Project

Overlapping Spheres of Authority and Interface Conflicts in the Global Order (OSAIC)

Goal: The research group, funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), focuses on the rise of interface conflicts within and across overlapping spheres of authority. The increased institutional production of norms in the international realm leads to both horizontal interface conflicts at the same level of governance (e.g. between international institutions) and vertical interface conflicts across different levels (e.g. between international and national authorities). Under which conditions become such conflicts manifest? What are the responses to conflicting norms and rules within and across overlapping spheres of authority? If responses are justified with reference to normative principles, what are these principles and how are they operationalized concretely? What consequences do the different ways of responding to interface conflicts have for the global order as a whole? With these questions, the research group moves beyond the study of issue-area specific international institutions or organizations, and targets the question of the international order understood as a system of overlapping and interacting spheres of authority.

The interdisciplinary research group consists of thematic sub-projects in the fields of international relations and (international) law from Freie Universität Berlin, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (Geneva), Helmut-Schmidt-Universität (Hamburg), Hertie School of Governance (Berlin), Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, University of Potsdam, and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center.

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Project log

Christian Kreuder-Sonnen
added 2 research items
The increasing density and entanglement of international law and institutions leads to a growing potential for collisions between norms and rules emanating from different international institutions. It is an open question, however, when actors actually create manifest conflicts about overlapping norms and rules and how – and with what consequences – such conflicts are handled. We therefore utilize the concept of “interface conflicts” in which two or more actors express positional differences over the scope or prevalence of different international norms. Building on the findings of the DFG research group OSAIC (Overlapping Spheres of Authority and Interface Conflicts), we introduce the Interface Conflicts 1.0 dataset, which assembles information on 78 interface conflicts. The dataset provides information on the actors and norms at stake in interface conflicts and focuses specifically on their subsequent handling. It distinguishes co-operative from non-cooperative conflict management, and codes the institutional as well as distributional outcomes of all management efforts. Drawing on the Interface Conflicts 1.0 dataset, the paper discusses first descriptive statistics regarding the bones of contention in interface conflicts, distributions across types of conflict management, and conflict management effects on the legal and institutional arrangements in the areas at stake. We thus contribute empirical building blocks to debates about global (dis)order and open new avenues for future research.
Sassan Gholiagha
added a research item
To date, there has been little research on how advocacy coalitions influence the dynamic relationships between norms. Addressing norm collisions as a particular type of norm dynamics, we ask if and how advocacy coalitions and the constellations between them bring such norm collisions to the fore. Norm collisions surface in situations in which actors claim that two or more norms are incompatible with each other, promoting different, even opposing, behavioural choices. We examine the effect of advocacy coalition constellations (ACC) on the activation and varying evolution of norm collisions in three issue areas: international drug control, human trafficking, and child labour. These areas have a legally codified prohibitive regime in common. At the same time, they differ with regard to the specific ACC present. Exploiting this variation, we generate insights into how power asymmetries and other characteristics of ACC affect norm collisions across our three issue areas.
Christian Kreuder-Sonnen
added a research item
This chapter offers an International Relations perspective on the fragmented institutional landscape of ocean governance. Drawing on a series of international confrontations about straddling fish stocks – most prominently the EC-Chile swordfish dispute – it traces how fragmentation shapes states’ strategies in achieving their objectives and how these strategies in turn shape the institutional landscape. Even when they are driven by parochial interests, strategies such as competitive regime creation and forum-shopping often develop a constructive dynamic; they function as catalysts for changing laws that are no longer – or have never been – seen as legitimate or effective by the international community.
Daniëlle Flonk
added a research item
We analyse conflicts over norms and institutions in internet governance. In this emerging field, dispute settlement is less institutionalised and conflicts take place at a foundational level. Internet governance features two competing spheres of authority characterised by fundamentally diverging social purposes: A more consolidated liberal sphere emphasises a limited role of the state, private and multistakeholder governance and freedom of speech. A sovereigntist challenger sphere emphasises state control, intergovernmentalism and push against the preponderance of Western institutions and private actors. We trace the activation and evolution of conflict between these spheres with regard to norms and institutions in four instances: the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12), the fifth session of the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts (UNGGE) and the Budapest Convention of the Council of Europe. We observe intense norm collisions, and strategic attempts at competitive regime creation and regime shifting towards intergovernmental structures by the sovereigntist sphere. Despite these aggressive attempts at creating new institutions and norms, the existing internet governance order is still in place. Hence, authority conflicts in global internet governance do not necessarily lead to fragmentation.
Benjamin Faude
added a research item
Institutional overlap emerges not only as an unintended by-product of purposive state action but also as its deliberate result. In two ways, this paper expands existing research on the causes and consequences of institutional overlap. First, we establish that three different types of dissatisfaction may lead states to deliberately create institutional overlap: dissatisfaction with substantive norms and rules, dissatisfaction with decision-making rules and dissatisfaction with the institutional fit of an existing governance arrangement for a given cooperation problem. Each type of dissatisfaction triggers a distinct motivation for the creation of institutional overlap: to induce policy change, to increase influence on collective decision-making or to enhance governance effectiveness. Second, we demonstrate that whereas the motivation to induce policy change leads to interface conflicts, the motivations to increase influence on collective decision-making and to enhance governance effectiveness give rise to inter-institutional coordination. These analytical claims are probed by three empirical cases in global energy governance, the governance of global development banking and global environmental governance.
Sassan Gholiagha
added a research item
This paper puts forward a constructivist-interpretivist approach to interface conflicts that emphasizes how international actors articulate and problematize norm collisions in discursive and social interactions. Our approach is decidedly agency-oriented and follows the Special Issue's interest in how interface conflicts play out at the micro-level. The paper advances several theoretical and methodological propositions on how to identify norm collisions and the conditions under which they become the subject of international debate. Our argument on norm collisions, understood as situations in which actors perceive two norms as incompatible with each other, is threefold. First, we claim that agency matters to the analysis of the emergence, dynamics, management, and effects of norm collisions in international politics. Second, we propose to differentiate between dormant (subjectively perceived) and open norm collisions (intersubjectively shared). Third, we contend that the transition from dormant to open-which we term activation-depends on the existence of certain scope conditions concerning norm quality as well as changes in power structures and actor constellations. Empirically, we study norm collisions in the area of international drug control, presenting the field as one that contains several cases of dormant and open norm collisions, including those that constitute interface conflicts. For our in-depth analysis we have chosen the international discourse on coca leaf chewing. With this case, we not only seek to demonstrate the usefulness of our constructivist-interpretivist approach but also aim to explain under which conditions dormant norm collisions evolve into open collisions and even into interface conflicts.
Christian Kreuder-Sonnen
added a research item
Fragmentation, institutional overlaps, and norm collisions are often seen as fundamental problems for the global (legal) order. Supposedly, they incite conflict and disorder. However, some scholars have also emphasized functional and normative advantages of the resulting institutional pluralism. We argue that the consequences of the increasing international institutional density are conditional on whether and how different norms, institutions, and authorities are coordinated. In distinction from the fragmentation framework in international law and the regime complexity framework in international relations, this introduction outlines an interface conflict framework that enables important insights into this question and guides the contributions assembled in this issue. It zooms in on the micro-level of conflict between actors that justify incompatible positional differences with reference to different international norms. In particular, the concept of interface conflicts allows studying the conditions under which overlaps and norm collisions become activated in conflicts as well as the ways in which such conflicts are handled. Foreshadowing the main findings of the contributions to this Special Issue, we hold that interface conflicts are neither inevitable nor unmanageable. Most importantly, it seems that, more often than not, conflicts stimulate cooperative forms of management and contribute to the building of inter-institutional order.
Christian Kreuder-Sonnen
added a research item
The DFG research group, "Overlapping Spheres of Authority and Interface Conflicts in the Global Order" (OSAIC), focuses on the rise of interface conflicts within and across overlapping spheres of authority. The increased institutional production of norms in the international realm leads to both horizontal interface conflicts at the same level of governance (e.g. across two or more international spheres of authority) and vertical interface conflicts across spheres of authority on different levels (e.g. international and national spheres of authority). Under which conditions become such conflicts manifest? What are the responses to conflicting rules originating from overlapping spheres of authority? To what extent are these responses guided by norma-tive principles? If responses are justified with reference to normative principles, what are these principles and how are they operationalized concretely? What consequences do the different ways of responding to interface conflicts have for the global order as a whole? With these questions, the research group moves beyond the study of issue-area specific international institutions or organizations, and targets the question of the international order understood as a system of overlapping and interacting spheres of authority. In order to answer these questions , the research group proceeds in four steps. First, we utilize different methods for identifying such conflicts in order get a better understanding of the extent and content of interface conflicts. Second, we develop an empirically validated typology capable of grasping systematically the variety of responses to interface conflicts. Third, we use this typology as a basis for explaining variance in the responses to interface conflicts and for analyzing the consequences of different responses for the global political order. Fourth, we seek to reconstruct existing normative practices and develop standards for their evaluation.
Christian Kreuder-Sonnen
added an update
The DFG research group “OSAIC” came together for its first progress workshop at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center on the 9th of October 2017. The main goal of the meeting was to discuss different approaches to and techniques of identifying interface conflicts within and across overlapping spheres of authority. Each of the six project groups presented a first inventory of interface conflicts and their methods employed to establish the cases.
While substantively covering a very diverse set of policy fields, the projects converge toward two basic strategies for identifying interface conflicts: one response-driven, discovering conflicts through the ways they are acted upon (i.e. in judicial forums) and one actor-driven, tracing contradictory normative statements of affected parties and stakeholders. OSAIC’s coordination unit (Z-project) will collect all cases of interface conflicts discovered in the single projects and make them available in a database in the final stages of the group’s research process.
 
Christian Kreuder-Sonnen
added an update
The DFG research group "OSAIC" was officially launched in June 2017. On July 18-19, we came together for a kick-off workshop close to Berlin and discussed fundamental conceptual questions, the research objectives of the single projects, and collaboration within the group.
Our main overarching goals are to provide an inventory of interface conflicts within and across overlapping spheres of authority and to both reconstruct and explain the normative responses to those conflicts.
Conceptual/theoretical progress and first empirical results will be posted here and on www.osaic.eu
 
Christian Kreuder-Sonnen
added a project goal
The research group, funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), focuses on the rise of interface conflicts within and across overlapping spheres of authority. The increased institutional production of norms in the international realm leads to both horizontal interface conflicts at the same level of governance (e.g. between international institutions) and vertical interface conflicts across different levels (e.g. between international and national authorities). Under which conditions become such conflicts manifest? What are the responses to conflicting norms and rules within and across overlapping spheres of authority? If responses are justified with reference to normative principles, what are these principles and how are they operationalized concretely? What consequences do the different ways of responding to interface conflicts have for the global order as a whole? With these questions, the research group moves beyond the study of issue-area specific international institutions or organizations, and targets the question of the international order understood as a system of overlapping and interacting spheres of authority.
The interdisciplinary research group consists of thematic sub-projects in the fields of international relations and (international) law from Freie Universität Berlin, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (Geneva), Helmut-Schmidt-Universität (Hamburg), Hertie School of Governance (Berlin), Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, University of Potsdam, and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center.