How International Organizations Work: Legal and Practical Aspects

Carolina Herrera Figueroa



Associate Professor of Political Science

Project Summary

This summer I worked alongside three other students and was mentored by Professor Julia Gray as we analyzed the effectiveness of international organizations. These organizations are often in place to ensure cooperation among countries in various political and economic areas. The goals of our project included being able to capture the dynamic of international organizations’ success and failure along with creating comparable metrics for comparing organizations. We used NexisUni as our main source of information, it is a database which contains newspapers, press releases and much more. I enjoyed seeing just how much organizations varied in their goals and the rate at which they achieved them. A large part of our project was also accounting for alive, dead, and zombie organizations (those that are still standing but have very few achievements). I personally spent quite some time researching the international organization Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and was able to see how over time it went through all of the three phases, from alive to zombie to eventually dead. It’s zombie state, during which the organization still had all of its members but these did not meet, is what eventually led to its death. Most of the members exited the organization and went ahead to establish the Forum for the Progress and Development of South America. 
Through this project I was able to not only learn about international organizations and their role around the globe, but also how to conduct effective research. NexisUni, the database we used, will be something I will always resort to for future research projects. Learning how I should narrow down search terms was very useful because it helped me avoid irrelevant information and save time, which was key with organizations that had thousands of articles per year. This is the first time I have ever conducted research at this level and it has taught me how to set guidelines to determine what kind of information is actually answering the research question along with how qualitative information can be compared. I am very excited to continue working on this project throughout the academic year and see what the final results may be. I am grateful for this opportunity because it has shown me that it is possible to conduct research in a field that you know nothing about as long as you are willing to put in the work and dedication. 

To see my poster, visit Penn Presents: