ArticlePDF Available

A theory of emerging order within institutional complexes: How competition among regulatory international institutions leads to institutional adaptation and division of labor

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

The article examines the consequences of functional overlap among regulatory international institutions for governance within institutional complexes. Whereas the existing literature assumes that states tend to exploit forum-shopping opportunities to pursue their parochial interests, we show that multiple members of several overlapping institutions operate in a setting of ‘nested games’. They have a general interest in some form of institutional complementarity within the complex and therefore take the implications for overlapping institutions into account when determining their behavior within either of these institutions. On that basis, we show first that the multiple members are likely to induce complementary processes of institutional adaptation, even if their interests diverge with regard to the specific form of institutional rearrangement; second, that a balanced distribution of power among the advocates of different institutions may be expected to produce particularly sophisticated forms of institutional adaptation that do not simply separate the domains of overlapping institutions, but establish patterns of permanent co-governance; and third that state-induced processes of institutional adaptation gradually produce a spontaneously emerging division of labor among overlapping institutions that organizes their governance activities. These theoretical claims are probed by two case studies on institutional complexes that are characterized by sharp distributional conflicts among the multiple members: First, we demonstrate the emergence of a sophisticated division of labor in the institutional complex on international trade in agricultural GMOs. Second, we show that an equally sophisticated division of labor has emerged in the institutional complex on public health-related intellectual property rights.
Content may be subject to copyright.
A preview of the PDF is not available
... This concept encourages a deeper appreciation of the role of chance in international affairs. The article additionally contributes to the scholarship on inter-organisational relations by demonstrating that international organisations (IOs) influence other IOs not only through competition (Biermann 2008;Gehring and Faude 2014;Clark 2021;Downie 2022), one-off interventions (Margulis 2021), resource exchanges (Brosig 2010;Biermann and Harsch 2017;Petrov et al. 2019) or serving as blueprints or models (Jetschke and Murray 2012;Lenz 2012;Haastrup 2013), but also through the transmission of norms. The empirical contribution is the analysis of how the AU's PoC approaches in peace operations have been shaped by the AU's engagement with the UN. ...
Article
Full-text available
Norms can be adopted without modifications or adapted to regional contexts for strategic or principled reasons. Norm adoption and adaptation can also happen by chance. When adoption takes place without consideration of the norm’s effectiveness or appropriateness, we speak about imitation. When adaptation takes place in such a manner, we lack conceptual tools to analyse it. We propose a novel concept of incidental adaptation – divergence between promoted and adopted norms due to fortuitous events. This completes the typology of scenarios leading to norm adoption and adaptation. We apply the typology to the transmission of the protection of civilians norm in peace operations from the United Nations (UN) to the African Union (AU). The AU adopted the UN’s approaches in pursuit of interoperability and resources, and out of recognition of the UN’s normative authority. It also happened incidentally when the AU temporarily followed the UN’s approaches. The AU engaged in adaptation to reflect the nature of its operations and normative orientations of AU member states. Incidental adaptation accounted for the presence of the rights-based tier in the AU’s protection of civilians concept. These findings nuance our understanding of norm diffusion, inter-organisational relations and the role of chance in international affairs.
... Moreover, fragmentation facilitates flexibility over issues, because it allows states to adapt the norms to distinctively different conditions, or with different coalitions of states in a different forum, which may be especially important if an existing problem has been blocked in one or more institutional settings within the regime complex before, or if new cooperation problems emerge (Keohane & Victor, 2011, p. 14). As a result, fragmentation may result in a division of labor (Gehring & Faude, 2014) or functional differentiation (Henning & Pratt, 2020) between institutions, and permanent patterns of institutional co-governance may emerge. Even more so, institutional complexity may facilitate inter-institutional collaboration, in which information or expertise can be shared between institutions within a regime complex (Eilstrup-Sangiovanni & Westerwinter, 2022, p. 250). ...
Article
Full-text available
Asian waters have been particularly affected by a high number of piracy incidents during the last three decades. Against the backdrop of established international legal frameworks to combat piracy, states have created additional regional fora of cooperation. Existing theoretical contributions on the regime complex of counter-piracy consider this institutional framework to be highly fragmented and regard it as an impediment to effective cooperation, but empirical evidence is yet lacking. To systematically analyze the development of piracy incidents in Asia, I draw on incident data from 2001 to 2021. Results show that the effect of counter-piracy cooperation is indeed not as negative as hypothesized by the regime complex literature. However, a positive effect cannot easily be quantified either. Discussing possible explanations for this finding, I suggest that instead of unorganized fragmentation, counter-piracy governance in Asia may rather be characterized by a functional differentiation between regional cooperation mechanisms, which can be expected to be more conducive to effective cooperation.
... Right now, the sense that global governance is inherently solution seeking helps to explain why international regime complexes can generate hierarchy and deference, and why international regime complexity does not portend disorder (Faude, 2020;Faude & Groβe-Kreul, 2020;Gehring & Faude, 2014;Pratt, 2018). But this focus on an order/ disorder binary also dodges the more fundamental constructivist question of 'how does the global governance problem get defined and limited in the first place?' ...
Article
Full-text available
As the world becomes more complicated, so too does global governance. The political consequences of the rising density of institutions, policies, rules and strategies to address global phenomena has been a central focus of the scholarship on international regime complexity. This conclusion to a special issue grapples with the promise and perils of theorizing about international regime complexity in a constantly evolving world. It discusses the special issue contributions while uniting the different conversations about the increasingly complex global governance space we refer to as international regime complexity. The goal is to bridge existing debates about global governance, to expand the scholarly conversation by drawing from and better connecting to IR debates, and to ensure that we can address practical and pressing global governance challenges.
Article
Why do international organizations (IOs) adopt different arrangements for cooperation? Drawing on the theory of institutional context and the rational theory of international design, I argue that a prior thick institution between IOs, which involves the adjustment of organizational mandates and/or activities, facilitates a decentralized arrangement for their current cooperation by fostering mutual expectations and reducing uncertainty. If the prior institution merely assumes direct combinations of resources and expertise, a centralized arrangement is needed to reduce uncertainty regarding the counterpart IO’s cooperative motive. With archival analysis and extensive interviews with IO staff members, this argument is tested against two empirical cases of inter-organizational cooperation undertaken by the United Nations Environment Program under the Minamata Convention on Mercury. The in-depth analysis reveals how IOs cope with demands and obstacles for inter-organizational cooperation on the ground, which has been largely unexplored in the literature.
Article
While many issue areas of global governance have witnessed the proliferation of evermore overlapping institutions, the topologies underlying regime complexes differ from strongly centralised, to rather decentralised institutional structures. This paper contributes to a better understanding of this phenomenon in two ways. First, it proposes a conceptualisation of institutional topologies that takes a social network perspective. Second, building on economic good theories, the paper complements the existing arguments about policy area competition claiming that they overlooked the important role of the (non-)excludability of institutional benefits. This policy specific variable shapes an institutional complex’s propensity for competition which, in turn, spurs the (de)centralisation of institutional complexes. Two structured comparisons provide empirical support for this argument: comparing the propensities for competition and network structures underlying the institutional complexes of TA and intellectual property protection, I show that despite their many similarities, fundamental differences regarding the excludability of institutional benefits co-vary with fundamentally different institutional configurations. I complement these findings with qualitative case studies of institutionalisation processes in both policy fields rendering further empirical support for the theory’s underlying causal claim.
Article
Multilateral trust funds have become an increasingly prominent funding mechanism in international development. Yet marked differences exist in the extent to which donors support trust funds. In this study, we argue that differential support for trust funds originates in donor domestic politics. Specifically, it results from differences in national bureaucratic rulebooks that incentivise aid officials to support trust funds more or less. Because trust funds place a high premium on performance and results, aid officials from donor countries whose aid bureaucracies are set up to promote performance and results are more likely to support trust funds than their counterparts from aid bureaucracies that are less performance-oriented. We find robust support for differential use of trust funds in terms of incidence of usage, type of preferred fund and outsourcing behaviour, drawing on a data set of World Bank trust funds. Our project contributes to the understanding of international development cooperation by mapping donor political economies to the rise of trust fund usage. We also contribute to a better understanding of the global diffusion of performance-based evaluation.
Article
This article analyses how and when institutional actors can shape overlap with other international organisations. Growing overlap either poses the threat of marginalisation to the incumbent organisation or offers opportunities for cooperation. Institutional actors should therefore be expected to try shape the relations with the overlapping organisation to protect their own. The article theorises that institutional actors can shape overlap if they possess sufficient institutional capacity and face a favourable opportunity structure. Whether institutional actors embrace or resist overlap, in turn, depends on their perception of the nature of the domain expansion of the other international organisation. Relying on 20 interviews with senior officials, the article probes the argument against the case of the growing overlap between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union resulting from the latter’s recent security and defence initiatives. Contrary to most expectations, it finds that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization actors played a consequential role in restructuring the relationship with the European Union.
Article
Recent international relations scholarship has adopted the perspective of organizational ecology (OE) to explore a range of questions related to organizational emergence, strategy, and death. These studies draw attention to organizational competition as the mechanism underpinning important transformations in global governance. We argue that existing work in IR that uses OE has overlooked the importance of another strand of sociological theory that focuses on dynamics of mutualism between organizations. We illustrate the importance of mutualism by focusing on a crucial case: the evolution of different “populations” of organizations working in environmental governance during its critical 1970–1990 period. Our analysis demonstrates that as the environmental consciousness of the 1970s took hold, international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) increasingly captured new resources and stimulated new attention to the issue. Rather than viewing these new actors as competition, existing international organizations (IOs) sought to incorporate and legitimate INGOs, promoting their growth. And in turn, INGOs sought to support and legitimate the activities of the existing IOs, promoting growth of Secretariats and treaties. Our account offers an important organizational-level story that shows that dynamics of mutualism help account for the increased complexity of global governance.
Chapter
Full-text available
Chapter
Full-text available
I will start out with an overview of common assumptions on the impact of free trade on the environment – assumptions which, very much like the first part of Lamy’s statement, are all-encompassing and deterministic. From there, I will narrow down the scope of examination to specific and immediate hardware-to-hardware impacts: akin to the second part of the above statement, the emphasis shall be put on the WTO’s efforts to actively ensure coherence between international trade law and environment regulations. By the same token, I will also take into account the role of countries in these coordinative efforts, which is a third factor named by Lamy. As will be shown, the ongoing deadlock among WTO members on ecological questions has so far prevented a more comprehensive approach, thereby leaving the momentum to the organization’s dispute settlement system. There are currently several ambiguous tendencies in the relationship between WTO law and both domestic and international environmental regulations. With the outcome of these developments still uncertain and a considerable number of proposals at hand, we’re well kept in suspense about the direction which the presumed race to the bottom might finally take. Having affirmed this enduring uncertainty, it is time to bring back to mind that this chapter’s focus on legal overlaps presents but one portion of the highly complex mutual impact between free trade and the global environment. With the future findings of new comprehensive research approaches, especially environmental impact assessments, some of this uncertainty should be transformed into a deeper understanding of the trade-environment nexus.
Book
Cambridge Core - International Trade Law - Global Business Regulation - by John Braithwaite
Chapter
In many issue areas, global governance takes place through a multitude of non-hierarchically ordered forums with different memberships and mandates.1 These forums may complement each other, in the sense that they take up different but related aspects of an issue, or they may overlap, dealing with the same aspects of an issue. The various forums that are active in a given issue area are likely to differ in terms of publicness, delegation and inclusiveness, the three dimensions that form the framework for analysis in this book. Consequently, international governance can only properly be understood by analysing the interrelationships and dynamics between these various forums.
Chapter
Biotechnology is a revolutionary technology. It offers humanity the power to change the characteristics of living organisms by transferring the genetic information from one organism, across species boundaries, into another organism. These solutions continue the tradition of selection and improvement of cultivated crops and livestock developed over the centuries. However, biotechnology identifies desirable traits more quickly and accurately than conventional plant and livestock breeding and allows gene transfers impossible with traditional breeding. The use of biotechnology in sectors such as agriculture and medicine has produced a growing number of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and products derived from them. Changing the characteristics of organisms may provide benefits to society, including new drugs and enhanced plant varieties and food. However, biotechnology does not come without risks and uncertainty. Its potential effects on the environment, human health and food security are being actively debated at the national and international levels. Countries’ positions depend ...