What Is a Supranational?

A supranational organization is an international group or union in which the power and influence of member states transcend national boundaries or interests to share in decision making and vote on issues concerning the collective body. The European Union and the World Trade Organization are both supranational entities. In the EU, each member votes on policy that will affect each member nation. The benefits of this construct are the synergies derived from social and economic policies and a stronger presence on the international stage.

Understanding Supranational

For an organization to be supranational, it must operate in multiple countries. While applicable to multinational corporations, the term is more often used in the context of government entities because they often have regulatory responsibilities within their standard operations. These responsibilities can include the creation of international treaties and standards for international trade.

Although a supranational organization may be highly involved in setting business standards and regulations, it does not necessarily have enforcement authority, which remains with the individual governments with participating businesses. While the focus of most supranational organizations is to ease trade between member nations, the entity may also have political implications or requirements. For example, it may require that all member nations participate in certain political activities, such as public elections for leadership.

[Important: Supranational organizations must operate in multiple countries, but they generally do not have enforcement capabilities].

Special Considerations

In addition to basic trade, supranational organizations may be involved in other activities designed to promote international standards. This can include activities related to food production, such as agriculture and fisheries, and those concerning the environment or energy production.

Supranational organizations may also be involved in education and forms of foreign aid or assistance to countries. Certain organizations are involved in areas with significant political impact on the member nations, including arms, the acceptable treatment of prisoners of war, nuclear power, and other nuclear-development capabilities.

Key Takeaways:

  • A supranational organization allows the member states to have greater power and influence beyond their respective national boundaries.
  • Examples include the EU, UNICEF, WTO, and the Summer and the Winter Olympics.
  • While the focus of most supranational organizations is to ease trade, the entity may also have political implications or requirements.

Example of a Supranational

The best example of a supranational is the EU. The EU has official legislative oversight and elections. In terms of organizations, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is one of the most well-known. Under the umbrella of the UN, UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories for the betterment of children’s lives. Effectively, it was created member nations and is structured to ease and standardize certain activities across international borders.

An example of supranational organizations that are less involved in the regulation of international activities are the Summer and the Winter Olympics, which are controlled by their associated committees. These organizations create the standards for events included in the competition, including the scoring standards. The committee that selects the host city for the Summer and Winter Olympics is made up of international members.

Albert Einstein, following World War II, advocated for a supranational organization that would control military forces. The organization would include the likes of the U.S., Soviet Union, and Great Britain, Einstein suggested. However, such an organization was never formed.

[Fast Fact: The EU was created in the 1940s in response to World Word II to help prevent neighboring countries from warring in the future].