ArticlePDF Available


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.
Global Constitutionalism (2020), 9:2, 241267 ©Cambridge University Press, 2020. This is an Open Access
article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (
licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited.
After fragmentation: Norm collisions, interface
conicts, and conict management
christian kreuder-sonnen
Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Carl-Zeiss-Str. 3, 07743 Jena, Germany
michael zu
WZB Berlin Social Science Center, Reichpietschufer 50, 10785 Berlin, Germany
Abstract: Fragmentation, institutional overlaps, and norm collisions are often seen
as fundamental problems for the global (legal) order. Supposedly, they incite conict
and disorder. However, some scholars have also emphasised functional and norma-
tive advantages of the resulting institutional pluralism. We argue that the conse-
quences 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 inter-
face conict framework that enables important insights into this question and guides
the contributions assembled in this issue. It zooms in on the micro-level of conict
between actors that justify incompatible positional differences with reference to
different international norms. In particular, the concept of interface conicts allows
studying the conditions under which overlaps and norm collisions become activated
in conicts as well as the ways in which such conicts are handled. Foreshadowing the
main ndings of the contributions to this Special Issue, we hold that interface conicts
are neither inevitable nor unmanageable. Most importantly, it seems that, more often
than not, conicts stimulate cooperative forms of management and contribute to the
building of inter-institutional order.
Keywords: fragmentation; coordination; global order; institutional den-
sity; international institutions; regime complexity
I. Introduction
In the rst decade of the twenty-rst century, the number of international
organisations (IOs) (Drezner 2013: 284) and transnational institutions
(Tallberg et al. 2013), the amount of international authority (Zürn et al.
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
2015; Hooghe et al. 2017), and the count of international treaties and
agreements (Pauwelyn et al. 2014; Hathaway and Shapiro 2017) have
reached all-time highs. The rise of transnational and international norms
and rules has caused two challenges for global governance. Externally, the
growing relevance of international and transnational institutions has given
rise to social forces that defend national sovereignty against intrusions by
cosmopolitan elites holding power in these institutions. Internally, it has
created an increasing institutional density in the international system
(e.g. Raustiala 2013: 296),
by which both collisions between norms or
rules at the international level (horizontally) and between international and
national ones (vertically) become more likely. This Special Issue focuses on
the internal challenge to global governance.
While approaching questions relating to institutional density and norm
collisions from two different normative vs. descriptive angles, scholar-
ship in both international law and international relations (IR) tends to be
pessimistic about their effects (see Faude and Gehring 2017 for an over-
view). On the one hand, the focus of international lawyers has mainly been
on the fragmentation of international law that arguably undermines the
unity of the international legal system. It is seen as an antipode to the
constitutionalisation of international law that promises legal certainty and
thus allows for the development of an international rule of law (Benvenisti
and Downs 2007; Dunoff and Trachtman 2009; Klabbers et al. 2009). On
the other hand, studies in IR have mostly revolved around the notion of
regime complexity and highlighted the possibilities for states to engage in
cross-institutional strategising in this context (Alter and Meunier 2009). The
prevailing assessment is that overlapping institutions are a source of conict
(e.g. Margulis 2013) and that statesincreased ability to resort to forum
shopping or regime shifting to further their goals undermines the law-based
international order (Drezner 2013; Gómez-Mera 2016).
However, scholars of both disciplines have also pointed out that the
process of constitutionalisation is inherently contested, implying that contes-
tation across legal spheres doesnot (necessarily) descend into conict but can
productively produce new institutions atthe domestic and global level(Lang
and Wiener 2017:4;seealsoTehanet al. 2017). In our view, the conse-
quences of the growing institutional density for global order are thus far from
established (see also Peters 2017; Meggido 2019). As we argue in this Special
Issue, the question of how the existence of multiple, non-hierarchically
ordered sites of political and judicial authority affects the constitutional
The degree of institutional density can be inferred from the number of operative organi-
sations (population) as well as the size of the space occupied by the institutions (area)(Clarke
2019: 699).
242 christian kreuder-sonnen and michael zu
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
of the global order depends on a) whether and when overlaps or
norm collisions lead to actual conicts between actors, and b) whether and
how such conicts are managed. It is the (lacking) coordination between
different norms, rules, and authorities that poses a problem, not the number
of norm collisions or institutional overlaps. The constitutionality of gover-
nance systems needs to be addressed by looking at the quality of conict
management between different norms and authorities, not by assessing the
degree of institutional differentiation (Zürn and Faude 2013).
To study these questions, the Special Issue introduces an interface conict
framework as a research programme that puts the focus on the micro-level of
conicts between actors who refer to different international norms. We
introduce our perspective in distinction from the fragmentation framework,
which primarily works on the macro-level and is order-oriented, and the
regime complexity framework, which works on the meso-level and is
problem-solving oriented. With the shift to the micro-level of conict, we,
rst of all, reorient the focus from norm incompatibility identied by
observers to conicts identied by actors states, non-governmental orga-
nisations (NGOs), IOs, etc. who justify their position with reference to
different international norms. We thus differentiate between an externalist
and an internalist approach. In legal as well as political science scholarship,
there is a preponderance of the externalist approach by which the relation-
ship of norms and rules is determined from the outside, that is, based on the
researchers analysis of the compatibility of the norms and rules in question.
By contrast, we seek to foreground an internalist approach that looks at the
perceptions and behaviour of actors involved in the respective governance
elds to trace the activation of norm collisions and analyse positional
differences between actors on the relationship of norms and rules. Our core
unit of analysis is what we term interface conicts: incompatible positional
differences between actors about the prevalence of different international
norms or rules. We want to understand when, why, and how overlaps and
norm collisions are seen, used, and abused by the actors of world politics.
Secondly, the interface conict framework directs attention to the
management of interface conicts (see also Zelli 2011; Peters 2017). The
type and outcome of conict management are decisive to determine the
consequences of institutional density. On the one hand, if conict manage-
ment is outright refused by the actors or if positional differences play out in
To be sure, we do not assume that the global order currently is or ever has been constitu-
tionalised. Instead, we assume that every political order can exhibit greater or lesser constitutional
qualities. A fragmented order based on arbitrary rule is of lower constitutional quality, for
instance, than an integrated order based on the rule of law. The orders constitutional quality
thus is an empirical question and we inquire how it is affected by the activation and management
of interface conicts.
Norm collisions, interface conicts, and conict management 243
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
the absence or disregard of procedural rules and thus lead to purely
power-based outcomes, the expectation of fragmentation is vindicated; on
the other, if conict management follows procedural rules and produces
secondary norms to avoid or handle interface conicts in the future, it
contributes to the creation of a coordinated inter-institutional order.
Depending on the normative underpinnings of this order, its global consti-
tutionalist aspirations can be more or less pronounced.
This micro-level perspective adopted in the contributions to this Special
Issue enables some important insights and ndings. Most importantly,
institutional overlaps and norm-collisions do not necessarily lead to frag-
mentation of or chaos in the international order. This is so for two main
reasons. First, not all institutional overlaps or norm collisions get trans-
formed into interface conicts. Many institutional overlaps and colliding
norms can co-exist more or less silently without stirring conict among
actors. Their activation in interface conicts most often is politically moti-
vated and not an inevitable side effect of institutional density (see, in
particular, Gholiagha et al., this issue). In some cases, we even see active
attempts to prevent interface conicts through pre-emptive coordination
(Faude and Fuß, this issue).
The second reason points to the importance of conict management. Even
where interface conicts are activated, they do not necessarily have desta-
bilising effects on international law and order. Instead, some form of
cooperative conict management either mitigates negative effects or even
generates new norms that at times come close to secondary norms
(Birkenkötter, this issue; Krisch et al., this issue). Of the cases analysed in
this Special Issue, none stands for a fully non-cooperative orientation in the
management of interface conicts. While the contributions show a broad
variety of often decentralised and ad hoc forms of conict management, the
terms of settlement are regularly norm- and order-generative rather than
undermining. This nding may cause some optimism from a global consti-
tutionalist perspective. However, the contributions also highlight that the
normative substance of the nascent inter-institutional order remains highly
contested and is in no way predetermined to reect liberal values (see Moe
and Geis, this issue; Flonk et al., this issue). Moreover, the normative quality
of conict management varies signicantly and depends to some extent on
the type of conict.
In section II of this introductory contribution, we outline the analytical
perspectives of fragmentation and regime complexity, and point to some
limitations and blind spots in the accounts adopting those frameworks. In
section III, we present our interface conict framework. It introduces our
core unit of analysis, namely interface conicts, as those conicts in which
actors bring to bear norms or rules against each other and spells out the
244 christian kreuder-sonnen and michael zu
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
implications of an internalist approach to the identication of interface
conicts. Furthermore, it describes our understanding of global governance
as a system of loosely coupled spheres of authority, which allows for the
distinction of interface conicts that are rooted in one and the same or two
different spheres of authority. On that basis, we describe a research pro-
gramme centred on the conditions for and the shape of governance efforts to
pre-empt or manage those conicts. In each of the subsections, we discuss
some of the ndings by the contributors. In section IV, we then provide a
road map and present the contributions to this Special Issue.
II. Existing frameworks: Fragmentation and regime complexity
International law scholars have predominantly analysed norm collisions
through the lens of fragmentation that focuses on the macro-level of the
international legal system, whereas political science contributions have
adopted the conceptual perspective of regime complexity to look at meso-
level phenomena of sectoral institutions. We briey outline both approaches
in turn and then point to some overarching problems and blind spots that an
interface conict framework operating at the micro-level is apt to address.
The fragmentation framework
The notion of fragmentation of international law refers to both the process
and the result of the expansion and diversication of international law in a
non-hierarchically integrated manner (Martineau 2016). The post-Cold
War proliferation of international institutions in particular, the rise of
numerous (quasi-)judicial dispute settlement bodies responsible for deter-
mining norms of international law within their specialised subelds led to
the perception of jurisdictional overlaps and tensions between divergent
interpretations of general international law (Charney 1998). Given the
absence of a central global legislator or a single global court of appeal, there
is no mechanism for the hierarchical coordination of diverse international
legal regimes. In the light of emergent inter-jurisdictional struggles, fears
were expressed that this could undermine the coherence of the international
legal system. Against this background, the International Law Commission
(ILC) initiated a study group on the fragmentation of international law,
headed by Martti Koskenniemi (ILC 2006).
The debate about fragmentation among international lawyers is focused on
the macro-level of the international legal order as a whole. In particular,
scholarly contributions aim to assess the consequences of fragmentation for
the functioning and normative structure of international law and, on that
basis, formulate ideas for how to encounter the phenomenon. More often
Norm collisions, interface conicts, and conict management 245
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
than not, these ideas take the form of structural visions where fragmentation
is considered as a given challenge that requires a response on the level of the
international legal system. There are three different camps with three different
responses: constitutionalists, constitutional pluralists, and legal pluralists.
Especially for global constitutionalists, the fragmentation of international
law is inherently problematic. The potential of conicts and incompatibil-
ities between separate legal obligations is seen to undercut the normative
integrity of the international legal system. Specically, it risks losses of legal
certainty as an element of the international rule of law by reducing the
predictability and reliability of law application(Peters 2017: 679; see also
Crawford and Nevill 2012). As Peters (2017: 680) puts it, at the bottom of
the fragmentation debate lies a concern for a loss of legitimacy in interna-
tional law, a loss which will ultimately threaten the laws very existence. The
global constitutionalist response to this predicament is to aspire to a hier-
archically structured legal system with an institutionalised nal authority
imposing a set of superior substantive norms (Dunoff and Trachtman 2009;
Fassbender 2009; Habermas 2008). The assumption is that constitutiona-
lising international law could thus reinstate legal coherence and certainty. By
contrast, constitutional pluralists highlight certain benets of decentralised
governance systems, especially their capacity for exible adaptation, the
possibility of contestation, and the introduction of checks and balances
(Krisch 2010:7889; see also Kumm 2009). Global legal pluralists even
go a step further and see the fragmentation of international law as inherently
desirable as it creates both a source of innovation and a site of discourse
among multiple community afliations(Berman 2007: 321). It then works
in the form of heterarchical interactions between different function systems
(Fischer-Lescano and Teubner 2004).
Another strand in the fragmentation literature is less concerned with
developing normative theories to (re-)construct the global legal order.
Instead, it deals with the more concrete question of how to immediately
deal with overlaps and potential conicts between international norms
(Pauwelyn 2003) or international authorities (Shany 2003). Here, conicts
are conceived as legal inconsistencies or overlapping claims to jurisdiction
that can and need to be resolved by way of legal techniques (ILC 2006).
Contributions to this debate thus mostly search for the best legal solutions to
collisions within and between branches of international law, such as rules of
lex specialis or lex posteriori and approaches rooted in private international
law (e.g. Broude and Shany 2011; Michaels and Pauwelyn 2011). While the
normative prescriptions are at times formulated with respect to specic legal
regimes such as the trade-and-…’ nexuses and thus operate on a more
sectoral meso-level, the proposed solutions are still very often generally
246 christian kreuder-sonnen and michael zu
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
applicable formulas devised with a view to the frictionless functioning of the
international legal order as a whole.
The fragmentation framework has much strength and inspired a research
programme that provided multiple new insights into the evolution and nor-
mative structure of the international legal system characterised by overlapping
and partially competing claims to authority. In particular, its macro-perspective
on problems at the level of the global political system has highlighted the
possibility of collisions between regimes that stand for fundamentally different
goals such as free trade and environmental protection (see Young 2011;Blome
et al. 2016). We embrace this notion of the global governance system as
consisting of different normative spheres that stand in an interdependent yet
non-hierarchical relationship with each other (Zürn 2018).
The regime complexity framework
In parallel to the fragmentation debate in international law, the growing
institutional proliferation and density at the international level also led IR
scholars to go beyond their previous focus on single and separate interna-
tional institutions to analyse interactions between institutions with over-
lapping regulatory functions.
In this context, Raustiala and Victor (2004)
coined the term regime complexto denote a set of non-hierarchical insti-
tutions with partially overlapping jurisdictions that govern a particular issue
area or subject matter. In their initial study, for example, Raustiala and
Victor analysed the regime complex for plant genetic resources, that is, the
interplay of different institutions such as the World Intellectual Property
Organization (WIPO), the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellec-
tual Property Rights (TRIPS), and the United Nations (UN) Convention on
Biological Diversity, speaking to the problem of property rights for plant
genetic resources (ibid: 2834).
The concept of a regime complex stresses three necessary features (Alter
and Meunier 2009; Keohane and Victor 2011; Orsini et al. 2013; Zelli 2011;
Alter and Raustiala 2018): (1) two or more separately created elemental
institutions with (2) overlapping membership (Hofmann 2011), that
(3) speak to the same issue area, problem, or subject matter. On this basis,
scholars have increasingly analysed the governance of a given problem or
subject matter by mapping the complex of international and transnational
agreements, their interplay, and how the interplay affected outcomes, with a
view to the problem-solving capacity of inter-state cooperation. While
regime complexity may also be seen as a systemic feature of world politics,
It should be added, however, that the original regime framework already allowed looking at
different IOs governing one issue area.
Norm collisions, interface conicts, and conict management 247
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
regime complexes as understood in this literature operate at a meso-level of
societal organisation, not at the macro-level of the global governance system
as a whole (see also Faude and Gehring 2017: 186).
One key question addressed in the regime complexity literature is how
regime complexes are structured and how their structure impacts the
problem-solving capacities regarding the respective issue. Here, most con-
tributions have taken given issue areas or governance problems as starting
points to map the web of inter- and transnational institutions that overlap in
their claims to authority regarding the regulation of issues such as climate
change (Keohane and Victor 2011; Abbott 2012), security (Hofmann
2011), global refugees (Betts 2009), or intellectual property rights (Helfer
2009). As a consequence, the literature has mostly focused on interactions
between institutions rooted in one and the same issue area. Studies about the
tradeenvironment nexus are the most notable exception in this regard
(e.g. Eckersley 2004; Biermann et al. 2009; Zelli et al. 2013).
In terms of
assessment, these contributions are thus predominantly concerned with the
functionality of the regime complex for solving the problem(s) around
which the elemental institutions converge (see Keohane and Victor 2011;
de Búrca et al. 2014).
The second main question concerns the effects of regime complexity for
strategic interactions. Here, the gist of the literature is that the existence of
multiple and overlapping institutions in an issue area create new options for
states and non-state actors to pursue their interests. On the one hand, it
opens the possibility of institutional choice (Jupille et al. 2013). In an
institutional setting with overlapping claims to regulatory authority, the
rule-addressees may engage in forum shopping to circumvent costly obliga-
tions or foster favourable decisions on specic questions in their interest
(Busch 2007). On the other hand, it also enables actor coalitions that are
dissatised with an existing institution to shift the focus of their activity to a
challenging institution with different rules and practices(Morse and Keo-
hane 2014: 388). This practice is referred to as regime shifting (Helfer 2009)
or more broadly as contested multilateralism (Morse and Keohane 2014;
Kreuder-Sonnen and Zangl 2016)orcounter-institutionalization (Zürn
2018: Ch 7).
On that basis, the literature has so far tended to stress the
Somewhat ironically, another prominent exception is the original study by Raustiala and
Victor (2004), who analysed overlaps between institutions rooted in different issue areas and with
divergent social purposes, namely trade (focusing on the protection of intellectual property) and
biodiversity (focusing on the protection of natural resources).
These concepts also include cases of competitive regime creation in which dissatised actors
rst establish the alternative institution to which they then shift their focus. However, this is not a
structural effect of regime complexes because it does not presuppose a preexisting institutional
248 christian kreuder-sonnen and michael zu
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
problems created by regime complexity for an international order based on
law. Arguably, it propels a shift from law-based to power-based outcomes
by providing powerful states with additional opportunities to pursue their
parochial interests through inter-institutional strategising (Drezner 2013;
see also Faude and Gehring 2017: 187).
To sum up, the regime complexity framework has produced a rich
research programme on the meso-level of global governance arrangements
in the connes of single issue areas or subject matters. Research in this
tradition is predominantly centred on the question of either the effects of
regime complexes on problem-solving capacities or the strategic opportu-
nities they open for actors. Such an approach is valid and important to
understand the effects of institutional interplay for problem solving and
distributional effects.
Shortcomings: The need for a micro-level approach
While both frameworks outlined above have spurred a rich and insightful
research programme, they also have some limitations and blind spots. Most
importantly, they have largely worked on assumptions of inconsistency or
complementarity between the norms that overlapping institutions embody.
Much less attention has been paid to the question of what actually happens
at the interface of the fragments that compose the international legal system
or between the elemental institutions that compose a regime complex. Do
overlaps really result in interface conicts? If yes, when? And how, if at all,
are colliding norm sets handled empirically? We suppose that the neglect of
these questions is tied to a second problem of both the fragmentation and the
regime complexity framework, namely their reliance on an externalist
approach to the identication of normative incongruence. That is, whether
an overlap exists and whether it is conictual or not is determined by the
researchers from the outside, mostly relying on legal analyses. However, it is
possible that actors see or construct norm collisions where analysts do not,
and it is possible that analysts see conicting norms, but actors do not. In our
perspective, institutional overlap constitutes a problem only to the extent
that at least one collective social actor (interest group, civil society organi-
sation, state, or IO) challenges the validity or interpretation of an interna-
tional norm or rule by referring to the prevalence of another norm or rule.
Conicts need to become activated via contestations in practice or speech
acts. Such a focus on the actorsown perception or construction of norma-
tive incompatibility is at the core of our internalist approach to the identi-
cation of conict.
The concentration on the handling of actorspositional differences at the
interstices of legal fragments or elemental institutions not only highlights a
Norm collisions, interface conicts, and conict management 249
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
different element of the phenomenon, but it also represents a missing link for
answering key questions in the original debates on fragmentation and
regime complexity. Only if we know how conicts are dealt with that is,
if and how they are managed can we understand and demonstrate the
mechanisms by which the deliberate or unintentional creation of institu-
tional overlaps translates into eventually harmful or benecial conditions
for the international order and for explaining strategic interactions therein.
As Michaels and Pauwelyn (2011: 31) put it: Whether international law
behaves like a system or not is in no small part determined by the very way in
which relations between rules are handled.Moreover, answers to these
questions are necessary to determine the empirical conditions upon which
the normative visions for the global legal order are to be based. Where the
system of international law is headed that is, in a more constitutionalist or
a more pluralist direction and what normative response it should give rise
to depends on comparative empirical analyses at the micro-level of conicts,
of which we assemble an initial batch in this Special Issue. By doing so, we
contribute to a newly emerging literature that says farewell to fragmenta-
tion(Andenas and Bjorge 2015) as the structural concept of interest and
puts emphasis on the ways in which courts, tribunals, and other actors have
developed legal and political techniques to coordinate the different subelds
of international law (Peters 2017; Meggido 2019).
III. The interface conict framework
In contrast to the macro-level approach of the fragmentation framework
and the meso-level approach of the regime complexity framework, our
interface conict framework zooms in on the micro-level of conict between
actors. We foreground questions relating to how actors perceive or even
construct norm inconsistencies, to whether and when they avoid or enter
into open conict over the prevalence of overlapping norms, and to if and
how such conicts are managed.
It thus provides the basis for an integrated
and inter-disciplinary research programme on institutionalised cooperation
after fragmentation.
In the remainder of this introduction, we develop the analytical model
underlying the interface conict framework that the contributions to this
Special Issue ll with life. Figure 1 sketches the model in a schematic fashion.
It consists of a sequence of variables or concepts that we assume to be
In our endeavour to study the avoidance and management of norm-collisions, we build on
and contribute to related literature on interplay management, which refers to the conscious
efforts by any relevant actor or group of actors, in whatever form or forum, to address and
improve institutional interaction and its effects(Oberthür and Stokke 2011: 6).
250 christian kreuder-sonnen and michael zu
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
causally linked. It starts with institutional overlap and norm collisions and,
through conict activation and conict management, leads to effects on
global order. While the order of variables in the chain is logically deter-
mined, we accept that in real-world cases some steps in the causal chain can
be circumvented. For instance, norm collisions or institutional overlap can
incite (pre-emptive) conict management without rst creating an open
interface conict and some interface conicts may directly affect the global
order without running through conict management. We spell out the
relationship of these concepts more fully in the following sections and
highlight some of the main ndings in the contributions.
Core concepts
The central concept around which our framework revolves is that of interface
conicts. It denotes those norm collisions beyond the nation state that are
perceived or constructed by actors and expressed in positional differences.
We are interested in the causes of interface conicts and in their consequences.
Interface conicts can thus be both an analytical starting and end point. They
represent a starting point inasmuch as we are interested in how interface
conicts are acted upon that is, if and how they are managed and what
consequences the conict management has on the global order. On the other
hand, they are also end points to the extent that we inquire into the conditions
under which interface conicts come about or can be avoided.
In order to approach these questions, it is rst of all necessary to develop a
clear-cut conceptualisation of interface conicts. In general, interface conicts
overlap and/or
norm collision
Interface conflicts
Effects on
global order
Context: Institutional density
Figure 1: Analytical model of interface conict framework
Norm collisions, interface conicts, and conict management 251
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
refer to a subset of norm collisions arising in global governance. We include
only collisions between norms emanating from different institutions, at least
one of which being an international authority. This conceptual scope allows
us to study both horizontal conicts pitting norms from two international
institutions against each other, and vertical conicts in which domestic and
international norms collide. But how do we know when we see an interface
conict? The literature has so far tended to adopt a formalistic approach
according to which the legal community establishes conicts by determining
the correct legal interpretation of the norms in question (see Wisken 2018:Ch
2). By contrast, our conceptualisation takes a sociological perspective and
sees interface conicts not as objectively given. Before we speak of conicts,
they must be constructed and perceived as such by relevant actors and
expressed in form of incompatible positional differences about means or
goals (see Dahrendorf 1961;Coser1964). Importantly, this also implies that
interface conicts may ariseirrespective of whether the norms invoked by the
conicting actors previously were colliding according to legal observers. We
thus give priority to the internal perspective on conict.
In sum, then, we speak of an interface conict when relevant actors
perceive rules to diverge in such a way that the simultaneous attainment
of their regulatory objectives is seen to be incompatible or unattainable, or
when they purport such an incompatibility to pursue their interests. In other
words, interface conicts are dened as incompatible positional differences
between actors about the prevalence of two or more norms or rules ema-
nating from different institutions. In these interface conicts, different
positions are justied with reference to different norms and rules of which
at least one is associated with an international authority.
A prominent example of an interface conict is the dispute over the UN
Security Councils (UNSC) regime of targeted sanctions against terror sus-
pects. Here, positional differences were expressed over the question of
whether and to what extent the UNSC should be obliged to grant due
process rights to the targeted individuals. One actor coalition, including
the United States and the UNSC as a whole, referred to the special powers
granted to the UNSC in the UN Charter for the maintenance of international
peace and security to argue that no such obligation existed. Another actor
coalition, comprising in particular European and domestic courts, the UN
Human Rights Committee, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of
Europe, several NGOs, and a group of European states, held that basic if
not the full range of due process standards had to be adhered to by the
UNSC when targeting individuals. They justied their position by reference
to international, and particularly European, human rights norms (Krisch
2010: Ch 5; Heupel 2013, 2017; Kreuder-Sonnen 2019: Ch 4).
252 christian kreuder-sonnen and michael zu
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
Indeed, the case is well-rehearsed also in the elds of fragmentation
(Ziegler 2009) and regime complexity (Morse and Keohane 2014). From
the perspective of our approach, however, it highlights the necessary
features of interface conicts that are a) actors with positional differences
who b) justify their respective stance with reference to different international
norms that are c) connected to different international authorities. This
notion is more restrictive than the situations covered in the alternative
accounts. For example, the creation of the New Development Bank
(NDB) and the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB) alongside
the World Bank is widely cited as building a regime complex of development
banking that undermines the hitherto stable rules of development nancing
(Heldt and Schmidtke 2019). However, upon closer inspection, we see that
the regime complex so far has not activated interface conicts. None of the
relevant actors have brought the rules of one institution in collision with
those of another institution (see Faude and Fuß, this issue). In the same vein,
the competing jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice and the
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on the question
of state responsibility for non-state actor violence the famous effective
controlversus overall controlstandards are treated by the ILC (2006:
paragraphs 4952) as a prime example of fragmentation through conicting
interpretations of general law. It is a completely different question, however,
whether such a prima facie conict(ILC 2006: paragraph 21) is also
activated by actors seeking to justify positional differences by referring to
competing norm interpretations.
To sum up the conceptual discussion: While the interface conict frame-
work does not introduce a completely new type of phenomenon, it proposes
a new analytical lens that centres on guiding questions, a unit of analysis,
and empirical expectations that are distinct from those taking centre stage in
the fragmentation and regime complexity frameworks (see Table 1). On this
basis, we move on to discuss some of the implications of this framework and
our ndings.
From overlap and norm collisions to interface conicts
Arst set of issues arises regarding the rst arrow in our model that
connects institutional overlaps and norm collisions with interface conicts
(see Figure 1). We expect that interface conicts most often are based on
previously existing institutional overlaps or norm collisions that were not
(yet) openly expressed in actorspositional differences. Institutional overlap
can broadly be dened as different transnational and/or international insti-
tutions with prescriptive norms and rules that speak to the same issues and
Norm collisions, interface conicts, and conict management 253
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
have an intersecting membership. Whether and when such overlaps are
turned into interface conicts is an open question addressed by Faude and
Fuß in this issue. Norm collisions, on the other hand, can be dened as an
incompatibility of two norms due to colliding expectations about appropri-
ate behaviour (see Gholiagha et al., this issue). In this understanding, actors
may individually or dialogically problematise a perceived inconsistency
between two norms without, however, justifying incompatible positions
by reference to the colliding norms. As Gholiagha et al. show in this issue,
norm collisions can long predate interface conicts. Only when they are
activated do they translate into actorspositional differences.
Taking interface conicts as an analytical end point, the contributions to
this Special Issue produce some important ndings. Most importantly, the
number of norm collisions and institutional overlaps is far greater than that of
interface conicts that is, intersecting norms and institutions do not always
lead to conict among actors. Gholiagha et al. show in their contribution that
the activation of norm collisions often is a matter of political choice and it is
subject to scope conditions such as the power distribution in the political
system. For example, the prohibition of coca leaf chewing in the international
drug control regime had long been seen as colliding with indigenous rights,
especially by political actors from Bolivia. However, it took decades before
the collision was transformed into an interface conict at the international
Table 1. The analytical frameworks compared
Level of
analysis Approach
cation of
conict Focus
Fragmentation Macro Normative Externalist Global order;
Techniques of
legal conict
Legal incoherence;
Legal conict
Meso Descriptive Externalist Cross-
Division of labour
Micro Descriptive
Internalist Interface
Cooperative or non-
254 christian kreuder-sonnen and michael zu
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
level (Gholiagha et al., this issue). Moreover, Faude and Fuß argue that
institutional overlaps only lead to interface conicts if the motivation for
the creation of overlapping institutions emanates from substantive policy
dissatisfaction. In other cases, inter-institutional coordination or at least the
peaceful co-existence of the overlapping institutions is more likely (Faude and
Fuß, this issue). The ipside of these ndings is that the transition from
overlap/collision to conict appears to happen predominantly for instrumen-
tal reasons. Interface conicts are not just an unintended side product of an
increasing institutional density at the international level. Therefore, they can
also hardly be prevented by institutional means. The types of interface
conicts and the ways in which they are addressed thus become all the more
important objects of study.
Moreover, we hold that one important dimension to distinguish interface
conicts, which is consequential also for conict activation and management,
is their bone of contention. Here, we aim at broadening the research agenda
related to international institutional density beyond the narrow focus on
issue-area specic overlaps and sources of conict to encompass also veritable
goal conicts. Such conicts are possible when norms collide that are rooted
in fundamentally different social purposes. Therefore, we distinguish between
interface conicts occurring within and across spheres of authority (Zürn
2017). We dene a sphere of authority as a governance space with at least one
domestic or international authority, which is delimited by the involved actors
perception of a common good or goal at a given level of governance. Spheres
of authority are different from both issue areas and regime complexes.
While the connes of issue areas and spheres of authority overlap, they are
conceptually independent. Issue areas are marked by the perception of a
connected set of problems that links actors and stakeholders (Keohane and
Nye 1977). The problem of cross-border trade is an example. However,
among the actors and stakeholders in this issue area, there can be a funda-
mental disagreement about what the problem entails and how it should be
approached and tackled. There can be actors and institutions advancing free
trade by reducing tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade. However, there can
also be actors and institutions that stand for protectionism and the reduction
of cross-border ows of goods and services. They all belong to the issue area.
A sphere of authority, by contrast, unites actors and institutions (at least one
of which is an authority) that share a common sense of purpose. The World
Trade Organization (WTO), for example, is at the centre of an international
sphere of authority comprising a diverse set of actors and institutions with
the goal of enabling and regulating free trade.
As such, a regime complex can indeed form the institutional core of a
sphere of authority as long as one of the institutions in the complex is an
authority. However, as the example of the regime complex of plant genetic
Norm collisions, interface conicts, and conict management 255
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
resources shows, a regime complex can also comprise institutions rooted in
different spheres of authority, such as the WTO (free trade) and the UN
Convention of Biological Diversity (Raustiala and Victor 2004). The con-
cepts are thus different. While the WTO can be part of myriad regime
complexes governing certain subject matters bordering trade, it remains
part of only one sphere of authority with an identiable social purpose,
namely free trade. What is more, spheres of authority can also be identied
at a lower governance level than regime complexes. A set of domestic actors
and institutions clustering around an authority with a nationwide goal of,
say, energy transformation also qualies as a sphere of authority. This
highlights the potential of overlaps (and conicts) between domestic and
international spheres of authority that are missed by the regime complexity
The conceptual lens of spheres of authority allows us to study and
compare conicts between actors who bring to bear norms emanating from
one and the same or from different spheres of authority. The distinction is
important because we expect signicant differences regarding both the
activation and management of interface conicts. Given the overall goal-
alignment of institutions in within-sphere conicts, positional differences
should normally relate to turf battles over resource allocation and institu-
tional prevalence (interest conicts), or to conicts over means, not to
fundamental normative disagreement. In across-spheres conicts, by con-
trast, the colliding norms reect fundamental goal conicts over the question
of according to which social purpose a certain subject matter should be
governed (conict over values). Indeed, the contributions to this Special
Issue lead to the conclusion that overlaps and norm collisions within a
sphere of authority get transformed into interface conicts less often than
those involving norms and institutions from two different spheres. To the
extent that we observe active conict pre-emption, it takes place within a
sphere of authority. In fact, the one case of overlap studied by Faude and Fuß
(this issue) that leads to an interface conict is the one where two competing
social purposes (energy security and climate change prevention) are at play.
Moreover, interface conicts seem more likely to be managed cooperatively
when they take place within a sphere of authority. It is especially courts that
may develop secondary norms and rules to manage interface conicts
smoothly. Most existing courts are, however, bound to one sphere of
authority. In general, the management of interface conicts across different
spheres of authority can thus be expected to be more difcult. Nevertheless,
some contributions to this Special Issue show that also across-sphere con-
icts can be successfully managed. Birkenkötter (this issue), for instance,
highlights that general international law may serve courts as a tool to legally
address conicts cutting across spheres of authority.
256 christian kreuder-sonnen and michael zu
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
Conict management
A major implication of our approach is that we are less interested in
institutional density as such. In fact, we consider institutional differentiation
to be a dening feature of any modern society, be it on the national or the
global level. In this sense, institutional density cannot be understood as
fragmentation (the falling apart of something that was once an integrated
whole), and the rise of institutional density is nothing that is by itself
conducive or unconducive to problem-solving. The decisive question is
whether and by what principles interface conicts are managed once they
arise. With this question, we move to the second arrow in our analytical
model (see Figure 1).
Here, we are especially interested in the conditions under which
interface conicts are handled cooperatively or non-cooperatively. We
suppose that conicts regularly involve some form of conict manage-
ment (see Rittberger and Zürn 1990). According to Zelli (2011:207),
management of interface conicts can be dened as any deliberate
attempt to address, mitigate, or remove any incompatibility between
the [norms] in question. These attempts are in no way predetermined to
be rational, balanced, or technical. Just as the conict itself, its manage-
ment can be highly political. The concrete form of the management
attempts is then an empirical question, which should be telling with
regard to the functioning and the normative structure of the emerging
global governance system.
For the purposes of this Special Issue, we most basically distinguish
between cooperative and non-cooperative forms of conict management.
We speak of non-cooperative conict management when the conict
parties seek to resolve the dispute in their favour without regard for the
preferences of their opponent and without following procedural norms. By
contrast, cooperative conict management refers to attempts to address an
interface conict in which the conict parties agree to follow procedural
norms and/or accommodate each others preferences at least somewhat in
their respective position. Within the category of cooperative conict man-
agement, we furthermore differentiate three subtypes according to their
degree of regulation. We consider cooperative conict management to be
constitutionalised if it takes place within institutionalised procedures pro-
viding norms of meta-governance to authoritatively solve interface con-
icts. Second, norm-based conict-management describes a handling of
interface conicts with reference to third norms that is, norms that are
different from the two norms in collision. Such norms may be substantive
(e.g. higher-ranking normative principles such as sustainability) or proce-
dural (e.g. rules of precedence or applicability). Finally, we speak of
Norm collisions, interface conicts, and conict management 257
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
decentralised cooperative conict management if the conict is not referred
to a third party and actors do not take recourse to third norms, but when
they still show a willingness for mutual accommodation and political
compromise in the process of handling positional differences. This orien-
tation towards compromise may show in actorsacceptance of certain basic
procedural norms and/or the at least rhetorical embrace of some common
norms. An orientation towards compromise is also indicated if actors
adapt their behaviour actively or tacitly to reduce positional differences
by taking other positions into account.
The studies in this Special Issue show quite impressively that fully non-
cooperative forms of conict management are rare. In fact, all contribu-
tions focusing on the management of interface conicts nd that actors
respond to conicts at least moderately cooperatively. While none of them
nds indications for a constitutionalised system of conict management,
especially Birkenkötter (this issue) highlights that interface conicts can be
referred to third parties that is, courts that implement norm-based
conict management by solving legal disputes with reference to (mostly
procedural) third norms. Others nd conict management to be much less
regulated but still cooperative. For instance, Krisch et al. (this issue) show
that conicts over human rights in World Bank policies and UN rules of
Corporate Social Responsibility have not been addressed through third
parties or third norms. Nevertheless, the decentralised norm-based contes-
tation between the conict parties has led to a tacit accommodation of
human rights norms in the adjacent institutions and thus signicantly
reduced the norm incoherence (see Krisch et al., this issue). Even in the
eld of internet governance where Flonk et al. (this issue) trace protracted
interface conicts between competing liberal and sovereign spheres of
authority, actorsconict handling is characterised at least by the accep-
tance of basic procedural norms and an interaction mode of norm-based
argumentation indicating at least some compromise orientation. Overall,
we can conclude with Krisch et al. (this issue: 360) that often norm
collisions are not antithetical to order but creative of it.Inthissense,
Dahrendorf (1961) may have been right to emphasise that conicts are the
creative core of all societies.
The choice of conict management, in turn, seems to depend on the types
of underlying conicts and scope conditions. For instance, it seems to be
conicts over underlying values that are especially difcult to manage,
which might also be one of the reasons why interface conicts between
different spheres of authority are less likely to be managed on the basis of
third norms. In these cases, decentralised forms of conict management
prevail (e.g. Krisch et al., this issue; Flonk et al., this issue). Conict
management, however, is not fully predetermined by conict types. Scope
258 christian kreuder-sonnen and michael zu
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
conditions such as the power distribution among the involved parties and
their general attitude towards each other as well as the role that trans-
national actors and third parties play are decisive.
Effects on global order
Moving to the third arrow in our model from conict management to effect
on global order (see Figure 1)it is fair to state that the diffusion of interface
conicts leads to neither constitutionalisation nor fragmentation. Coopera-
tive conict management of interface conicts prevails, but it falls short of
creating a strong and legally systematic apparatus of secondary norms that
cut across spheres of authority. Norm-based cooperative conict manage-
ment in which the actors resort to third norms to address the conict is the
most order-generating type of conict management observed. Since it typi-
cally incites the creation of future-oriented interface norms, it does introduce
some secondary norms into the global governance system that support the
building of an inter-institutional order (e.g. Birkenkötter, this issue). How-
ever, also decentralised forms of conict management may establish norma-
tive guideposts for mutual adaptation (Krisch et al., this issue). This is
particularly true for instances of pre-emptive conict management in which
the coordination of potentially conicting norms and institutions may lead to
normative alignment or a sustainable division of labor (Faude and Fuß, this
issue; see also Flonk et al., this issue). In this sense, the rise of interface conicts
does not necessarily undermine the global legal order.
At the same time, the mere absence of chaos or disorder in an institution-
ally dense international environment does not say much about the norma-
tive quality of the inter-institutional order emerging from the handling of
potential and actual interface conicts. From a constitutionalist perspective,
in particular, we have to bear in mind that the normative substance of the
global legal order can be liberal but also illiberal (see also Kreuder-Sonnen
and Zangl 2015). It is possible to think of an international order that
contains strong interface norms for norm collisions but is not liberal at
all. An interface norm that systematically puts state rights over individual
rights may resolve many interface conicts, but it certainly makes the
international order less liberal. A prime example for this kind of illiberal
order building is provided by Moe and Geis (this issue). In the realm of
African security governance, interface conicts over the prevalence of sov-
ereignty and humanitarian intervention between the UNSC and the African
Union (AU) have given way to a mutually accepted division of labour. After
the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, the paradigm of liberal inter-
ventionism was incrementally replaced by the notion of stabilisation mis-
sions, which tend to subjugate the goal of protection of individuals to that of
Norm collisions, interface conicts, and conict management 259
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
protection of political order. While this shift allowed the UN and the AU
to more cleanly divide tasks of mandating and enforcement on the ground
and thus to increase inter-institutional order, Moe and Geis (this issue) show
that this order is highly detrimental to human rights protection on the
While there is no theoretical reason to expect the settlement of interface
conicts to systematically show illiberal traits, the example highlights that
the normative direction of the international legal order is indeterminate.
What is more, the contributions to this Special Issue show that most interface
conicts arise out of actorsdesire to contest a given institutional or nor-
mative status quo they are not normally accidental or inevitable. Since
much of the global order has at least a veneer of liberalism rooted in post-
war Western dominance (Ikenberry 2011), it is not far-fetched to claim that
interface conicts often serve as instruments to contest (overly) liberal
aspects of the order and/or to undermine the preponderance of established
(Western) powers in international institutions. Most prominently, this
dynamic can be observed in the interface conicts unfolding in the domain
of internet governance (see Flonk et al., this issue). While actor coalitions
and interest constellations are more complex, the article shows that the
proponents of a sphere of sovereign internet are led by rising powers
contesting the preponderant sphere of liberal internet, which is centred on
Western institutions and human rights norms (Flonk et al., this issue).
Evidently, norm contestation through interface conicts can also be pro-
gressively geared towards an enhancement of liberal values (e.g. Krisch et al.,
this issue). Yet, given the current distribution of power in international
institutions and their value orientations, we expect that, more often than
not, norm collisions will be activated to contain and not to reinforce the
liberal aspect of global order.
The effects of international institutional density and the rise of interface
conicts on the constitutional quality of the global order thus are important
but indeterminate. We expect that real-world interface conicts lead to
conict management that entails complex and contradictory congurations
of consequences for the normativity of global order. After fragmentation thus
does not mean before constitutionalisation. It stands for a global political
system that consists of spheres of authority that are loosely coupled in varying
ways with different implications for the normative quality of global order.
IV. Contributions
The contributions to this Special Issue tackle three major questions that lie at
the core of the interface conict framework: a) under what conditions
260 christian kreuder-sonnen and michael zu
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
interface conicts arise, b) if and how interface conicts are managed, and c)
what effects interface conicts and their variable handling have on the global
order. Faude and Fuß as well as Gholiagha et al. provide answers to the rst
question. The contribution by Faude and Fuß inquires into the conditions
under which deliberately created institutional overlaps result in interface
conicts. Studying institutional overlaps in the elds of development bank-
ing, climate change, and energy, Faude and Fuß show rst of all that not all
overlaps translate into interface conicts. Second, they argue that whether
this happens very much depends on the motivation for creating overlapping
institutions in the rst place. If dissatisfaction with procedural rules or the
governance effectiveness of the institutional set-up is the reason for bringing
in overlapping institutions, Faude and Fuß expect coordination among the
institutions. Only if the overlap is created due to dissatisfaction with sub-
stantive policies, they argue, is it likely to spur veritable conict.
Similarly, Gholiagha et al. start from the assumption that there are norm
collisions that is, subjectively or intersubjectively perceived normative
incompatibilities which are not yet nor will necessarily become actual
interface conicts. In their view, norm collisions need to be activated by
actors who employ the colliding norms to justify incompatible political
positions and to induce a policy change. Analysing the discourse in the issue
area of international drug control, Gholiagha et al. show that a norm
collision between indigenous rights and the prohibition of coca leaf chewing
existed for decades before it was activated by Bolivia, the UN Permanent
Forum on Indigenous Issues, and the International Narcotics Control Board
in the late 2000s. Zooming in on the question of the conditions under which
norm collisions are turned into interface conicts, Gholiagha et al. extrap-
olate three main factors that were conducive to the activation of the norm
collision regarding coca leaf chewing and that are expected to be more
general scope conditions for the translation of norm collisions into interface
conicts: the decline of hegemony, the mobilisation by advocacy coalitions,
and a (health) crisis.
Birkenkötter starts to move from the analysis of the emergence of interface
conicts to the analysis of conict management. Concretely, her contribu-
tion studies the role of international law as a conict management tool in
interface conicts that end up in front of a court or court-like third party. As
Birkenkötter argues, international law provides a common language that
cuts across spheres of authority and provides commonalities of legal form
that regulate conict management in recurrent ways. On the one hand, when
conict management involves international courts or court-like institutions,
the conict parties are tied to specically legal arguments. That is, when
referring to norms, they must make an effort to argue why that norm should
be legally binding and not merely be morally persuasive. On the other hand,
Norm collisions, interface conicts, and conict management 261
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
judicial or quasi-judicial third parties may then resort to legal norm-conict
resolution rules such as lex specialis or lex posterior, or also broader rules of
justication and excuses such as the principle of proportionality. Overall,
Birkenkötter makes the claim that international law can function as a legal
conict resolution tool, but that it is strongly limited in scope and further-
more unlikely to appease the underlying political conict.
In their contribution, Krisch et al. look at more decentralised management
of interface conicts, that is, without third party involvement. While the
literature tends to highlight the conict potential of mostly rivalrous norm
collisions that are not subject to more regulated conict management, Krisch
et al. argue that interface conicts are often rather of irritative nature and
thus not destabilising but transformative of order an effect that becomes
visible when the conicts and their management are observed over longer
periods of time and not as momentary snapshots. According to Krisch et al.,
conicts are irritative if they imply a normative challenge to the existing
institutional or normative status quo that is not meant to replace the original
norms and institutions or to play one of them out against the others, but to
induce normative change in the existing body of norms. Since irritation may
be met with gradual adjustments, it is more conducive to cooperative conict
management than rivalry. This claim is illustrated in two case studies of the
handling of interface conicts related to the relationship between human
rights norms and World Bank policies and procedures as well as UN norms
of Corporate Social Responsibility.
In the eld of internet governance, Flonk et al. analyse a sequence of
interface conicts in varying institutional settings and partially varying actor
compositions, but with a broadly consistent object of contention: the ques-
tion of whether the internet should be governed by mostly Western, multi-
stakeholder institutions embodying liberal norms of individual freedom or
by mostly non-Western, intergovernmental institutions embodying sover-
eigntist norms of national security and territorial integrity. Flonk et al. frame
this as a goal conict across two emerging yet competing spheres of author-
ity, one liberal and one sovereigntist. Reecting the deep-seated conict over
values that is underpinning this struggle, conict management has so far
remained rather sketchy and has not yet led to a sustainable settlement
among the conict parties. Nonetheless, the contribution by Flonk et al. also
shows that, even in such a rivalrous setting, interface conicts are not
necessarily addressed by means of fully uncooperative conict management.
Finally, Moe and Geis provide a critical reection on the consequences of
conict settlements for the global order. Focusing on the eld of security
governance in Africa, the contribution traces the development of the inter-
organisational relations between the UNSC and the AU over questions of the
interventionary use of force. Moe and Geis nd that interface conicts
262 christian kreuder-sonnen and michael zu
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
pitching norms of human rights protection against sovereignty and non-
interference were common during the heydays of liberal interventionism in
the 1990s. After the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, however, Moe
and Geis argue that the macro-securitisation through the global war on
terrorism has led to a shift in priorities that put stabilisation missions higher
up on the agenda than humanitarian interventions. As a consequence, the
main normative bone of contention between the UN and the AU has waned,
because stability-driven interventionism allowed for a pragmatic division of
labour. While the UN retained the mandating authority, it increasingly
delegated the often more robust enforcement measures to the regional
organisation. While this cooperative outcome is indicative of the building
of inter-institutional order, Moe and Geis highlight that it comes at a cost to
liberal values, since human rights have been relegated to second rank in the
preoccupation to secure political stability.
The Special Issue is concluded by two critical commentaries by Karen
Alter and Siddharth Mallavarapu.
Earlier versions of this article were presented at the 2018 General Conven-
tion of the German Political Science Association in Frankfurt, the 2019
Annual Convention of the International Studies Association in Toronto, and
two authorsworkshops with the contributors to this Special Issue. We would
like to thank the participants in these forums for their valuable comments, in
particular Kenneth Abbott and Andreas von Staden. We are furthermore
grateful to two anonymous referees for their constructive feedback, to Barcin
Uluisik for language editing, and to Joia Buning for research assistance.
Abbott, Kenneth W. 2012. The Transnational Regime Complex for Climate Change.Envi-
ronment and Planning C: Government and Policy 30(4):57190.
Alter, Karen J. and Sophie Meunier. 2009. The Politics of International Regime Complexity.
Perspectives on Politics 7(1):1324.
Alter, Karen J. and Kal Raustiala. 2018. The Rise of International Regime Complexity.Annual
Review of Law and Social Sciences 14:32949.
Andenas, Mads and Eirik Bjorge. 2015. A Farewell to Fragmentation. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Benvenisti, Eyal and George W. Downs. 2007. The Empires New Clothes: Political Economy
and the Fragmentation of International Law.Stanford Law Review 60(2):595632.
Berman Schiff, Paul. 2007. A Pluralist Approach to International Law.Yale Journal of
International Law 32(2):30129.
Norm collisions, interface conicts, and conict management 263
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
Betts, Alexander. 2009. Institutional Proliferation and the Global Refugee Regime.Perspec-
tives on Politics 7(1):538.
Biermann, Frank, Philipp Pattberg, Harro van Asselt and Fariborz Zelli. 2009. The Fragmen-
tation of Global Governance Architectures: A Framework for Analysis.Global Environ-
mental Politics 9(4):1440.
Birkenkötter, Hannah. 2020. International Law as a Common Language Across Spheres of
Authority?Global Constitutionalism 9(2):31842.
Blome, Kerstin, Andreas Fischer-Lescano, Hannah Franzki, Nora Markard and Stefan Oeter
(eds). 2016. Contested Regime Collisions: Norm Fragmentation in World Society.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Broude, Tomer and Yuval Shany. 2011. The International Law and Policy of Multi-Sources
Equivalent Norms.In Multi-Sourced Equivalent Norms in International Law, edited by
Tomer Broude and Yuval Shany, 115. Oxford: Hart.
Busch, Marc L. 2007. Overlapping Institutions, Forum Shopping, and Dispute Settlement in
International Trade.International Organization 61(4):73561.
Charney, Jonathan I. 1998. Is International Law Threatened by Multiple International
Tribunals?Collected Courses of the Hague Academy of International Law (271).
Clarke, Warren. 2019. Institutional Density Reconsidered States, International Organizations,
and the Governance Space.Journal of International Relations and Development 22(3):
Coser, Lewis A. 1964. The Functions of Social Conict. New York, NY: Free Press.
Crawford, James and Penelope Nevill. 2012. Relations between International Courts and
Tribunals. The Regime Problem.In Regime Interaction in International Law, edited
by Margaret A. Young, 23560. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dahrendorf, Ralf. 1961. Gesellschaft und Freiheit. Zur soziologischen Analyse der Gegenwart.
München: Piper & Co.
De Búrca, Gráinne, Robert O. Keohane and Charles Sabel. 2014. Global Experimentalist
Governance.British Journal of Political Science 44(3):47786.
Drezner, Daniel W. 2013. The Tragedy of the Global Institutional Commons.In Back to
Basics: State Power in a Contemporary World, edited by Judith Goldstein and Martha
Finnemore, 280310. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Dunoff, Jeffrey L. and Joel P. Trachtman. 2009. A Functional Approach to International
Constitutionalization.In Ruling the World? Constitutionalism, International Law,
and Global Governance edited by Jeffrey L. Dunoff and Joel P. Trachtman, 335.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Eckersley, Robyn 2004. The Big Chill: The WTO and Multilateral Environmental Agreements.
Global Environmental Politics 4(2):2450.
Fassbender, Bardo. 2009. The United Nations Charter as the Constitution of the International
Community (Vol. 51). Leiden: Nijhoff.
Faude, Benjamin and Julia Fuß. 2020. Coordination or Conict? The Causes and Consequences
of Institutional Overlap in a Disaggregated World Order.Global Constitutionalism 9(2):
Faude, Benjamin and Thomas Gehring. 2017. Regime Complexes as Governance Systems.In
Research Handbook on the Politics of International Law, edited by Wayne Sandholtz and
Christopher Whytock, 176204. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Fischer- Lescano, Andreas and Gunther Teubner. 2004. Regime-Collisions: The Vain Search for
Legal Unity in the Fragmentation of Global Law.Michigan Journal of International Law
264 christian kreuder-sonnen and michael zu
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
Flonk, Daniëlle, Markus Jachtenfuchs and Anke Obendiek. 2020. Authority Conicts
in Internet Governance: Liberals vs. Sovereigntists?Global Constitutionalism 9(2):
Gholiagha, Sassan, Anna Holzscheiter and Andrea Liese. 2020. Activating Norm Collisions:
Interface Conicts in International Drug Control.Global Constitutionalism 9(2):
Gómez- Mera, Laura. 2016. Regime Complexity and Global Governance: The Case of Traf-
cking in Persons.European Journal of International Relations 22(3):56695.
Habermas, Jürgen. 2008. The Constitutionalization of International Law and the Legitimation
Problems of a Constitution for World Society.Constellations 15(4):44455.
Hathaway, Oona A. and Scott Shapiro. 2017. The Internationalists: How a Radical Plan to
Outlaw War Remade the World. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Heldt, Eugénia C. and Henning Schmidtke. 2019. Explaining Coherence in International
Regime Complexes: How the World Bank Shapes the Field of Multilateral Development
Finance.Review of International Political Economy 26(6):11601186.
Helfer, Laurence R. 2009. Regime Shifting in the International Intellectual Property System.
Perspectives on Politics 7(1):3944.
Heupel, Monika. 2013. With Power Comes Responsibility: Human Rights Protection in United
Nations Sanctions Policy.European Journal of International Relations 19(4):77396.
Heupel, Monika. 2017. UN Sanctions Policy and the Protection of Due Process Rights: Making
Use of Global Legal Pluralism.In Protecting the Individual from International Authority,
edited by Monika Heupel and Michael Zürn, 86110. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Hofmann, Stephanie C. 2011. Why Institutional Overlap Matters: CSDP in the European
Security Architecture.JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 49(1):10120.
Hooghe, Liesbet, Gary Marks, Tobias Lenz, Jeanine Bezuijen, Besir Ceka and Svet Derderyan.
2017. Measuring International Authority: A Postfunctionalist Theory of Governance, vol
III. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ikenberry, G. John. 2011. Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the
American World Order. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
International Law Commission (ILC). 2006. Fragmentation of International Law. Difculties
Arising from the Diversication and Expansion of International Law.’’ Report of the Study
Group of the International Law Commission (A/CN.4/L.68.2), nalised by Martti Kos-
kenniemi. New York, NY.
Jupille, Joseph, Walter Mattli and Duncan Snidal. 2013. Institutional Choice and Global
Commerce. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Keohane, Robert O. and Joseph S. Nye. 1977. Power and Interdependence: World Politics in
Transition. New York, NY: Longman.
Keohane, Robert O. and David G. Victor. 2011. The Regime Complex for Climate Change.
Perspectives on Politics 9(1):723.
Klabbers, Jan, Anne Peters and Geir Ulfstein. 2009. The Constitutionalization of International
Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kreuder-Sonnen, Christian. 2019. Emergency Powers of International Organizations: Between
Normalization and Containment. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kreuder-Sonnen, Christian and Bernhard Zangl. 2015. Which Post-Westphalia? International
Organizations between Constitutionalism and Authoritarianism.European Journal of
International Relations 21(3):56894.
Norm collisions, interface conicts, and conict management 265
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
Kreuder-Sonnen, Christian and Bernhard Zangl. 2016. Varieties of Contested Multilateralism:
Positive and Negative Consequences for the Constitutionalization of Multilateral Institu-
tions.Global Constitutionalism 5(3):32743.
Krisch, Nico. 2010. Beyond Constitutionalism: The Pluralist Structure of Postnational Law.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Krisch, Nico, Francesco Corradini and Lucy Lu Reimers. 2020. Order at the Margins: The Legal
Construction of Interface Conicts over Time.Global Constitutionalism9(2):34363.
Kumm, Mattias. 2009. The Cosmopolitan Turn in Constitutionalism: On the Relationship
between Constitutionalism in and beyond the State.In Ruling the World? Constitution-
alism, International Law, and Global Governance, edited by Jeffrey L. Dunoff and Joel P.
Trachtman, 258324. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lang Jr, Anthony F. and Antje Wiener. 2017. A Constitutionalizing Global Order: An
Introduction.In Handbook on Global Constitutionalism,120. Cheltenham: Edward
Elgar Publishing.
Margulis, Matias E. 2013. The Regime Complex for Food Security: Implications for the Global
Hunger Challenge.Global Governance 19(1):5367.
Martineau, Anne-Charlotte. 2016. Le débat sur la fragmentation du droit international. Brussels:
Meggido, Tamar. 2019. Beyond Fragmentation: On International Laws Integrationist Forces.
The Yale Journal of International Law 44(1):11547.
Michaels, Ralf and Joost Pauwelyn. 2011. Conict of Norms or Conict of Laws? Different
Techniques in the Fragmentation of International Law.In Multi-Sourced Equivalent
Norms in International Law, edited by Tomer Broude and Yuval Shany, 1944. Oxford:
Moe, Louise Wiuff and Anna Geis. 2020. From Liberal Interventionism to Stabilisation: A New
Consensus on Norm-Downsizing in Interventions in Africa.Global Constitutionalism
Morse, Julia and Robert O. Keohane. 2014. Contested Multilateralism.Review of Interna-
tional Organizations 9(4):385412.
Oberthür, Sebastian and Olav Schram Stokke. 2011. Managing Institutional Complexity.
London: MIT Press.
Orsini, Amandine, Jean-Frédéric Morin and Oran R. Young. 2013. Regime Complexes: A Buzz,
a Boom, or a Boost for Global Governance?Global Governance 19(1):2739.
Pauwelyn, Joost. 2003. Conict of Norms in Public International Law:. How WTO Law Relates
to Other Rules of International Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pauwelyn, Joost, Ramses A. Wessel and Jan Wouters. 2014. When Structures Become Shackles.
Stagnation and Dynamics in International Lawmaking.European Journal of Interna-
tional Law 25(3):73363.
Peters, Anne. 2017. The Renement of International Law. From Fragmentation to Regime
Interaction and Politicization.International Journal of Constitutional Law 15(3):
Raustiala, Kal. 2013. Institutional Proliferation and the International Legal Order.In
Interdisciplinary Perspectives on International Law and International Relations: The
State of the Art, edited by Jeffrey L. Dunoff and Mark A. Pollack, 293320. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Raustiala, Kal and David G. Victor. 2004. The Regime Complex for Plant Genetic Resources.
International Organization 58(2):277309.
266 christian kreuder-sonnen and michael zu
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
Rittberger, Volker and Michael Zürn. 1990. Towards Regulated Anarchy in East-West Rela-
tions.In International Regimes in East-West Politics, edited by Volker Rittberger, 960.
London: Pinter.
Shany, Yuval. 2003. The Competing Jurisdictions of International Courts and Tribunals.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Tallberg, Jonas, Thomas Sommerer, Theresa Squatrito and Christer Jönsson. 2013. The Opening
Up of International Organizations: Transnational Access in Global Governance.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Tehan, Maureen, Lee Carol Godden, Margaret A. Young and Kirsty Ann Gover. 2017. The
Impact of Climate Change Mitigation on Indigenous and Forest Communities:Interna-
tional, National and Local Law Perspectives on REDD+. Cambridge: Cambridge Uni-
versity Press.
Wisken, Lea. 2018. Institutional Overlap and Norm Collisions. University Dissertation. Berlin:
Freie Universität Berlin.
Young, Margaret A. 2011. Trading Fish, Saving Fish: The Interaction between Regimes in
International Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Zelli, Fariborz 2011. Regime Conicts and Their Management in Global Environmental
Governance.In Managing Institutional Complexity, edited by Sebastian Oberthür and
Olav Schram Stokke, 199226. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Zelli, Fariborz, Aarti Gupta and Harro van Asselt,. 2013. Institutional Interactions at the
Crossroads of Trade and Environment: The Dominance of Liberal Environmentalism?
Global Governance 19(1):10518.
Ziegler, Katja S. 2009. Strengthening the Rule of Law, but Fragmenting International Law: The
Kadi Decision of the ECJ from the Perspective of Human Rights.Human Rights Law
Review 9(2):288305.
Zürn, Michael. 2017. From Constitutional Rule to Loosely Coupled Spheres of Liquid Author-
ity: A Reexive Approach.International Theory 9(2):26185.
Zürn, Michael. 2018. A Theory of Global Governance: Authority, Legitimacy, and Contestation.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Zürn, Michael, Martin Binder, Alexandros Tokhi, Xaver Keller and Autumn Lockwood-Payton.
2015. The International Authority Data Project, paper presented at the International
Authority Workshop, 1011 December, Berlin.
Zürn, Michael and Benjamin Faude. 2013. Commentary. On Fragmentation, Differentiation,
and Coordination.Global Environmental Politics 13(3):11930.
Norm collisions, interface conicts, and conict management 267
Downloaded from IP address:, on 07 Aug 2020 at 07:09:52, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
... WTO [trade], WHO [health], IOM [migration]). Often, the membership and mandates of IOs overlap, creating regulatory conflicts that might compromise the provision of global public goods (Gehring and Faude 2013;Kreuder-Sonnen and Zürn 2020). Because the global governance system lacks a meta-authority that would coordinate sector-specific IOs and settle conflicts, IOs may be pushed to either compete with each other or try to mutually adjust their policies (Zürn 2018). ...
... State concerns over their sovereignty thus may play a less prominent role, facilitating the opening up of an IO to the EU (Tallberg et al. 2014). In turn, this allows IOs to coordinate with the EU and avoid regulatory conflicts that tend to become more salient with the increasing fragmentation of global governance (Gehring and Faude 2013;Zürn 2018;Kreuder-Sonnen and Zürn 2020). Moreover, by pooling their resources, the EU and authoritative IOs might jointly strengthen their policy discretion vis-à-vis states, reducing thus inter-institutional competition that could undermine their influence in global governance. ...
Full-text available
In recent years, the European Union has gained access to several international organizations (IOs). This is a noteworthy and novel development, as IOs not only formalize but also deepen their interactions with the EU by granting it formal rights to participate in their policymaking processes. Building on the literature on the EU’s role in global governance and the opening-up of IOs, this paper investigates the conditions under which IOs grant the EU access to their decision-making processes. While overlapping policy mandates between the concerned IO and the EU are certainly an important explanation, they are not the entire story. As this paper suggests, much depends on the authority of the IO granting access to the EU. This is because the members of authoritative IOs recognize in the EU a highly authoritative IO and might thus be more inclined to take it on board in order to mitigate negative externalities, enhance their own effectiveness, and avoid intra-institutional conflicts. Using a novel dataset on the EU’s formal access to 33 IOs and addressing important inferential concerns, the statistical analysis shows that EU access depends on the authority of IOs. That authoritative IOs establish formal relations between themselves provides the basis for increased interactions and opportunities to jointly shape global outcomes.
... Notes 1. e.g. Abbott, 2012;Alter and Meunier, 2009;Alter and Raustiala, 2018;Betts, 2010;Drezner, 2009;Faude and Groβe-Kreul, 2020;Gehring and Faude, 2013;Haftel and Lenz, 2022;Keohane and Victor, 2011;Kreuder-Sonnen and Zürn, 2020;Morin and Orsini, 2013;Stapel, 2018a, 2021;Schütte, 2022;Söderbaum and Stapel, 2022. 2. Some IOs are legal predecessors and successors and therefore can be regarded as the same organisation as opposed to two different organisations (e.g. ...
Multilateral cooperation in international organisations is characterised by regime complexity. The literature usually adopts a policy-focused perspective studying the properties, effects, and dynamics within given regime complexes for different policy areas. Yet few accounts of why states drive regime complexity have been provided in the literature. Therefore, we adopt a state-focused perspective and observe how states differ in the extent to which they foster complexity through overlapping memberships and policy competencies in international organisations. In order to explain this variation, we extract state motivations from the regime complexity literature, but also incorporate the role of geopolitical opportunity structures for complexity as well as interactions between both elements. The empirical analysis reveals that the power to pursue self-interests leads to duplicated policy competencies, whereas duplicating international organisation memberships by creating new international organisations or joining existing ones is costly and a less favoured route towards pursuing substantive gains. The motivation to gain external reputation also positively influences the overlap in membership and policy competencies. Moreover, the number of neighbouring states and the disappearance of deep-rooted ideological cleavages are important opportunity structures for states furthering complexity. Opportunity structures also reinforce the positive effect of power to pursue self-interests and external reputation motivations on complexity. Thus, we contribute to regime complexity research in showing that not all states equally foster regime complexity and this relationship is dependent on a specific context.
... Moreover, the regime complexity literature has indicated several additional problems that may arise from institutional overlap, including fragmentation, ambiguity, inefficiency, competition, and interface conflicts. 34 What is to be gained by accepting overlapping and institutionally weaker global control mechanisms on top of stronger regional ones? We argue that the answer likely has to do with maintaining one's reputation as a sincere human rights committer through image-consistent behaviour. ...
Full-text available
A common explanation for state acceptance of the optional individual communications procedures (ICPs) of UN human rights treaties involves costly signalling theory. Commitment to ICPs is said to enable states to signal sincere commitment more credibly. Such signalling, however, is not particularly costly and ultimately a reasonable motive for only a small number of states. For most states that accept ICPs, signalling bears no obvious instrumental value; for many, the global ICPs also overlap with existing and institutionally stronger human rights monitoring mechanisms at the regional level. This begs the question: Why do states seek such overlap and redundancy? Acknowledging the role of preferences for effective human rights protection, we suggest an additional reputational motive that foregrounds the value of consistency in commitments and related reputations. Employing survival analysis and data for six ICPs, we show that ICP acceptance is particularly driven by states that are also subject to institutionally stronger regional human rights courts. Given the marginal benefits in rights protection through adding overlap, we argue that the effects of consistent commitment on the perception of a state’s character provide a persuasive supplementary explanation.
Full-text available
Inter-legality discussed in this paper draws on a previous more general treatment of the ques- tion. A theory of inter-legality has descriptive and normative aspects. The descriptive aspect captures, rather than just fragmentation and plurality, the interconnections that legal func- tional separations are hiding. The normative aspect highlights a methodology for managing the overlapping and conflicting legal rules, sourced from separate domains, State orders, regional or supranational regimes, controlling the same issue at stake. In this respect, inter- legality refuses the weakness of both dualism and monism in coping with interconnected orders, and it focuses on positive laws relevant to the issue, and the reasons claimed from diverse and equally valid sources. This article chooses one emerging problem, i.e., where global common concerns are at stake: an epistemic change is needed, focusing upon the law relevant to the case, which often is non-coincidental with one-system-based legality. Inter- legal comprehensive assessments would pave the way for avoiding injustice by preventing unilateral judgements. Recent paradigmatic case law is considered. Keywords: Inter-legality, Global Common Goods, Monism, Dualism, Judicial Dialogue, Legal System, Case law. Rivista di filosofia del diritto (ISSN 2280-482X) Fascicolo 1, giugno 2022
Full-text available
In this introduction to the Special Issue, we suggest a decolonised and entangled perspective in norms research that transcends the Western legacies of global norms by taking into account the complex constellations and interactions within and between norms. We seek to move beyond the dichotomy of ‘good’ Western versus ‘bad’ non-Western norms without simply reversing it. We instead propose to integrate three dimensions into norms research: 1) revealing the ambivalences and ambiguities inherent to norms; 2) investigating plural actors as vectors of normative change; and 3) broadening the disciplinary realm of norms research. Our aim is to further develop the empirical and conceptual discussion of norms that moves beyond a Western bias without simply giving up on normative assessments of norms.
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.
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.
Full-text available
Why have population monitoring, migration control and surveillance become a significant area of common ground in EU-African migration cooperation? This article examines the securitisation of borders in the West Africa region. It finds that state actors in Senegal and Ghana perceive the technocratic solutions that arise from this cooperation as useful in attaining domestic governance and statebuilding goals, and have presented the ECOWAS regional integration agenda and border securitisation project as congruent. This article proposes that the depoliticised nature of security cooperation, alongside specific features of the domestic policymaking contexts, allows the circumvention of domestic critique of securitisation. © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
Constructivist theories of norm dynamics offer a variety of analytical tools to understand the complex processes of norm emergence, diffusion, and evolution over time. As the literature has developed, though, it lacks a general framing of the interconnections between norms, norm clusters or configurations, and principles or “normativity.” This article advances a new three-dimensional model of constructivist theories of norms that emphasizes the spatial dimensions of norm meanings, legitimacy, and impact and identifies promising avenues for research progress. First, individual norms represent a primary intersubjective structural component that is both developed and contested. Second, theories of norm interrelations or norm clusters provide additional critical dimensions of structuration that may promote resiliency in the face of contestation. Third, norms exist within a larger constellation of norm structures, representing the broadest dimension in world politics. Collisions can occur in this environment, but broader normativity and institutionalization often become activated in the face of serious challenges. As demonstrated using the illustration of international responses to the Syrian civil war (2011 till present), only by attending to all three dimensions of norms can we gain a more accurate understanding of real-world circumstances of norm connections, norm collisions, and the variable effects of norm contestation. The article concludes by identifying promising research avenues building from the three-dimensional framework.
Full-text available
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.
Full-text available
When actors express conflicting views about the validity or scope of norms or rules in relation to other norms or rules in the international sphere, they often do so in the language of international law. This contribution argues that international law’s hermeneutic acts as a common language that cuts across spheres of authority and can thus serve as a conflict management tool for interface conflicts. Often, this entails resorting to an international court. While acknowledging that courts cannot provide permanent solutions to the underlying political conflict, I submit that court proceedings are interesting objects of study that promote our understanding of how international legal argument operates as a conflict management device. I distinguish three dimensions of common legal form, using the well-known EC–Hormones case as illustration: a procedural, argumentative, and substantive dimension. While previous scholarship has often focused exclusively on the substantive dimension, I argue that the other two dimensions are equally important. In concluding, I reflect on a possible explanation as to why actors are disposed to resort to international legal argument even if this is unlikely to result in a final solution: there is a specific authority claim attached to international law qua law.
Full-text available
This article traces recent changes of the practices and justifications of the use of force in intervention, in the context of African security governance, highlighting how these changes interact with norm transformations at the scale of the global order. In doing so, it conveys how a long-standing pattern of norm contestation between international and African actors over external intervention vs sovereignty, has started to give way to a mutually accepted division of labour. After 9/11, the paradigm of liberal interventionism has been incrementally replaced by the framework of stabilisation, with a re-prioritisation of sovereigntist agendas. This has increased collaboration between international and African actors, specifically prompting the United Nations and the African Union to divide tasks of mandating and enforcement, thereby increasing inter-institutional ‘order’. This consensus, however, far from signifying wider compliance with ‘liberal ordering’ principles, rather indicates the need to revisit central assumptions of the International Relations norm diffusion literature. While the latter emphasises the diffusion of ‘good’ international norms, especially pertaining to human rights and democratisation, the growing consensus on ‘intervention as stabilisation’ instead exposes how post-9/11 justifications of practices that carry the potential to downsize the scope of such norms, are starting to resonate across international, regional and national sites of policy and practice.
Full-text available
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.
Full-text available
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.
Full-text available
Emergency Powers of International Organizations explores emergency politics of international organizations (IOs). It studies cases in which, based on justifications of exceptional necessity, IOs expand their authority, increase executive discretion, and interfere with the rights of their rule-addressees. This ''IO exceptionalism'' is observable in crisis responses of a diverse set of institutions including the United Nations Security Council, the European Union, and the World Health Organization. Through six in-depth case studies, the book analyzes the institutional dynamics unfolding in the wake of the assumption of emergency powers by IOs. Sometimes, the exceptional competencies become normalized in the IOs' authority structures (the ''ratchet effect"). In other cases, IO emergency powers provoke a backlash that eventually reverses or contains the expansions of authority (the "rollback effect"). To explain these variable outcomes, this book draws on sociological institutionalism to develop a proportionality theory of IO emergency powers. It contends that ratchets and rollbacks are a function of actors' ability to justify or contest emergency powers as (dis)proportionate. The claim that the distribution of rhetorical power is decisive for the institutional outcome is tested against alternative rational institutionalist explanations that focus on institutional design and the distribution of institutional power among states. The proportionality theory holds across the cases studied in this book and clearly outcompetes the alternative accounts. Against the background of the empirical analysis, the book moreover provides a critical normative reflection on the (anti) constitutional effects of IO exceptionalism and highlights a potential connection between authoritarian traits in global governance and the system's current legitimacy crisis.
Full-text available
The landscape of multilateral development finance has changed dramatically in the past decades. At Bretton Woods, delegates envisioned the World Bank as the focal organization mobilizing financial support for national development strategies. Today, this issue area is populated by no less than 27 multilateral development banks including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank created under Chinese leadership. This paper shows that, despite this institutional proliferation, the development finance regime remains largely coherent and core governance features designed at Bretton Woods continue to shape the emerging regime complex. We develop a historical institutionalist argument for why newly created institutions are likely to imitate extant institutions. We suggest that states add new institutions not only in response to deficiencies in extant institutions but also to increase their control and reputation. We analyze three causal pathways – path-dependence, orchestration, and independent learning – that contribute to a coherent regime complex. We show that focal international organizations can use their position to prevent incoherence.
Legal multiplicity in the global realm, and the interface conflicts that ensue from it, are widely thought to have a destabilising effect, blocking the path towards a more integrated and perhaps constitutionalised global order. While this diagnosis may appear plausible if interface conflicts are seen as snapshots and rivalrous institutions as the main actors, it is less convincing if we regard these conflicts as part of social processes of contestation that define the relations between different norms over time. It is also less plausible if actors with other orientations – norm irritation or navigation – are taken into view. This article works towards a more encompassing account, both temporally and as regards actor orientations. It uses two case studies of conflicts at the interface between economic governance and human rights to probe the plausibility of its conjectures. Both cases appear as instances of prolonged norm contestation which, despite continued irresolution of the underlying conflicts as a matter of law, have resulted in a significant reorientation and (partial) consolidation around new interpretations. This suggests that interface conflicts, rather than destabilising the rule of law, may also open a pathway for change in the otherwise rigid structure of the international legal order