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Benjamin Faude

Julia Fuß

August 18th, 2020

Order Without A Constitution: Why Overlapping International Institutions Get Along Better Than You Think

0 comments | 6 shares

Estimated reading time: 15 minutes

Benjamin Faude

Julia Fuß

August 18th, 2020

Order Without A Constitution: Why Overlapping International Institutions Get Along Better Than You Think

0 comments | 6 shares

Estimated reading time: 15 minutes

Our recently published article develops three generally applicable causal mechanisms that explain why the creation of IRENA induced interface conflicts whereas the creation of the AIIB and of the GEF resulted in inter-institutional coordination

Benjamin Faude and Julia Fuß

On 26 January 2009, a group of states created the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) because it was dissatisfied with the focus of the International Energy Agency (IEA) on fossil fuels as the main energy sources. The creation of IRENA was driven by the desire to circumvent political opposition within the IEA and to shape new norms that promote renewable energies (Van de Graaf 2013). It led to interface conflicts between major industrialised and industrialising countries. Such conflicts involve two actors with conflicting views about international norms and rules (Kreuder-Sonnen and Zürn 2020).

On 16 January 2016, a group of states led by China launched the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) because it was dissatisfied with the reluctance of Western powers to redistribute influence within the World Bank (WB) (Ikenberry and Lim 2017). The creation of the AIIB was driven by China’s desire to increase its institutional power in global development finance (Pratt 2017). It resulted in inter-institutional coordination with the WB.

Likewise, the creation of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit induced inter-institutional coordination. The GEF was established on 28 October 1991 by states that were dissatisfied with the ability of both the United Nations (UN) and the WB to organise the funding of environmental projects in developing countries and countries with economies in transition. These states were motivated to boost the effectiveness of global environmental governance by creating an institutional framework that enables the redistribution of financial resources.

These three cases exemplify a larger, and growing, trend in global governance: the propensity of states to create new international institutions which overlap in their mandates with legacy institutions of the existing international order (Alter and Raustiala 2018; Hofmann 2011; Zürn and Faude 2013). By implication, newly established and legacy institutions do not operate in isolation from each other, but influence each other’s normative development and governance effectiveness (Dunoff 2012; Wiener et al. 2012). Thus, we may speak of a tendency of states to deliberately create institutional overlap.

Existing research suggests that deliberately created institutional overlap virtually always leads to conflicts between groups of actors that support diverging norms and rules (Benvenisti and Downs 2007; Morse and Keohane 2014). More precisely, deliberately created institutional overlap is thought to give rise to competing authority claims and, thus, to contestations among multiple centres of international authority in the absence of a formal hierarchy (Alter and Raustiala 2018). Thus, it is widely perceived to have a destabilising effect on global governance (ILC 2006). Existing research can therefore not account for the emergence of inter-institutional coordination in two of the three cases described above. This shortcoming is due to the fact that it does not delve into the different motivations of actors to deliberately create institutional overlap (de Búrca 2016).

Against this backdrop, our recently published article develops three generally applicable causal mechanisms that explain why the creation of IRENA induced interface conflicts whereas the creation of the AIIB and of the GEF resulted in inter-institutional coordination. Each of the three mechanisms connects a specific type of dissatisfaction with a given institutional status quo to a specific motivation for the deliberate creation of institutional overlap and that motivation, in turn, to a specific outcome.

Actors may be dissatisfied with substantive norms and rules, with decision-making rules or with the institutional fit of an existing governance arrangement to its social environment. The motivations of states to create institutional overlap vary accordingly: if dissatisfied with substantive norms and/or rules, states become motivated to change the norms and/or rules that govern the behavior of actors and, thus, the direction in which a given issue-area is governed (Helfer 2009); if dissatisfied with decision-making rules, they seek to increase influence on collective decision-making (Pratt 2017); if dissatisfied with institutional fit, they gain the motivation to increase governance effectiveness (Dunoff 2012; Young 2002). These different motivations, in turn, yield varying consequences for global governance: coordination or conflict.

Our causal mechanisms reveal that the consequences of deliberately created institutional overlap depend on its causes

The three causal mechanisms help us understand why only dissatisfaction with substantive norms and rules led to interface conflicts (IEA/IRENA example), whereas dissatisfaction with decision-making rules (WB/AIIB example) and with institutional fit (UN/WB/GEF example) resulted in inter-institutional coordination. In short, our causal mechanisms reveal that the consequences of deliberately created institutional overlap depend on its causes. More precisely, they suggest that the consequences of deliberately created institutional overlap depend on why exactly states are dissatisfied with the institutional status quo. Interface conflicts emerge only if states are dissatisfied with the substantive norms and/or rules of an existing institutional arrangement and, thus, seek to induce policy change. If states, by contrast, are dissatisfied with decision-making rules, the creation of institutional overlap gives rise to inter-institutional coordination. Likewise, if states are dissatisfied with the institutional fit of an existing governance arrangement and seek to enhance governance effectiveness, deliberately created institutional overlap results in inter-institutional coordination.

By demonstrating how coherence among separately established international legal orders is possible in the absence of constitutionalised structures, we intervene into a debate between global legal pluralists and global constitutionalists on the implications of international legal multiplicity

By demonstrating how coherence among separately established international legal orders is possible in the absence of constitutionalised structures, we intervene into a debate between global legal pluralists and global constitutionalists on the implications of international legal multiplicity (cf. Dunoff and Trachtman 2009; Krisch 2010). More precisely, we elucidate how the flexible adaptation that global legal pluralists highlight as a virtue of decentralised governance systems gives rise to coherent governance even if institutional overlap is deliberately created (cf. Krisch et al. 2020). By implication, we call into doubt that the coexistence of partially overlapping normative orders is inherently destabilising the international legal system, as some global constitutionalists suggest (Dunoff and Trachtman 2009; Wiener et al. 2012).

Our article appeared in Global Constitutionalism as part of a Special Issue on ‘After Fragmentation: Norm Collisions, Interface Conflicts and Conflict Management’ and is available open access here.

About the author

Benjamin Faude

Dr Benjamin Faude is LSE Fellow in Global Politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Before coming to LSE, he was Senior Research Fellow for the Global Governance Unit at the WZB Berlin Social Science Centre and he taught at the University of Bamberg, at Free University Berlin, and at Charles University in Prague. Dr. Faude also held visiting positions at the University of California at Berkeley and the Vrije Universiteit Brussels. His research focuses on the implications of institutional complexity on global governance.

photo (c) martina sander-blanck

Julia Fuß

Julia Fuß is a research fellow and doctoral candidate at the WZB Berlin Social Science Centre. She works in the research project ‘Responses to Interface Conflicts: How Spheres of Authority Handle Conflicting Rules’ as part of a larger research group studying Overlapping Spheres of Authority and Interface Conflicts in the Global Order (OSAIC). She has taught at the Free University Berlin and at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena. Before coming to Berlin, she studied at Maastricht University, the University of Cologne and at the University of Mannheim. Her doctoral research focuses on the responses of existing international organizations to newly created international organizations.

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