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Abstract

The increasing density and entanglement of international law and institutions leads to a growing potential for collisions between norms and rules emanating from different international institutions. It is an open question, however, when actors actually create manifest conflicts about overlapping norms and rules and how – and with what consequences – such conflicts are handled. We therefore utilize the concept of “interface conflicts” in which two or more actors express positional differences over the scope or prevalence of different international norms. Building on the findings of the DFG research group OSAIC (Overlapping Spheres of Authority and Interface Conflicts), we introduce the Interface Conflicts 1.0 dataset, which assembles information on 78 interface conflicts. The dataset provides information on the actors and norms at stake in interface conflicts and focuses specifically on their subsequent handling. It distinguishes co-operative from non-cooperative conflict management, and codes the institutional as well as distributional outcomes of all management efforts. Drawing on the Interface Conflicts 1.0 dataset, the paper discusses first descriptive statistics regarding the bones of contention in interface conflicts, distributions across types of conflict management, and conflict management effects on the legal and institutional arrangements in the areas at stake. We thus contribute empirical building blocks to debates about global (dis)order and open new avenues for future research.
WZB Berlin Social Science Center
Research Area
International Politics and Law
Research Unit
Global Governance
Julia Fuß, Christian Kreuder-Sonnen, Andrés Saravia, and
Michael Zürn
Managing Regime Complexity:
Introducing the Interface Conflicts 1.0 Dataset
Discussion Paper
SP IV 2021–101
April 2021
Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung gGmbH
Reichpietschufer 50
10785 Berlin
Germany
www.wzb.eu
Julia Fuß
Christian Kreuder-Sonnen
julia.fuss@wzb.eu christian.kreuder-sonnen@uni-jena.de
Andrés Saravia Michael Zürn
asaravia@ratswd.de michael.zuern@wzb.eu
Managing Regime Complexity:
Introducing the Interface Conflicts 1.0 Dataset
Discussion Paper SP IV 2021–101
WZB Berlin Social Science Center (2021)
Affiliation of the authors other than WZB:
Christian Kreuder-Sonnen
University of Jena
Fürstengraben 1, 07743 Jena, Germany
Copyright remains with the authors.
Discussion papers of the WZB serve to disseminate the research results of work
in progress prior to publication to encourage the exchange of ideas and aca-
demic debate. Inclusion of a paper in the discussion paper series does not con-
stitute publication and should not limit publication in any other venue. The
discussion papers published by the WZB represent the views of the respective
author(s) and not of the institute as a whole.
1
Abstract
Managing Regime Complexity:
Introducing the Interface Conflicts 1.0 Dataset
1
by Julia Fuß, Christian Kreuder-Sonnen, Andrés Saravia, and Michael Zürn
The increasing density and entanglement of international law and institutions leads to a
growing potential for collisions between norms and rules emanating from different inter-
national institutions. It is an open question, however, when actors actually create manifest
conflicts about overlapping norms and rules and how – and with what consequences – such
conflicts are handled. We therefore utilize the concept of “interface conflicts” in which two
or more actors express positional differences over the scope or prevalence of different
international norms. Building on the findings of the DFG research group OSAIC (Overlap-
ping Spheres of Authority and Interface Conflicts), we introduce the Interface Conflicts 1.0
dataset, which assembles information on 78 interface conflicts. The dataset provides in-
formation on the actors and norms at stake in interface conflicts and focuses specifically
on their subsequent handling. It distinguishes co-operative from non-cooperative conflict
management, and codes the institutional as well as distributional outcomes of all man-
agement efforts. Drawing on the Interface Conflicts 1.0 dataset, the paper discusses first
descriptive statistics regarding the bones of contention in interface conflicts, distributions
across types of conflict management, and conflict management effects on the legal and
institutional arrangements in the areas at stake. We thus contribute empirical building
blocks to debates about global (dis)order and open new avenues for future research.
Keywords: Interface Conflicts, Conflict Management, Authority, Liberal International Order,
Database, Institutional Overlap
1 The Interface Conflicts 1.0 dataset is available on the GESIS repository and can be found at
https://doi.org/10.7802/2241.
2
Zusammenfassung
Zur Handhabung von Regimekomplexität:
Eine Einführung in den Datensatz „Interface Conflicts 1.0“
von
Julia Fuß, Christian Kreuder-Sonnen, Andrés Saravia, und Michael Zürn
Die zunehmende Dichte und Verschränkung von internationalem Recht und internationa-
len Institutionen führt zu einem wachsenden Potenzial von Kollisionen zwischen Normen
und Regeln, die unterschiedlichen internationalen Institutionen zugehören. Es bleibt je-
doch eine offene Frage, wann Akteure tatsächlich manifeste Konflikte über überlappende
Normen und Regeln erzeugen und wie – und mit welchen Konsequenzen – solche Konflikte
bewältigt werden. Demzufolge nutzen wir das Konzept der Schnittstellenkonflikte („inter-
face conflicts“), in denen mindestens zwei Akteure Positionsdifferenzen über die Reichwei-
te oder den Vorrang von verschiedenen internationalen Normen äußern. Auf Grundlage
der Ergebnisse der DFG-Forschungsgruppe OSAIC stellen wir den Interface Conflicts 1.0
Datensatz vor, welcher Informationen über 78 Schnittstellenkonflikte enthält. Der Daten-
satz bietet Informationen über die Akteure und Normen der jeweiligen Schnittstellenkon-
flikte und fokussiert insbesondere auf deren darauffolgende Handhabung. Er unterscheidet
zwischen kooperativem und nicht-kooperativem Konfliktmanagement und kodiert die
institutionellen sowie die distributiven Folgen aller Konfliktmanagement-Bemühungen.
Anhand des Interface Conflicts 1.0 Datensatzes präsentiert dieses Papier erste deskriptive
Statistiken über die Streitpunkte in Schnittstellenkonflikten, die Verteilungen verschiede-
ner Typen von Konfliktmanagement und die Effekte von Konfliktmanagement auf juristi-
sche und institutionelle Übereinkünfte in den jeweiligen Politikfeldern. Auf diese Weise
tragen wir empirische Bausteine zu Debatten über die globale (Un-) Ordnung bei und zei-
gen neue Pfade für zukünftige Forschungsvorhaben auf.
Stichworte: Schnittstellenkonflikt, Konfliktbearbeitug, Autorität, internationale Ordnung, insti-
tutionelle Überschneidungen, Datenbank
3
1. Introduction
2
Over the last two decades, the study of global order and global governance has oscil-
lated between integration and fragmentation. After the end of the Cold War, the sub-
field mostly focused on the deepening and expansion of global governance. It was ar-
gued that global governance encompasses an increasing set of issues and intrudes
more deeply into formerly domestic affairs (Kahler and Lake 2004). The rise of inter-
national authority and its study in qualitative (Avant et al. 2010; Lake 2010) and
quantitative (Hooghe, Lenz and Marks 2019; Zürn, Tokhi and Binder 2021 forthcoming)
terms became the major foci of global governance studies. For the first time, the study
of global governance had a conceptual core (Coen and Pegram 2018). Paradoxically, the
real-world effects of growing international authority once again separated the field
thematically so that we can currently speak of two big subfields. The first focuses on
the shortcomings, challenges, contestations, and decline of international institutions
(see e.g. Lake et al. 2021 for an overview). One major argument here is that the rise of
authority and its unsatisfying exercise has provoked a backlash and a potential re-
treat of global governance (Zürn 2018; Kreuder-Sonnen and Rittberger 2020). The sec-
ond subfield starts from the observation that the rise of international authority has
produced overlaps and collisions between different segments of global governance. It
is this growing regime complexity (Alter and Meunier 2009; Alter and Raustiala 2018)
that has produced a strand of research focusing on conflict and contestation among
multilateral institutions (Morse and Keohane 2014). It is impossible to separate all
global governance research neatly into only these two boxes. Arguably, however, they
do cover a significant share of contemporary research on global governance.
This contribution belongs to the second strand of research. It is widely agreed up-
on that global governance is characterized by institutional density that has grown in
the two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union. In this period, a fast-growing set of
2 This paper builds on collaborative work in the DFG-funded research group FOR 2409 “Overlapping
Spheres of Authority and Interface Conflicts in the Global Order (OSAIC)”. We would like to thank all
group members for the conceptual debates that underlie the database, as well as for their empirical
contributions that fill the database. All coders are mentioned online with the dataset. We would also
like to express our gratitude to Joia Buning and Felicitas Fritzsche for their excellent research assis-
tance in the course of the project.
4
formal and informal international institutions has occupied a slowly growing global
governance space (Raustiala 2013, p. 296; Pauwelyn et al. 2014; Drezner 2013). As a
consequence, frictions between these institutions have emerged. When norms and
rules overlap, conflict among actors over the prevalence of such norms and rules is
not necessary, but more likely. For example, the overlap of the World Trade Organiza-
tion’s (WTO) rules on intellectual property protection and the World Health Organiza-
tion’s (WHO) norm of essential medicines provision gave rise to opposing actor posi-
tions on the application or suspension of patent laws related to AIDS medication in
developing countries. Similarly, the overlap between the WTO’s Agreement on Sani-
tary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures and the Cartagena Protocol to the Convention
on Biological Diversity (CBD) led to conflicting positions on the application of either a
scientific risk assessment or the precautionary principle for the assessment of hor-
mone-treated beef.
Outstanding contributions have pointed to the dark side of this development.
Both International Law (IL) and International Relations (IR) scholars have worked a lot
on the assumption that this “fragmentation” or “international regime complexity”
undermines international law and order. In IL, the view that colliding international
legal regimes undermine the integrity of international law is prevalent (Benvenisti
and Downs 2007; Dunoff and Trachtman 2009; cf. Peters 2017). Many IR analysts share
this view and contend that institutional overlap creates opportunities for “forum-
shopping” and “regime-shifting” that allow, especially the most powerful states, to
evade international obligations (Drezner 2009, 2013; Helfer 2009; Morse and Keohane
2014). However, there is another side to the coin. Some analysts emphasize the func-
tionality of institutional complexity (e.g. Keohane and Victor 2011) or highlight the
potential normative benefits arising from inter-institutional contestation (Faude and
Große-Kreul 2020).
This contribution speaks to this field but offers two innovations. First, while
studies about the rising contestation of international authority by now also rely on
quantitative data, the research program on regime complexity and international legal
fragmentation is lagging behind in this respect. In IR, respective studies have mostly
been issue-area or problem-field specific, and largely based on single or small-N
comparative case studies (see e.g. Raustiala and Victor 2004; Betts 2013; Abbott 2012;
5
Gómez-Mera 2016; Keohane and Victor 2011; Margulis 2013; Gehring and Faude 2014;
Hofmann 2011).3 International Law has taken a more macro perspective, but contri-
butions are not built on (nor do they provide) systematic data (see e.g. Koskenniemi
and Leino 2002; International Law Commission 2006; Crawford and Nevill 2012). So
far, we lack high quality data that can be used in comparative studies with a substan-
tial N. As a first step towards alleviating this problem, in this paper, we present a da-
taset on “interface conflicts” that is based on structured expert knowledge amenable
for use in both qualitative and quantitative designs. Moving the study of regime com-
plexity and fragmentation beyond case studies is a major purpose of the dataset pre-
sented in this paper.
Our second contribution is that we move the question of whether regime com-
plexity enhances or undermines international cooperation and global governance
from the realm of theoretical conceptualization to the realm of empirical observa-
tions. How fragmentation and institutional complexity affect global order is a ques-
tion that is far from settled. It also is an open question whether interface conflicts
increase or decrease the quality of governance in a given issue area. However, contri-
butions in IR and IL often tend to treat the phenomenon of interest as inherently de-
sirable or undesirable. Our approach allows studying these questions in a way that
does not already inscribe the answer into the conceptualization.
The two contributions this paper seeks to make are rendered possible by one cen-
tral analytical move: We analyze norm collisions and interface conflicts from the per-
spective of the actors. This is the core of the research program that we undertook in
the DFG-funded Research Group “Overlapping Spheres of Authority and Interface Con-
flicts in the Global Order” (OSAIC) (Zürn et al. 2018). Both IR and IL tend to claim colli-
sions between norms, rules, or institutions by merely looking at them from the ob-
server perspective and trying to determine inconsistencies “from the outside”
(Wisken and Kreuder-Sonnen 2020; Kreuder-Sonnen and Zürn 2020). The question of
whether the involved actors (state governments, intergovernmental organizations
[IGOs], non-governmental organizations [NGOs], etc.) perceive inconsistencies and col-
lisions and how they engage with them is largely left untouched. To really understand
3 See Pratt (2018) and Haftel and Lenz (forthcoming) for notable exceptions.
6
the consequences of increasing institutional density and the growing number of in-
stitutional overlaps, we argue that three key steps are in order:
First, we need to zoom in on the level at which conflict manifests between actors
over the prevalence of different international institutions. Our core unit of analy-
sis is what we call interface conflicts, that is, those norm collisions in the global
realm that are perceived or constructed by actors and expressed in positional dif-
ferences. We thus take an internalist approach to the identification of conflict that
allows a focus on those normative inconsistencies that have actual social conse-
quences. Concentrating on cases in which actors justify their incompatible posi-
tions with reference to competing international norms or rules allows us to ex-
clude “false positives”, that is, instances in which observers treat overlapping in-
stitutions as conflicting whereas the involved actors do not. One example might
be the overlap between the World Bank and the newly created Asian Infrastruc-
ture and Investment Bank (AIIB), which has widely been treated as conflictual. Up-
on closer inspection, however, actors seem to perceive the institutions as com-
plementary rather than contradictory (Faude and Fuss 2020).
Second, we ask whether and how those interface conflicts are managed. Actors
respond to conflicts differently, either in a co-operative or a non-cooperative
manner, employing specific legal and institutional frameworks (Zürn and Faude
2013). Thus, conflicts are not necessarily bound to undermine order, they can just
as well reinforce existing normative structures or create new ones. Of course,
fragmentation and persisting incoherence are distinct possibilities if the parties
to a conflict behave uncooperatively. Yet, where conflict parties agree to the terms
of a co-operative conflict management, inter-institutional coordination is the
more likely outcome. Beyond the descriptive focus on the effects of conflict on or-
der, this analytical lens allows addressing the question of the conditions under
which an interface conflict is likely to incite co-operative or non-cooperative
forms of conflict management. This should provide important – and also practical-
ly relevant – insights on how to deal with institutional overlap.
Third, we hold that, in order to provide reliable information on patterns of inter-
face conflicts and conflict management in the global order we need a broad em-
pirical basis that allows for the comparative study of regime collisions across is-
7
sue areas, types of involved actors, time periods, and regions. No such data exists
so far. In this paper, we introduce an original dataset on interface conflicts and
conflict management that is amenable to the study of questions raised above.
The database is a collective effort of our interdisciplinary research group. It contains
empirical material gathered by six projects that were part of the endeavor. We intro-
duce the projects and contributors in the section on case selection. The database con-
tains information on 78 interface conflicts and their management. The conflicts span
almost all conceivable issue areas, their starting dates range from 1970 to 2018, and,
besides states and international organizations (IOs), they include conflict parties as
diverse as NGOs, business firms, indigenous communities, and national regulatory
bodies. The paper presents the database and offers some illustrations for possible us-
es. In section 2, we introduce the basic structure of the database, including its main
dimensions. We also discuss sampling and data sources. In section 3, we present the
key variables and categories that are coded in the dataset. We provide definitions and
point to difficult decisions that some of the codings entailed. In section 4, we present
some descriptive statistics of our data. Finally, we point to four interesting correla-
tions as illustrations for the possible uses of the data, and the type of questions that
can be addressed in future research by relying on this dataset.
2. Building the dataset
The DFG Research Group OSAIC brought together a set of six research projects that
studied norm collisions and interface conflicts with a similar set of questions that
were based on a common conceptual framework, rendering observations across re-
search projects comparable. In this section, we first present the structure of the data
and define key concepts such as interface conflicts, conflict management, and its con-
sequences (section 2.1). We then go on to briefly present the projects that contributed
cases to the dataset of the research group (section 2.2). In this step, we explain our
sampling and point to possible biases of the sample. As part of this step, we discuss
issues of reliability and comparability of the codings.
8
2.1 Structure of the data
Our data is structured by a general model of interface conflicts in world politics con-
sisting of four components: conflict manifestation, conflict management, manage-
ment outcomes, and effects on order. We put these four elements in a temporal order.
The dataset thus divides up information on interface conflicts as our unit of analysis
in four temporal dimensions (see Figure 1): T
0
denotes the moment in which an inter-
face conflict becomes manifest in actors’ discursive or behavioral expressions. T
1
de-
notes the period of conflict management in which the conflicting parties respond to
normative inconsistencies one way or another. Conflict management itself can go
through different subphases. T
2
denotes the moment when conflict management ends
because some kind of settlement is reached, that is, the outcome of conflict manage-
ment. It starts either when positional differences dissolve or when conflict manage-
ment becomes routinized. Finally, T
3
denotes the longer-term phase after conflict
management ends, when its effects on the global order become visible.
Figure 1: A temporal model of interface conflicts in world politics
To begin with, our core unit of analysis is interface conflicts. They are defined as “in-
compatible positional differences between actors about the prevalence of two or more
norms or rules emanating from different institutions” (Kreuder-Sonnen and Zürn
2020, p. 252). Interface conflicts are thus activated by state or non-state actors ex-
pressing differing and incompatible positions on a given bone of contention the
moment of conflict manifestation (T
0
) in our model. Our emphasis lies on the in-
volvement of at least two international norms or rules rooted in different source in-
9
stitutions. It does not qualify as an interface conflict if two actors exhibit positional
differences on the interpretation of one norm or rule (e.g. non-discrimination in in-
ternational trade) or on the prevalence of two norms emanating from the same insti-
tution (e.g. most favored nation vs. regional trade bloc exceptions in WTO law). In-
stead, we always need to pinpoint at least two actors that invoke different norms and
rules from distinct source institutions to justify their conflicting positions. One ex-
ample is the ongoing interface conflict between Japan (and other pro-whaling states)
and Australia (and other anti-whaling states), over the ban on commercial whaling
established by the International Whaling Commission in 1982. While Japan emphasiz-
es the cultural importance of whaling and refers to principles of permanent sover-
eignty over natural resources in addition to food autonomy and food sovereignty
norms, anti-whaling states refer to the need to protect endangered species, as laid
down in environmental protection norms, to substantiate their position.
Next, we suppose that manifest conflicts regularly incite some form of conflict
management. We define the management of interface conflicts as “any deliberate at-
tempt to address, mitigate, or remove any incompatibility between the [norms] in
question”.4 These attempts are in no way predetermined to be rational, balanced, or
technical. The same way a conflict can be highly political itself, so can its manage-
ment.. Most importantly, we distinguish between conflict management that is co-
operative and non-cooperative. While co-operative conflict management refers to
attempts that address an interface conflict in which the conflict parties agree to fol-
low procedural norms and/or accommodate each other’s preferences, at least some-
what in their respective position, non-cooperative conflict management is character-
ized by the conflict parties seeking to solve the dispute in their favor without regard
for the preferences of their opponent and without following procedural norms (see
Keohane 1984, p. 51–52). The “management” of a conflict is thus not predisposed to be
a compromising exercise or one in persuasion.
4Zelli 2011, p. 207. This conceptualization and the distinction between conflict and conflict manage-
ment is based on the liberal conflict theory by Coser (1964) and Dahrendorf (1961). It has been re-
conceptualized for the study of international regimes (see Efinger et al. 1988; Rittberger and Zürn
1990) including the notion of conflicts as positional differences and conflict management as all be-
havior speaking to these positional differences.
10
Irrespective of its type, conflict management is likely to lead to some kind of set-
tlement eventually: the management outcome. A (preliminary) settlement does not
imply that the positional differences were resolved or that all conflict parties agree to
its terms, but attempts at conflict management regularly produce relatively stable
practices. To the extent that these practices stabilize over time and become rou-
tinized, we speak of a conflict management outcome. At this point, we are most inter-
ested in the type of institutional arrangement produced by conflict management: Is
there a division of labor? Does one norm/institution displace the other(s)? Does insti-
tutional overlap persist? Moreover, we ask how the management outcome distributes
costs and gains across the parties to the conflict. Is the distribution symmetric or
asymmetric? Is it in line with the interests of the most powerful states, the actors
with the broadest support in civil society, or those backed by courts or tribunals?
Finally, as an interface conflict ends because positional differences dissolve or
because management outcomes become institutionalized and broadly accepted, we
enter the phase of effects on global order. We then want to know whether the inter-
face conflict and its management had consequences that eventually increased the
level of integration in the international system or whether they led to more fragmen-
tation, and how it affected international order in substantial terms.
Let us illustrate these temporal dimensions using a well-known example: the dis-
pute over trade in genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It features collisions be-
tween global health norms and international trade norms enacted in one way by the
European Union (EU) and, in another, by the United States (US), Canada, and Argentina.
A manifest interface conflict (T
0
) emerged after 1997, when the EU introduced testing of
GMO products before entry of its internal market, and the US, Canada, and Argentina
openly voiced their discontent with the EU's measures on approving genetically modi-
fied foods (Peterson 2010, p. 8). While the EU justified its measures by invoking the
precautionary principle as codified in the Biosafety Protocol, the other conflict parties
contended that the EU measures violate WTO law and rejected the application of the
Biosafety Protocol to this dispute. At the point of time when the US, Canada, and Ar-
gentina filed a complaint in the WTO, the period of conflict management (T
1
) started,
which largely took place within the confines of the WTO dispute settlement process.
Since both conflict parties demonstrated a willingness to engage with the other party
11
and stuck to the procedural rules of WTO dispute settlement, conflict management
was co-operative. Following the Dispute Settlement Body's decision of September 2006
in favor of the complaining parties, both conflict coalitions concluded an additional
political agreement in which the EU maintained some of its existing restrictions, but
committed to abstain from imposing further import restrictions on GMO products.
This management outcome (T
2
) led to an institutional settlement that we describe as
collaboration. The longer-term effects on order (T
3
), however, are categorized as con-
tributing to fragmentation, because the EU's self-restraint is the result of a political
solution reached outside of formal institutions. Overall, the interface conflict thus
weakened the international institutional order (see the Appendix for a detailed over-
view of the specific codings of the GMO case).
2.2 Case selection and coding
An ideal case selection yields a sample that is representative of the universe of cases
under consideration. In our case, however, the population of interface conflicts is un-
known. It is hard to know all the cases in which actors express positional differences
about the prevalence of norms in the international realm. Since we are open on the
range of actors that may activate interface conflicts, we would need to observe a vir-
tually unlimited amount of “actor-years” to find the entire population. Without know-
ing the population size, however, it is impossible to make definitive claims about the
representativeness of the sample included in the dataset. This predicament should,
however, neither discourage the systematic collection of data nor free such an effort
from thinking about selection biases. Important recent data gathering efforts for
example on informal intergovernmental organizations (IIGOs) (Vabulas and Snidal
2013; 2020; Roger 2020) – that similarly defy a prior identification of the population
size5 show the usefulness of such endeavors.
The OSAIC research group consists of six individual projects and a coordination
unit to integrate their findings. Working under the umbrella of a common conceptual
framework, the substantive projects took a variety of separate routes to study inter-
face conflicts in world politics. While it was made sure that the individual research
12
projects would cover a variety of issue areas, each project team devised its own em-
pirical strategy to identify interface conflicts within their areas of expertise. These
areas cover the fields of internet governance, drug prohibition, health, indigenous
rights, African security governance, international economic governance, and interna-
tional judicial bodies.
Given the internalist approach to conflict adopted by the group, which focuses on
actors' expression of positional differences, cases needed to be detected first by find-
ing such concrete expressions. According to their respective research strategies, the
teams approached this differently; that is, they used distinct “fishing techniques”:
The project COLLISIONS, led by Anna Holzscheiter and Andrea Liese, is particularly
interested in the construction of normative incompatibility and the activation of
interface conflicts. Therefore, they looked for interface conflicts within given
normative complexes that is, they studied areas known for interweaving and
overlapping normative claims such as the intersection of drug prohibition, health,
and indigenous rights to search for expressions of incompatible positional differ-
ences regarding the prevalence of the international norms at stake (see Gholiagha
et al. 2020). This way, COLLISIONS added eight cases to the database.
The project INTERFACE LAW led by Nico Krisch aims to reconstruct the emergence
of interface norms that govern the relations between different bodies of norms
and which could lead to a greater enmeshment or even integration of these legal
orders. The analysis is anchored in a substantive focus on international economic
governance. Hence, the group scrutinized the interstices of economic spheres of
authority with other spheres such as human rights or environmental protection
in search of overlaps that became manifest interface conflicts (see Krisch et al.
2020). INTERFACE LAW contributed six cases to the database.
The project COURTS, led by Christoph Möllers, examines a wide range of judicial
decisions in order to establish which legal reasoning and what argumentative
strategies international courts and court-like bodies employ in adjudicating inter-
face conflicts brought before them. The project thus studied proceedings in front
of judicial third parties such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to find ex-
5 In the case of IIGOs, the informality of cooperative arrangements as well as their decentralized
emergence makes simple comprehensive coverage difficult. As Vabulas and Snidal (2013, p. 205)
13
pressions of incompatible positional differences regarding the prevalence of in-
ternational norms at stake (see Birkenkötter 2020). COURTS added seven cases to
the database.
The project AFRICAN SECURITY, led by Anna Geis, has both a regional and a the-
matic focus. It is interested in normative contestations between the United Na-
tions (UN) and African regional organizations such as the African Union (AU) over
questions of military interventions in regional crises. As a consequence, the pro-
ject examined recent cases of military (non)intervention in Africa with a view to
conflictive interactions over norms such as sovereignty, security, and human
rights (see Moe and Geis 2020). AFRICAN SECURITY contributed seven cases to the
database.
The project INTERNET, led by Markus Jachtenfuchs, tracks the emergence and evo-
lution of interface conflicts in the area of internet governance. Internet govern-
ance constitutes a rapidly evolving field that encompasses a variety of actors,
ranging from public to private and from national to trans-/international. The sub-
stantive focus is on issues of content control and privacy protection. In this con-
text, the group identified interface conflicts between two primary spheres of au-
thority in internet governance: a “liberal” sphere backed by the US and its West-
ern allies, and a “sovereign” sphere backed by Russia and China (see Flonk et al.
2020). INTERNET provided nine cases for the database.
The project RESPONSES, headed by Michael Zürn, casts a wider net. It contributed
41 interface conflicts that were selected based on a systematic review of the polit-
ical science and legal literature on regime complexity, legal fragmentation, and
norm collisions. In its first step, 48 instances of institutional overlap
6
were identi-
fied. In the second step, a closer analysis on the micro-level identified 41 interface
conflicts in which actors justify their position with reference to different interna-
tional norms.
explain, their initial “documentation was a treasure-hunt”.
6 Institutional overlaps were identified on a broad reading of the relevant literature. The group fo-
cused on 52 articles written by IR scholars and 15 articles published in IL journals as this concept is
most often used in the literature. This led to a compilation of 48 instances of institutional overlap.
However, an institutional overlap does not lead to an interface conflict unless it is activated by ac-
tors. In turn, some institutional overlaps consist of more than only one interface conflict (see Faude
and Fuss 2020 for a discussion of the causes and consequences of institutional overlap).
14
Altogether, the database contains 78 cases. Naturally, every “fishing technique” intro-
duced its own sampling biases. For instace, COURTS obviously only finds interface
conflicts with third-party involvement because it detects cases in judicial proceed-
ings. Similarly, AFRICAN SECURITY may have included a representative sample of in-
terface conflicts in the realm of military intervention in Africa, but that is clearly not
representative of the larger population of conflicts beyond Africa and beyond securi-
ty.
On the other hand, however, the variety of “fishing techniques” also balances out
individual sampling biases and thus increases the overall representativeness of all
cases sampled in the dataset. Moreover, the largest number of cases (more than half of
the sample) was contributed by RESPONSES, the one project that came closest to a
random sampling strategy. Overall, the different projects complement each other in
their case selection in terms of actors, policy fields, and procedural characteristics.
The overall sample of 78 cases spans virtually all issue areas (with some intuitive
clustering around human rights, trade, and security) (see Figure 2); looks at all con-
ceivable conflict parties (see Figure 3); includes cases with and without third-party
involvement; and covers both co-operative and non-cooperative conflict manage-
ment. Against this background, we expect that, for most possible uses, the data-
gathering strategy employed by the OSAIC research group does not give rise to sys-
tematic sampling biases. It is, however, important to notethat we cannot exclude the
possibility that, for the study of some specific research questions, our case selection
does expose biases. We thus encourage users of the dataset to carefully assess the dis-
tributions of the data in light of their research questions.
15
Figure 2: Concerned issue areas
Figure 3: Types of actors and actor coalitions coded as conflict parties
The coding of the cases reflects the principles of structured expert surveys; that is,
the coordination unit prepared a coding scheme that the project teams filled in based
on their extensive expert knowledge of the cases they studied in depth. All coders
followed a set of coding rules (see Table A1 in the Appendix). These rules both provide
general guidance, for example, on determining the separation of cases, and lay out
very specific requirements for the coding of single categories of conflict management
16
(e.g. determine that an asymmetric distribution of costs and gains exists if these
costs/gains are allocated for at least two-thirds to one actor).
The concepts measured in the database were developed by the research group
collectively over the course of several years, ensuring a congruent understanding of
the concepts used. Most teams’ codings come with a high degree of validity as they are
based on in-depth case studies. Five out of six projects provided data on five to nine
cases that were all subject to qualitative analysis. For these projects, information for
the database was basically a side-product of research with related but separate objec-
tives. In terms of reliability, the teams individually sought to increase inter-coder
reliability by discussing cases and recoding where appropriate. Additionally, the en-
tire research group ensured that the codings for each case in the sample was checked
by at least one member of a different team at least once. Only RESPONSES conducted
research with the primary goal of feeding the database and ended up with a total of
41 cases. Each case is based on a qualitative investigation of the evidence that culmi-
nated in concise case studies. RESPONSES introduced a more formalized inter-coder
reliability check by having different team members double-code five cases inde-
pendently. Inter-coder reliability was at 84% agreement among the expert coders.
3. Variables and distributions
This section focuses on the origins and types of interface conflicts, the characteristics
of conflict management, management outcomes, and the effects on global order. Other
variables not discussed in this section can be found in the Appendix. It pays special
attention to the key variables of each time dimension; namely, the features of conflict
manifestation, the traits of co-operative conflict management, the types of institu-
tional settlement, the creation of norms for the handling or avoidance of interface
conflicts as part of the conflict management outcomes, and the structural and sub-
stantive effects on global order (see Table 1).
17
Ke
y variables
Characteristics of key variables
Object of conflict Values
Means
Interests
Types of conflict management Co-operative conflict management
Non-cooperative conflict manage-
ment
Degree of regulation in co-operative conflict
management
Constitutionalized conflict man-
agement
Norm-based conflict management
Decentralized conflict management
Outcomes of co-operative conflict manage-
ment
Division of labor
Collaboration
Displacement
Uncertainty
Effects on global order Integration
Fragmentation
More liberal
More illiberal
Neutral/indeterminate
Table 1: Overview of key variables
To begin with, at T
0
, an interface conflict is based on an institutional overlap that has
either been created intentionally or represents an unintended side-effect. Whereas the
activation of a conflict will most likely be intentional, we ask here whether the un-
derlying overlap in norms came about intentionally or unintentionally. Did actors
introduce overlapping norms or rules with the goal to later contest existing norms or
rules? Or did these overlaps result from a general rule proliferation with unforeseen
consequences?
As a rule of thumb, we consider interface conflicts to be intentionally created
when a new, overlapping norm emerges in the same policy field as the already exist-
18
ing norm, which is then contested. By contrast, if the norms developed separately in
different governance fields, we consider the interface conflict to be an unintended
by-product of the increasing complexity of global governance – and thus created un-
intentionally, unless there is an open reference to each other from the beginning on.
Both types of interface conflicts occur almost with the same frequency in our data
(see Figure 4)
Figure 4: Type of interface conflict – origin and spheres of authority
Intentionally created interface conflicts are often used to contest an institutional sta-
tus quo and circumvent costly norms. This strategy may be labelled “contested multi-
lateralism” or “counter-institutionalization” (see Morse and Keohane 2014; Zürn 2018,
chap. 7). For example, the conflict over global energy sources between the Interna-
tional Energy Agency (IEA) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)
constitutes a case of an intentionally created interface conflict. The creation of IRENA
in the same policy field of energy governance already occupied by IEA was intended
to alter the status quo (focus on oil and fossil fuels represented by the IEA) and to
promote renewable energies. An example of an unintentional creation is the interface
conflict between the Kichwa indigenous communities, the State of Ecuador, and oil
companies over the use of land. This interface conflict referred to the collective rights
of indigenous peoples to physical integrity on the one hand and to foreign investment
regulations on the other – after all, the international norms and rules on indigenous
rights and foreign investments developed separately in two different governance
fields without any open and deliberate linkage.
19
Furthermore, we ask whether an interface conflict occurs within or across
spheres of authority. A sphere of authority is defined as “a governance space with at
least one domestic or international authority, which is delimited by the involved ac-
tors’ perception of a common good or goal at a given level of governance” (Kreuder-
Sonnen and Zürn 2020, p. 255; see also Zürn 2018, chap. 2). To put it simply, if two
different norms of international trade are invoked, we speak of a conflict within a
sphere of authority; if a norm of global health is used to challenge trade rules, we
code it as a conflict between two different spheres of authority. The majority of inter-
face conflicts in our sample occur across spheres (see Figure 4). Moreover, most of the
cases in the dataset focus on horizontal interface conflicts arising at the same level of
governance (e.g. between international norms promoted under the auspices of two
international authorities). Both of the above examples refer to such horizontal inter-
face conflicts. As an add-on, the dataset also includes nine vertical interface conflicts
taking place across different governance levels (e.g. between international and na-
tional authorities) that also embody distinct spheres of authority.7 By definition, ver-
tical interface conflicts thus always cut across spheres of authority, while horizontal
ones may also take place within a sphere of authority.
In a given period of conflict management (T
1
), we mainly distinguish between two
types of conflict management: co-operative and non-cooperative. Co-operative conflict
management is characterized by a willingness of both sides to follow procedural
norms and/or accommodate each other’s preferences at least somewhat in their posi-
tions. At least a latent openness for compromise is key. By contrast, non-cooperative
conflict management is characterized by both conflict parties’ attempt to solve the dis-
pute in their favor without any regard for the preferences of the other conflict party,
and without following any procedural norms. In non-cooperative conflict manage-
ment, each party seeks its own parochial advantage without compromise. It is gener-
ally unregulated.
7 Most of the vertical conflicts identified in the sample take place in the realm of African Security
Governance, which are concerned with different positions between regional organizations such as
the AU and the African governments on the one hand, and the UN on the other. They mainly repre-
sent interface conflicts between regional and international governance and are therefore part of our
database. Given the limited number and the bias of vertical interface conflicts in the sample from the
realm of African Security Governance, we refrain from making claims specific to such conflicts. If
there is a danger that they lead to a bias in the overall sample, they can be easily excluded.
20
We further subdivide co-operative conflict management by distinguishing the
degree of regulation that each case exhibits. We first consider co-operative conflict
management that is constitutionalized to exhibit the highest degree of regulation. To
be categorized as constitutionalized, conflict management needs to take place in the
context of institutionalized procedures providing norms of meta-governance to au-
thoritatively solve interface conflicts. Typically, we thus look at cases in which the
conflicting parties recognize ex ante that a third party is competent to render a ver-
dict on matters including the one at stake and where they neatly follow the legal
procedures. What we call norm-based conflict management refers to a medium level
of regulation. It describes handling of interface conflicts 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 procedural (e.g. rules of precedence or applicability).
Third norms may be issued by
a third party with a certain independence (e.g. an international court or arbitral tri-
bunal) or be invoked by the conflict parties themselves. The lowest degree of regula-
tion is represented by decentralized conflict management that takes place if the con-
flict is not referred to a third party and actors do not take recourse to a third norm,
but they are still willing to compromise and to accommodate some of the preferences
of the other conflict party in the process of handling their positional differences. This
process may be non-institutionalized and highly political. In practice, this could entail
engaging in official dialogue, issuing official documents such as Memoranda of Un-
derstanding or cooperation agreements, or even result in an unofficial understanding
of agreement. The distribution of these subtypes of co-operative conflict management
in our sample is captured in Figure 5.
21
Figure 5: Management outcomes (Dimension I: Institutional settlement
The conflict management outcomes described in temporal dimension T
2
consist of dif-
ferent types of institutional settlement and their distributional consequences. The
categories of institutional settlement include displacement, collaboration, division of
labor, and uncertainty.8 Figure 6 shows that uncertainty and collaboration are the
most frequent conflict management outcomes.
Figure 6:Management outcomes (Dimension I: institutional settlement)
In cases of displacement, the outcome of conflict management is the retreat of one
institution from the governance area, thus dissolving the underlying overlap. Col-
laboration, in turn, describes a management outcome in which competing claims to
22
authority are settled by way of pooling or mutual self-restraint. In a division of labor
scenario, conflicting or overlapping governance functions and/or sectors are divided
among authorities, providing a systemic ordering principle. Uncertainty, finally, de-
scribes a conflict outcome that appears as unstable. Uncertainty persists if competing
claims to authority or overlaps in resource spending remain virulent. Many conflict
management outcomes are coded as uncertain, since the outcome is based on a politi-
cal compromise, often not transferred into legal terms. In such situations, it is plausi-
ble that states maintain their principled positions.
Moving to the final temporal dimension in our model, we are interested in the ef-
fects on order (T
3
) that interface conflicts and their management produce. Here, the
key question is whether conflict management leads to more integration or more frag-
mentation in global governance.
9
This final step in our model is relatively abstract
and not immediately observable. It involves a significant degree of interpretation.
10
We still tried to provide valid codings by explicating the typical phenomena associat-
ed with each. Integration is coded in the cases in which we see an institutionalization
of meta-governance for conflict management or a clear-cut delineation of formerly
overlapping institutions. By contrast, fragmentation is indicated by an increased con-
flict-proneness in the governance space under question, inter-institutional contradic-
tions, or a deinstitutionalization of co-operative conflict management systems. Figure
7 indicates that, in the long run, interface conflicts have a slight tendency to lead to
more integration rather than fragmentation.
8 Further distinctions of conflict management outcomes include symmetric and asymmetric distri-
bution of costs and gains. They are described in more detail in the Appendix.
9 Further effects on global order include whether the conflict management outcome contributes to a
more liberal or illiberal world order. See the Appendix for more details.
10 In general, it should be noted that, the later in the temporal model, the greater the amount of
interpretation on the side of the coders, and hence the greater the degree of uncertainty for each
coding.
23
Figure 7: Effects on order – integration or fragmentation
This section gave an overview of the key variables contained in each time dimension
shown in Figure 1. However, these are not all the variables we coded. A more fine-
grained account of all variables and their descriptions is included in the Appendix.
4. Some descriptive findings
In this section, we present additional descriptive statistics that illustrate some of the
more interesting distributions within the database. Thereby, we present first prelim-
inary findings on the characteristics of conflict management and management out-
comes. In the second part, we display four correlations that are exemplary for the
possible uses of the dataset.
4.1 Case selection and coding
As mentioned above, in temporal dimension T
1
, all interface conflicts can be divided
into different subphases of conflict management. These phases can be delineated by
changing institutional venues, a switch from co-operative to non-cooperative (or vice
versa) conflict management, or the alteration of periods with or without third-party
involvement. Out of the 78 conflicts in the Interface Conflicts 1.0 dataset, only 13 are
sustainably managed in just one straightforward attempt. Thirty-five interface con-
flicts are managed in two phases and 30 interface conflicts even go through three
phases of conflict management. In each subphase, conflict management is coded as
24
either being managed in a co-operative or non-cooperative manner, in accordance
with the characteristics outlined in section 3 above.
Figure 8 shows the distribution of co-operative and non-cooperative types of
conflict management within each phase of conflict management. There are at least
three important messages here: First, there is a clear overall preponderance of co-
operative over non-cooperative conflict management in our sample. Regime collisions
are thus no doom for international cooperation per se, and they should also not be
interpreted as always reflecting a desire to undermine international institutions. If
that were the case, the conflict parties would hardly resort to co-operative conflict
management as their coping mechanism of choice as often as they do. Second, it is
striking that in those interface conflicts that are managed in only one phase over 80%
are managed co-operatively. What explains this high rate compared to those conflicts
that go through more phases is a question for future research. Could it be due to the
important role of the arbitral bodies that quickly bring the conflict parties on a co-
operative pathway? Or is this due to a given type of conflict that pre-determines con-
flict management for all three periods? Third, additional phases of conflict manage-
ment increase the share of co-operative conflict management. It suggests either a
decreasing willingness of actors to sustain uncooperative behavior over time (Gehring
and Faude 2014) or that the development of co-operative conflict management takes
time.
25
Figure 8: Type of conflict management across phases: co-operative or non-cooperative
Regarding the conflict management outcome (T
2
), we distinguish between symmetric
and asymmetric distribution of costs and gains among the conflict parties. In our da-
taset, 54 of the 78 conflicts result in an asymmetric distribution of costs and gains.
This means that, in two-thirds of the cases, one party has managed to emerge as a
“winner” from the conflict. In 21 cases, the management outcome is symmetric, and
costs and gains are distributed more evenly between the parties.11
11 Three interface conflicts in our dataset are considered as still ongoing, thus their outcome in
terms of distribution of costs and gains cannot yet be determined.
26
We expected that the distribution of costs and gains would depend on a variety of
factors that we collected additional data on. Concretely, we measure three variables:
a) whether the distributional effects (if asymmetric) are in line with the most power-
ful actor(s), b) whether they are in line with the actors that had more epistemic (judi-
cial) support, or c) whether they are in line with the actors that had more NGO sup-
port. One central finding in our data is that the amount of material power and NGO
support does not reliably predispose a conflict party to emerge victorious from an
interface conflict (see Figure 9). Instead, epistemic (judicial) support seems to be the
most reliable source of success.
Figure 9: Management outcome: distributional effects (asymmetric costs and gains)
A further finding regarding the outcome of conflict management already hints in the
direction of longer-term effects at T
3.
One element also measured in management out-
comes is whether they led to the creation of new norms for handling future instances
of the same type of conflict – or for avoiding interface conflicts of similar kinds alto-
gether. As Figure 10 indicates, this has not been the case in the majority of cases, but
at least in one third. This should be reckoned as one way in which interface conflicts
have a sustained positive effect on the development of global order. When we further
focus on the types of norms that have been created as an outcome of conflict man-
agement, we observe that roughly half of those are overarching norms. These norms
regulate relations centrally either through hierarchies or through conflict norms
such as lex specialis or lex posterior. They may also be formed as part of substantive
integrative norms such as human rights, sustainable development, or democra-
cy/good governance. In the other half of management outcomes that create norms to
handle future conflicts, outside norms may enter a given body of norms (as is the case
27
for reception norms) or these norms connect different bodies of norms without being
seen to belong to either of them (as is the case with connecting norms).
Figure 10: Management outcomes – creation of norms for avoidance or handling of future inter-
face conflicts
4.2 Correlations
We shall now present four simple correlations as examples for possible usage of the
dataset. The first two are based on expectations that are theoretically and intuitively
compelling; therefore, they primarily serve as probes of the face validity and quality
of the codings. The latter two tackle more contested propositions demonstrating the
usefulness of the dataset. First, we hypothesize a correlation between the origin of
conflict and the type of (final) conflict management. As indicated above, an interface
conflict can either be intentionally created by a conflict party to provoke institutional
change, or emerge as an unintended by-product of an increasingly complex global
governance system. We assume that intentionally created conflicts are more likely to
result in non-cooperative conflict management than in conflicts that occur uninten-
tionally, as actors would be less willing to adapt their positions if they were the ones
who had deliberately started the conflict in the first place. If the interface conflict
arose without intention, the involved parties would be more disposed to making com-
promises and managing the conflict cooperatively.
To examine if this hypothesis holds, we recoded both dichotomous categories as
dummy variables: For overlaps that were produced deliberately, the variable Inten-
tionallyCreated takes the value 1; and for cases with an unforeseen overlap, it takes
28
the value 0. For cases which are coded as co-operative in their last phase of conflict
management, the variable CoopCM takes the value 1, and the others take the value 0.
Since we have dichotomous variables, we can measure bivariate correlation using
Pearson's r. For the two variables, we find a coefficient of -0.2998 which indicates a
negative correlation between IntentionallyCreated and CoopCM. To test if the correla-
tion between the two variables is significant, we conducted a chi-squared test of in-
dependence (see Table 2). Our results indicate a significant correlation and are in line
with our hypothesis: Intentionally created interface conflicts are more likely to result
in non-cooperative conflict management.
Co-operative conflict management
Intentionally cre-
ated
0 1 Total
0
4
33
37
1
15
26
41
Total
20
59
78
Pearson chi2(1) = 7.0122 Pr = 0.008
Table 2: Cross tabulation of origin and type of conflict management
A second hypothesis refers to the relationship between the type of (final) conflict
management and the effect on global order. We strongly expect that interface con-
flicts that are managed cooperatively lead to an increased level of integration in the
international system, whereas non-cooperative conflict management makes fragmen-
tation more likely.
To probe this hypothesis, we used the variable CoopCM and created an additional
dummy variable Integration, which takes the value 1 for interface conflicts whose
effect on order is coded as integration and the value 0 for interface conflicts whose
effect on order is coded as fragmentation. Omitting one case in which the effect on
order could not be assessed, our sample consists of 77 observations. The coefficient of
0.6358 indicates a high degree of correlation for these two variables. Table 3 displays
that, in 45 cases, co-operative conflict management results in more integration. On
the other hand, there are also 13 cases in which co-operative conflict management in
the last phase comes with more fragmentation in the international system (such as
the GMO case; see the Appendix). However, 18 interface conflicts that are managed in
29
a non-cooperative way have a fragmenting effect on the global order, and only one
case with final non-cooperative management results in more integration. The results
again indicate statistical significance, which is compatible with our second hypothe-
sis.
Integration
Co-operative con-
flict management
0 1 Total
0
18
1
19
1
13
45
58
Total
31
46
77
Pearson chi2(1) = 31.1248 Pr = 0.0
00
Table 3: Cross tabulation of type of conflict management and effect on global order
We now move to less intuitive and theoretically more relevant propositions in order
to demonstrate the usefulness of the database. For this purpose, we probe deeper into
specific differences in management outcomes depending on the actors that are in-
volved in a conflict. To begin with, we check whether the involvement of the US cor-
relates with a distribution of gains and losses that is in line with more powerful
states. As shown in Figure 9, more power over resources usually does not enable a
conflict party to receive systematically more gains from an interface conflict. Howev-
er, based on Hegemonic Stability Theory, one would still expect that interface con-
flicts are more likely to be managed in a way favoring the US due to its hegemonic
position and extraordinary influence in IOs. We, therefore, examined interface con-
flicts in which the US is a conflict party, either alone or as part of an actor coalition as
well as the single most powerful actor
12
, and the distributions of costs and gains is
asymmetric. As Table 4 shows, out of 18 conflicts in which the US partakes as the
most powerful actor, it manages to evolve victorious from the conflict in 9 cases and
in the other 9 it does not. We find that the distributional effects of an outcome are
only slightly tilted in favor of the powerful actors if the US is involved. Therefore,
possessing great power over resources does not put the US at a significantly strong
advantage in obtaining favorable gains from interface conflicts.
30
Distributional effects are in line with
most powerful actor
US involved as
most powerful ac-
tor
0
1
Total
0
21
12
33
1
9
9
18
Total
30
21
51
Pearson chi2(1) = 0.8942 Pr = 0.344
Table 4: Cross tabulation of US involvement and distributional effects
If a conflict party’s power over resources alone are not decisive, what other factors
are relevant for obtaining gains from interface conflict management? From a con-
structivist perspective, it should be the persuasive or rhetorical power of normative
arguments that explains the outcomes of conflict management. We might therefore
assume that the distribution of costs and gains benefits those actors enjoying more
NGO support. The reason being that NGOs often support actors representing positions
pertaining to non-material and collective interests, which involve issues such as bio-
diversity protection or indigenous rights. However, as laid down in Figure 9, it is only
in a minority of cases that NGO support also coincides with advantageous manage-
ment outcomes. As rational institutionalism would hypothesize, however, norm-based
outcomes are particularly likely where disputes are channeled through independent
third-parties (e.g. Zangl 2008). Hence, the involvement of a third party is expected to
enhance the chances of the conflict party sided by NGOs to attain a beneficial man-
agement. To probe this hypothesis, we examined the cases in which the costs and
gains are distributed in favor of the conflict parties with more NGO support and test-
ed them in terms of involvement of a third party.
Table 5 shows that the empirical distribution is in line with the hypothesis. When
a third party is involved, the number of cases in which distributional effects are in
line with the actors who had more NGO support more than doubled from 4 cases (no
third-party involvement) to 10 cases (with third-party involvement). Whereas gener-
ally more NGO/civil society support does not lead to more success in interface con-
12 Out of 21 cases in which the US is involved, 3 cases describe a conflict between the US and the EU
within the issue area of international trade. Since it is difficult to determine which actor is consid-
31
flicts, this correlation reveals that the involvement of a third party has a significant
positive effect on the probability that distributional effects are in line with those ac-
tors who had more NGO support.
Distributional effects are in line with
those ac
tors who had more NGO support
Third party in-
volvement in any
phase of conflict
management
0
1
Total
0
14
4
18
1
8
(4 cases involve
courts)
10
(8 cases involve
courts)
18
Total
22
14
36
Pearson chi2(1) = 4.2078 Pr = 0.040
Table 5: Cross tabulation of third-party involvement and distributional effects
Our analyses show that the Interface Conflicts 1.0 dataset can be used for multiple
purposes, and is also suitable for investigating larger questions of IR and IL research.
On one hand, we have shown that it provides concrete insights into particular inci-
dents of interface conflicts and the nature of their management (see Table 2 and 3).
On the other hand, the OSAIC data affirms existing research that material power is
less important in managing norm collisions than often assumed (Wisken 2018; Wisken
and Kreuder-Sonnen 2020) (see Table 4 and 5). These simple correlations provide only
a glimpse at the broad range of possible linkages that can be drawn between the vari-
ous categories of cases in our dataset. Further analysis could, for instance, examine
relations between objects of conflict, preexistence of procedural norms, or take a clos-
er look at specific time periods and issue areas.
5. Conclusion
The goal of this paper was to explain the purpose and structure of the Interface Con-
flicts 1.0 dataset. The dataset aims at offering high-quality data that can be used in
comparative studies with a substantial N. This provides the opportunity to study is-
ered to be more powerful in these conflicts, these cases are omitted.
32
sues of regime complexity and fragmentation with Qualitative Comparative Analysis
(QCA) or even statistical tools and move the field beyond case studies.
So far, we have provided simple univariate distributions and some bivariate de-
scriptions in order to explain the structure of the database and highlight some pre-
liminary findings. Most importantly, we could show that, in a large majority of cases,
the management of interface conflicts is co-operative (or becomes co-operative over
time), and that co-operative conflict management is significantly correlated with
more inter-institutional coordination and integration rather than fragmentation at
the level of the order as a whole. One important result from the work of the OSAIC
group is thus that the doomsayers in the fields of regime complexity and fragmenta-
tion who predict global disorder or a return to more “realist” international politics
may hold explanatory leverage over a smaller share of the empirics than is often as-
sumed.
Beyond such immediate observations, the dataset can be used for studying many
different issues and questions about interface conflicts, conflict management, and its
consequences for the global governance system. Let us briefly outline three avenues
for further research that could fruitfully be carried out based on our data. The first
would be to study the development of conflict management over time. By focusing on
within-case comparisons, one could aim at comparing the overall dynamics during
the three phases of conflict management. Under which conditions do actors shift
gears in conflict management? Which interface conflicts are stable regarding conflict
management, and which ones change over time? Does the length of non-cooperative
conflict management depend on the type of actor? A second line of inquiry might aim
at uncovering the relationship between types of conflict and conflict management.
The underlying question is to what extent conflict management is pre-determined by
features of the object of conflict. What is the effect of the difference between conflicts
within and across spheres of authority for their management? Can we replicate older
findings that conflicts over values are much less conducive to co-operative conflict
management than conflicts over means (see Efinger and Zürn 1990)? A third avenue
for further research lies in the comparison of different types of actors and their rela-
tionship with interface conflicts and conflict management. Is it true that the func-
33
tions and resources of different actors pre-determine their behavior in interface con-
flicts? Which strategies are typical for states and which for IOs?
While these and related questions can be answered based on the Interface Con-
flicts 1.0 dataset, it is likely to be more productively used in connection with other
data sources. Using datasets about the type and amount of authority of IOs, for in-
stance, we can test whether IOs with high levels of authority are more often involved
in interface conflicts than IOs with lower levels. One may also probe the extent to
which interface conflicts play out differently in issue-specific organizations com-
pared to general-purpose IOs like the UN or the EU. One may also study, to which ex-
tent regional areas plagued by a high level of violence display less co-operative man-
agement of interface conflicts. These examples are only the simplest ones that come
to mind. We are sure that many other uses are also possible.
34
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38
Appendix:
The following table (Table A1) depicts all variables that are part of the Interface Conflicts 1.0
dataset and provides operational definitions for each category. As an example, we include the
coding of the GMO case described in section 2.1. of this paper.
Definitions and coding in-
structions
Example (GMO case)
Case
descriptor/name
EC Biotech/environmental protection
vs trade in GMOs
Actors and
positions
(T0)
Starting year of IC Year in which the conflict start-
ed, related event in parentheses.
2003 (the US, Argentina and Canada put
in a request for consultations)
Descrip-
tion/Specification of
the emergence of
the conflict (T0)
Conflict manifestation starts in 1997,
when Austria banned a variety of ge-
netically modified corn by invoking
the safeguard clause article 16 of the
EU's 90/220 Directive
Conflict party 1 Parties to interface conflicts can
be individual or collective ac-
tors
as well as actor coalitions. Col-
lective actors should preferably
be referred to as the entity
under which they operate. If
multiple states or actors are
directly involved, they should
be listed individually, indicating
the most involved/most active
states or actors first. The first
party should be, in cases where
it is clear, the party that acti-
vated the conflict.
To determine if a separate con-
flict exists involving NGOs: 1) If
NGOs are part of conflict man-
agement, it is decisive whether
the NGOs also make a compro-
mise in the conflict manage-
ment process, 2)if conflict man-
agement is different for NGOs as
opposed to the other conflict
parties, a separate case involv-
ing NGOs likely exists, and
3)NGOs need to represent a
position that is clearly different
from other parties, also during
conflict ma
n
agement.
US, Canada, Argentina
Conflict party 2 European Communities (EC)/EU mem-
ber states
Conflict party 3 [year
entering conflict]
Position conflict
party 1
The EC measures (moratorium on the
approval of GMOs and some national
bans/restrictions on GMO foods) violat-
ed WTO law inter alia specific provi-
sions of the SPS Agreement related to
scientific risk assessment (the com-
plainants rejected the application of
the Biosafety Protocol to the di
s
pute)
39
Position conflict
party 2
The EC seeks to ensure adequate testing
of GMO products to ensure food safety
and environmental protection. It justi-
fied its measures by invoking the pre-
cautionary principle as codified in the
Biosafety Prot
o
col.
Position conflict
party 3
Intl. norm/rule used
to justify position 1
International norm(s): value-
based social standards of ap-
propriate behavior at the inter-
national level that are based on
intersubjectively shared under-
standings and expectations of a
relevant number of actors.
International rule(s): the
specific regulations and pre-
scriptions for actors' behavior
that enact international norms
in concrete situations. Interna-
tional rules can (and most often
are) but do not have to be legal-
ly codified.
Two specifications should be
made: legal status/codification
and substantive meaning. If
possible, narrow down the legal
code in question (Law, Conven-
tion, Treaty, Resolution + Arti-
cle, etc.) and indicate the sub-
stantive meaning of the norm
or rule in parentheses.
WTO SPS Agreement article 2 (the right
to take (phyto)sanitary measures to
protect human, animal or plant life or
health), article 5 (risk assessment and
determination of the appropriate level
of (phyto)sanitary protection)
Intl. norm/rule used
to justify position 2
Cartagena Protocol article 1 (ensuring
adequate level of protection in the field
of safe transfer, handling and use of
modified organisms in accordance with
principle 15 of the Rio Declaration on
Environment and Development (pre-
cautionary principle))
Intl. norm/rule used
to justify position 3
Intl. authority asso-
ciated with norm 1
An international or transna-
tional, (inter-) governmental or
non-governmental institution
whose decisions, judgments, or
interpretations are recognized
as binding (or at least relevant)
by a critical number of actors
for their behavior.
WTO
Intl. authority asso-
ciated with norm 2
(if any)
UN
Intl. authority asso-
ciated with norm 3
(if any)
Commentary (optio-
nal)
Character-
istics of
the inter-
face con-
flict
Bones of contention Description of the positional
differences.
Given that two cases have iden-
tical bones of contention, two
separate cases exist if they
either refer to different norms,
or if the actors involved are so
separate that it’s impossible to
say that they are on the same
side (no cross
-
referencing).
Whether parties can deviate from WTO
obligations (approval and marketing
restrictions on GMO/biotech products)
based on the precautionary principle
(as codified in the Biosafety Protocol).
Concerned issue We define an issue area as a 24. Trade, customs, tariffs, intellectual
40
area 1 governance space marked by
the perception of a common
policy problem or a connected
set of problems (the issue) that
links actors and stakeholders.
The issue area has to be chosen
from the list (taken from
Hooghe, L., Lenz, T., & Marks, G.
(2019). A Theory of Internation-
al Organization. Oxford Univer-
sity Press. Page 145). The num-
ber of issue areas should not
exceed the number of interna-
tional norms/rules invoked.
property rights/ patents
Concerned issue
area 2 (if any)
13. Health: public health, food safety,
nutrition
Concerned issue
area 3 (if any)
Origin of conflict Specify if the interface conflict
is intentionally created or is
an unintended by-product of
the increasing density of global
governance.
Intentional: international norms
that are part of the interface
conflict developed in the same
governance field
Unintentional: international
norms that are part of the
interface conflict developed in
separate governance fields
Unintended by-product
Object of conflict Specify if the conflict is about 1)
incompatible values and nor-
mative beliefs held by the con-
flict parties, 2) the means by
which common values or nor-
mative beliefs should be real-
ized, or 3) competing (power)
interests of the involved ac-
tors.
Interests are always involved.
However, if one set of actors
approaches the case through a
value perspective (i.e. rights),
then the interface conflict be-
comes about values. If this is
not the case, then it is always
about conflicting interests and
should be coded as such.
Values
Within or across
spheres of authority
A sphere of authority is defined
as a governance space with at
least one domestic or interna-
tional authority, which is de-
limited by the involved actors'
perception of a common good
or goal at a given level of gov-
ernance.
Three characteristics
of a
Across
Which spheres? environmental protection, internation-
al free trade
41
sphere of authority: 1) at least
one authority (includes multi-
purpose organizations), 2)
geared towards one common
social purpose, and 3) does not
cut across levels of governance
(i.e. impossibility of vertical
conflicts within
one sphere).
Horizontal or verti-
cal
Horizontal
Commentary (optio-
nal)
From a normative perspective, the
precautionary principle and WTO rules
evolved in two separate areas of inter-
national law, which clashed in the pro-
cess of dispute settlement (from this
perspective the origin of conflict is an
unintended by-product and the object
of conflict consists of incompatible
values).
From a policy perspective, if you focus
on the EU policy as the status quo, then
it can also be seen as the
US/Canada/Argentina intentionally
challenging the EU's precautionary
approach (it follows that the object of
co
n
flict is about competing interests).
Respons-
es/Conflict
Manage-
ment (T1)
Phase 1 of Conflict
Management includ-
ing dates (regulated
or not)
Request for consultations received in
May 2003, Panel report circulated in
September 2006 --> the Panel found
that because the US was not a party to
the CBD (nor the Biosafety Protocol) -
neither could be considered "applica-
ble" between the parties - and also
found that the precautionary principle
had not yet evolved into a general
principle of international law. (regula-
ted)
If applicable: Phase 2
of Conflict Manage-
ment including
dates (regulated or
not)
The EC decided not to appeal the ruling
and instead a "Mutually Agreed Solu-
tion" was decided between Canada and
the EU in 2009 which established a
bilateral dialogue on agricultural bio-
tech market access issues of mutual
interest. This cooperation agreement
was subsequently reaffirmed in CETA -
which institutionalises international
cooperation on biotech market access
and inter alia sets out the shared objec-
tive of promoting "efficient science-
based approval processes for biotech-
nology products". At the same time
however, the preamble of the Joint
Interpretative Instrument on the Com-
prehensive Economic and Trade
Agreement (CETA) "reaffirms the com-
mitments made with respect to precau-
tion that [the EU and its Members
42
States and Canada] have undertaken in
international agreements", hence rela-
tivizing the provisions requiring sci-
ence-based evaluations. (regulated)
If applicable: Phase 3
of Conflict Manage-
ment including
dates (regulated or
not)
Commentary (optio-
nal)
Type of
conflict
manage-
ment
(Phase 1)
Non-cooperative or
co-operative conflict
management
Non-cooperative conflict
management: conflict parties
seek to solve the dispute in their
favor without regard for the
preferences of their opponent
and without following proce-
dural norms.
Co-operative conflict man-
agement: refers to attempts to
address an interface conflict in
which the conflict parties agree
to follow procedural norms
and/or accommodate each
other's preferences at least
somewhat in their respective
pos
i
tions.
Co-operative
If conflict manage-
ment is co-
operative: degree of
regulation
Specify whether co-operative
conflict management is consti-
tutionalized, norm-based or
decentralized.
Constitutionalized conflict
management: If actors recog-
nize ex ante that there is an
impartial body that has the
authority to solve the conflict.
Therefore, it is more likely to
find constitutionalized conflict
management within one sphere
of authority than across
spheres of authority, where
certain judicialized proc
e
dures
Constitutionalized
43
can be attached to one conflict
party but not the other.
Norm-based conflict-
management: a handling of
interface conflicts with refer-
ence to ‘third norms’, that is,
norms that are different from
the two norms in collision (such
as substantive (e.g., higher
ranking normative principles
such as sustainability) or pro-
cedural norms (e.g., rules of
precedence or applicability).
Decentralized conflict man-
agement: if the conflict is not
referred to a third party and
actors do not take recourse to
third norms, but when they still
show willingness for mutual
accommodation and political
compromise in the process of
handling positional differences.
The orientation towards com-
promise is often visible in ac-
tors’ acceptance of certain basic
procedural norms and/or at
least rhetorical embrace of
some common norms. In addi-
tion, a conflict management
that does not explicitly refer to
norms but is still geared to-
wards compromises also quali-
fies as co
-
operative.
Commentary (optio-
nal)
Character-
istics of co-
operative
conflict
manage-
ment
(Phase 1)
Normative setting:
preexistence of pro-
cedural norms?
Are the procedural norms regu-
lating the conflict management
already in place at T0 (i.e.
preexisting) or created only at
T1 to regulate the specific in-
stance of conflict manag
e
ment?
Yes
Institutional setting:
Third party in-
volvement?
Interface conflicts can be man-
aged by including third parties.
This type of regulated conflict
management includes dispute-
settlement bodies or adminis-
trative agencies, which can
belong to the colliding orders,
but nevertheless possess a cer-
tain independence from execu-
tive decisionmakers of the prin-
cipal actors or are completely
indepen
d
ent.
Yes
If yes, which one? WTO Dispute Settlement Body
44
Description: func-
tion/position of
third party
The WTO panel ruled that the EU did in
fact have a moratorium in place and
that the EU must lift its bans on GMO
goods by 2007 or risk facing WTO sanc-
tions.
If co-operative con-
flict management is
"norm based": What
type of third norm(s)
are invoked?
Overarching principles (e.g.
jus cogens);
Regulative norms rooted in a
specific sphere of authority (e.g.
MFN principle in trade);
Rules of precedence (e.g. lex
posterior);
Communal or sectoral proce-
dural rules (e.g. jurisdiction,
admissibility)
If co-operative con-
flict management is
"norm based": Which
actor invokes third
norm(s)?
Reference to previ-
ous management
attempt
No
If yes: Description of
the previous man-
agement attempt,
e.g. norms, practices
Commentary (optio-
nal)
Type of
conflict
manage-
ment
(Phase 2)
Non-cooperative or
co-operative conflict
management
Variable descriptions are the
same as outlined in phase 1 of
conflict management.
Co-operative
If conflict manage-
ment is co-
operative: degree of
regulation
Decentralized
Commentary (optio-
nal)
Character-
istics of co-
operative
conflict
manage-
ment
(Phase 2)
Normative setting:
preexistence of pro-
cedural norms?
No
Institutional setting:
Third party in-
volvement?
No
If yes, which one?
Description: func-
tion/position of
third party
If co-operative con-
flict management is
"norm based": What
type of third norm(s)
are invoked?
45
If co-operative con-
flict management is
"norm based": Which
actor invokes third
norm(s)?
Reference to previ-
ous management
attempt
No
If yes: Description of
the previous man-
agement attempt,
e.g. norms, practices
Commentary (optio-
nal)
Type of
conflict
manage-
ment
(Phase 3)
Non-cooperative or
co-operative conflict
management
Variable descriptions are the
same as outlined in phase 1 of
conflict management.
If conflict manage-
ment is co-
operative: degree of
regulation
Commentary (optio-
nal)
Character-
istics of co-
operative
conflict
manage-
ment
(Phase 3)
Normative setting:
preexistence of pro-
cedural norms?
Institutional setting:
Third party in-
volvement?
If yes, which one?
Description: func-
tion/position of
third party
If co-operative con-
flict management is
"norm based": What
type of third norm(s)
are invoked?
If co-operative con-
flict management is
"norm based": Which
actor invokes third
norm(s)?
Reference to previ-
ous management
attempt
If yes: Description of
the previous man-
agement attempt,
e.g. norms, practices
46
Commentary (optio-
nal)
Manage-
ment out-
come (T2)
Division of labor,
collaboration, dis-
placement, uncer-
tainty
Division of labor: a manage-
ment outcome of an interface
conflict where conflicting or
overlapping governance func-
tions and/or sectors are divided
among authorities, providing a
systemic ordering principle. A
division of labor can either be
sectoral or functional in nature.
While a sectoral division of
labor
creates clearly distinguishable
sectoral areas of responsibility,
a functional division of labor
allocates governance tasks in
the same sectoral area. A divi-
sion of labor can either come
about spontaneously, based on
institutional adaptation, or
through active
and deliberate efforts.
Collaboration: a management
outcome of an IC where com-
peting claims to authority are
resolved by way of pooling or
where overlaps in resource
spending are dissolved by way
of one-sided or mutual self-
restraint.
Displacement: a management
outcome of an IC where institu-
tional overlap is dissolved as
one institution retreats from the
governance area.
Uncertainty: a management
outcome of an IC where com-
peting claims to authority or
overlaps in resource spending
persist.
Collaboration
Symmetric or
asymmetric distri-
bution of costs and
gains
An asymmetric distribution
exists if costs/gains are allocat-
ed for at least two thirds to one
actor. If we speak about
cost/gains of parties that are
not represented, the distribu-
tional effects are symmetric
and it can be mentioned in the
comments section that costs
were externalized. N/A re-
presents those conflicts that are
still ongoing.
Asymmetric
47
Distributional ef-
fects are in line with
the more powerful
actors (power over
resources)
Yes
Distributional ef-
fects are in line with
those actors who
had more epistemic
(jud
i
cial) support
Yes
Distributional ef-
fects are in line with
those actors who
had more NGO sup-
port
N/A
Creation of norms
for avoidance or
handling of future
interface conflicts:
Yes/No
No
If yes, type of norms Reception norms: outside
norms enter a given body of
norms. Reception norms include
norms performing an accom-
modating function in the regu-
lation of the interaction be-
tween bodies of norms. They
can range from non-reception
and ad-hoc borrowing to re-
quirements of ‘taking into ac-
count’ or fixed references, po-
tentially coupled with condi-
tions of a procedural or sub-
stantive kind.
Connecting norms: norms that
connect different bodies of
norms without being seen to
belong to either of them. Such
norms can be interstitial norms
– including compendia or lists
produced to bring together
different bodies of norms – as
well as hybrid norms, such as
vague concepts that allow for
entry from the outside or mul-
ti-sourced equivalent norms
that resonate in different plac-
es.
Overarching norms: regulate
relations centrally, either
through hierarchies (as in fed-
eral orders or the EU) or
through conflict norms, such as
lex specialis or lex posterior.
They can also be co
n
structed as
48
substantive integrating norms,
such as human rights, sustaina-
ble development or democra-
cy/good go
v
ernance.
Commentary (optio-
nal)
Effects on
order (T3)
Integration or frag-
mentation
Integration: stable integra-
tion/delineation of overlapping
institutions and once colliding
norms; collaboration between
overlapping institutions; insti-
tutionalization of co-operative
conflict management systems
Fragmentation: increasing
conflict-proneness; inter-
institutional contradictions;
deinstitutionalization of coop-
erative conflict management
sy
s
tems
Fragmentation
More liberal or more
illiberal
More liberal order: if interface
conflicts or conflict manage-
ment affect the global or sec-
toral order in a way that it
reflects normative principles of
individual rights, the rule of
law, and democracy to a greater
extent
More illiberal order: To the
extent that the emerging order
undermines these normative
principles.
If the effect on the liberal or-
der is not clear, it is coded as
Ne
u
tral/indeterminate.
Neutral/indeterminate
General
commen-
tary for the
case (op-
tional)
Commentary
49
Discussion Papers of the Research Area International Politics and Lawi
Research Unit Global Governance, 2020-2021
Jelena Cupać SP IV 2020-104
ORDERS, PURPOSES, AND TASKS:
How do states act in international security organizations?
Janne Mende SP IV 2020-103
BUSINESS AUTHORITY IN GLOBAL GOVERNANCE:
Beyond public and private
Matthew D. Stephen SP IV 2020-102
CHINA’S NEW MULTILATERAL INSTITUTIONS:
A framework and research agenda
Friederike Luise Kelle, Mitja Sienknecht SP IV 2020-101
TO FIGHT OR TO VOTE:
Sovereignty Referendums as Strategies in Conflicts over
Self-Determination
i
All discussion papers are downloadable at
https://www.wzb.eu/en/publications/discussion-papers/international-politics-and-law/
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