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Fariborz Zelli

Fariborz Zelli

Professor | Principal Investigator BECC

Fariborz Zelli

Regime Conflicts and Their Management in Global Environmental Governance


  • Fariborz Zelli


  • Sebastian Oberthür
  • Olav Stokke

Summary, in English

In this chapter, I introduce an analytical framework to explain a particular type of institutional interplay— conflicts among international regimes—and to support the analysis of interplay management within institutional complexes. Over the past two decades, regime conflicts have become more frequent in global environmental governance, sometimes including not only environmental regimes but also regimes aimed at regulating other domains, such as international trade. These conflicts can have significant consequences for the functionality and effectiveness of the affected regimes. By bringing in such core determinants as knowledge and power structures, the frame-work permits a more in-depth analysis of those consequences. Specifcally, it should help to elucidate whether one of these regimes prevails—and if so, why.
Building on international relations theories and pioneering studies on institutional interplay, I successively introduce the various building blocks of the analytical framework. First I define the term “international regime conflict” in a broad manner, showing that conflict can emerge not onlyrom legal incompatibility but also from related behavioral contradictions. This extensive understanding of regime conflicts provides a basis for including major determinants of social behavior.
I then introduce the framework’s dependent variable: the prevalence of one of the involved regimes. For both pragmatic and substantive reasons, prevalence is framed in terms of a regime’s output effectiveness, that is, the norms and rules it produces. A regime is considered to prevail if it generates stronger output on the contested issues than does the colliding regime. The development of third institutions may also be relevant if their output concerns these contested issues.
I further establish the process of conflict management as the major intermediate process through which independent variables may affect the prevalence of a regime. I then introduce two independent variables central to international relations theories, power structure and knowledge structure. Power structure is presented as the constellation of power among countries, whereas knowledge structure is considered to be the basis of knowledge about the contested issues. For each of these determinants, I develop a configurational hypothesis and discuss obstructing or magnifying conditions. The concluding section summarizes the components and causal assumptions of this analytical framework. Throughout the chapter I illustrate the various components of this framework by referring to the con ict between the UN climate regime and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Publishing year







Managing Institutional Complexity: Regime Interplay and Global Environmental Change

Document type

Book chapter


MIT Press


  • Political Science


  • Institutional Theory
  • International organisations
  • Environmental institutions
  • Complexity
  • Kyoto Protocol
  • WTO dispute resolution
  • WTO law
  • WTO
  • climate governance
  • institutional analysis
  • institutions
  • fragmentation
  • complexity
  • Conflict Management.
  • Biodiversity
  • CBD



Research group

  • Miljöpolitik


  • ISBN: 978-0-262-51624-2