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The Fragmentation of Global Governance Architectures: A Framework for Analysis

Listed author(s):
  • Frank Biermann

    (Frank Biermann is Professor and head of the Department of Environmental Policy Analysis of the Institute for Environmental Studies at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He is also general director of the Netherlands Research School for the Socio-economic and Natural Sciences of the Environment (SENSE); director of the EU-based Global Governance Project, a network of twelve European research institutions (; and chair of the Earth System Governance Project, a ten-year global research program under the auspices of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change. His most recent publications are Managers of Global Change: The Influence of International Environmental Bureaucracies (2009, edited with B. Siebenhüner); Global Climate Governance Beyond 2012: Architecture, Agency and Adaptation (2010, edited with P. Pattberg and F. Zelli); and International Organizations in Global Environmental Governance (2009, edited with B. Siebenhüner and A. Schreyögg).)

  • Philipp Pattberg

    (Philipp Pattberg is an Assistant Professor of international relations, Department of Environmental Policy Analysis, Institute for Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He is also the management committee chair of the European COST Action "The Transformation of Global Environmental Governance: Risks and Opportunities" and deputy director and research coordinator of the Global Governance Project, a network of twelve leading European institutions in the field of global environmental governance.)

  • Harro van Asselt

    (Harro van Asselt is a researcher with the Department of Environmental Policy Analysis at the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He is also a research fellow with the EU-based Global Governance Project ( His work focuses on international and European climate change governance, trade and environment issues, and international environmental law. He is working on his doctoral thesis on the fragmentation of global climate governance. He was a visiting researcher at the Department of Value and Decision Science at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan (2007) and at the Dean Rusk Centre of the University of Georgia School of Law, United States (2008). He holds an LLM (International Law) degree from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.)

  • Fariborz Zelli

    (Fariborz Zelli is a Research Fellow at the German Development Institute in Bonn, Germany, since February 2009. He is also a visiting fellow at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, United Kingdom, where he was a senior research associate from 2006 to early 2009. Since 2004, he has been a research fellow of the Global Governance Project, where he co-coordinates the research group Multiple Options, Solutions and Approaches: Institutional Interplay and Conflict (MOSAIC). His most recent publication is Global Climate Governance beyond 2012 (2010, edited with F. Biermann and P. Pattberg).)

Registered author(s):

    Most research on global governance has focused either on theoretical accounts of the overall phenomenon or on empirical studies of distinct institutions that serve to solve particular governance challenges. In this article we analyze instead "governance architectures," defined as the overarching system of public and private institutions, principles, norms, regulations, decision-making procedures and organizations that are valid or active in a given issue area of world politics. We focus on one aspect that is turning into a major source of concern for scholars and policy-makers alike: the "fragmentation" of governance architectures in important policy domains. The article offers a typology of different degrees of fragmentation, which we describe as synergistic, cooperative, and conflictive fragmentation. We then systematically assess alternative hypotheses over the relative advantages and disadvantages of different degrees of fragmentation. We argue that moderate degrees of fragmentation may entail both significant costs and benefits, while higher degrees of fragmentation are likely to decrease the overall performance of a governance architecture. The article concludes with policy options on how high degrees of fragmentation could be reduced. Fragmentation is prevalent in particular in the current governance of climate change, which we have hence chosen as illustration for our discussion. (c) 2009 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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    Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Global Environmental Politics.

    Volume (Year): 9 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 4 (November)
    Pages: 14-40

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    Handle: RePEc:tpr:glenvp:v:9:y:2009:i:4:p:14-40
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