Friday, July 30, 2010

Avoiding a "Prime Ministerial / Piecemeal / Paper-based / People-Less" Regional Integration in the Caribbean

"I can vividly recall in a public forum I recently attended, one lady in her verbal castration of regional leaders, described their approach to the integration movement, as a “Prime Ministerial, piecemeal, paper-based and people-less process” ".--Anselm Caines

Once in a while, you come across an article on regional integration that is just too juicy and poignant to let go off. This one, by one Anselm Caines, writing in is one of them.

His article operates from the premiss of an insightful statement made by a lady of regional leaders, which I have quoted above.

Caines proceeds to expatiate his piece on the basis of the four points by the lady. I daresay many regional integration initiatives world-wide could do with a reading of this piece. Caines well and truly nips it in the bud with the following four points.


Caribbean integration (like much integration processes) remains at the realm of abstraction. In other words, ordinary people do not feel any connection to the process. Whether this is the EU, ECOWAS, SADC, or MERCOSUR, I suspect that many of these regional integration initiatives(RIAs) must work harder on their communication strategies to ensure that integration process makes sense, is real and palpable. Despite the success of the Schengen area in the EU, it is reported that many Europeans have a problem with a Europe out there divorced from the realities of the EU's problems.

The lesson is for the diplomats to TAKE integration to the schools, the communities, the citizens.

ECOWAS's Community Development Programme, in this respect, looks interesting, but it is still problematic. This is because of how it has been structured--what with the identification of networks that will, in effect, serve as proxies for the policy-makers at the ECOWAS level.


Integration initiatives fail because they are rarely endorsed by the public before they become policy. Radio and TV spots alone are insufficient. They must be sustained and dynamised.

In this respect the UEMOA-ECOWAS-sponsored "Caravan d'integration" that will end very soon (and which started in May in Senegal) remains a flop, because they passed through Ghana, but not one radio station was sensitised about their coming. For those of us who knew, too, we were not contacted to be briefed on updates. That is a whole opportunity to showcase West African regional integration efforts WASTED!


These RIAs exist solely on paper. In my view, even passports are a symbolic representation of a regional integration on its way to being actualised Other solutions to counter this include Model meetings, as with The Hague International Model United Nations; Model AU; Model NATO; Model ECOWAS. Kids representing diplomats are sure ways of ensuring research is done, and energies motivated towards the idea of regional integration.


Without people, a community of people around a regional integration initiative is baseless. Caines writes:

Remember, matters such as freedom of movement of persons and the right to establish businesses in any member state are very sensitive issues that cannot truly be expected to succeed if half of our populace is indifferent and apathetic to such principles.

What about the teachers union and doctors throughout our Federation? Were they thoroughly consulted so that they could offer their views as to the scope of the social shocks that will inevitably follow

The flip-side is that we, as citizens, must also take an interest in what the implications of these initiatives are for us. If we are business-inclined, we might want to get to know what freedom of movement means so that we can maximise our opportunity as community citizens in the sub-region. Freedom of movement is an important and critical element, for example, for the informal sectors in, say, the ECOWAS sub-region. While the traders might be clueless about what is contained in the 1979 ECOWAS protocols on freedom of movement, they at least know they can -- challenges of bribes notwithstanding -- move across borders with a mere passport.

A more literate person would want to go further and find out how freedom of movement can help with his business across the sub-region.

In the final analysis, if I have not pointed out the article already, let me do so here. You can read it by clicking here.

These are some of the ideas we need to facilitate a critical and progressive outlook on regional integration!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

ASEAN's Elusive Regional Identity Lives!

Remember the ASEAN Charter back in 2007? If we forget the integration snobbery of the EU (where the EU believes its regionalism is the model for world-wide regional initiatives) for a second, we will understand why ASEAN is still not in a hurry to become like the EU. After all, it has its famed ASEAN way.

So when one reads that at their upcoming 43rd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting they are going to discuss the ASEAN Charter in Vietnam, Hanoi, "with a focus on the implementation of the newly-ratified 2008 charter", we can only wait and see with baited breath.

The reports indicate that the Charter is supposed to "provide a legal framework" and set goals for the political, economic and socio-cultural development of its member states.

It has been riddled with holes on account of the fact that some observers wonder why such a Charter when ASEAN remains adamant that they will not deal decisively with Myanmar (Burma).That country continues to be the black sheep of the ASEAN family, and without ASEAN wielding the stick, any implementation of the Charter will come to naught.

So distressing has been the situation that even a few scholars were pointing to no less than the African Union as a model for ASEAN! You can read that article here:

That article maintains:

In 2005, the African Union even suspended Togo in response to an
unconstitutional seizure of power, which convinced the government to
call new elections. Moreover, the African Union is currently
establishing a stronger African Court of Justice and Human Rights to
hear human rights cases. As a result, according to the U.S. think-tank
Freedom House, Africans on the whole currently enjoy more civil and
political freedom than Southeast Asians. While Africa still faces many
challenges, human rights violations are no longer accepted as the norm
thanks in part to efforts of the African Commission on Human and
People's Rights.

By contrast, ASEAN has yet to adopt a single human rights treaty and
struggles to condemn gross rights violations committed by its member.
Unlike African human rights treaties, neither the ASEAN Charter nor
the ASEAN Human Rights Body's Terms of Reference detail specific
rights, but rather list vague principles, such as non-discrimination
and the rule of law. Thus, it is not even clear whether Southeast
Asians possess the same human rights that Africans currently enjoy.

As much as the ASEAN Charter is important, and needs decisive implementation, I think the 14-member grouping must actually also be credited for trying to promote ASEAN in an innovative way.

Given that this is not the first time ASEAN has made efforts at show-casing the organisation, we can only sit bemused by what next they have to offer.

Vietnam currently has a National Committee for ASEAN in collaboration with the Voice of Vietnam radio station.

This idea is basically:

in line with the regional body's attempts to raise public awareness of ASEAN and its role in member states, the radio contest centered around the "ASEAN Community of Solidarity and Prosperity", as part of the socio-cultural agenda of ASEAN under the recently ratified 2008 Charter. The radio contest is just one initiative aimed at communicating the concept and role of ASEAN to people in the region.

Although there remain challenges around the promoting of ASEAN, I think it's safe to say that it is a concept that can be replicated in different regional groupings--all with the aim of offering a constructive and progressive outlook to regional integration!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Understanding the Rationalisation of the African Regional Economic Communities(RECs)

To the outsider, an African regionalism predicated on so-called Regional Economic Communities(RECs) seems strange, especially when we turn to the EU, we see only one EU dominating the European integration landscape.

Today, I try to provide a (historical) survey of the rationalisation, and offer an explanation of why it is key to Africa's integration. It's no lecture, so keep your eyes wide open!

Unlike the EU integration efforts that saw expression through the European Coal and Steel Community of 1957 to enlargement, through to the Treaty of Maastricht that created the European Union, AU integration efforts is of a rather different ilk.

You might re-call that Africa is made up of 53 countries. With the exception of Morocco, all the member states--notably 52 countries--make up the African Union by virtue of being member states of the continent.

In 1991, the Treaty of Abuja established the African Economic Community (AEC), which came into force in May 1994. There are 6 stages through which the AEC will come into fruition:

1. (to be completed in 1999) Creation of regional blocs in regions where such do not yet exist
2. (to be completed in 2007) Strengthening of intra-REC integration and inter-REC harmonisation
3. (to be completed in 2017) Establishing of a free trade area and customs union in each regional bloc
4. (to be completed in 2019) Establishing of a continent-wide customs union (and thus also a free trade area)
5. (to be completed in 2023) Establishing of a continent-wide African Common Market (ACM)
6. (to be completed in 2028) Establishing of a continent-wide economic and monetary union (and thus also a currency union) and Parliament

Now, the AEC is already in operation, but it needs some flesh to make it more substantive. This is where the Regional Economic Communities come into the picture. They are there -- not because they were plucked from the air, but primarily because Africa had many groupings already even before the erstwhile OAU became the African Union in 2002.

ECOWAS was established in 1975; SADC's origins begun in 1980; COMESA's origins begun in 1981; Arab Maghreb Union, 1989; CENSAD in 1998; EAC in 2000 ; IGAD in 1986; ECCAS in 1985.

Looking at the dates, we can clearly see that all of the RECs were in existence long before the establishment of the AU.

To cut a long story short, three important meetings held in Accra(2005) & Zambia(2005); Burkina Faso(2006); and the AU Summit in 2006 in The Gambia all paved the way to ensuring that there was what is known as a "rationalisation" of the RECs. Some of the official documents point to the RECs being "federative poles" of the AEC. Most would simply understand this as "pillars".

Given that there are sub-regional groupings(SRECS) within all these groupings--such as Mano River Union; UEMOA in West Africa; CEMAC in Central African region--there was a need to ensure that the multiplicity of groupings be made simpler to deal with, especially with an African Union that needed less complication on its hands by dealing with no less than 14 groupings in total, which the UNECA recognised.

In effect, rationalisation has come to mean boiling the groupings down to qualities that could be easily identified with. The UN Economic Commission for Africa came on board--as did the African Development Bank. In consultations, the following was recommended.


  • obtain figures on budgetary allocation by member countries for payment of financial contribution to RECs

  • Distinguish between regional cooperation and regional integration

  • Clarify the modalities for rationalization since the RECs do not necessarily have the same mandates and therefore should not be grouped in the same category

  • Take into consideration the agreements that have been signed with parties outside the continent such as the EU

  • Speed up the rationalization process ensuring diversity and pecularities of RECS taken into account

  • Emulate efforts by ECOWAS/UEMOA towards harmonization and coordination of programmes and activities

  • Define the anchor community to lead the integration process in key sectors that require strong leadership such as peace and security

  • Revitalize the Joint AUC/ECA/ADB Secretariat to assist in the coordination and harmonization of integration and the development efforts at the continental level

  • Underline the need to look at the developmental integration as basis for rationalization

  • Though this list was reduced considerably in the subsequent meetings in 2006, it at least offers a serious insight into some of the discussions that transpired some four years ago before the AU Summit in The Gambia in 2006 finally recognised the eight RECs, which have also been "endorsed" by no less than the UNECA.

    Monday, July 19, 2010

    Monday Analysis: Cameroon in CEMAC; Theories on Regional Integration and UN Regional Commissions

    Since my absence for the past two weeks, I have been cogitating and ruminating over the future of regional integration. Not so much what I want to do with RegionsWatch as much as how better to make it.

    Let us start with THEORIES. No concept or idea is worth its salt without a theory. So I have resolved to use at least one entry a week to look at some of the theories on regional integration out there that one can touch on. These include "neo-functionalism", attributed to American scholar Ernest B Haas, which is basically a Eurocentric view on regional integration theory that propounds the theory of "spillover" effect as one of the many elements that make up European regional integration. There are the cases of liberal intergovernmentalism--applied to the work of international organisations like the EU and the UN. Today, I came across the theory of "historical institutionalism"--a theory I definitely need to look into more closely before my head explodes!

    Bottom line is that regional integration does not exist in a vacuum, and understanding the theory, in my view, is a good and sure way of ensuring that one gets a better appreciation of where this fascinating discipline of international affairs is going. Besides, I see that if I can master the theory, I stand a better chance of not being caught napping over the discipline.

    Who's Daniel Bach?
    Then there's DANIEL BACH, author of "The European Union's Strategic Partnership with the African Union." In my view, he makes some bombastic claims about the decision by the AU to name economic communities "regional economic communities", and wonders why the more "advanced" RECs like CEMAC, UEMOA, and SACU are not part of the UNECA-mandated eight regional organisations. As much as I see where he is going, he totally isolates the very important element of no less than the UN Regional Commission for Africa--UNECA--having conducted commendable research on regional integration for Africa in a way that some of the regional commissions have not. Neither does Bach touch on the 2006 meeting in the Gambia that "rationalised" the RECs. For a scholar of his standing, I find it self-serving and unacceptable.

    Still, there's a lot of terminology I liked: "morphology of regional organisations"; "scramble for REC status": "pick and choose approach to regional economic integration"; "scramble for pre-eminence among regional groupings"...

    When I am fully done with the paper, I shall be here for a review.

    Quo Vadis UN Regional Commissions?
    Speaking of which--I have talked about the UN Regional Commissions many a time, and I am yet to establish the very role they play in the facilitation of regional integration in places other than Africa, where it is crystal-clear UNECA has done great work in spurring debate on aspects of regional integration. Seeing as the jury remains out on where they're going in Latin America(ECLAC), Asia(UNESCAP)and Europe(UNECE)--to name but three regions--I can only promise to get back to you on them. In fact, I am particularly quizzed by the UN Economic Commission for Europe. Given how advanced the EU is in its regional integration, I cannot for the life of me see how it can facilitate EU integration processes. Like I said, jury's still out!

    Hegemonic Cameroon--Not!
    If Cameroon is featured here in the title, there's a reason: CAMEROON seems to suffer from hegemonic-deficiency in the sense that in the context of CEMAC, I continue to read that it is not pulling its weight in asserting itself in the way Nigeria has done so in ECOWAS, and South Africa naturally in SADC. What could be pulling it back?

    I guess the jury's also out on that one! Whatever the case may be, better things are promised for RegionsWatch. To name but a few: a reader of recommended reading, the re-emergence of "BIMANORI", which is likely to come out twice a year in 2010, and four times in 2011.

    I am also in the process of developing parameters/indices to "test" the "validity" of regional integration initiatives, which would include things like "imperatives" and what I call "institutional distribution".

    Lost? Don't be!

    It's all to enhance the experience of being a valued follower/lurker/of Regionswatch Observatory on ""!

    Incidentally, to my friends in Abuja who regularly have their page set on August 2007. I am clueless as to what is so great on that page, but thank you anyway! I do appreciate comments--helps me improve!