by Brian Tomasik
First written: Jan.-Feb. 2014; last update: 24 Oct. 2014

Summary

This page lists organizations around the world that promote international cooperation. I most strongly encourage donations to the future-oriented charities, including Foundational Research Institute and Machine Intelligence Research Institute. I mention other charities as well in case you're approaching a donor who isn't ready for a future-oriented organization, but I think the future-oriented organizations may have several times the per-dollar value of the present-focused ones.

Top recommendations

Further explanation

I listed my top charities at the beginning of this piece because I wanted them to be visible to casual browsers who don't have time for long paragraphs of text. I also wanted to create a visual separation between these charities and the remainder that follow. If I listed the charities all together, I fear that impatient readers who are just quickly browsing around for links that look interesting might skip over the top charities and go to the eye-catching list below them. So instead, I'm separating the top ones away from the rest. Hopefully this will reinforce the point that the top charities really are many times more important in expectation, and the remaining ones are here for completeness and in case you need to recommend a charity that is more mainstream, perhaps because a wealthy donor you know isn't cut out for more speculative projects.

Now I'll talk more about this list. GiveWell has not yet examined the field of charities that work on international cooperation and global governance; the closest they have is a shallow overview of nuclear security. Since I think international cooperation may be one of the most important object-level areas in which to reduce suffering, I have compiled a list of organizations that work in this field and rated them with my own subjective guess of their relative values. These estimates are based on just a few minutes of browsing their website and are not at all rigorous. I'm including them because the best should not be the enemy of the good, and a few minutes of browsing on my part are better than complete ignorance.

My value estimates are based on a general sense of which kinds of activities would best help prevent suffering in the far future. This is different from a GiveWell-style attempt to measure specific results the charities have achieved. Political efforts that save no lives in the short run but set the stage for greater cooperation and norms of nonviolence in the long run may be better than efforts that save lives and prevent conflicts in the near term.

Indeed, future-oriented charities tend to get my top recommendations because I think the far future is systematically undervalued by most people, leading them to focus too much on short-term issues relative to the ethical optimum. Of course, we do need the world in the short term to be stable and set the stage for peace in the long run, but on the margin, there seems too little attention to potentially game-changing developments that the future may hold. Just like speculative, high-risk research in the US military tends on average to pay off vastly more in the end than short-term projects, so the same is true for altruism work. Nick Bostrom makes a similar point in "Managing Existential Risk", and although I'm not concerned with extinction risk per se (but rather only with future suffering), the implications for prioritization are the same.

This list includes organizations that don't accept donations, as well as some that are commercial or governmental bodies rather than charities or foundations. This is because (a) large donors could still theoretically give to non-charities and (b) those organizations are still relevant to people thinking about careers in the field. That said, this is not an exhaustive list of international-relations organizations, publications, or departments. For that, I recommend looking elsewhere, including just web search.

If you have ideas for organizations that I should consider adding to this list, please let me know!

Alphabetical list


A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z

A

B

C

D

E

F

  • Federation of American Scientists

    • Value: 5/100
    • Accepts donations: Yes
    • Programs: Info on numbers, types, and status of nuclear weapons. Project on government secrecy. Arms trade. Biosecurity. Teaching immunology to students. Bringing together scientists from different countries.
    • Notes: Teaching immunology has unclear value. Couldn't that increase bio risks as well as decrease them by teaching more people about biology?
  • Future of Humanity Institute (Wikipedia)

    • Value: 40/100
    • Accepts donations: If large
    • Programs: Global Catastrophic Risk. Applied Epistemology. Human Enhancement. Future Technologies.

G

  • Global Governance Institute (Wikipedia)

    • Value: 3/100
    • Accepts donations: ?
    • Programs: Peace & Security. Environment & Sustainable Development. Global Economy. Forward Studies & Innovation. Global Justice.
    • Notes: The environmental work has downsides, though it seems that in practice a lot of it focuses on climate change and food security. Also, the work on global economy and improving education is not obviously positive because it accelerates risks alongside safeguards.

H

I

J

K

L

M

N

O

P

Q

R

S

T

U

V

W

X

Y

Z