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Exploring regional domains: a comparative history of regionalism


This article sets out some elements of a comparative history and analysis of regionalism: elements that are essential to understanding its current progress worldwide, but which have a particular relevance to those parts of the world in which regionalism is either poorly developed or of relatively recent vintage. I am concerned not with a detailed discussion of actually existing regionalisms in the Central Asian or any other space, but with setting the scene from a broad perspective. In so doing, I hope to provide a framework for discussion of different regions. Regionalism and regionalizationboth terms which need definingin any given area do not take place in a vacuum. While their progress is necessarily informed by geographical, political, economic, strategic and cultural concerns that are region-specific, they also take place in an environment that is in turn informed by norms, trends, values and practices that relate to different regional and global settings. Hence a comparative survey is particularly helpful in understanding current patterns and the development of regionalism. Here regionalism is treated as a good that states and non-state actors desire and encourage, and one that merits promotion by regional and international communities. For those concerned with international order, regionalism has many positive qualities. Aside from promoting economic, political and security cooperation and community, it can consolidate state-building and democratization, check heavy-handed behaviour by strong states, create and lock in norms and values, increase transparency, make states and international institutions more accountable, and help to manage the negative effects of globalization. Recent examples from Europe, the Americas, Africa and parts of Asia support this assessment. To draw attention to these benefits of regionalism is not to deny its negative and worrying aspects, which I will also touch on below. Here the discussion is about voluntary regionalism as opposed to the coercive regionalism of the CoProsperity or Warsaw Pact type, though that distinction can be a subtle one. Still, regions could become enclaves of reaction, as Richard Falk warns.1 Another

Richard Falk, The post-Westphalia enigma, in Bjrn Hettne and Bertil Oden, eds, Global governance in the 21st century: alternative perspectives on world order (Stockholm: Almkvist & Wiksell, 2002), p. 177.

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Louise Fawcett downside is that regional actors and their networks can also be a source of disorder: of terrorism and other crimes. But just as terror and crime can be regional problems, they also invite regional solutions, and there has, since September 11, been some progress along these lines.2 This, however, merely reinforces the point that in a world of complex and diverse threats and challenges, where state power is inadequate and existing multilateral institutions face severe overload or find their agendas heavily skewed to favour key states, regionalism is both desirable and necessary. Geographically, ideationally and functionally it is well suited to address questions of regional governance. Not all would share this view. In certain circles there persists a belief in the principle of universality, of the primacy of the United Nations and other multilateral institutions, particularly in matters of peace, security and development. The founding fathers of the League of Nations and of the United Nations initially opposed the dilution of global goalsas do contemporary advocates of cosmopolitan governanceand in current approaches to international problem-solving the global level remains the first port of call. Less idealistically, regional actors and states support universalism, or a UN-first approach, as a check on the possible misuse of hegemonic power. One flip side of this liberal coin is provided by realists, who call the belief that cooperation can mitigate international anarchy utopian and take the view that institutionsregional or notcan render only modest services.3 Nor is this view without validity from the perspective of certain parts of the world today. In some regions, state power acts as a continuing brake on regional initiatives; for some states, including the United States in its current foreign policy phase, regionalism is a useful, but dispensable, source of legitimacy. The aim here is to stand back from the debate about US unilateralism and the evolution of a set of policies that, at least since the events of 9/11, have been regarded as unfriendly to institutions in general and regionalism in particular. Simplistically, we can agree that there has been something of a break with previous policy, both in respect of behaviour towards organizations of which it is a member, like the UN or NATO, and in respect of regionbuildingfor example, in Latin America through the processes associated with the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) and Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). But this pattern of regional and institutional engagement and disengagement has always fluctuated and shifted, in response to both internal debate and outside threat, and its current form is unlikely to be permanent. The same is also true of other regional great powers, whose interest in regionalism may similarly wax and wane. More interesting is a longer view which maps the development of regionalism over time: one which suggests that the steady growth and expansion of interdependence since the Second World War has generated an institutional and regional momentum that started
2 3

Walter Lacqueur, No end to war (New York: Continuum, 2003), p. 234. Stanley Hoffman, Janus and Minerva: essays in the theory and practice of international politics (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1987), p. 75.


Exploring regional domains: a comparative history of regionalism in the Americas, the Arab states and Europe, but has since taken hold in a generalized, if highly unequal way so that there is now no part of the world where it has failed to make an impression on state behaviour at some level. This regional momentum has proved unstoppable, constantly extending into new and diverse domains. Whether in reaching out to AIDS victims in Africa, launching free trade areas, building democracy in Central America, providing post-conflict services and support in war and disaster zones, shaping responses to terrorism or fashioning new institutions in Central Asia, regional initiativesfrom civil society networks and NGOs at one level, to trade alliances and formal state-based institutions at anotherplay out roles that have a daily impact upon peoples and states, softening the contours of globalization and state power. Thus conceived, regionalism has large, if untapped, potential. It is not, as some have argued, an alternative, but a significant complementary layer of governance. Some tasks can be performed better by states, multilateral institutions or non-governmental organizations. But what is emerging is a de facto, albeit often ad hoc, division of labour, sometimes consensual, sometimes contested, where regional actors take on increasingly important roles, contributing to what Jan Aarte Scholte has called the contemporary turn towards multilayered governance.4 In what follows I look first at some problems of definition, arguing the case for a more expansive and flexible understanding of regions and regionalism than has hitherto been usual. I then offer a historical and comparative analysis of regional processes, before moving on to look at the contemporary balance sheet and the challenges and opportunities that regionalism faces. While that balance sheet will necessarily look different depending upon the region in question, it is nonetheless useful to reflect on the current state of the art, since the process offers many lessons for successful regions as well as for those that have little experience with regionalism, or whose experience to date has been patchy. Defining regions and regionalism Regions, regionalism and regionalization are contested and often fuzzy concepts. There is little agreement on what the terms encompass or on their significance for the theory and practice of international relations. All relate, in subtly different ways, to interactionsformal and informal, deliberate and spontaneousat the regional level. But what is the regional level? The term is freely used. If regional agency matters, we must define what that agency comprises, and for what purposes it is suited. Understanding regionalism requires a degree of definitional flexibility, and I propose here a multilevel and multipurpose definition, one that moves beyond geography and beyond states. While this may appear outlandish in regions where state-building itself remains incomplete, moving beyond narrow definitions is important since they tend to

Jan Aarte Scholte, Global civil society, in Ngaire Woods, ed., The political economy of globalization (London: Macmillan, 2000), p. 185.


Louise Fawcett be self-limiting and to exclude the newer and expanding domains of regional action. For some, the term region may denote no more than a geographical reality, usually a cluster of states sharing a common space on the globe. This kind of region may be a large continent, or a small group of contiguous states. For present purposes this simple territorial definition is unlikely to take us very far; we need to refine regions to incorporate commonality, interaction and hence the possibility of cooperation. From another perspective regions could be seen as units or zones, based on groups, states or territories, whose members display some identifiable patterns of behaviour.5 Such units are smaller than the international system of states, but larger than any individual state; they may be permanent or temporary, institutionalized or not. Another approach likens a region to a nation in the sense of an imagined community: states or peoples held together by common experience and identity, custom and practice.6 A useful, if statist, mid-point is that offered by the US scholar Joseph Nye, who defines a region as a group of states linked together by both a geographical relationship and a degree of mutual interdependence.7 Most regions that identify themselves, or are identified by others, as such share some or all of these characteristics, though often in different quantities and combinations. Regions, though, do not need to conform to state boundaries. They may comprise substate as well as suprastate and trans-state units, offering different modalities of organization and collaboration. Precision in defining the size and membership of a region can be enormously important for some states and actors. At one level, higher levels of cohesion, commonality and cooperation might prevail in a smaller, tightly defined geographical area, or what is often termed a sub-region. At another level, where regional spaces and tasks are contested as we have seen in Europe, South-East Asia, southern Africa and now Central Asia regions can be deliberately inclusive and exclusive, keeping welcome states in, and unwelcome ones out. The history of regionalism shows how regions have been defined and redefined in such selective terms. The South African Development Community (SADC) was conceived to exclude the then apartheid South Africa; the Malaysian-inspired East Asian Economic Grouping to exclude the United States as a major regional player; and more recently different groups in the broader OSCE space have articulated distinctive claims to regionness. In proposing a multipurpose definition, I argue for an inclusive typology that includes state-based as well as non-state-based regions, and regions of varying size and composition. Hence the Commonwealth states may form a region, or the Islamic countries; in a different way, so does the South and different southern groupings and coalitions. Examples of non-state actors that

See e.g. Kalevi J. Holsti, The state, war, and the state of war (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 1423. 6 See e.g. Emanuel Adler, Imagined security communities: cognitive regions in international relations, Millennium 26: 2, 1997. 7 Joseph Nye, International regionalism (Boston: Little, Brown, 1968), p. vii.


Exploring regional domains: a comparative history of regionalism operate regionally are the many different peasant, labour or environmental groups in South America. If we are to make sense of the role and scope of contemporary regionalism, and its increasingly non-governmental and transnational qualities, we need both to recognize all these different levels of activity and to identify the different roles that these diverse actors can usefully play. The importance of defining a region becomes obvious when we move to our central concernregionalismwhich implies a policy whereby states and non-state actors cooperate and coordinate strategy within a given region. Here aspects of regime theory are particularly helpful in identifying norms, rules and procedures around which the expectations of different actors converge.8 The aim of regionalism is to pursue and promote common goals in one or more issue areas. Understood thus, it ranges from promoting a sense of regional awareness or community (soft regionalism), through consolidating regional groups and networks, to pan- or subregional groups formalized by interstate arrangements and organizations (hard regionalism). Regionalism thus conceivedas policy and projectevidently can operate both above and below the level of the state; and sub- or suprastate regional activity can inform state-level activity, and so on. Indeed, a truly successful regionalist project today presupposes eventual linkages between state and nonstate actors: an interlocking network of regional governance structures, such as those already found in Europe, and to some extent in the Americas, as demonstrated in the NAFTA process. However, despite a large and growing body of literature on transnational and substate movements, the state continues to play the predominant role in most regional arrangements, and the bulk of the literature on regionalism still focuses on the more measurable institutional forms of interstate cooperation. Certainly, while none would deny the salience of what I have called soft regional processes in helping to shape regional options and choices, it is the hard processes that chiefly interest contributors to this issue of International Affairs in terms of their potential to influence local and international outcomes. The third term I mentioned was regionalization: it is a term that is sometimes confused or used interchangeably with regionalism, and I would like to draw out some distinctions here. If regionalism is a policy or project, regionalization is both project and process. Like globalization, it may take place as the result of spontaneous forces. At its most basic it means no more than a concentration of activity at a regional level. This may give rise to the formation or shaping of regions, which may in turn give rise to the emergence of regional groups, actors and organizations. It may thus both precede and flow from regionalism. The regionalization of trade and its consequences are familiar territory for students of international political economy and regional integration. Such regionalization has yielded trade alliances, blocs and formal institutions. In the security domain, regionalization is used to refer to regional responses to

See e.g. S. D. Krasner, ed., International regimes (Ithaca: Cornell University Press: 1983), p. 2.


Louise Fawcett conflicts that have themselves often become regionalizedin which inter- and intrastate wars spill over borders, impinge on and draw in neighbouring countries and actors, and attract the attention of the international community. These region-level conflicts do not involve only local actors and institutions. In regions whose own institutions are weak or non-existent, we have seen a growing trend towards the involvement of out-of-area regional institutions: two recent examples are the engagement of NATO in Afghanistan, and of the EU in South-East Europe and the Congo.9 The importance of regionalization to contemporary debate has been made apparent by the attention it has received in diverse multilateral fora. No longer competing metaphors, regionalization and globalization offer complementary rather than alternative routes to global order. Of concern in the context of this article is the salience of regionalization in discussions in the United Nations and related circles about the appropriate division of labour in the promotion of international peace and security, or with reference to aid, trade and development policy. In this framework regionalization is about developing power and responsibility and devolving them to the appropriate regional level. Post-Cold War international crisesincluding examples from Africa (Liberia and Sierra Leone), Asia (East Timor), Europe (former Yugoslavia) and the former USSR (Tajikistan and Georgia)have been the scene for diverse experiments in regionalizing peace and security. Indeed, the success or failure of regionalism on the security level has increasingly come to be measured with reference to the ability of regional groups to act as security providers inside and outside their respective areas, to contribute to what has been called an evolving architecture of regionalization.10 The above discussion was driven by the need to define the terms and scope of regional action. It is not the intention here to focus excessively on definitions, or indeed to be confined by them. Ultimately, regions and regionalism are what states and non-state actors make of them. To make sense of the idea of regionalism, a certain amount of both definitional and theoretical flexibility is required; there is no ideal region, nor any single agenda to which all regions aspire. Regions, like states, are of varying compositions, capabilities and aspirations. They may also be fluid and changing in their make-up. Regionness, like identity, is not given once and for all: it is built up and changes.11 On a practical level, the United Nations Charter is deliberately imprecise and allencompassing in its definition of regional agencies. Any regional or subregional group of which the UN approves may qualify.12

See further the International Peace Academy Report, The UN and Euro-Atlantic organizations: evolving approaches to peace operations beyond Europe (New York: International Peace Academy, 2004). 10 Louise Fawcett, The evolving architecture of regionalization, in Michael Pugh and W. P. S. Sidhu, eds, The United Nations and regional security: Europe and beyond (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2003), pp. 1130. 11 Amin Maalouf, In the name of identity (London: Penguin, 2003), p. 23. 12 Danesh Sarooshi, The United Nations and the development of collective security: the delegation by the United Nations of its Chapter VII powers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 12, 1426.


Exploring regional domains: a comparative history of regionalism While regionalism and regionalization are clearly global phenomena, it might well be observed from what has been said so far that their greatest and most durable successes are still to be found in Europe or the North Atlantic area. But I am concerned here not only with Europe and the variety of models it offers. In thinking comparatively and theoretically about regionalism, it is important to achieve a broader analytical and comparative focus, pulling together evidence from different regions and practices. The African, Latin American or South-East Asian, and more recently the Central Asian cases offer insights that Europe cannot: indeed, for those countries engaged in new experiments with different types of cooperation, the lessons from such regions may be more appropriate in the short term. Certainly, in contemplating the various regional phenomena, we must recognize that the make-up of each region under discussion is vital to understanding its prospects and possibilities. In this respect the modified realism suggested by Mohammed Ayoob, combined with a constructivist approach, can be useful.13 We must also consider levels of interdependence, particularly in the areas of security and economics, as well as linkages between different interest groups and the possibilities of functional cooperation; but likewise, shared or divided identities, as well as the nature of states and regimes, are crucial. The last factor is central to any discussion of regionalism, though it would be unwise to discount regions because of regime type or state instability. Regionalism may thrive better in a democratic environment where civil society is relatively advanced, but it is not the exclusive preserve of democracies, as examples from South-East Asia show. Democracy and trade proved a strong combination in the creation of a Southern Cone Common Market (Mercosur); their absence has helped prevent the development of an Arab one, moves to promote a Greater Arab Free Trade Area by 2008 notwithstanding. Similarly, security regionalism has worked better for some areas (West Africa) than others (the Gulf states), and so on. The point here is to discover and develop those functions which particular regional groups are most adept at performing at a given time. It is also appropriate to think of different ways to improve regional capacity; and here there is a role for the international community. The next part of the article reviews the history of regionalism from a comparative perspective, an exercise which helps to illuminate the present state of affairs. It is also salutary to remind ourselves that while for some parts of the worldincluding those discussed in this issue of International Affairsregionalism is a very recent and rather shallow phenomenon, there are important antecedents that may reveal the limitations and prospects of current practice.


See e.g. Mohammed Ayoob, Inequality and theorizing in international relations, and Michael Barnett, Radical chic? Subaltern realism: a rejoinder, International Studies Review 4: 3, pp. 2748, 4962.


Louise Fawcett Regionalism in historical perspective Broadly speaking, regionalism has always been with us. Regions as empires, spheres of influence, or just powerful states and their allies have dominated in different international systems. Regionslike Europe in the nineteenth centurywere world leaders, since for those who lived in them, their region was the centre of the world. But in a more modern sense, since regionalism and regionalization are distinguished from other entities, including the universal, and thus represent activity that is less than global, we might profitably start with looking at the international system that emerged after the First World War. The 1920s provide an arena for considering the place of regional groups in the context of a League of Nations system which accorded them legitimacy; the period is also important in respect of its contributions to persisting debates about universalism versus regionalism, sovereignty and collective security.14 A particular lesson of the League, and one reaffirmed today in the United Nations, was that the organization could not act as a key security provider when the great powers reserved enforcement for themselves. Outside the Leaguebeyond functional cooperation, reflected in the growth of international agenciesformal institutions were few (one exception was the Inter-American System) and non-state-based organizations fewer: the Comintern was an unusual example. That any institution could deliver peace and security, provide a vehicle for economic cooperation and integration or promote a common ideology was a novel idea, and one that failed the test of the 1930s. Security was sought unilaterally through ententes and alliances of either a permanent or an ad hoc nature. Economic interdependencies were deep in many instances, but this was not sovereignty pooling in any sense. States called the tune. But the League, like the United Nations later, encouraged states and peoples to think differently about peace, security, equality and development, contributing to a new definition of international relations and a changed normative architecture. Similarly, the experience of the 1930s informed cooperative efforts in the new European institutions formed after the Second World War. Once embedded, such ideas persisted, to be refurbished in the UN era, which in turn came to embrace regionalism more fully. Following lobbying from different sources, notably Arab and Latin American states, the United Nations legitimized regional agencies, offering them, in Chapter VIII, Article 52 of the Charter, for example, a formal if somewhat undefined role in conflict resolution. Regional economic and social commissions were also an early and integral part of UN activity, drawing in a wide range of different actors. In short, the principle of regional action and cooperation was firmly established. The Charter link is important here for the endorsement and legitimacy it supplied and the accountability it demanded.

The relevant article of the League Covenant is Article 21. See Alfred Zimmern, The League of Nations and the rule of law (London: Macmillan, 1945), p. 522.


Exploring regional domains: a comparative history of regionalism At one level the possibility of regional action, or of meaningful relations evolving between the United Nations and regional agencies, was curtailed by the Cold War and the composition of the Security Council. But the region as unit of analysis was elevated by the EastWest divide, which created an exemplary regional system. With the United Nations subject to evident constraints, peace and security were delivered unilaterally or regionally, through the Warsaw Pact, NATO and related institutions. At another level, the European Community project, built around the idea of economic community, but with security and democratic consolidation as key priorities, became a powerful model. This empowerment of regional actors, despite their dependence on superpower support, and the relative irrelevance of the United Nations, together created an important precedent. The postwar period saw a proliferation of regional organizationsnotably panregional groups like the Organization of African Unity, the Organization of American States and the League of Arab States, as well as the NATO-inspired security pacts like SEATO, ANZUS and CENTO. Some, like the United Nations and Bretton Woods institutions, spawned a set of related organizationsregional development banks and the like: huge bureaucracies drawing on regional as well as external funds and expertise. Their records were necessarily mixed: some reached an early plateau and failed to thrive, others expanded and survived. The dual challenges of decolonization and the Cold War made coherence difficult and rendered some institutions susceptible to hijack by powerful members or outside actors. These were key years for regionalism, however, teaching lessons not only in economic integration and institutional development, but in balancing power, non-alignment and the development of security communities. Transnational and non-governmental actors, multinational corporations, aid agencies and the like, many with a regional focus, also began to encroach on the international scene, shifting the normative frame of regional operations. For developing countries in particular, regionalism had the added appeal of an independence movement,15 like the reformist Third Worldism expressed by groups such as the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77. As exemplified notably by the Arab states in OPEC, which raised oil prices in response to the ArabIsrael War of 1973, regionalism was a southern issue. There are many parallels today, with the continuing representation of developing country interests in diverse multilateral fora, where contesting globalization has become a recurring regional theme. Also interesting from a contemporary perspective was the round of so-called subregional cooperation which took place in the late Cold War period. This saw diverse regional actors in more assertive post-independence mode, seeking new roles for themselves in shaping the local economic and security environment. Changing economic orthodoxy, the example of Europe and a more narrowly defined set of security concerns pushed states into new cooperative

Joseph Grunwald, Miguel S. Wionczek and Martin Carnoy, Latin American integration and US policy (Washington DC: Brookings, 1972), p. 11.


Louise Fawcett projects, among them ASEAN, CARICOM, ECOWAS, SADC, SAARC, ECO and the GCC.16 Two further organizations with origins in this period but with quite different geographical reach and orientation were CSCE and OIC: the former demonstrating the application of the lowest common security denominator to a still diverse political and ideological regional framework, the latter representing a statist attempt to appeal to a transregional identity: Islam. All of the above groups, whether they aspired to panregional or subregional status, were products of the Cold War era, yet have survived to the present. Many have adapted their agendas and even charters to fit the new economic and security architecture that has since evolved. As we now witness ever more impulses to regionalism, which at times complement and at times contradict older patterns and trends, the lessons of the past remain relevant. The new regional climate If the Cold War proved to be an arena for selective but cumulative regional growth and projects, the period after its end offered new scope and opportunities. Although in retrospect it may appear that many of the older limitations and constraints on regional behaviour had not been removed, expectations soared that the conclusion of the Cold War would indeed offer new incentives to international organizations. Despite, or partly because of, the parallel process of globalization, regionalization has grown in salience. Both the number and membership of regional organizations, as well as interest in what was dubbed the new regionalism, have grown exponentially. The process appears irreversible, no longer to be dismissed by critics as a mere fad. The regionalism of the 1990s was promoted by the decentralization of the international system and the removal of superpower overlay.17 Changing regional power balances found expression in new institutional forms and practices. There was also a trickle-down effect from the UN and also the EU in respect of the empowerment and perceived capability of international institutions. The example of the EU generated competitive region-building in both the AsiaPacific region and the Americas. Economic regionalism was spurred on generally by doubts and fears about globalization and the nature of the multilateral trading order. And the Bretton Woods institutions, despite the reforms they have undergone, still remain inhospitable to all but the more robust developing economies. As regards security, the proliferation of intrastate wars and growing pressure on the United Nations promoted, in turn, further task-sharing with regional organizations, with terms like regionalization and subsidiarity creeping into the vocabulary of cooperation.18 Successive UN Secretaries General have called

See further William Tow, Subregional security cooperation in the Third World (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1990). 17 Barry Buzan, People, states and fear (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991), p. 208. 18 Thomas G. Weiss, ed., Beyond UN subcontracting: task-sharing with regional security arrangements and serviceproviding NGOs (London: Macmillan, 1998).


Exploring regional domains: a comparative history of regionalism for a greater role in this regard, notable among them Boutros Boutros Ghali in his much-quoted Agenda for peace. There, and in his Agenda for democratization, he has written of the new regionalism not as resurgent spheres of influence but as a complement to healthy internationalism; and of regional action as not limited to state-directed activity, but extending to NGOs.19 So in many ways the post-Cold-War environment demanded a greater regional awareness and involvement, and was actively promoted by a range of international actors. The larger space that has thus been opened up for regionalism is important both to the more competent regional groups, and also to those regions which lack viable structures, or whose own institutions are weak. If regionalism has expanded to meet new demands and needs, it has also prospered in a more permissive international environment where regions have been freer to assert their own identities and purposes. There is little doubt that most regional actors and groups welcome this development and the opportunity it has brought to increase their voice and representation. For weaker states regionalism has provided a point of entry into a western-dominated order in which their interests are often perceived as marginalized, and also a forum where interaction and agenda-setting are possible. It may guarantee a seat at the negotiating table. These impulses are necessarily poorly developed in regions of the periphery where organizations are weak or new.20 But there is growing awareness of the possibility of regional groups influencing developments within their own areas and, over time, contributing to the creation of norms; and there are quite robust examples, from Europe certainly, but also from the Americas, South-East Asia and Africa, to show how this can be done. A lesson here for emerging states that may yet have only poorly developed institutions, or for those that have traditionally relied on the politics of power, is that they cannot afford to ignore the potential of regionalism: and it is a lesson that has not been lost on the states of the former Soviet bloc. Up to a point, engaging in regionalism is just doing what others do, or filling voids left by the demise of former groups. Like democratization, it is a project that can attract aid and development funds. Cynically, regionalism may provide a mere veneer of respectability and legitimacy to traditional state endeavour. In a world where established states are regionally organized, no state wishes to remain outside current trends: hence the interest of an outlier state like China in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Even strong states, which might eschew the limitations and constraints it imposes, like to speak the language and adopt the practices of regionalism.


Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Agenda for peace (New York: United Nations, 1992); Boutros Boutros-Ghali, An agenda for democratization, in Barry Holden, ed., Global democracy, key debates (London: Routledge, 2000), pp. 11013. 20 Bjrn Hettne, Andreas Inotai and Osvaldo Sunkel, eds, Regionalism, security and development: a comparative perspective, in Bjrn Hettne et al., Comparing regionalisms: implications for global development (London: Palgrave, 2001), pp. 45.


Louise Fawcett Measuring results When we speak about the expansion of regional activity or of regional empowerment and burden-sharing with the United Nations as characteristics of the post-Cold War era, what do we mean in concrete terms? What has changed in existing institutions and what new institutions have evolved? There has been much rhetoric, and at times little evidence of concrete achievement, so some precision is required. Again we need to look at the two tracks of regionalism: state and non-state. For evidence of the new regionalism, an expression coined in the 1990s, one could single out the sheer growth in numbers, as well as the expansion of capacity, membership and range of tasks, of different organizations.21 Also important is the phenomenon of interregional cooperation, where different regions craft and coordinate common strategies and policies. A final dimension relates to the growth of transnational advocacy networks, civil society groups and NGOs, which enter and increasingly participate in the regional domain.22 Let us consider just a few institutional examples of this new regionalism. If we look at the WEU, ASEAN, OIC, ECOWAS or the OAS and OAU (now African Union), we can identify increased commitments to unity among members, expansion of tasks and services, and charter reform. The numbers of members of both European and Asian institutions have swelled. In terms of new organizations, the former Soviet space stands out for the range of projects emerging, from the Commonwealth of Independent States to the Central Asian Cooperation Organization (CACO). Following Iranian prompting, ECO was expanded to include the six former Muslim republics of the USSR and Afghanistan.23 Outside this area of activity, new projects have taken root in the Asia Pacific (ARF, APEC and most recently the ASEAN Plus Three Forum APT) and South America (Mercosur). The type of security cooperation developed within ASEAN suggests the possibility of a distinctive Asian security agenda, built around the concept of regional reconciliation, while Mercosur has shown some agility in balancing subregional and hemispheric agendas while creating a viable political and security community in the Southern Cone. Consider also the latest initiatives of the AU to promote regional security and development, of which the New Economic Project for African Development is but one example. Reflecting the presence of newer security threats, strategies to combat terrorism have been added to existing conventions in the EU and OAS, as well as other groupings.24 Following the Madrid bombings of March 2004, the EU took the lead to upgrade further its own anti-terrorist capacity.

Louise Fawcett and Andrew Hurrell, Introduction, in Louise Fawcett and Andrew Hurrell, eds, Regionalism in world politics: regional organization and international order (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 3. 22 Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink, Activists beyond borders: advocacy networks in international politics (New York: Cornell University Press, 1998). 23 CACO and ECO are discussed in the articles by Annette Bohr and Edmund Hertzig in this issue. 24 See Paul Wilkinson, Terrorism versus democracy: the liberal state response (London: Frank Cass, 2001), p. 192.


Exploring regional domains: a comparative history of regionalism In security and other areas the potential for interregional cooperation is considerable. The principle of EU and NATO cooperation with other regions and regionalisms is already well established, and is indicative of a trend towards the growth and expansion of interregional networks of which ASEM, the AsiaEurope Meeting process (discussed in the contribution by Joakim jendal), is one example.25 Links between different African and Latin American groupings, for example those between Andean and Southern Cone countries, are growing in importance. Lagging behind in all these areas, notwithstanding the existence of formal arrangements, are the Middle East and South Asia. For the latter, SAARC has yet to mature into a vehicle for overcoming regional divisions, despite the upbeat rhetoric of its Islamabad summit early in 2004. For the former, its own institutions, notably the Arab League and the GCC, have proved notoriously weak in the face of persistent crisis and war, and continuing discussion about the best way to pursue cooperation in the wake of the US intervention in Iraq, alongside the current road map for promoting a viable Palestinian state, as well as the Greater Middle East Initiative to be launched at the G8 summit meeting in June 2004, focus almost exclusively on externally driven and designed initiatives, which pay insufficient attention to the nature of the regional domain.26 Somewhat more promising, though limited in its results, is the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, or Barcelona Process, launched in 1995. It is unsurprising that these two regions, the sites of the two most recent US-led interventions, remain outside the zones of new regionalism, although some efforts have been made to bring Afghanistan into contact with relevant regional groupings like the OSCE. Broadly speaking, not unlike the Central Asian region, they are characterized by a still anarchic system, within which impulses to foster regional society, despite a high degree of cultural affinity, are poorly developed. The picture is necessarily diverse: regionalism remains a work still in progress. Still, it is hard to escape the conclusion that overall it is a picture of growing regional empowerment. While the European case has been distinguished by further, if incomplete, moves towards integration and constitutional design, as well as membership expansion, changes in doctrine and institutional capacity have been a characteristic of African and American institutions, which have moved into the fields of democratization and human rights protection, as well as upgrading security and peacekeeping provision. To this we could add the still under-theorized role of non-state-based regionalisms, whose weight has increased significantly, as their presence at population, environment and trade fora demonstrates. Just as important is their security role in post-conflict peacebuilding as deliverers of aid, relief and related services. The numbers of such

The NATO case is discussed in Pugh and Sidhu, eds, The United Nations and regional security. For the EU case see Martin Holland, The European Union and the Third World (London: Palgrave, 2002), pp. 14064. 26 Kenneth Pollack, Securing the Gulf, Foreign Affairs 82: 4, July/Aug. 2003, pp. 216; Naomi BarYaacov, New imperatives for IsraeliPalestinian peace, Survival 45: 2, Summer 2003, pp. 7290.


Louise Fawcett groups have increased exponentially, though as yet there is no clear distinction between mainly regional, as opposed to international, civil society and nongovernmental actors. From a theoretical perspective there are a number of ways of approaching and explaining the progress of contemporary regionalism.27 As suggested above, aspects of realism have crucial explanatory value when applied to the regional initiatives of many emerging as well as established states. Regionalism remains tightly constrained by the exigencies of state power and interest, and the systemic influences that produce patterns of balancing and bandwagoning by states. The structuralist notion of core and periphery in terms of regions remains a useful one: core regions set the economic, political and security agendas; peripheral regions have more limited choices and room for manoeuvre. Yet more liberal theories of interdependence, neo-functionalism and institutionalism also have particular value in examining patterns of cooperation in highly developed regions such as Europe. Some have started to gain more purchase elsewhere too as regions pass from the early to the later, more mature, stages of regionalism: here one thinks of Latin America in particular. The politics of identity, captured by theories of social constructivism, which prioritize shared experience, learning and realityas against crude measurement of state poweralso offers some interesting clues. Alone, it does not explain the success or failure of a given regional project. Yet identity invariably looms large at some stage of the regional process. In the case of the Middle East, identityas Arabism or Islamexplains important aspects of alliance behaviour, even if there remains a striking disjuncture between shared ideas and institutions.28 In East and South-East Asia, the notion of an Asian way appears to have some salience in framing regional options. In the European case, construction of a shared identity has proceeded slowly, hand in hand with institutional development and deepening integration. Problems and prospects These theoretical considerations serve as a backdrop to consideration of the present state of affairs: a discussion of some of the difficulties most commonly associated with regionalism, as well as a review of some of the arguments in its favour, before some tentative conclusions are offered. Three related issues remain particularly pertinent to discussing contemporary regionalism: capacity, sovereignty and hegemony. First, the ability of any group to have a genuine impact on any given regional space depends on the capacity of its members. The mere creation of a regional grouping, usually through the signing of multilateral treaties and agreements,

For two useful surveys see Andrew Hurrell, Explaining regionalism in world politics, Review of International Studies 21:4, 1995; Fredrik Sderbaum and Timothy M. Shaw, Theories of new regionalism (London: Palgrave, 2003). 28 See Michael Barnett, Identity and alliances in the Middle East, in Peter Katzenstein, ed., The culture of national security (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), pp. 40047.


Exploring regional domains: a comparative history of regionalism may have no more than rhetorical consequence if members are unable or unwilling to proceed to further stages of cooperation. The limited capacity and resources of many groups, especially outside the advanced industrialized countries, are clearly an obstacle to action, whether in the military, economic, diplomatic or institutional sphere. Such limitations are augmented by charter constraints which accord a high priority to principles like sovereignty and non-interference. Where suspicion, rivalry and competition persist, the prospects for cooperation are further reduced. It is not unfair criticism to note that a number of institutions have never gone beyond the debate and discussion stage, and thus exist only as talking-shops. Such was the case with a number of attempts to ape the early EC-style institutions in developing countries, and it certainly remains the case with some groups today. Not all the new institutions formed since the Cold War will endure, or produce significant results; but some will, and the reasons for that success will relate to state capacity, domestic as well as external pressures and influences, levels of interdependence, and the growth and development of shared interests. Since none of these conditions are fixed, groups whose roles are currently limited could assume new functions. Mercosur in South America is an example of a grouping which built on the experience of the 1960s to re-emerge more forcefully as an organization with not only a viable economic purpose, but also a political and security dimension.29 The bigger point to stress here is that the limited capacity of states is a shortterm impediment to cooperation. It will, along with the nature of the regional and international environment, crucially affect the success or failure of any regional project, as many examples from the sphere of peacekeeping demonstrate.30 Hence the relative newness or fragility of states may be an important factor; in an unstable system cooperation is likely to be sporadic and superficial, limited to one or two functions, and driven by powerful insiders and outsiders. However, from such unpromising beginnings a stable system can emerge, and an appreciation of the time-frame is important in judging the prospects for regionalism in any context: conditions change, and with them the prospects for further cooperation. Perhaps the best analogy, again, is that of the early experience of developing countries, whose initial attempts at cooperation took place in conditions not so dissimilar to those prevailing today in the Soviet successor states. The capacity of states to cooperate is linked to their willingness to do so, and here the constraints that sovereignty imposes play a central role. While for some regionalism sets the stage for a decline in the salience of states, for others it can be seen as a means for their individual or collective advancement: this was the fear of the functionalist writer David Mitrany.31 States cooperate in

A strong case for the advances of Latin American regionalism generally is made in Victor Bulmer Thomas, ed., Regional integration in Latin America and the Caribbean: the political economy of open regionalism (London: Institute for Latin American Studies, 2001). See especially the editors introduction, pp. 113. 30 See Paul F. Diehl, International peacekeeping (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), p. 126. 31 David Mitrany, A working peace system (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1944).


Louise Fawcett regions as they do in alliances, in self-regarding fashion, and in furtherance of their security interests. It is sovereignty that still matters for states, and the attachment to sovereignty will always check and balance any cooperative projectparticularly where that sovereignty is fragile, having only recently been obtained. Hence new states are particularly sensitive to such encroachment. Though much cited, the sovereignty argument does not constitute a convincing case against regionalism. Boutros-Ghali has famously observed that the time of absolute and exclusive sovereignty has passed,32 and this comment is relevant to the work of international institutions. Certainly the principle has become more porous in the light of UN action, where new norms in respect of intervention for humanitarian and other purposes are emerging: the same could be said for NATO and other European institutions. Similarly, changes may be observed in the Charters of the AU and OASthe Inter-American Democratic Charter of 2001 is of particular notewhile smaller groups like ECOWAS and Mercosur have sidestepped the once sacrosanct principle of noninterference under certain prescribed conditions. Others adhere strictly to the principle. Respecting sovereignty does not, however, preclude regional-level activity, as the South-East Asian case demonstrates. In its proactive and consensusbased response to the Cambodian crisis, ASEAN contributed to a more secure regional environment. Its members would not undertake intervention in East Timor, but did ultimately contribute forces to the Australian-led mission in 1999.33 A third and related problem for regional groups is that of the dominant state or hegemon. While state sovereignty reduces the capacity of regionalism, strong states are likely to abuse it. Critics argue that regional groups merely serve the interests of one state or another. It is indeed often the case that one major actormaybe one instrumental in the regional organizations creation and maintenancesets the agenda in that organization. In some cases the dominant role may pass from one state to another. All regional activity in the Americas, whether bandwagoning in NAFTA or balancing in Mercosur, is predicated on the dominant role of the United States. The Monroe Doctrine has long legitimized and conditioned the US special sphere of interest on the American continent. It is easy to see how, in an emerging region like Central Eurasia, institution-building has much to do with balancing or bandwagoning with the local strong power, often Russia, but also possibly China, Turkey, Iran or even Uzbekistan.34 Outside these areas we can see how the achievements of ECOWAS (in Liberia or Sierra Leone) depended on Nigerian muscle, or how the Saudis still regard the OIC as very much their own project. Seen at its most negative, regionalism can be viewed as an instrument for the assertion
32 33

Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Agenda for peace, para. 17. Mely Caballero-Anthony, The regionalization of peace in Asia, in Pugh and Sidhu, eds, The United Nations and regional security, pp. 2067. 34 Roy Allison, Regionalism, regional structures and security management in Central Asia, in this issue of International Affairs.


Exploring regional domains: a comparative history of regionalism of hegemonic control.35 One might further argue that hegemons, by their very nature, eschew deep commitment to institutions which will limit their freedom of action (some recent parallels are pertinent here: the US sidestepping of NATO in the Afghanistan and Iraqi interventions, for example). The existence of hegemony is a bad reason for decrying regional action: it is an argument, rather, for setting standards and guidelines; for promoting institutional democratization. Strong states can and do play a vital role in promoting regional peace and security, acting where others are unable or unwilling to do so. Parallel cooperation with UN structures and guidelines can help modify behaviour, mitigating hegemony and increasing accountability (although this can give rise to an additional problem of primacy or hierarchy between different organizations). Institutions can promote greater transparency, but importantly also supply legitimacy that unilateral efforts may lack. States may choose to ignore international law and institutions, but such actions have costs at the level of both domestic and international public opinion. Regional hegemons may, to some extent, be reined in by those organizations they have been instrumental in creating. Thus for Latin American states the OAS has acted as a vehicle, albeit a limited one, for containment of their powerful northern neighbour. Conclusions The above note is an appropriate one on which to end a review of the history and prospects of regionalism at a time when those prospects appear to have been seriously jeopardized by the behaviour of the worlds leading power. For some, the events of 9/11, the subsequent development of strong unilateralism on the part of the United States and the corresponding pull of bilateral, as opposed to multilateral or regional, understandings between the US and its allies suggest that regionalism is disposable: indeed, that any liberal global or regional order is moribund or dead. This view is both simplistic and shortsighted, but also reflective of a too rosy view of the processes of regionalization and globalization. There is rarely a clear divide between unilateral and multilateral choices; more often than not, cooperation with others is not an option, but a necessity.36 We have, of course, been reminded of the limits of regionalism, and recent events provide a useful cautionary lesson. But if a review of the history of regionalism shows precisely how bumpy its progress has been, it also demonstrates its relative robustness and progressive, if uneven, development. We have witnessed a variety of experiments with different regional types, from those with a broad reach to narrower subregional projects. The range of activity has been similarly diverse, from economics and politics to security and culture.

James H. Mittelman and Richard Falk, Hegemony: the relevance of regionalism?, in Bjrn Hettne, Andreas Inotai and Osvaldo Sunkel, eds, National perspectives on new regionalism in the North (London: Macmillan, 1999), p. 175. 36 Stewart Patrick, Multilateralism and its discontents, in Stewart Patrick and Shepard Forman, Multilateralism and US foreign policy (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2002), p. 2.


Louise Fawcett Often, charter pronouncements which profess an apparently neutral economic agenda may overlie political or security intentions; in other cases, institutions can evolve and adapt to acquire new functionsindeed, some of the regionalisms discussed here have already done so. All this does not, in itself, necessarily indicate deep cooperation or integration, in the sense of uniting previously disparate parts to form some identifiable new whole.37 What it does indicate is that participation in, and ultimately accountability to, international institutions may have an importance that transcends the agenda of any one powerful regional state and hence can modify patterns of behaviour. In this respect regionalism has an important, if complex, relationship to international order. In the light of early twenty-first-century developments, one might take the view that, first, terrorism will generate new alliances and alignments which could feed further into regional processes (which has to some extent already happened); and second, regionalism will expand rather than contract to meet the challenge of unipolarity (for which there are precedents). Few serious or permanent reversals are to be found in the history of regionalism. It would be wrong to take a starry-eyed view of regionalisms prospects, or to present regionalism as an alternative paradigm to any global or state-led order. In exploring regional processes and domains this article has highlighted the possibilities but also the many limitations of regionalism. Functional cooperation between states and non-state actors is likely to continue where there are obvious functions that different parties can agree upon and share. Sustained high-level cooperation remains unlikely outside core regions: this would require more stable and durable regional systems to emerge, ones in which state power is consolidated, in which rivalries are mitigated, and in which shared interests can be identified and fostered. International cooperation and support are also important: states can benefit and learn from the aid and experience of others. In these and other areas outlined here, the lessons of the past continue to prove instructive.


Peter Smith, The challenge of integration: Europe and the Americas (Coral Gables: NS Centre Press, 1993), p. 5.