How International Organizations Work?

Hannah Norman




Associate Professor of Political Science

Project Summary

My PURM work this summer focused on international organizations, specifically the vitality of international economic organizations, and factors contributing to their vitality or lack thereof. This was under the mentorship of Professor Julia Gray, and was based on her paper “Life, Death or Zombie? The Vitality of International Organizations”, which categorizes IOs as alive, meaning they progress towards their mandates, dead, or ‘zombies’, meaning they are technically operative but fail to make progress towards their goals. This summer I was primarily updating data collected on organizations from 2013-2020, including data on the Southern African Customs Union, Southern African Development Community, and the Economic Community of Central African States, as well as finding data from initial years of an IOs operations, which tended to be minimally documented. This involved reading news articles sourced from Nexis Uni and entering data on IO meetings and activities into timelines and spreadsheets, which can be used to determine the operations and progress of various IOs.

It was fascinating to explore the factors which impacted the vitality and operations of various international economic organizations. While some were internal, such as the autonomy of the secretariat or the budget of the IO, many factors were outside the control of the IO itself, for example, political disputes between member states or military conflicts in the region.

Towards the end of the summer, I also did some work regarding legal immunities granted to IOs, which investigated what legal immunities countries grant to IOs, and how this impacts their operations. This project was valuable in learning how to search through a wide variety of resources in different languages and contexts, as information for some organizations was difficult to find or only available in other languages.

My participation in PURM this summer solidified my interest in International Relations, and led me to decide that I will likely be majoring in IR. In addition, I appreciated the opportunity to learn about research in the social sciences, as this was not something I was previously familiar with.

To see my poster, visit Penn Presents: