10 International Relations Think Tanks You Should Know

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Think Tanks are policy institutes dedicated to interdisciplinary study with the goal of offering expert advice on a wide variety of policy challenges and solutions by using expert knowledge and leveraging networks. Think Tanks provide publications, reports, and even propose laws on specific policy or societal issues. Governments, industries, news outlets, individuals, social movements, and other interest groups can then utilize these tools to support their objectives. Here are some of the most famous International Relations Think Tanks:

The Earth Institute

The Earth Institute, founded in 1995 at Columbia University, is a think tank dedicated to environmental issues. Its declared objective is to identify significant problems that face the world and its population, with an emphasis on sustainable development. Global warming, geology, public health, finance, administration, agriculture, ecosystems, urbanization, power, hazards, and water studies are all part of their research topics. The Earth Institute’s work is based upon the belief that existing scientific and technological means may be used to significantly enhance the lives of the poor while also protecting the living resources that support life on Earth. Intellectuals, companies, government organizations, charities, and individuals collaborate with Earth Institute experts. Their activities include counseling national countries and the United Nations on topics such as the Millennium Development Goals and sustainable development.

Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung

The Friedrich Ebert Foundation is a German political party institution that is affiliated with, but separate from the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). It is also the biggest and youngest of the German party-affiliated foundations, having been founded in 1925 as the political legacy of Friedrich Ebert – Germany’s first democratically elected President. The Foundation has facilities and activities in over 100 countries but is based in Bonn and Berlin. It is Germany’s oldest organization dedicated to supporting democracy, political awareness, and students with exceptional intellectual and behavioral qualities.

The Heritage Foundation

The Heritage Foundation is a Washington, D.C.-based conservative think tank that focuses on public policy. The Heritage Foundation has been promoting the ideas of free market, limited government, individual liberty, traditional American principles, and a strong military for nearly fifty years. Heritage is famous for publishing an Index of Economic Freedom every year, which assesses a country’s liberty in terms of property rights and freedom from state regulation on a global scale.

European Council on Foreign Relations

Founded in 2007 and comprising facilities in seven European capital cities, the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) is a pan-European think tank. The ECFR provides analysis on European foreign and security policy as well as opportunities for decision-makers, advocates, and leaders to voice their thoughts. ECFR fosters intellectual discussion about Europe’s position in the world and creates alliances for reform at the European level. The European Commission for Foreign Relations has facilities in Berlin, Paris, Madrid, London, Rome, Warsaw, and Sofia. Asia and China, Wider Europe, European Power, and Middle East and North Africa are the four research programs of the think tank. ECFR members also produce policy papers about different topics on a regular basis.

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is a New York-based worldwide non-governmental organization that undertakes human rights investigation and activism. The think tank recognizes the rights of refugees, children, migrants, and political prisoners, putting pressure on governments, politicians, businesses, and individual human rights violators to condemn abuse and uphold human rights. The Human Rights Watch produces research reports on alleged violations of international human rights norms outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and other globally recognized human-rights principles. These findings are being used to attract worldwide attention to human rights violations, while using diplomacy, keeping contact with affected people and providing the appropriate support for them in tough times. Gender-based inequality, torture, military exploitation of minors, government corruption, criminal justice system violations, and abortion legalization are among the issues addressed by Human Rights Watch in its reports.

The Council on Foreign Relations

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) was founded in 1921 and is an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher. The headquarters are in New York City, with a department in Washington, D.C. The Council was a part of key American policies including mutual deterrence, arms control, and nuclear nonproliferation. Foreign Issues, a magazine on international affairs, is published by CFR. It also creates independent task groups, which bring together a diverse group of specialists to publish studies on foreign policy issues that include both data and policy recommendations.

The Cato Institute

The Cato Institute, based in Washington, D.C., is an American libertarian think tank. Cato was founded with the goals of public advocacy, media coverage, and societal impact in mind. The Cato Institute’s political ideology is libertarian, advocating a limited role of the government in domestic and international affairs, as well as significant civil rights safeguarding. This includes advocating for the reduction or elimination of most taxes, disapproval towards the Federal Reserve System, privatization of various government agencies and programs, such as Social Security, the Affordable Care Act, and the United States Postal Service, disarmament of the police, and a non-interventionist international policy.

French Institute of International Relations

The Institut français des relations internationales is a think tank headquartered in Paris, France that focuses on international issues. It was founded in 1979 by Thierry de Montbrial, who was impressed by the research institutes of the United States. IFRI’s mission is to bring together decision-makers and scholars to conduct study and discussion on significant international issues. It’s policy-oriented research attempts to bring attention to major global affairs. It is primarily aimed at political and economic decision-makers, educational establishments, opinion leaders, and civil society representatives.


Horasis is a non-profit international think tank based in Zurich, Switzerland. It is committed to the innovation and development of sustainable developing markets. It was established in 2005 by Frank-Jürgen Richter, a former director of the World Economic Forum. Horasis establishes a framework for collaboration and information exchange, especially between established and emerging economies. The think tank primarily collaborates with businesses, governments, and international organizations, and it frequently acts as a seedbed for new projects. The Horasis Global Meeting, held each year in Cascais, Portugal, brings together corporate leaders, government officials, researchers, and academics to discuss challenges affecting businesses and society. Economic development, innovation, migration, and inequality are common topics of discussion.

Gulf Research Center

The Gulf Research Center (GRC) is a non-partisan, privately financed, education institution, and consultancy think tank focused on the Persian Gulf. The GRC was formed in July 2000 by Abdulaziz Sager, in Jeddah, with current headquarters in Geneva. The focus of the Gulf Research Center is on four multidisciplinary areas: social science study, education, media outlets, and consulting. Social science in the Persian Gulf area, international relations and politics of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members, E-Education, Executive Learning Programs, the GRC E-Library, and the “Gulf in the Media” news site are among the subjects most commonly addressed.