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What is a multilateral organization?

Author photo

by Henrik Rydén
COO and Co-founder of Impactpool

When I write articles about impact careers, I use the terms bilateral and multilateral organizations a bit too loosely. In this article, I briefly explain what is a multilateral organization.

A bilateral organization is a government agency providing development assistance such as medical, disaster relief, economic aid, and military support solely for people in developing countries worldwide.

Multilateral organizations (such as the United Nations (UN), International Monetary Fund (IMF)World Bank Group etc) are formed by three or more nations to work on issues of common interest. A multilateral organization is typically established through a treaty, a resolution, or an agreement between the participating member states.

When looking at the Impact sector as a whole, some would argue that multilateral organizations are at the top of the hierarchy and that a multilateral organization is the most prestigious employer you can work for.

But others would instead argue that multilateral organizations are complex roadblocks hindering development progress. They are too ineffective and too political, and they are controlled by a small number of powerful countries protecting their own interests.

In this article, I make no effort to take a stand in that discussion, but rather explain what are some known multilateral organizations. 

Photo of the General Assembly, the heart of global multilateralism. Photo was taken by Avala on Flickr under the license Creative Commons. 

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