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Divergent Paths to Regulating Illicit Economies

When: Tuesday, February 27, 2024
10:00 AM - 11:30 AM CT

Where: Scott Hall, 319, 601 University Place, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Graduate Students

Contact: Ariel Sowers   (847) 491-7454

Group: Department of Political Science

Category: Academic


Please join the Political Science Department, The Commune, and the International Relations Speaker Series as they host Bo Won Kim, Ph.D. candidate at Northwestern University.

Why do international agreements within the same issue area vary drastically in their enforcement? Literature on rational calculations would predict similar outcomes when the institution is designed to manage the same cooperation problem. Yet, institutions created to deal with the same issue of firearms trafficking show varied design outcomes of enforcement. To account for this puzzling divergence in treaty design, I argue that organizational specific norms during negotiations impact the outcome of institutional design. I draw from six months of fieldwork at the United Nations in Vienna, archival documents from the UN and Organization of the American States, and interviews with relevant delegates. I implement cross-case comparisons, and process trace the negotiation history of the OAS convention regulating illicit trafficking of firearms, and the UN Firearms Protocol. I find that negotiation norms shared between delegates shape the outcome of institutional design, allowing even weaker states to leverage such norms to their benefit. This research highlights the agency of individual diplomats and the impact of organizational pathology on international cooperation. It further shows that seeking international legitimacy through consensus could paradoxically diminish the strength of an international treaty, posing a dilemma between consensus and efficacy.

Bo Won Kim is a Ph.D. Candidate at Northwestern University in the Department of Political Science. She researches the politics of international cooperation in areas of global illicit economies, international investment and trade, and international criminal law. During her PhD training at Northwestern University, she was fully funded along with stipend support by the University of Chicago Law School to gain further expertise in law, where she received a Master's degree in Legal Studies.​ Her dissertation project explores the different institutional paths taken to regulate the illicit economies. She focuses on the delegates and their agency, exploring how self-created norms within negotiations impact the outcome of institutional design. The cases analyzed in her dissertation include international institutions which regulate firearms trafficking and drug trafficking. She draws from archival materials, semi-structured interviews with delegates who participated in creating these institutions, and did an embedded fieldwork as an intern to the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime for six months.

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