Thursday, February 25, 2010

More than MERCOSUR on My Mind: Goodbye to the OAS?

Is there something about Cancun?

First, WTO trade talks collapse there in 2003. Now, seven years later it is playing host to the birth of a new regional organization—the putative Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.

Truth be told, given the gargantuan size of the 32-member RIO group (comprising Latin American and Caribbean states) that has been around since 1986, it was only a matter of time before a formal name be ascribed to the grouping!

As an ardent regional integrationist, who is also a citizen of the Pan-African grouping (that comprises no less than 53 member states), this proposition looks like a delicious response to not just the US and Canada, but the paradigm of uniting under a regional umbrella.

More importantly, it looks to me like members of the Rio group have looked left and right, seen the EU, and the AU, probably heard of developments in East Asia of a Community , and thought "why not in Latin America?"

In my view, the reason why this Community would work is because AU countries, with their eight UNECA-mandated RECs are managing very well, thankyou! Xinhua thoughtfully provided a list of sub-regional organizations in that region—and it’s quite impressive. There are some nine around, with the oldest(Latin American Parliament) having been established in 1964 and the youngest as recently as….

If what I am reading is correct, then the RIO group is keen to have an economic community that would not just comprise 32 members of the Latin American and Caribbean states, but exclude the US and Canada (unlike the OAS). I am sure sometimes AU states have been keen to have an AU without some North African countries that make up the members of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU)!

But on the specific issue of regionalism in this region, I foresee this Community to be more akin to that of an AU in the way it both accepts and accommodates the sub-regional groups, but contemporaneously dissimilar in the way it has been explicit about excluding Canada and the United States.

Honestly speaking, I do not foresee the AU excluding North Africa [especially because of the instrumental role played by Libya] anytime soon. Libyan leader al-Qaddafi’s pivotal role in the AU has perhaps put paid to the desire to jettison any element of the Arab contingent!?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Analysis: Of Regional Designs (ASEAN / SCO / East Asian Community / ECOWAS / SADC / IGAD )

The reason I have not been writing much here has been because I have been having an internal dialogue with myself what I'm really doing with all this reading and analysis on regional integration.

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 "" website ( 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.