How do international organizations work?



Associate Professor of Political Science

Project Summary

Over the Summer, I participated in the research on International Organizations under the mentorship of Professor Julia Gray of the Department of Political Science. We were trying to address two key questions: What do International Organizations do? What determines the vitality of international organizations? 
This research project is based on a paper previously published by Professor Gray, which contends that International Organizations can be categorized into three main status based on their vitalities: alive, dead, or zombie. Being alive means that such International Organization (IO) meets regularly and can attain its goals or mandates, examples include the NATO and the EU; being dead means that either the IO dismantled or ceased to function; being zombie means that the IO continues to exist but fails to attain its mandates. Building on this, we then investigated the activities of IO and aimed at finding out the factors that would determine the vitality of international organizations. Given the prevalence of IO in our more globalized world nowadays, it is essential to understand these factors for both current and future management of global economic corporations. 
A critical aspect of the project is to research and catalogue the activities of international organizations (regardless of their status) through news archives (Nexis Uni), archives of the international organizations’ websites, and scholarly articles. It was an excellent opportunity to get to know the activities of IO by researching primary and secondary sources. Not only had I learnt more about the different types of international corporations and the different goals and mandates of these IO but also the political and economic history of the countries concerned. In particular, I concentrated on regional economic organizations in West and Southern Africa, as well as South and Southeast Asia. I was excited to learn about the economic structures in and internal conflicts among countries such as Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Burkina Faso, Benin and Niger. It was also a wonderful chance to get to know the potential of emerging markets in Africa when researching the activities of South African Economics Community. 
Throughout my research, I have not only learnt an enormous amount about international organizations but applying quantitative skills to a traditionally qualitative social science field. Aside from the main project, I developed a dataset recording the profiles of Speakers at the United Nations over the year for studying gender representation in IO. Due to the large amount of data at hand, I had to use Python and a data wrangling software named OpenRefine for such a task. As a political science major with a keen interest in the quantitative field, it was amazing to see how my seemingly disconnected interests combined during my PURM experience. 
I am eternally grateful for the opportunity this Summer enabled by PURM’s funding. I am all the more thankful for the unfailing guidance and support from my mentor Prof Gray, who has entrusted me with tasks that helped me grow as a researcher and given me much invaluable advice along the way.