The Organisation

TWN is a not-for-profit international policy-oriented research organization founded and established in Malaysia. It is legally known as Third World Network Berhad.  It was incorporated under the Malaysian Companies Act 1965 on 10 August 1987 and is legally registered as a company limited by guarantee and without a share capital. This means that nobody “owns” or has any shares in the organisation. Many research institutions, think tanks, charities and foundations are established in Malaysia under this category of company.

Third World Network (TWN) is governed by its Memorandum of Association and Articles of Association.  These are the main governing instruments and they set out the objectives and activities of TWN.

Non-profit status

TWN is a not-for-profit organization.  The non-profit nature of TWN is reflected in its Memorandum of Association (M&A).

According to Article 4, the income and property of Network shall be applied solely towards the Network’s objectives and no portion shall be paid (through dividend, bonus or profit) to members of the Network, except repayment of out-of-pocket expenses or reasonable remuneration to any officer, member or governor for services actually rendered to the Network.

According to Article 6, if the Network closes down, any remaining property shall not be paid to or distributed among the members of the Network, but shall be given or transferred to some other institution or institutions having similar objectives of the Network, or having charitable objectives.


TWN’s mission is to bring about a greater articulation of the needs and rights of the peoples of developing countries, a fair distribution of world resources, and forms of development that are ecologically sustainable and fulfil human needs. Accordingly, TWN undertakes policy research and analysis, conducts training and capacity building to increase the knowledge and awareness of government decision-makers, civil society organisations and the public. 


The objectives of TWN are as follows, in accordance with its M&A:

(a)    To carry out and promote research and educational activities relating to global economic, social and cultural development especially in relation to developing countries so as to contribute to the understanding of methods of improving welfare, standard of living and quality of life;

(b)    To carry out studies on economic growth, and on past and current developments in the fields of finance, trade, industry, agriculture, transport, services, prices, housing, education, public utilities, culture and in other fields, so as to contribute towards the process of economic and social development, especially in the Third World;

(c)     to prepare and submit various reports and recommendations to governmental and international authorities as well as other institutes and organisations so as to provide them with additional useful materials which can contribute towards formulation of policies relating to the economic and social development of the Third World;

(d)    to sponsor and conduct conferences, seminars, group studies and public lectures about developments affecting the Third World;

(e)    to cooperate with colleges, institutes, academies, research centres, voluntary agencies and other organisations for studies, educational and other activities relating to social and economic development for the benefit of the people in the Third World;

(f)      to promote an awareness of issues related to the Third World in various countries so as to facilitate social and human development.

Secretariat and Board

The international secretariat is based in Penang, Malaysia, with offices in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia); Geneva (Switzerland) (where the work focuses on developments in international organisations including the UNFCCC, WTO, UNCTAD, WHO and WIPO); Delhi (India) and Beijing (China).  There are also staff members in Indonesia, the Philippines and Nepal. Staffers also engage actively on national issues in countries where they are based, in addition to participating in international and regional processes. 

There are currently 45 staff members (part-time and full-time) in the international secretariat and the various offices, with about 70% being women. 

TWN works in cooperation with the government of Malaysia in many areas, including economic issues, the environment (especially climate change), health, consumer issues and foreign affairs, especially South-South cooperation.  TWN also works with government, civil society organisations and researchers in many other countries.

TWN is governed by a Board of Governors, and is also guided by an international group of advisers.  The Chair of the Board is S M Mohamed Idris, a well-known Malaysian community leader who has been in the forefront of and pioneered consumer, environmental and development activities and movements for many decades.                     

Priority areas of work

TWN’s work has three pillars within an over-arching framing of sustainable development. 

1.    Environment:

a)     Climate change: monitoring, research and support to developing countries in various fora including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Green Climate Fund, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

b)     Conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity with a focus on traditional knowledge and community rights; fair and equitable benefit sharing

c)      Biosafety and new/emerging technologies

d)     Ecological agriculture/Agroecology for food security and food sovereignty

2.    Public health

a)     Access to affordable medicines and treatment

b)     Anti-microbial resistance

3.    Economics:

a)     Trade and investment agreements

b)     Developments in the global economy

c)      Intellectual property, technology transfer and sustainable development

Activities include monitoring of global and regional trends, research and publications, information dissemination, participation in intergovernmental negotiations and processes, international/regional/national capacity building workshops. 

TWN is officially affiliated as observer or NGO to several UN bodies, including UNFCCC, CBD, UNCTAD, WTO, WIPO, ECOSOC. 

TWN participates actively including as members of experts groups and formal consultations, in the following United Nations treaties and processes:

a)     United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Protocols:

·         Kyoto Protocol

·         Paris Agreement

b)     Convention on Biological Diversity (since 1992) and its Protocols:

·         Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

·         Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity

c)      UN Sustainable Development Agenda (from Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit 1992 to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and its 17 SDG Goals adopted in 2015 to the ongoing implementation phase)

d)     World Trade Organization

e)     World Health Organization

f)       World Intellectual Property Organization

g)     International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, with  a focus on Farmers’ Rights and access and benefit sharing

h)     Food and Agriculture Organization, with a focus on food security, ecological agriculture and agroecology