Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global Governance and Human Security

First Advisor

J. Samuel Barkin

Second Advisor

Paul Bookbinder

Third Advisor

Craig N. Murphy


This study analyzes the relationship between inter-institutional overlaps in multilateral counterterrorism cooperation and its impacts on the outputs of such collaboration. Scholars and practitioners of multilateral counterterrorism often point to the existence of problematic overlaps in the multilateral counterterrorism architecture. However, the nature, extent, and impacts of the overlap remain unaddressed. In this study, I attempt to fill the gap in the literature concerning the effects of the overlaps on the outcomes of counterterrorism cooperation.

In international relations literature, the kind of institutional architecture resulting from the existence of nonhierarchical institutions with overlapping functions is theoretically understood as fragmentation. The study explores two theoretical frameworks to understand and manage fragmentation – polycentric governance and regime complex. Although it is useful in understanding and managing aspects of multilateral counterterrorism cooperation, polycentric governance has only limited applicability to the institutional level analysis in this study. I argue that the regime complex is the appropriate framework to describe and understand the working of multilateral counterterrorism cooperation. The study defines regime complexes as the existence of “preexisting, crowded and layered” international regimes that are not hierarchically related, and the decisions made in one forum can influence decisions and processes in other forums.

The study traces the evolution of current multilateral counterterrorism architecture. The challenge of normative characterization of political violence resulted in lack of consensus on the definitional aspects of terrorism. Therefore, international institutions avoided attempts to develop comprehensive counterterrorism conventions. Instead, international organizations chose to pass and implement methods targeting specific terrorist tactics. Such a strategy resulted in the development of a counterterrorism architecture comprising a wide range of institutions with no hierarchical relationships. Recognizing the sectoral development of the counterterrorism, after 9/11, new institutions were created, primarily at the UN, to coordinate the activities of the multitude of counterterrorism activities taking place at various levels.

Further, I explore the mandates and working of institutions in three elemental regimes – counterterrorism coordinating institutions, counter-financing terrorism (CFT) bodies, and law enforcement organizations. I identify instances that validate the observations made in the existing literature regarding normative and functional overlaps among the institutions in the multilateral counterterrorism architecture.

Alter, and Meunier and Kenneth Abbott conclude that appropriate coordination can minimize the costs associated with institutional overlap. I apply network analysis to map and quantify the instances of coordination in multilateral counterterrorism cooperation and identify gaps in the coordination. The network analysis reveals that the institutions in each elemental regime are well linked with other institutions in the same regime. However, the analysis also identifies areas that suffer from a lack of appropriate coordination. Further, I use Ernst B. Haas’ conceptualization of institutional change and find that the frequent changes in the counterterrorism coordination bodies reflect a dissatisfaction among the leading actors regarding the performance of these bodies.

Global governance scholars have recognized both negative and positive outcomes associated with regime complexity. The study evaluates the counterterrorism regime complex against these outputs. Ultimately, the study finds that due to the high frequency of inter-institutional linkages, the organizations in the regime complex coordinate effectively. However, there are areas of overlap, particularly among the coordinating bodies, that need further study and better coordination. The overlap, therefore, is managed to produce predominantly positive outpus.

The study covers data on multilateral counterterrorism until roughly the first quarter of 2018. However, the theoretical implications of the study remain relevant to analyzing institutional changes.


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