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Connect – Coping with Fragmentation: Assessing and Reforming the Current Architecture of Global Environmental Governance (2013-2017)

Scientists today see mounting evidence that the entire earth system now operates well outside safe boundaries.

According to a recent scientific assessment of the international Earth System Governance Project, human societies must change course and steer away from critical tipping points that might lead to rapid and irreversible change, while ensuring sustainable livelihoods for all. This requires a fundamental transformation in current patterns of consumption and production.

The key question from a social science perspective is how to organize the co-evolution of societies and their surrounding environment, in other words, how to develop effective and equitable governance solutions for today’s global problems. A major concern in this respect is the increasing fragmentation of global governance architectures across a number of policy domains. While global governance architectures can be highly integrated (as in the case of the free trade architecture governed by one overarching institution), the environmental domain is fragmented among competing sets of policies, actor constellations, fundamental norms and underlying discourses. The consequences of this development for effective, equitable and legitimate global governance are not well understood.

This project will:

  1. take stock of the existing level of fragmentation across a number of issue-areas in global environmental politics (climate change; biodiversity; marine governance);
  2. explain the causes of fragmentation of global governance architectures based on a carefully designed set of variables;
  3. analyse the implications of fragmentation across different scales of governance (i.e. international, regional and domestic levels); and finally
  4. suggest policy responses to increased fragmentation. The proposed VIDI project builds on the broad expertise of the applicant in the field of global environmental governance.

CONNECT is hosted by the Department of Environmental Policy Analysis (EPA), Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The project is also part of Amsterdam Sustainabilitiy Institute (ASI). CONNECT will establish an international research network on fragmentation and regime complexes over the next years. CONNECT is endorsed by the IHDP Earth System Governance Project.

Contact information: Prof. Philipp Pattberg

See our Flyer for more information.

Project webpage:


  • Isailovic, M., Widerberg, O.E. & Pattberg, P.H. (2013). Fragmentation of Global Environmental Governance Architectures: A Literature Review. IVM report (W-13/09). Institute for Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Pdf.
  • Arnau, S., Kristensen, K., Widerberg, O. & Pattberg, P. (2017). Mapping the Institutional Architecture of Global Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture Governance. IVM report (R-17/05). Institute for Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Pdf.