1. How to Get Started?
2. What Is Science Diplomacy?
3. Who Are the Science Diplomacy Stakeholders?
4. How Does the EU Practice Science Diplomacy?
5. What Are the National, Regional and Thematic Approaches of Science Diplomacy?
6. What Set of Skills Do I Need to Be a Good Science Diplomat?
7. Hands On! Case Studies
8. How Can You Dive Deeper into Science Diplomacy?
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3.2.2 Intergovernmental and Supranational Stakeholders

The impact of intergovernmental and supranational stakeholders on international relations has been increasing for decades, and so is their influence in science diplomacy, diplomatic summits and foreign policy goals.

In this topic we will cover those trans- and supranational stakeholders that are directly involved in global governance. In our taxonomy, international Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) would fall within the category of civil society organisations. In addition, international research performing organisations, e. g. large research infrastructures with an intergovernment international governance, would fall within the category of research and academic stakeholders.

Intergovernmental organisations are composed of multiple public entities. The governance framework and scope of these international organisations are based on the establishment of intergovernmental agreements. They are international organisations set up and steered by states, sometimes with involvement of other international organisations whose voice counts state-like.

Supranational stakeholders refer to the process of integration of different nation states under the umbrella of a supranational entity actively transferring part of their sovereignty and ensuring coordination and implementation of common policies in all states. The paramount current example is the European Union and is covered in this topic, but it will be developed further in Module 4. How Does the EU Practice Science Diplomacy?.

Both stakeholders especially reach a crucial dimension in science diplomacy when addressing sub-global and global interests/challenges, which both require putting forward international policies to raise awareness and get many nation states and other stakeholders involved and collaborating with each other.

Explore the tabs below to learn more about these stakeholders!

International Stakeholders

An Intergovernmental Organisation (IGO), also referred to as international organisation, is an organisation established by a treaty, agreement or any other instrument under international law, and often possessing international legal status. They are mostly composed of sovereign nation states, but other international actors may be also involved.

There are many different criteria to group international organisations. From the number of members (universal, if unlimited; regional, if limited) to many different groups depending on their scope, area of influence, governance framework, etc.

Traditional examples of international organisations are the United Nations (UN), UNESCO as one of its 17 specialised agencies, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Trade Organization (WTO).

All these organisations have divisions or projects related to science diplomacy even though sometimes they will not be identified as such. For instance, UNESCO plays an important role in the field of science diplomacy (see here), within their Science, Policy and Society department based on UNESCO’s universal mandate for science for peace and development since 1946. UNESCO has been key in creating:

Main interests

Intergovernmental Stakeholders’ main role is helping to set the international agenda, mediating political negotiations, providing a forum for political initiatives and catalysing international cooperation and collaboration among members.

In fact, a common goal for all international organisations is that they do not seek the particular interest of one of their members, but the common interests of their stakeholders.

Their objectives, goals or interests are properly addressed in their foundational mandate or agreement.

In science diplomacy they are fundamental in establishing a global agenda for common policy goals such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030, which triggers policy implementation and cooperation among many different countries and stakeholders.

Specific regions such as the Mediterranean, Antarctica, or the Middle-East have certain needs and demands that make different national governments establish joint partnerships and institutions to execute science diplomacy actions. Regional international stakeholders are key to foster diplomatic ties and collaboration in general and also scientific cooperation in particular between scientific members, to tackle regional challenges. The Union for the Mediterranean is one example that brings together 43 countries to promote dialogue and cooperation in the Euro-Mediterranean region around human and sustainable development. You may see below a video with detailed explanation.

Main challenges

International organisations are complex entities due to their governance frameworks. These usually comprise a governing council — which is the decision-maker, holds the executive power and represents the will of all members; a secretariat — the administrative body; and a general assembly that provides advice and exerts control but without legislative power; among some additional committees.

The balance of power among members in these structures may cause challenges for policy negotiations and reaching agreements.

Their relations with nation states are subject to changing scenarios due to political cycles and international relation approaches. Some countries want to advance in transnationalism giving more power and influence to these structures; some other countries prefer more protectionism wanting to retain their borders and power in the international scene.

What the experts think

Learn below from our experts who tell you about intergovernmental stakeholders in science diplomacy and delve into their role and mission.

Peter McGrath

Peter McGrath

Coordinator of the Science Diplomacy Programme in The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS)

What are the main stakeholders in science diplomacy internationally?


Miguel García-Herráiz Roobaert

Deputy Directorate General for EU External Relations and Trade, Secretariat of State for EU Affairs, Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, European Union, and Cooperation

What is the Union for the Mediterranean? How does it relate to science diplomacy?

Supranational Stakeholders

A supranational organisation is a type of international groups or unions where member states transfer part of their sovereignty in order to share the process of decision making and vote on issues related to the collective body.

The European Union is a paramount example of the process of political integration between member states, with their governments (represented in the Council of the European Union) and their citizens (represented by elected members of the European Parliament) that co-decide on policies, mostly proposed and executed by the European Commission. In the EU, all members decide (Council) and vote (Council and Parliament) on policies that will affect national and subnational levels. The benefits of this polity are the synergies derived from social and economic policies and a stronger presence on the international stage, while the depth of European integration varies according to policy fields.

Science diplomacy is a crucial tool to address cross-border and global interests. Thus, supranational organisations are also needed to support these regional and global interests. We will devote more attention to the European Union and its institutions in Module 4 How Does the European Union Practice Science Diplomacy?

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