Core Concept

Confronted with a proliferation of “persistent and connected sets of [formal or informal] rules that: prescribe behavioural roles, constrain activity and shape expectations”1 , a cross-section of contemporary research in social sciences has come to focus on the impact of both horizontal and vertical overlaps between international institutions. While the socially constructed thematic issue-linkages associated with the former have been the object of several empirical taxonomies2;  institutionalised interactions born from the latter are defined by scope, scale, size and membership. These overlaps can generate confusion, redundancies and inefficiencies thus weakening rule-based outcomes while strengthening already powerful actors3. Conversely, they can equally result in heightened competition favouring more polycentric, adaptive and innovative forms of governance4. Given these mixed outcomes, GEM-STONES’ central hypothesis is that regime complexes are to be purposefully managed to avoid negative effects while favouring desirable ones.

Purposeful regime complex management is therefore GEM-STONES central concept, understood as the  “conscious efforts by any relevant actor or group of actors, in whatever form or forum, to address and improve institutional interaction and its effects”5.  All research deliverables associated with the project - whether collective or individual - will consider this core concept, as they will either empirically exanimated it or theoretically expand on it.


1 Keohane, R. O. (1989). International institutions and state power: Essays in international relations theory.p.3
2 Substantive/Tactical (Aggarwal 1998) ; Utilitarian/ Normative / Ideational (Stokke 2001) ; Compatoble/Diverging (Rosendal 2001) ; Disruptive/Synergistic/Neutral (Gehring & Oberthür 2009) ; Cooperative / Conflicting (Biermann et al. 2009) ; Substantative / Normative / Operative (Orsini et al. 2013)
3 Young A; & Peterson J; (eds) The European Union and the New Trade Politics Journal of European Public Policy (Special issue), 13/6,
4 Aggarwal V. K (2006), Reconciling Institutions: Nested, Horizontal, Overlapping, and Independent Institutions, Paper Presented at Princeton Workshop, February 24th (see: 
Oberthür S. &   Schram  Stokke O. (eds) (2011), Managing Institutional Complexity: Regime Interplay and Global Environmental Change. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press., p. 6

This project has received funding from the European Union's horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 722826.