Friday, June 13, 2008

Reflections on Regional Integration: Kenichi Ohmae Makes his Stance on Region States

Irishman Eamonn Moran is a nice guy whom I found on facebook last year. He also believes in the power of the State. Back in 2002, when he and I were working as colleagues at a Brussels-based NGO, we had many discussions about neo-liberalism and the role of the State on countering it. His thesis on that genre was a good read. I guess I waxed so lyrical about regional integration that he decided to shut me up by giving me this book, which I have captured in the inset picture. The book in question is Kenichi Ohmae's The End of the Nation State: The Rise of Regional Economies, which I have only recently begun to read after a good six years!!

In any event, I think it's about time that book featured highly on this blog. The contribution that it offers is as controversial as it is interesting. His stance is clear: he believes the State is being rolled back, and in classic neo-lioberalist theory, he feels that it is a good thing. I am inclined to disagree, but I think it never hurts reading the other side.

So what I've resolved to do is that over the next couple of posts, sprinkle summaries of the chapter of the book, among regular reporting of what's happening in the other regional groupings. To that end, I can offer a perspective that engages in the thinking around the discipline of regional integration.

New trends
The last article hints at a new thinking on regional integration, and I realise the more I read, the more questions arise. These include:

1. Is it possible to conceive of a Committee of Regions à l'Africaine that will cater for the needs of all those regions in Africa?
2. Will twinning African regions help facilitate a more efficient regional integration?
3. Are micro-regions the way to go?
4. How do I reconcile some of the new trends around regional integration with the need to develop the Un Regional commissions?
5. What about my three-tier proposal on regional integration where:

First, there needs to be identification of imperatives of each region. Simply put, what is unique about a particular region that that region can capitalise on to bring to bear in the conception of an AU government? So, we can say, for example, that ECOWAS's sub-regional imperative is that of conflict prevention/resolution /management, given its experience with Liberia/Sierra Leone/and the instrumentality of ECOMOG. SADC's might be a different one; the EAC's might be on, say, regional infrastructure. For example, § A paper from UNU-CRIS cites that: “the AU has been the first regional organization to establish a clear relationship with the UN as it is consciously aspiring to closely coordinate, if not integrate, its mission planning and execution of peace and security action with the prevailing structures/plans of the UN”.

Secondly, there needs to be comparative approaches. By this I mean what best practices are there from each of these regional communities that can best be put to good use in any conception of an AU government? This means that ECOWAS's peacekeeping/peace enforcement wing ECOMOG could be analysed for use in a regional organisation like SAARC that has experienced problems over Kashmir/India and Pakistan. What is it that ECOMOG has been able to do in enforcing peace that SAARC can learn from?

Thirdly, there needs to be collaboration, as exemplified by the donation of $1m by the Arab League to the African Union's peacekeeping forces.

I have further arguments that can be elaborated on in later entries, but for now, these three points remain the crux of my personal vision of an AU government. Even then, ramifications of these elements remain, and can be very much expounded upon.

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Back to Ohmae's point in his introduction, he talks about how the end of history was a false idea, and that the "voiceless" and "invisible"..."have entered with a vengeance, and they have demands--economic demands--to make." The question though is to whom should the demands be made? He believes that people turn to the UN, which is nothing more than "a collection of nation states", but also other regional groupings like OPEC/G7/ASEAN/APEC/NAFTA/EU. For him, all these are nothing more than groupings of nation states.

He wonders whether these actors are truly players in the global economy, by coming up with 4 "i"s:

1. Investment
2. Industry
3. Information Technology
4. Individual Consumers

Along with these 4 I's is the global economy that works very well, thankyou, with them. It probably means, in his view, that "the middleman role of the nation states [is] obsolete". Instead "geographical units", such as Hong Kong, Kansai region, or Catalonia wield more significant power.

Though he believes in the "region states", his port of entry is that nation states--as understood in the traditional Westphalian system" are obsolete, and that they have become "unnatural."

The next couple of chapters promise to be exciting!

Till next time!

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