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Institutional Overlap in Global Governance and the Design of Intergovernmental Organizations

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Reinsberg, Bernhard  ORCID logo
Westerwinter, Oliver 


jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pHow does the increasingly dense network of overlapping institutions in global governance affect the design of intergovernmental organizations (IGOs)? We argue that institutional overlap can unleash mimicking dynamics whereby states design new IGOs using the design of existing organizations that engage in similar issue areas and perform similar governance tasks for similar member states as templates. Using design templates from the reference group of overlapping institutions is a strategy for boundedly rational designers in situations of complexity because it reduces uncertainty and lowers the costs of identifying suitable institutional solutions. Overlap therefore increases the design similarity between new and pre-existing IGOs, specifically where pre-existing organizations have institutional designs that made them endure. Introducing a new measure of institutional overlap in global governance and new data on the design and governance tasks of the 534 IGOs from the Correlates of War Project, we corroborate our argument using regression analyses. Our results hold important lessons for theories of institutional design, regime complexity, and global governance more broadly.</jats:p>


Acknowledgements: Funding from the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS) and the University of St. Gallen is gratefully acknowledged. Oliver Westerwinter is also grateful for the generous support of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies and the Max Weber Programme at the European University Institute. We would like to thank the excellent research assistance of Christian Andres, Ruslan Aybazov, Lorenzo Furlani, Tino Good, Stefano Jud, Rosie Keller, Alexander Kohne-Godoy, Laura Leibundgut, Giulia Parini, Dominik Schneeberger, Johannes Schultz, and Keto Schumacher in preparing this paper. We thank Ken Abbott, Malte Brosig, Ricky Clark, Lorenzo Crippa, Hylke Dijkstra, Mette Eilstrup-Sangiovanni, Laura Gomez-Mera, Tammi Gutner, Yoram Haftel, Nikitas Konstantinidis, Barb Koremenos, Phillip Lipscy, Matias Margulis, Moritz Neubert, as well as the participants of the Geneva workshop on Informal Governance in World Politics, the political science research seminar at the University of St. Gallen, the 2021 annual meeting of the Swiss Political Science Association, the 2021 annual convention of the International Studies Association, and the ECPR Standing Group on International Relations virtual seminar series for valuable comments.

Funder: Swiss Network for International Studies


4408 Political Science, 44 Human Society, 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

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The Review of International Organizations

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