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Galbreath IO chapter 1

(Originally published as a chapter in ‘International Regimes

and Organizations’ in Trevor C. Salmon and Mark F. Imber
eds. Issues in International Relations, 2nd Edition (Routledge

International Institutions
David J. Galbreath

International Relations are about conflict and cooperation. International institutions

are important mechanisms through which much conflict and cooperation occurs.
Many would argue that international institutions have become important actors in
international relations in their own right, transcending the sum of their parts. One only
needs to look around today to see international institutions at work. For example, the
United Nations (UN) is present throughout the world, from Afghanistan to Zambia,
providing peacekeeping, food aid, water projects, health services, and children rights
protection, to name only a few tasks. International institutions help govern our life.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) and Organization for Economic Cooperation
and Development help govern our trade and economic cooperation. Institutions like
the European Union (EU) and Mercusur in Latin America help bring regions together.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the African Union provide for
regional security. Institutions like the Council of Europe and Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) promote democracy and human rights.
Most of these institutions in fact have multiple functions that are strategic, political,
economic and cultural. These ‘inter-governmental institutions’ often rely heavily on
the work of ‘international non-governmental institutions’ or INGOs, such as the
International Red Cross (IRC), Medecins san Frontiers (Doctor’s without Borders),
Amnesty International, and Oxfam. All of these institutions make a web of
collaboration and cooperation through which much of international relations runs.
This chapter aims to explain the evolution and development of international
institutions and chart their relevance for international relations. Why do states find it
necessary to cooperate? From where have international institutions come? When was
the first international organization created? What do international institutions do and
how do they do it? Why do we have so many international institutions in the world
today? What impact is this having on international relations in general and us, as
individuals, specifically? These are the questions that we will be engaging with in this
chapter. By the end, we will have a clear and concise introduction to international

Cooperation and Institutions

Our discussion of international institutions should begin with a discussion of
defining ‘cooperation’ and ‘institutions’. Intuitively, we know what both of these
terms mean, but their relationship in international relations needs to be highlighted.
Cooperation ‘requires that the actions of separate individuals or institutions – which
are no in pre-existent harmony – be brought into conformity with one another through
a process of policy coordination’ (Keohane 1984: 51). In other words, cooperation
requires each party of the relationship to change their behaviour in relation to the
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behaviour of other parties. Importantly, Robert O. Keohane (1988: 380) distinguishes

cooperation from harmony. States may cooperate to prevail in military and political
conflict. Rich states may cooperate to keep themselves rich and poor states poor.
‘International cooperation does not necessarily depend on altruism, idealism, personal
honour, common purposes, internalised norms, or a shared belief in a set of values
embedded in a culture’ (1988: 380, emphasis added). At the same time, many states
do cooperate because they share interests, ideals, norms, values and shared belief
systems. A cooperative relationship demands that there be some level of trust between
the two or more parties. Not only are international institutions predicated on these
shared understandings, but international institutions also offer an arena through which
parties can see what the others are doing (i.e. transparency).
Nevertheless, cooperation can occur outside of international institutions. In
fact, a large proportion of cooperation occurs through bi-lateral relationships that are
not dictated by institutions. However, international institutions are increasingly
playing a part in institutionalising, and thus facilitating, cooperation. We can define
international institutions as ‘international social institutions characterised by
behavioural patters based on international norms and rules, which prescribe
behavioural roles in recurring situations that lead to a convergence of reciprocal
expectations’ (Rittberger and Zangl 2006: 6). We can also identify two types of
international institutions: international inter-governmental organizations and
international regimes. The first set of international institutions is ordinarily what we
refer to when we say international organizations, such as the UN, EU and ASEAN.
These institutions have a range of issue-areas that they address. On the other hand,
Stephen Krasner (1982: 185) has defined regimes as ‘principles, norms, rules and
decision-making procedures around which actor expectations converge in a given
issue-area.’ In other words, international regimes are issue-specific. Overall,
international regimes aim to coordinate communication about a specific issue, such as
trade, whaling, air quality, and nuclear proliferation. International organizations differ
from international regimes because they can engage in ‘goal-directed activities’ such
as raising and spending money, policy-making, and making flexible choices (Keohane
1988: 384, fn. 2). Whether one or the other, international institutions as a whole
provide for formalised cooperation in international relations and thus deserve our
Why does cooperation occur in international relations? In politics, people
come together to cooperate towards common and collective goals. By common goals,
we mean goals that all can share. By collective goals, we mean those goals that can
only be achieved if people work together. We can see this in our own societies in
terms of the public services provided to us by the state. In essence, we have come
together within political communities to work towards common goals such as roads,
telecommunications, disaster relief, and education. In the modern bureaucratic state,
the average individual is not working in any of these areas, but instead we pay the
state (through taxation) to carry these services out on our behalf. Many of the
challenges that we face are local or even national. In these circumstances, the state
and its institutions are the ideal way with which to deal with these challenges.
Moreover, while many of the challenges that we face are global challenges as well,
the state as a political entity allows us to use local solutions for global problems.
Yet, as the world becomes metaphorically smaller, states as well as their
citizens are coming together to form institutions we know as international institutions.
As citizens come together within a state for common and collective goals, states come
together in international institutions for common goals. When do states come together
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to form international institutions? A good example is the Rhine River Commission,

created in 1815 (see Ruchay 1995). Today, the Rhine runs through Switzerland,
Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, France and the Netherlands. Historically, the Rhine
was an important trade route for Western Europe like the Danube to the east. In 1815
during the Congress of Vienna, states came together for the common goal of ensuring
the freedom of navigation on the river. Eventually, the commission developed into a
regulatory and policing body. As early as the 1860’s, the commission developed
provisions for regulating hazardous materials and water pollution. The Rhine River
Commission (also known as the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine or
CCNR) is important because affected states could come together to agree common
rules and regulations for navigation along the Rhine. The commission is also
important for being the first international organization and it still exists to this day.
Also like citizens of a state, member-states of an international institution are
constrained by their membership. To answer the question of ‘why’ states come
together to form international institutions, we must first explain some underlying
assumptions about international relations. The first assumption is that in an ideal
world, states would have ultimate sovereignty or control over their own geographical
area. As we do not live in an ideal world, our second assumption is that states strive to
maximise their sovereignty. These assumptions present us with something of a
conundrum: if states want to maximise their sovereignty, why would they agree to
become members of an organization that by its very existence will constrain their
sovereignty? The simple answer is that states are willing to sacrifice a bit of
sovereignty to gain common and collective goals. We can break this answer down
even further by focusing on what Arthur Stein (1990) argues is the dilemma of
gaining collective ‘goods’ and avoiding collective ‘bads’. Collective ‘goods’ and
‘bads’ are ‘flip-sides’ of the same coin. For instance, improving clean air is a common
and collective ‘good’. Having clean air is common, because everyone can use it, and
collective, because in order to have clean air, we all must work together to have it. In
other words, it only takes one bad polluter to make the air bad for the rest of us. Thus,
we work together to avoid the collective ‘bad’ of air pollution.
International institutions are ordinarily suited to address the common and
collective goals experienced by a number of states. For example, water pollution, acid
rain, malaria, HIV-AIDS, nuclear reactor disasters, belligerent states, terrorism,
organized crime and the global economy do not have borders. Furthermore, these
problems require a huge amount of resources simply to address, much less to
eliminate. For most states, the amount of resources required to combat these problems
are beyond their own capacity. Therefore, we should expect states to seek out other
similar states to pool their resources together to deal with these common problems.
Classically, we see such pooling of resources in military alliances. States come
together in a military alliance to defeat, attack or prevent another state or group of
states. While we have seen military alliances throughout history, their formation as
international institutions is relatively recent, such as NATO and the OSCE.
The study of international institutions has had an interesting development
which can be highlighted by looking at two debates. The first debate surrounded the
importance of international institutions in the international system. Are international
organizations actors in their own right or are they simply a subject of their constituent
parts (member-states)? The realist agenda argues that states are the key actors in
international relations and international institutions represent the interests of its
member-states, especially those of which have the most power (see Grieco 1988).
Realists argue that states are unlikely to invest in formal institutions so much that they
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cede power to that organization because the international system is inherently

anarchical. Anarchy impedes international cooperation and thus reduces the
importance of international institutions in international relations. The liberal agenda
argues that international institutions can be important actors in international relations
because states have a rational and strategic interest in investing in long-term
cooperation and thus international institutions (see Keohane and Nye 1974). Liberals
argue that cooperation and interdependence produce grounds for stable, trusting
relationships between states. Once created and imbued with powers, international
institutions can then have an effect on its own member-states. While both realists and
liberals accept the anarchical state of the international system, there are cores
differences in the way they see cooperation.
The second debate surrounded the reasons why states create and join
international institutions (see Keohane 1988). There were two sides to this debate:
Rationalism and Constructivism. Rationalism assumes that actors will seek the
strategy (or strategies) that benefits themselves. In the study of international
institutions, the rationalist approach argues that cooperation can be mutually
beneficial and that states come together in international institutions to reduce the
‘transaction-costs’ of this cooperation. As stated earlier, international institutions also
reduce the uncertainty of cooperation by providing information and stabilising
expectations. The rationalists argue that we will see international institutions where
there are mutual expectations of benefits from cooperation. Where the costs of
cooperation are too great (e.g. too many restrictions, favourable conditions for others),
there is unlikely to be international institutions.
On the other hand, constructivism argues that actors’ decisions are determined
by their own values and perceptions of the world around them. The constructivist
(also referred to as reflective) approach concentrates on the importance of social
interactions and international institutions. Constructivists argue that actors are not
only acting on their own rational self-interest, but are also acting as a response to
shared values and norms (e.g. economic, political culture). This approach does not
look for a constellation of shared interests but rather a constellation of shared norms
to explain the development of international institutions. Thus, while states may have a
shared interest in a given issue-area, an international institution only forms once states
have a shared understanding of the problem. The recent debates over carbon emission
are a good illustration of the difficulties of cooperation in general and institutions
specifically. All of the major green-house gas producing countries accepts that carbon
emission is a problem leading to environmental damage. Nevertheless, global
cooperation is extremely undeveloped, even within an established organization like
the EU, much less between the EU, the United States and China.
In recent years, we have seen the former debate all but disappear and the latter
debate move toward reconciliation. The post-Cold War era led to an emphasis in the
role international institutions had to play in society. International institutions could no
longer be ignored. The second debate has largely played out in the regional
integration literature, primarily focusing on the development of the EU. Andrew
Moravcsik (1997) emphasises the role of interests and preferences in the development
of the EU, while others such as Jeffrey Checkel (2001) as well as Karin Fierke and
Antje Wiener (1999) focus on the importance of norms and values in further
integration and enlargement. However, these two approaches are not polls apart.
Many authors, these included, have recognised interests and norms as connected (for
example, see Schimmelfennig 2001). Rationalists have begun to look at the
importance of social communication while constructivists have begun to focus on
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decision-making. As we look at specific international institutions more closely, we

will see that both interests and norms are important in our study since they
characterise the very institutions that we are studying.

International Institutions and their Functions

While we have seen international cooperation throughout history, we have
only seen international institutions since the early nineteenth century. International
institutions are largely the result of changes in the international system, although they
may be around long after the world has changed again. The impetus for the first
international institution was the Napoleonic Wars (1804-1815) in Europe. Leading to
the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo in March 1815, the victorious powers
came together to organize a post-conflict Europe, known as the Congress of Vienna
(from September 1814 to June 1815). Borders were re-drawn, political leaders were
removed or put in place, and colonies were confirmed or forfeited. While this was not
so much a ‘congress’ as it was a place for informal discussions between powers, it
was a concerted effort to seek cooperation and consensus across a great number of
actors. The Congress of Vienna however led to much longer lasting institutionalised
forms of cooperation, such as the Rhine River Commission already discussed. The
Congress also resulted in a condemnation of slavery, confirming the move towards
the end of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Early in the twentieth century, Europe was again at war. The First World War
(1914-18) has many causes, but one of which is the breakdown of an informal, non-
institutionalised arrangement between the great powers in Europe, orchestrated by
Germany’s Otto van Bismarck. Following the end of the war, the victorious powers in
Europe came together in the Paris Peace Conference (January 1918 to January 1919)
to dictate the terms of peace. The conference established the League of Nations in
January 1919 as an attempt to prevent another great war. Prior to the creation League,
there had been two peace conferences in The Hague in 1899 and 1907. These
conferences were the forerunners to an institutionalised attempt at peace (Scott 1973).
The League had its first meeting in 1920 in London, but was moved to Geneva later
that year. The organization was devoted to conflict prevention through disarmament
and diplomatic negotiation.
The structure consisted of a Secretariat, a Council, and an Assembly. The
Secretariat worked as a civil service or bureaucracy for the League of Nations. The
Council had the authority to deal with any problem challenging international peace.
Similar to the UN Security Council, the Council of the League of Nations initially had
four permanent members (United Kingdom, Italy, France and Japan) although it was
supposed to have a fifth member (the United States, who failed to join). The Council
also had a series of non-permanent members determined by the Assembly. The
Assembly met once a year, every September, for this reason and also to decide on
mechanisms to deal with problems in the international community. Over time, the
Assembly created seven other bodies, including the International Labour
Organization, the Permanent Court of International Justice, and the World Health
Organizations (WHO), all of which became part of the League’s successor, the United
Nations. Overall, this is a structure that we can see reproduced across many
international institutions. It is no coincidence that it represents state political
institutions, with a civil service, a limited executive, and a wider representative

Insert Table 1
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The League of Nations is most remembered for its failure to prevent the
Second World War. However, the League of Nations had beneficial influence on
many areas of potential conflict that has largely gone unnoticed except by scholars of
international institutions. Several cases are worth mentioning. After the First World
War, Austria and Hungary were committed by the Treaty of Versailles (passed by the
first act of the League of Nations in 1920) to substantial reparations to the victors of
the war. The financial stress of the reparations was forcing both states into
bankruptcy. However, the League stepped into the crisis by arranging financial loans,
preventing economic meltdown. Second, the League stepped into the dispute between
the newly established states of Yugoslavia and Albania. After the war, Yugoslav
troops still held Albanian territory. The League organised a withdrawal of Yugoslav
troops by 1921. Ironically, the United Nations would find itself in the same region
approximately eighty years later for similar reasons. Finally, the League resolved a
conflict between the new states of Turkey and the UK-mandated Iraq, regarding the
city of Mosul. Formerly a part of the Ottoman Empire, Mosul was claimed by the
empire’s successor state, Turkey. The British claimed Mosul for the new Iraq. The
League sided with the British and Iraqis, claiming protection of the Kurdish
autonomy. By 1926, all parties agreed to the settlement. Nevertheless, the Kurdish
struggle for a Kurdish state in Turkey and northern Iraq haunts the region to this day.
In these events, and many more, the League of Nations illustrated an ability to
mediate between opposing forces. The League used observer missions, peace-keepers
and diplomatic bargaining to encourage compliance. These are the same mechanisms
now used by many international institutions, but especially the United Nations.
Although aimed at conflict prevention, the League of Nations could not stop
the rise of a belligerent Germany, Italy and Japan. The failure of the League to act in
the case of Japan’s invasion of Chinese Manchuria in 1933 or the German invasion of
Poland and Czechoslovakia in 1939 spelled the end of the organization. The
organization was also not helped by the West’s disinterest in the League. The United
States Senate did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles which would have brought it into
the League and the UK and France preferred to work outside the confines of the
organization. Eventually, the Second World War would wash away the League of
Nations, although it officially lasted until 1946. Like the Napoleonic Wars and the
First World War begot both the Congress of Vienna and League of Nations
respectively, the Second World War produced the United Nations, which would face
even greater challenges to international peace and security.
Again, after a major conflict the victors sat down to create a post-conflict
arrangement with the hopes of avoiding future wars. This time, the soon-to-be victors
met at the Dumbarton Oaks Conference in Washington, D.C to establish a new
international institution. From April to June 1945, fifty states met in San Francisco at
the United Nations International Conference to discuss the Dumbarton Oaks
recommendations. The result was the establishment of the United Nations and the
creation of the UN Charter. The charter sets out four core aims:

• Prevention of inter-state conflict

• Ensuring human rights
• Establishing international law
• Encouraging development
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These are similar aims to the League of Nations, but UN has been able to do far more.
At the same time, the new organization would also have its restrictions, but this time
by the new global conflict in the international system: the Cold War.
The UN in many ways looked like the League: a secretariat, a council and an
assembly, as well as a plethora of other councils and commissions. Importantly, the
core institutions within the UN were located in New York. Some parts of the UN are
located elsewhere, such as the WHO which is still located in Geneva as a remnant of
the League. Table 1 illustrates the structure of the United Nations. The United Nations
is composed of six principal organs: Secretariat, General Assembly, Security Council,
Economic and Social Council, the International Court of Justice and the Trusteeship
Council. The Secretariat is the bureaucracy of the UN and is headed by the Secretary-
General, currently Ban Ki-Moon (2007- ) from South Korea (see Gordenker 2005).
The Secretary-General is not only the director of the UN Secretariat and the UN in
general, but is also chair of the UN Security Council. The Secretariat has nearly 9000
employs from over 170 member-states. The General Assembly has representatives
from every member-state, 192 at the latest (see Peterson 2005). The General
Assembly is able to pass resolutions affecting UN policies. There are also several
bodies established under the General Assembly, such as the Human Rights Council
(see Mertus 2005). The Security Council is the most visible organ in the United
Nations for two reasons (Luck 2006). First, the international politics are often played
out in the Security Council, as seen in the led-up to the US-led invasion of Iraq
(2003). Second, the Security Council is the only body that can give the UN the
mandate to intervene in a military dispute and to permit UN peacekeepers.
The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) looks at the international
aspects of economic and social issues. The council has 42 seats voted for by the
General Assembly and allocated by geographic region. Through this forum, ECOSOC
is able to make policy recommendations to other parts of the UN. ECOSOC
coordinates several high profile, autonomous specialized agencies, including the
WHO, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the
ILO. The International Court of Justice (not to be confused with the International
Criminal Court) has 15 judges that need to be approved by both the General Assembly
and the Security Council. The ICJ’s role is to settle any legal disputes brought to it by
member-states and to issue legal advisory opinions when requested by other UN
agencies. The first case brought to the ICJ was the Corfu Channel case (United
Kingdom v. Albania) submitted on 22 May 1947. At the time of writing, there have
been 136 cases brought to the ICJ’s attention. Finally, the UN Trusteeship Council
was established to oversee decolonialization. Colonies would be placed in the hands
of the Trusteeship Council, who would oversee the establishment of state institutions.
Following the independence of Palau (southern Pacific Ocean) in 1994, the
Trusteeship voted to suspend operations. The Trusteeship Council can be recalled by
a majority vote in the Security Council or General Assembly or by its five permanent
members (China, France, Russian Federation, UK and USA).
The UN also has a huge network of other agencies and commissions, such as
the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the Universal Postal
Union. These other agencies and commissions are collectively referred to as the ‘UN
system’. Overall, we can see a significant expansion of responsibilities and
infrastructure from the League of Nations to the United Nations. The UN is the largest
international institution in the world. The UN has the ability to intervene in armed
conflict, enforce resolutions through political, economic or military means, and even
to dissolve states and validate new ones. Like the ages before it, the Cold War shaped
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the world around it, including international institutions. As the largest and most
significant international institution since its creation, the United Nations strongly
affected. On one hand, the permanent seats on the Security Council helped keep the
Cold War from becoming a hot war. On the other hand, the permanent seats allowed
five nations to have a veto over UN actions, making the UN less effective and less
responsive in many cases. As we shall see with many international institutions, the
UN is ever changing, although not as fast as some would like. Reform in the UN is
difficult because many member-states have an interest in maintaining the current
structure, for example, in the Security Council. While many parts of the UN are
moving on, the Security Council is still structured along the lines of 1945. How much
longer can this last?

Regional institutions
While there are many global international institutions in addition to those were
have highlighted already, such as World Trade Organization, we turn our attention
now to regional institutions. Students will find that in many cases, regional
institutions have a far greater impact on their every day life than does the UN, for
example. As Table 2 illustrates, every geographic region in the world has established
a regional institution, although there continue to be many states that stand outside
them. The table also shows that Europe is particularly heavily laden with regional
institutions, in many cases with overlapping functions. Other regions, such as Asia
and Africa, have fewer and weaker regional institutions. This section looks at
prominent regional organizations and asks why some regions are better ‘organized’
than others?
Europe has the longest tradition of organizing within international institutions,
shown by our conversation of the Congress of Vienna. Since the Second World War,
Europe has seen a significant growth in the number of institutions as well as a
proliferation of their functions. The EU is Europe’s most visible regional institution
and it has the widest remit in terms of functions. The road to the EU began with the
establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951. The
founding members were West Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and
Luxemburg. On the basis of the ECSC, the same countries came together in the
European Economic Community (later to be renamed the European Community in
1992) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) in 1957 (Treaties
of Rome). Together, these communities became the European Communities in 1965
under the Merger Treaty. This merger established two of the core organs in the EU
today, the Commission and Council, to be joined by a democratically elected
European Parliament in 1971. Finally, the European Community became the EU with
the Treaty of Maastricht (or Treaty of the European Union) in 1992.
The EU that we have today is unlike any other international institution. Unlike
any other international institution, it has taken on the role of a super-state with a hand
in every area of public policy, from consumer safety to foreign policy. Importantly,
the EU still remains closely linked to its member-states and in particular France and
Germany. The current pillar system, created in 1992, established a procedure for
decision-making in different issue-areas. The first pillar corresponds to the original
purposes of the European Economic Community: the movement of people, money,
and trade. The remaining two pillars deal with foreign policy, security and policing,
where member-states, at the time or writing, maintain significant control over EU
policy. The second pillar deals with Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)
and European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). The third pillar deals with
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regional police issues, such as organized crime, corruption, and terrorism. Together,
the three pillars represent the breadth of issue areas dealt with by the EU.
Recently, the EU has experienced several major changes. Firstly, the failed
European Constitution would have increased the ‘state-like’ status of the EU. Current
negotiations over reviving the Constitutional Treaty primarily centre on debates
relating to proposed changes in the pillar structure. These changes would have seen an
end to the pillars system and increased decision-making power in the EU’s capital,
Brussels, vis-à-vis member-states. Secondly, the EU has gone through a large
expansion in 2004 and 2007. In all, ten new Central and Eastern European states and
2 Mediterranean states became members of the EU. These enlargements have changed
the political gravity of the EU. The degree to which this has happened is still to be
The EU’s predecessors were primarily focused on improving finance and
trade. Only relatively recently did the EU begin to delve into other policy areas, such
as human rights, democracy and social protection. However, the Council of Europe
(not to be confused with the EU’s European Council) was created in 1950 to address
these very issues. The founding members in Western Europe were Belgium,
Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and
the UK. Europe had seen the rise of authoritarianism that had brought the region to
war twice in the twentieth century. Where the European Communities were aimed at
rebuilding Europe, the Council of Europe was aimed at making sure that war and
genocide did not happen again. The Council of Europe’s basic instrument on which it
is based is the European Convention for Human Rights. The Council has a
Parliamentary Assembly (drawn from national parliaments), a Committee of Ministers
who represent each state, a Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Court
of Human Rights (not to be confused with the EU’s European Court of Justice). The
structure of the Council of Europe looks similar to what we have come to expect from
international institutions following our discussion of the League of Nations and UN.
Following the end of the Cold War, the Council of Europe also expanded to take in
more states to the East, including even the Russian Federation in 1996. Although the
EU has become an increasingly substantial actor with these issues, the Council of
Europe still remains an important voice for human rights and democracy.
The two prominent remaining European institutions are NATO and the OSCE.
NATO’s founding in 1949 was a response to perceived Soviet plans to expand into
Western Europe (see Lindley-French 2006). At the time of the founding, the Berlin
Airlift was underway following the land blockade of Berlin by Soviet troops.
Together with many states in Western Europe (except Ireland and Spain), the US and
Canada joining in a collective defence organization to defend against a Soviet threat.
Several years later, the Soviet Union and its allies came together in the so-called
Warsaw Pact. While NATO was created at the height of the Cold War, the early
incarnation of the OSCE, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe or
CSCE, was created at the height of the era known as Détente (Galbreath 2007). The
Western allies and the Soviets were on diplomatic speaking terms following the brink
of nuclear war otherwise known as the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1961. The countries of
NATO and the Warsaw Pact as well as neutral states came together to formulate a
document that would increase stability and cooperation in Europe. This document was
the Helsinki Final Act. The Final Act is divided into three areas of cooperation:
political-military, economic and environmental, and the ‘human dimension’. While
Détente did not last for long, the CSCE did although with limited impact.
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The end of the Cold War would change both NATO and the CSCE, although
perhaps not in the way many would have expected. NATO remains a collective
defence organization, although it has begun to operate ‘out-of-area’ in the case of
Afghanistan and to a limited extent in the Darfur region of Sudan, providing heavy-
lift logistics. On the other hand, the CSCE changed from the ‘Conference on’ to the
‘Organization for’ in 1994. No longer would the institution simply be an annual
summit, but instead developed a secretariat, council, and assembly, the classic
institutional structure we have come to recognise. In addition, the now OSCE
developed mechanisms of conflict prevention such as the Conflict Prevention Centre
and the High Commissioner on National Minorities. Both NATO and the OSCE
would expand to the East, with the former including several former Soviet republics
(the Baltic States) and the latter encompassing the entire former Soviet region.
If we look across the EU, Council of Europe, NATO and the OSCE, we can
see two things. The first is that Europe has become highly institutionalised unlike any
other region. The second point is that the further integration and enlargement of the
EU is encroaching more and more on the other organizations. Already another
European institution, the Western European Union, has been subsumed by the EU.
The EU now has security and defence mechanisms, focuses intensely on human rights
and democracy as well as finance and trade. Even more interesting, all of the EU
member-states are members of one or more of the other institutions. For instance, the
UK is a member- or participating-state (in the case of the OSCE) of all four
institutions. How much longer should we expect to have such significant functional
and membership overlaps in Europe?
As stated, no other region represents the complex institutional fabric of
Europe. Nevertheless, every region has institutions. North America is partially
integrated into the European institutions, with US and Canadian membership of
NATO and the OSCE, but it also has the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA).
NAFTA was created in 1994 by the governments of Canada, the US and Mexico,
following an earlier free-trade agreement between the US and Canada in 1988 (see
Duina 2006). The aim of NAFTA has been to reduce barriers to trade between the
three states as well as protect intellectual copyright. NAFTA does not reflect the
structure of several of the other institutions that we have seen in so far in this chapter.
Instead, it is a multi-lateral treaty governed jointly by the three states. What makes
NAFTA more than a trade agreement and rather a regional institution worth
examining here is the subsidiary bodies of the North American Agreement on
Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC) and the North American Agreement on Labour
Cooperation (NAALC). Negotiators of agreement took into account two criticisms of
the negotiations. The first was that environmentally destructive companies would
simply leave Canada and the US, and move to Mexico. NAAEC was created to help
regulate this by-product of free trade. The second concern was that labour standards
would suffer and thus the NAALC was created. Both these organs have councils of
ministers as well as tri-national secretariats to support them. While other forms of
cooperation exist in North America, it is outside the confines of a regional institution.
Perhaps this is more a result of the limited number of member-states, as opposed to
South American and Asian regional cooperation has been similar to the North
American experience. Both regions have developed major economic institutions:
Mercosur (Southern Common Market) and ASEAN respectively. Mercosur was born
out of the economic relations between Argentina and Brazil in the 1980s (see
Manzetti 1993; Carranza 2003). In 1991, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay
Galbreath IO chapter 11

came together to negotiate a common market, resulting in the Treaty of Asunción.

The agreement was changed into a regional institution by the 1994 Treaty of Ouro
Preto. Mercosur has a Committee of Permanent Representatives locate in Montevideo,
Uruguay. Mercosur has suffered both from the general economic slump in South
America and especially the Argentine economic collapse of 2001. More recently,
Mercosur enlarged to take in Venezuela in 2006 and there is now a move to join with
the Andean Community (another trade-bloc) to form the Union of South American
ASEAN was founded as an anti-communist organization by Indonesia,
Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand in 1967. Since then, the institution has
expanded and evolved. ASEAN has expanded to take on six more countries, including
Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Singapore. East Timor
currently has candidate-state status. ASEAN expanded from its anti-communist roots
towards focusing on a larger economic community, such as the EU as well as a
common security community similar to the early CSCE (Narine 1998). ASEAN has
also attempted to expand the cultural exchange between member-states, similar to the
Council of Europe. The biggest problem facing ASEAN is the membership of
Myanmar (or formerly known as Burma), which has prevented the EU from holding
trade talks with the institution. Unlike the OSCE for instance, ASEAN has remained
firmly outside domestic politics.
Africa’s relationship with regional institutions is less visible. A pan-African
institution has gone through several phases, from the Organization of African States
to the Organization of African Unity. Today’s African Union is a descendant of these
past institutions (Magliveras and Naldi 2002). The African Union was established in
2002, following a campaign to resurrect an African regional by the Libyan
government. At the time of writing, every African state is a member of the African
Union except for Morocco. The African Union has largely adopted the principal
organs of the EU. The Constitutive Act of the African Union (2001) established an
executive council, a commission, a body of permanent representatives as well as an
assembly. The comparison to the EU should be kept in perspective however, since the
African Union still remains very much an inter-governmental institution, unlike its
European counterpart. Still a relatively new regional institution, the African Union’s
biggest challenge has been the military crisis in the Darfur region in Sudan.
Begrudgingly, the Sudanese government allowed African Union peace-keepers into
the Darfur region, but only in low numbers. The African Union has not had the
resources to bring peace to the Darfur region, much less limit the violence. African
Union peace-keepers themselves have been frequent targets. The Darfur crisis
withstanding, the African Union has made great strides towards organizing

International relations have increasingly organized itself around international
institutions. We can see this on the global level of the UN as well as the regional level
with the EU, ASEAN and the African Union. In some cases, member-states have
bequeathed their institutions functions so much so that they challenge the primacy of
the state. However, this phenomenon largely seems limited to Europe. In other
regional institutions, member-states still maintain considerable control over their own
politics. Nevertheless, by the very act of entering into an international institution,
member-states have agreed to be bound by certain constrains as a result of common
rules and procedures. When these rules and procedures no longer have an impact on
Galbreath IO chapter 12

the member-states, we have to wonder how much longer an institution could last.
Most importantly, international institutions are about serving states and in many cases
its citizens. International institutions have come to affect us in our every day life, to
the food we eat, the products we buy, the cars we drive and rights we have. For this
reason, international institutions will not disappear easily and deserve our continued

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