The causal mechanisms of interaction between international institutions

Thomas Gehring, Sebastian Oberthür

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

163 Scopus citations


This article develops a conceptual framework for the systematic analysis of the interaction between international institutions as a first step towards building a theory of international interaction. It examines how international institutions may exert causal influence on each other's development and effectiveness and suggests that four general causal mechanisms can elucidate the distinct routes through which influence travels from one institution to another. Institutional interaction can thus rely on transfer of knowledge, commitments established under an institution, behavioural effects of an institution, and functional linkage of the ultimate governance targets of the institutions involved. The article also puts forward hypotheses about the likely effects of specific types of institutional interaction for governance within the international system. The causal mechanisms and types of interaction are mutually exclusive models that help analyse real-world interaction situations. They may also serve as a basis for the systematic analysis of more complex interaction situations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-156
Number of pages32
JournalEuropean Journal of International Relations
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2009


  • Effectiveness of international institutions
  • Environmental governance
  • Global governance
  • Institutional complexes
  • Institutional interplay
  • International governance
  • Regime collision
  • Regime conflict


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