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Fariborz Zelli

Fariborz Zelli

Professor | Principal Investigator BECC

Fariborz Zelli

The Institutional Fragmentation of Global Environmental Governance


  • Fariborz Zelli
  • Harro van Asselt

Summary, in English

One of the core institutional phenomena and challenges in today’s international relations is a growing degree of fragmentation. Ongoing regulation and legalization processes have led to material and functional overlaps between international institutions. As a consequence, “problems of fragmentation arising from the segmentation of governance systems along sectoral lines” have become unavoidable.
Institutional research has sought to catch up with this emerging phenomenon, as it has kept pace with previous tides of institutional developments. After a first wave of research on security and trade regimes, and a second wave attending to the further diversification and growing importance of institutions operating in other issue areas, a “third wave” started to break in the mid-1990s, putting stronger emphasis on the increasing complexity and interlinkages among international institutions.
This special issue builds on the insights of these growing strands of institutional research, sharing its major starting assumption with them: a thorough understanding and explanation of core aspects of an institution—its genesis, development, compliance pull, fairness, problem-solving effectiveness, etc.—is not possible without taking into account its wider institutional environment.
This common ground and the merits of existing scholarly approaches notwithstanding, there are still major gaps in the literature on institutional interlinkages and complexity. Seeking to fill these gaps, this special issue is

• scaling up: Compared to research on institutional interlinkages, this special issue focuses on the overall complexity of public and transnational institutions in given issue areas, moving away from a level of analysis that concentrates on overlaps between only two distinct, and mostly public, institutions.
• asking different questions: Many studies addressing this overarching level of institutional complexity suffice with a simple stock-taking paired with abstract conceptual approaches, In particular, they attend to the normative question whether a centralized or a polycentric global governance architecture is preferable. Building on a rise of more analytical approaches it is time to advance this sprawling scholarly debate towards elaborate concepts and theory-driven analyses that tackle more specific questions on the causes and consequences of, and responses to, institutional complexity.
• focusing on global environmental governance: Unlike with studies on institutional interlinkages, more encompassing and comparative approaches on environmental cases are largely missing from the research program of institutional fragmentation. With their material complexity and a plethora of institutional arrangements, environmental domains offer prime cases for analyzing and contrasting institutional fragmentation and its implications.

In short, the objective of this special issue is to address what we consider the more pertinent questions, both theoretical and empirical, around the phenomenon of institutional fragmentation for several realms of global environmental governance: biological diversity, climate change, forestry, renewable energy, and sustainable resource use in the Arctic. In the following, we first introduce the concept of fragmentation in more detail. We then spell out our rationale by showing how we build on, and differ from, related approaches. Finally, we put forward novel research questions on the causes, consequences and management of fragmentation, and outline how the various contributions provide insights on these questions.


  • Statsvetenskapliga institutionen






Global Environmental Politics




Tidskrift: redaktör


Project MUSE


  • Political Science


  • environmental governance
  • global governance
  • climate governance
  • fragmentation
  • institutional analysis
  • complexity
  • Biodiversity
  • Kyoto Protocol
  • transnationalism
  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme
  • arctic
  • legitimacy
  • accountability
  • forest policy
  • Renewable energy
  • interplay
  • institutional theory




  • ISSN: 1526-3800