Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



In an increasingly globalized world, international rules and organizations have grown ever more crucial to the resolution of major economic and social concerns. How can leaders design international institutions that will effectively solve global regulatory problems? This paper confronts this question by presenting three major types of global problems, distinguishing six main categories of institutional forms that can be used to address these problems, and showing how the effectiveness of international institutions depends on achieving “form-problem” fit. Complicating that fit will be the tendency of nation states to prefer institutional forms that do little to constrain their sovereignty. Yet the least-constraining institutional forms are the very ones that will tend to be the least successful in dealing with global regulatory problems – especially commons problems and threats to human rights. Achieving effective form-problem fit therefore depends on creating institutional structures that can give nation-states adequate assurance that their interests will not be unduly undermined while simultaneously ensuring that global institutions enjoy sufficient independence for solving global problems.


International regulation, institutional form, coordination, social norms, standards, treaties, non-state action, internal control, mutual recognition, consensual rules, delegation, withdrawal, free rider, collective action problems, harmonization, principal-agent, legitimacy

Publication Title

Governance in a Globalizing World

Publication Citation

In Governance in a Globalizing World (Joseph S. Nye, Jr. & John D. Donohue eds., Brookings 2000).