Dr Fariborz Zelli

Alumni Senior Fellow

Research Project at the Centre

The Institutional Fragmentation of Global Governance - Impacts on Cooperation and Legitimation

One of the core institutional phenomena and challenges in today's international relations is a growing degree of complexity or fragmentation. While a certain pluralism of institutions for a given issue of world politics is not new per se, ongoing regulatory processes have in recent years led to considerable material and functional overlaps between international institutions, that is, among international regimes and international organizations.

Fragmentation, some scholars have argued, can be seen as an institutional mirror image to the growing material complexity in the Anthropocene. It reflects the increasing interdependence of, and possible conflicts between, preferences, norms, cultures and discourses that shape organizations and treaties today. This growing institutional fragmentation matters. The various rules addressing a specific area of global governance do not always make up a fully coherent system—with considerable consequences for key aspects like compliance, problem-solving effectiveness, coordination, legitimacy, participation and inclusiveness.

Against this backdrop, I develop and apply a theoretical framework to examine how increasing institutional fragmentation affects patterns and outcomes of cooperation and legitimation in global governance. This main research objective unfolds into the following steps and questions: What is the degree of institutional fragmentation in selected areas of global governance at the intersection of climate change, international development and global trade? How can this degree of fragmentation be explained with different theories of cooperation and international relations? Which impacts does institutional fragmentation have on the legitimacy of global governance efforts in the selected areas?


September 2016 – July 2017