesses and start-ups, supporting ESA’s goal to facilitate the use of space technology and systems.
© Third Party Missions Overview & Infography
Earth Online is the ESA's Earth Observation information discovery platform where Third Party Missions Data is shared.
© Earth Online
The objective of the procurement activities within the WMO is to achieve best value for money for the acquisition of goods and services in a manner that supports fairness, integrity and transparency, and is directed towards maximum economy and effectiveness within, and in accordance with, the objectives of the Organization.
In an effort to guarantee transparency, the World Meteorological Organization provides a list of its latest tenders and of the awarded vendors. Tenders include construction works, provision of consultancy services, supply of equipment and provision of security services.
The WMO is also a service provider, particularly of corporate services, including consultancy, conference and translation services, international and local consultancies, training, public relations services and catering.
© WMO Webpage Procurement
The UN family member, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) provides services worldwide. There are especially two kinds of services who have a great impact around the entire globe.
Firstly, the IOM provides visa processing services, which benefit both migrants and governments:
In support of regular and complementary migration pathways, IOM Visa Application Centres (VACs) facilitate safe, regular and orderly migration and mobility by improving visa processing. Efficient and timely processes that safeguard the rights and needs of migrants while maintaining States’ security considerations, benefit both migrants and governments. States are finding it increasingly challenging to process the large volumes of visa applications, given that two-thirds of the world population require visas to travel. In response, governments are increasingly outsourcing migration management related tasks to external service providers, primarily seeking to improve service standards, lower costs, reduce wait times for migrants and to increase territorial coverage.
Another service with great worldwide significance provided by the IOM are the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programmes (AVRR). These operations assist migrants and governments with safe voluntary returns while at the same time aiming at avoiding the stigmatisation often connected to returns. According to the IOM the return journey should be organized in the most suitable and viable ways. As much as possible, returnees should travel on commercial lines like any other passengers, as this represents a cost- and time-effective option that preserves migrant dignity and anonymity.
Migration is often perceived as a one-way journey, starting from one’s homeland to a new country of destination. The reality can be more complex, however. For some, the need to go back home is felt at a certain point, triggered by the desire to reunite with family, changed conditions in either host countries or countries of origin, or the lack of legal status and work opportunities. Since 1979 IOM, the UN Migration Agency, has been implementing Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programmes worldwide, assisting more than 1.5 million migrants. For IOM, AVRR is an indispensable part of a comprehensive approach to migration management. Every year, IOM provides tailored AVRR assistance to tens of thousands of migrants returning home voluntarily under diverse circumstances. Beneficiaries may include stranded migrants in host or transit countries, irregular and regular migrants, asylum seekers who decide not to pursue their claims or are found not to be in need of international protection, as well as migrants in vulnerable situations, such as victims of human trafficking, unaccompanied and separated children, elderly migrants or those with health-related needs. The successful implementation of AVRR programmes requires the cooperation and participation of a broad range of actors, including the migrants, civil society, private sector, academia and the governments in host countries, transit countries and countries of origin.
© IOM UN Migration info sheets
The Universal Postal Union (UPU) was established in 1874 and is the second oldest intergovernmental organization in the world. Today it is also a part of the UN family, as one of the United Nations specialized agencies.
Being the primary forum for cooperation between postal sector players the UPU provides a lot of services in many different ways, anywhere from defining postal products to hiring out its conference facilities. The UPU charges fees for these services, constituting the second pillar of the financing system of the Union, and thus forming a perfect example of an IO operating as a private or market actor.
© UPU's Webpage and Programme and Budget 2019 (Finance Directorate (DFI) Directorate of Executive Office (DIRCAB).
Mastercard is an American multinational company in the financial services industry and is one of the world’s leaders in digitalized and electronic payment methods. The Universal Postal Union has announced its collaboration with Mastercard to promote the digital transformation of postal services. By seeking to encourage the development of e-commerce solutions via the Post around the world, the UPU act as an actor in the striving market of e-trade.
The digital transformation of the postal network started years ago, but the pandemic has further triggered the modernization of our business model. It is really an important moment for the postal sector.
Pascal Clivaz, Deputy Director General of the Universal Postal Union
© UPU and Mastercard Partner
The World Customs Organization (the WCO), established in 1952 as the Customs Co-operation Council (CCC) is an independent intergovernmental body whose mission is to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of Customs administrations. The Organization plays an important role in the development of international conventions, instruments, and tools on customs and trade topics. The WCO also supports actors in international trade through their online services, such as the WCO Trade Tools-services, for which they charge their customers.
A powerful tool to support actors in international trade.
WCO Trade Tools is the official platform of the World Customs Organization created to facilitate your work as actor of the international trade to classify your products and support the exporting / importing of goods.
© WCO Webpage
The United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), managed by the World Food Programme (WFP), offers safe, reliable, cost-efficient and effective passenger and light cargo transport for the wider humanitarian community to and from areas of crisis and intervention. It is the only humanitarian air service that gives equal access to all humanitarian entities.
UNHAS takes a fee from their passangers. The fee is smaller than for normal flights, but this payment still gives the air service charasteristics of a private sector actor.
© WFP Webpage
The Tourism Online Academy is an online learning platform that will provide self-paced, 100% online courses that mainly focus on concepts, areas of interest and fundamental principles related to the tourism sector, addressing the challenges it faces such as globalization, digital revolution, travel marketing and sustainability, among others. These flexible courses allow participants to reconcile academic, professional and other personal commitments.
Yes, there is an IO, or more specifically a UN specialized agency, working with the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) provides online courses for the tourist sector. The courses vary from travel laws to how to maximise your SPA. Some courses are free but others may cost several hundred euros.
© UNWTO Tourism Online Academy Webpage
Interpol has established a Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) in Singapore to facilitate cross-border cooperation on cybercrime. The IGCI aims at equipping the world’s police with the tools and knowledge to better tackle the crime threats of the 21st century, with a cutting-edge research and development facility for the identification of crimes and criminals, innovative training, operational support and partnerships. The IGCI works in collaboration with police, research laboratories, academia and public and private sectors. The Cyber Fusion Centre (CFC) brings together experts from law enforcement, industry and academia to actively identify and develop intelligence about emerging threats and criminal cyber entities.
In other words - a lot of private sector actors are involved and affected.
© Interpol's Webpage & Cyber Fusion Centre's Webpage
Nato is a huge intergovernmental organisation with many relationships with the private sector. On the Nato Business Portal you'll find links to Nato agencys and bodys who work tightly with the private sector.
Nato is also interesting because of its internal system of weapon-buying. A couple of years ago the Nato-member Turkey angered Nato and especially the USA when the Erdogan-administration chose to sign a contract with Russia to buy a missile defense system.
© Nato Webpage & Deutche Welle (DW) Webpage
For most IOs procurement is an effective way to satisfy the needs of the organization. IOs need goods and services, often provided by the private sector, in order to ensure that the purposes of their activities are achieved. The buying of goods constitutes a great example of the second research angle. The World Trade Organization (WTO), The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) are big IOs exemplifiying this activity.
© WTO Webpage, IOM Webpage, IOM Global Procurement and Supply Unit (pdf) & ILO Webpage
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), is one of the most widely recognized organizations in the world, having won three Nobel Peace Prizes (in 1917, 1944, and 1963). Though, not an intergovernmental organization, but an international non-governmental organization, the ICRC still poses as a great example of an IO trying to collaborate with the private sector in an ethical manner. The avenues for collaboration listed below, such as "driving innovation and testing new business models and solutions" show that the ICRC acts a lot like a market actor while cooperating with businesses. As all other IOs the ICRC claims that they will only accept support from partners whose policies and activities are consistent with their principles.
The aim of these principles is to establish a transparent framework for relationships between the private sector and the ICRC. Relationships with the private sector encompass all forms of support by companies, corporate- and private foundations, and wealthy individual donors. Support can range from donations and campaigns to operational collaborations and joint innovation. An operational partnership is established only if it strengthens the capacity of the organization to carry out its activities worldwide in accordance with its specific mandate and the principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (hereafter referred to as "the Movement").
The ICRC recognizes that the expertise and financial capacity of the business and philanthropic community can help it achieve its humanitarian objectives. The avenues for collaboration and value generation with the private sector are captured by five pillars of engagement:
- Promoting best practices and shared analyses
- Driving innovation and testing new business models and solutions
- Leveraging complementarity, assets, networks, and skills
- Collaborating with suppliers
- Mobilizing resources through impact philanthropy
The ethical criteria and guiding principles below apply exclusively to relations with the private sector in this first domain. The ICRC will only accept support from partners whose policies and activities are consistent with these principles.
© ICRC Webpage
Even though there's an increasing desire for more transparency and accountability in IOs, the enhanced importance of business-like activities such as consultants and managerialism have changed the focus of the working manners of the IOs. IOs have traditionally been perceived as quite bureaucratic, but over the last years a shift, driven by both stakeholder dynamics and a normative change in who is seen as having the authority to make claims over professional best practices, has been noticed. Intergovernmental organizations are composed primarily of sovereign states and are supposed to be public and universal to the entire mankind. A shift towards more private sector-like activities causes a tension between public and private interests.
As we have seen above, consultants have become important to IGOs, and introduce a new ethos of operations, focused on marketable skills and the application of best practice honed from a global marketplace. This has at least two effects. The first is that there is a tension that cuts through IGOs, between ‘rules’ and ‘performance’, with professionals pitted against one another over the basis for professional judgement (experience and expertise v skills/talent and best practice). The second is how institutional memory is valued as a resource for policy development, especially if the gatekeepers of policy design and implementation have migrated from viewing IGOs as bureaucratic entities towards transnational professional networks. Transnational policy clubs also affirm the notion that policy knowledge is best found among those who move easily between public and private sectors (Tsingou, 2015). In these settings consultants can exert significant amounts of influence by determining how best practice standard should be governed (Wright, Sturdy, & Wylie, 2012).
© Taylor and Francis Online, Leonard Seabrooke & Ole Jacob Sending: Contracting development: managerialism and consultants in intergovernmental organizations
The Council of Europe (CoE) is an intergovernmental organization known mostly for its work in favor of human rights, highlighted through the European Court of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. The CoE cannot impose ratification of conventions other than the European Convention on Human Rights. Despite its non-significant policy impact in core issue-areas, a little known fact is that close to 400 private interest groups and NGOs pursue lobbying activity in the CoE and invest considerable resources in so doing. A possible explanation for this is that in policy areas characterised by high levels of uncertainty, decision-makers tend to to a greater extent rely on the advice of expert networks that operate on a value-based rationale. The number of interest groups has grown steadily in the 2000s. The CoE itself notes that civil society constitutes an important element of the democratic process, an alternative way for citizens to participate in the decision-making process. Despite the lack of a clear impact on European policies there is still evidence that principles elaborated at the Council are frequently translated into national and international law. This means that private sector interests as well play a role in the noble CoE.
© Silke M. Trommer & Raj S. Chari: The council of Europe: Interest groups and ideological missions? Taylor & Francis Online
© Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation In The Decision-making Process (Revised), adopted by the Conference of INGOs on 30 October 2019 (Council of Europe)
The European Union (EU) is probably the most known IO to most Europeans. Because of its strong supranational character, the EU is also a quite different organization. The Union excercises far-reaching powers that are directly referred to it from the member states, these are powers that traditionally have belonged to sovereign national states. The EU thus has a far more distinct role for the EU-member states than for instance the UN and its member states.
The EU has been in an economic crisis almost uninterruptedly since the global recession that broke out in 2008. Just like other IOs the EU has sought new, alternative ways to finance its operations, such as giving grants to projects within the EU. For the 2014-2020 multi-annual financial frame two types of financial instruments had been developed: equity/venture capital and debt. Through these instruments the indirect supply of financial resources for investments are being aimed, especially encouraging the participation of private investors among the public ones. The objective of the usage of the innovative financing instruments is to attract private investments which without assistance from these financial instruments might be considered too risky for the private sector.
As a strong supranational organization, the EU, of course, always exerts strong budget influence on all its member countries. With this example we aspire to show the usage of new, more market-based ideas for increasing revenue.
The European Union aims to increase the use of public-private partnership to achieve sustainable economic growth and to respond to the needs of European level, particularly to accelerate the development of transnational infrastructure. Due to the economic and financial crisis caused a decrease in appetite for investment, but also due to risk-averse of the private sector, high value projects and the prolonged period of revenue return, the European Union seeks to give an impulse to public- private partnership projects by financial instruments. Thus, this paper aims to present the most appropriate financial instruments developed by the European Union that can be used in public-private partnership projects and analyze their influence on the use of these projects.
© Zaharioaie Mariana: Appropriate Financial Instruments for Public-Private Partnership in European Union, Procedia Economics and Finance 3 (2012) 800–805.
© Branten Eva, Purju Alari: Innovative Financial Instruments in EU Funding Schemes, Baltic Journal of European Studies, June 2013.