International Organizations

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The World is Getting More Organized

Today there are more international organizations than ever before. According to the Yearbook of International Organizations (which also happens to be an international organization) there are over 37500 active ones in 300 countries and territories. And there are more all the time; about 1 200 join the list each year. That’s more than three a day on average.

And there is an address for everything you can imagine and more from the Flat Earth Society to The Association for Dressings & Sauces and the Ejection Tie Club (for pilots who survived being ejected from planes).

The reason for this is obvious: In former times there wasn’t much interaction between countries and most people had no connection with foreigners; it was common for people to live their entire lives in one little village. Not only were there no international organizations there was almost nothing you could call “international ” just the other side of the mountains where people didn’t go.

But the revolution in communications and transportation put people in touch with one another. Today it’s easy to form an organization by phone e-mail or by getting on a plane and going there.

From Gouda to Kugelhopf

Which was the first international organization?

Well according to our research it was the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine created in 1815. After years of war the countries along the Rhine River in Europe — Germany Belgium France The Netherlands and Switzerland — agreed to a set of rules for everyone for using the river without fighting over it.

The Commission still exists today with its headquarters in Strasbourg France. Some of the foods that originate in the region and are shipped along the river’s 722 miles include: Gouda cheese herring pumpernickel Kugelhopf (a cake made with raisins and almonds) fondue (melted cheese with pieces of bread for dipping) and the famous Rhine wines and beers (don’t forget the hechsher!).

This Building Was Built in the Year… MMIV

But if you think about it the idea of an international organization does not necessarily mean a bunch of countries with a central office and a fancy letterhead to coordinate activities. It just means organizing things across national boundaries. And that was going on long before the Rhine Commission.

The greatest example in history of an international organization was the Roman Empire. Mostly we think of Ancient Rome conquering the world (which it did). But there were many conquerors — like the Greeks the Persians the Mongols the Vikings and many others. What enabled Rome to outlast the others (over 1 000 years!) was its organization. Nobody was organized like the Romans.

Of course like anything else there were pros and cons. After taking over a country the Romans would bring in government and law build roads and bridges and keep the peace. For most of the conquered peoples it was their first taste of civilization. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr. Issue 690)

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