One day last year, my boss caught me printing some stuff about the social dimension of some regional integration initiative, prompting him to ask whether it was just for my "edification" (Not for the first time, I was likened to Kafka who is reputed to have written a novel when working in an apparently-dull job!). Truth be told, in many ways it is, but all this cannot just be for the blog--I aspire to get bigger things out of this enterprise than mere writings left in cyber-space.
My belief in regional integration in so many ways is about a world predicated on arrangements that are conducive to a more peaceful world. No doubt, man is a social animal whose genius finds expression in thinking, thought, and possibilities for a better world. I sincerely believe that "better world" can be found in regional designs.
I am heartened by the fact that 2010 is the Year of Peace and Security for the African Union, as well as the year that the Pan-African organisation will seek to operationalise the African Standby Force. I still cannot get over the fact that challenges notwithstanding, the AU has emerged since 2002 as a formidable actor in the set-up of the "regional designs". I hate to say it, but if you even have observers looking at the AU model on human rights as one that could be replicated for East Asia, I believe something must be going right for the AU!
That said, there remain challenges. One of imperatives is one of them.
Over the weekend, I was grappling with what imperative could be ascribed to SADC. I have yet to determine what comes to mind when one thinks of SADC--except power-sharing. From Zimbabwe to Madagascar, I think there has got to be more about the 14-member grouping than that, surely? If any of you know, I would be happy to report and update accordingly. I make a lot of noise about ECOWAS here, so it might be odd if you did not know. For ECOWAS, it's on conflict management, prevention and resolution, and I suspect IGAD might be going the same way, though to a lesser degree. Though I did read somewhere that the Early Warning System was pioneered by the six-member grouping established in 1986.
In South East Asia, Indonesia has been unhappy about talk of the East Asian Community on account of the fact that it believes it cannot happen without Asean. I hope to convey these frustrations over the next couple of weeks. In so many ways, I can empathise with the de jure hegemon that hosts the secretariat of Asean. Asean has been around since 1967--long without Japan. For that country to suddenly swan about talking about an economic community is almost to thumb the nose of ASEAN that has some commendable experience. As they say, though, the devil is in the detail, and I do hope to be reading a bot about the detail.
On the Shanghai Corporation Organisation, there are some interesting developments. I read a paper the other day that explored the possibility of the SCO being a force for good in the region. For the regional grouping that has Russia and China as key countries, this is certainly a grouping to watch out for. It has well-established structures and organisms that are not to be sneezed at. Interestingly, it has been around since 2001. The paper argued that in Afghanistan, the SCO might have a constructive role to play, so one should look out for it there. Also contrary to Western fears, it is not positioning itself to counter Western influences, at least explicitly in the region.
I guess all we can do is wait and see! In the meantime, might I recommend that you visit Stuart Hastings "towardsunity.org" website (http://www.towardsunity.org to obtain insights into where the intrepid regional integrationist has been travelling to. Last time I read him, he was just going to Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, that is also the host of the ASEAN secretariat.
In all this, I derive some hope that the regional designs I talk of will find great expression in the following theories below I have propounded elsewhere many times:
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.