Centre for Advanced Study

at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters

Explaining Regime Effectiveness


Former 1999/2000 Social Sciences - Law

End Report

The basic question addressed by this group can most simply be formulated as follows: why do some efforts at solving joint problems through international co-operation 'succeed' while others 'fail'? In more technical terms: how can we explain variance in regime effectiveness? The idea was to bring together a group of Norwegian and foreign scholars in order to shed new light on this question through: (a) a careful scrutiny of conclusions and findings from previous research, with a view to determining their compatibility; (b) new and more extensive studies based on databases currently under construction; and (c) the use of a wider range of methodological tools, including particular techniques for more rigorous comparative analysis and computer simulations. We agreed to focus most of the empirical work on environmental regimes, but most of the theoretical and methodological problems addressed are equally salient in other issue-areas as well.

We aimed at a good blend of individual research and joint ventures. Overall, we stayed fairly close to the agenda outlined in the initial proposal. That said, it is fair to add that on two fronts we did not get as far as I had hoped at the outset. One is that of comparing and contrasting findings and propositions from previous research. We did spend a fair amount of time addressing this challenge, and several of our publications have benefited from our discussions, but we did not manage to bring it all together in a joint publication identifying important inconsistencies and gaps. The other area where we did not advance as far as I had hoped was in exploring the use of quasi-experimental research designs, including computer simulations. Again, we made some efforts, and had a preliminary discussion of prospects at our workshop in November 1999, but we cannot report significant progress. I am pleased to add, though, that we did make good progress in bringing a wider range of social science tools to bear on the empirical analysis of international regimes. Some of the results can be found in Underdal & Young (forthcoming) and in Miles et al. (forthcoming).

I would also like to point out that we are able to develop synergistic links to a set of other activities taking place in Oslo during this academic year. For example, several members of the group contributed substantially to the EU Concerted Action workshop on the study of regime effectiveness, held in Oslo 10-12 September, 1999. Young and Underdal also contributed to the EU/ENRICH workshop on African research on human dimensions of global environmental change, held in Oslo 24-26 September, 1996. IHDP took advantage of Oran Young's presence in Oslo to hold a meeting of the Scientific Steering Committee of the project on Institutional Dimensions of Global Environmental Change in Oslo, 19-21 June, 2000. On two occasions - in December 1998 and November 1999 - the International Regimes Database team met in Oslo, with other members of the group. During the academic year, three foreign PhD students came, at the advice of their supervisors, to the Centre to meet with members of our group. All these activities contributed to making Oslo, at least for a while, an important centre for research and related activities on regime effectiveness.

Finally, I would like to mention our concluding workshop, held at the Rosendal Barony, 19-21 June, 2000. At this workshop, we also had our "corresponding members" (except DeSombre) actively involved.

In conclusion, I am most grateful for the opportunity to bring together a good group of foreign and Norwegian scholars to pursue common research interests. I am confident that I speak on behalf of the entire group when I say that we all benefited substantially from the conducive atmosphere we enjoyed at the Centre and the stimulating interaction and productive collaboration we were able to establish. The small administrative staff handled a wide range of practical problems with a wonderful combination of professional skill and a warm 'human touch'.

Having at least one world-class foreign scholar stay at the Centre for the entire period proved tremendously important in our case. It was a heavy investment, but it paid off handsomely. On the negative side, I can now - with the benefit of hindsight - see how difficult it can be for Norwegian participants from other universities, whose families stay behind, to commit the time and energy required to contribute at this level, particularly when the families include young children. This raises a real dilemma, since the Centre for very good reasons does want to include team members from the other universities, and also people who are not yet "seniors".


  • Bailey, Jennifer Leigh
    Associate Professor Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) 1999/2000
  • Fermann, Gunnar
    Associate Professor Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) 1999/2000
  • Hovi, Jon
    Professor University of Oslo (UiO) 1999/2000
  • Jönsson, Christer
    Professor Uppsala University 1999/2000
  • Stokke, Olav Schram
    Research Director Nansen Institute 1999/2000
  • Tallberg, Jonas Wilhelm
    Research Fellow Lund University 1999/2000
  • Young, Oran Reed
    Professor Dartmouth College 1999/2000
  • Zürn, Michael Rüdiger
    Professor Berlin Social Science Center 1999/2000

Group leader

  • Arild Karsten Underdal

    Title Professor Institution University of Oslo (UiO) Year at CAS 1999/2000