Friday, August 18, 2006

New newsletter!-->Bi-Monthly Analysis of Regional Integration


Bi-Monthly Analysis of Regional Integration

In keeping with the tag of “making Regions Accountable”, RegionsWatch has formulated a new newsletter, entitled “Bimanori”(Bi-Monthly Analysis on Regional Integration), which seeks to focus on news on five particular aspects of regional integration:

  • Legislative instruments / conventions / protocols
  • Forums—social and otherwise
  • Trends
  • Communication strategies
  • Regional institutions

All these five, in some way or another, lend themselves to a degree of accountability.

If, for example, we take a look at conventions and protocols, the ratification—or lack thereof—by governments would reflect to posterity the lack of political will, or otherwise, of regional leaders in the pursuance of regional integration. Say a protocol on free movement, as is in the ECOWAS region, is being abused by francophone West Africans ( ), then it calls into question a need to rein in these francophone countries at ministerial levels, or otherwise, to ensure that they plug loopholes to discontinue the abuse. It goes without saying that a continuous and regular monitoring of this first strand is key.

The same could be said for social forums that offer an avenue for citizens to get a sense of the core concerns for citizens, and the extent to which strategies can be developed to revise – or be sought to reverse – policies that are simply not working.

Doubtless, no regionalism can be its utmost effective without sufficiently adequate structures of communication. This is translated by open days, such as can be found in the EU every EU day in May, so that citizens from Brussels and beyond get a sense of what is done at the European parliament, and other EU institutions. The motive behind these open days are less for citizens to understand the issues, and more about making them feel comfortable that those who have been elected, and are working, there have a mandate to deliver something concrete beyond the rhetoric of the regional organization.

It’s also, in essence, about regional leaders making their citizens feel they ‘belong’ to a regional project. A case in point is that of the ECOWAS passport currently operating in Benin, Mali and Senegal. Whilst ECOWAS citizens can move freely within the sub-region with the use of their national passports, the use of ECOWAS ones would be a symbolic exponent of the ECOWAS regional project.

That said, these strategies are more than open days; they are also about what strategies regional leaders deploy to ensure that a region, such as the East African Community, is understood by its citizens. These include: workshops; public forums; etc.

Finally, by looking at regional institutions, RegionsWatch believes that it is, in a way, creating the space that will facilitate progressive forces and groups to feel empowered to institute better monitoring mechanisms that will enhance the accountability of these regional organizations.

After all, it is one thing to know that a meeting of, say, ASEAN leaders is taking place over free trade talks somewhere; and quite totally another thing to be probing and scrutinizing to the very best of one’s ability what was discussed at that ASEAN meeting that will facilitate a more humane and development-oriented regional integration that is predicated more on fair and sound principles and far less on market-oriented ones.


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