How International Organizations Work: Legal and Practical Aspects

Naveen Farook




Associate Professor of Political Science

Project Summary

This past summer, I was given the opportunity to work with Professor Julia Gray and a research team on her project regarding the vitality of international organizations (IOs). The project involved conducting an analysis on the legal and practical aspects of several international organizations. Through the information gathered, we created a uniform criteria to categorize the performance and activeness of various IOs. The experience of working on this project truly gave me insight into the makings of a successful international organization. IOs sometimes face criticism for not serving their purpose effectively and simply existing at a bureaucratic level. Thus, the experience of looking into individual organizations and finding patterns in structure and activity allowed me to understand the differences between an IO that is both alive and effective and an IO that simply exists.

Throughout the research process, I was able to see firsthand how to carry out research for a topic that does not necessarily follow the same typical scientific process as other projects. With Professor Gray’s guidance, I learned how to take qualitative information such as meeting topics and locations, agreements signed, and member participation and convert it into quantitative data in a spreadsheet. Each IO was examined closely with data following progress throughout many years and our research taking note of major events that created changes in the patterns noticed. The more IOs that I was able to record information on, the more I was able to see the research patterns myself in our data records. For example, I recall recording the information I gathered from articles on ASEAN and Mercosur and seeing a dramatic difference in the activeness of the two organizations. The high volume output of activity and accomplishments from ASEAN seemed to directly correlate with the consistent, frequent meetings that took place between members. Mercosur, however, showed less of an output which could be due to the less frequent meetings and the inability to maintain all its members continuously.

Moving forward, I do believe that participating in this project will allow me to not only conduct my own research in the future, but use the information I discovered in my studies further. IOs are a major aspect of my field of study, International Relations, and research such as Professor Gray’s gives me and others a way to see how international organizations can be a gateway for progress or a deadweight. The experience of working with Professor Gray as a mentor was incredibly rewarding and I am confident that the work I did this summer will help me also contribute something valuable to the field of International Relations.

To see my poster, visit Penn Presents: