Friday, September 16, 2011

Thanks to its Youth Citizens, Arab Maghreb Union--an AU-REC--Might be Saved!

In 2009, the Arab Maghreb Union turned 20 years. And Critiquing Regionalism blog was there to castigate it (!

That's quite a long time fore any regional integration initiative to reflect on where it's going and to whom it must account. Before the so-called Arab Spring, there must have been many outside the Arab Maghreb Union region thinking that the AMU bears little relevance to the citizens and that it's time for it to go. I was certainly one of them. When I was interviewed by the BBC in March this year on a "Africa Have Your Say" programme on the role of regional economic communities in Africa, I stated clearly that "the biggest elephant in  the room" on Libya was not the African Union, but the Arab Maghreb Union. This was because there has been a paucity of analysis in the news about what that 5-member grouping was doing on Libya. Instead, the Arab League had effectively stolen its thunder and was carrying the can on what to do in Libya.

I still wonder how things could have been different had the AU-REC [African Union-recognised REC] AMU -- instead of the Arab League -- started issuing resolutions over Libya. Historians might speculate that this is one of the reasons why it's good to be a member of only one REC, if even and only to save oneself from prosecution! Had Libya not been a member of the Arab League, where would the no-fly zone had come from?

But back to the present: the news that the Arab Maghreb youth are taking charge of things is encouraging, because it seems that increasingly the youth are realising the future is in their hands.

To read that:

"The Arab Maghreb Union is obsolete and moribund," El Ouafoudi [group's Moroccan rep] said in explaining why the youth movement was founded. He said civil society took the initiative to push for a Maghreb Union after "official failure" serves as a reminder that the youth are one of the likely constituencies to kick-start any regional integration push, if ever it was needed.

The group could not have said it better when they said:

""Economic integration can only be achieved with the desire of the rulers, as well as open borders and abolition of the visa," Vall added. "There thus must be pressure on governments to respond to such demands."

Read the full article here:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

PAPER: "Assessing Regional Diffusion from Brussels to Addis Ababa: The Limits of Modelling and Mentoring"

Read this surprisingly-refreshing piece entitled "Assessing Regional Diffusion from Brussels to Addis Ababa: The Limits of Modelling and Mentoring", which explores the "integration snobbery" theme of other regionalisms seeing the EU by hook or by crook as a model, but refracted through the prism of the African Union.


"Another challenge is the EU‟s „over-ambition‟ to promote regional integration (Börzel & Risse, 2009b). While the normative ideals being promoted by the EU might themselves be unproblematic, diffusion through the EU faces the potential criticism of being neo-colonial and arrogant. This is then problematic if the essence of EU-Africa relations, and indeed the cultivation of African integration is to give Africa a better seat at the table to represent its citizens. Further, the EU faces challenges to its own integration. A recent report in the Economist suggested that the difficulty the EU had in reaching a conclusion on the Greek bailout and the Eurozone crises endangers the integration project. Perhaps exaggerated, reports like these engender the negative perception of third parties, especially budding regional institutions like the AU, to the „EU as a Model‟ paradigm."


Friday, September 02, 2011

"Regional Co-operation" v "Regional Integration"

About two weeks ago, I created a Google alert for "regional cooperation" alongside the "regional integration" that I have. I noticed I obtained far more search results than the latter. Then it struck me: it looked like "regional cooperation" seems to be far more popular and meaningful to observers and practitioners of the discipline that this "integration" thing I like to bandy about here, for example.

Now I can understand this, because if you really look at it, regional cooperation offers a wider "remit" if you will of how regionalism works. When states are cooperating in a regional sphere, people kind of get it you know; they understand what it entails to cooperate. The ideas of pooling resources; public goods; electricity, etc all kind of fall into place.

Conversely talk of integration, and the eyes kind of glaze over. Integration--far from being unsexy -- is also a bit of a mouthful: how and what are you integrating towards? And if it's a region, how are you integrating the region? All the images that the former explanation conjures kind of stops short when we talk of "regional integration."

Now inasmuch as both terms are valid and can be used interchangeably, there clearly is a difference that cannot be sneezed at. In my humble opinion, I foresee regional integration to be something more deep, more structural. The integration is kind of the engine that helps create a region that is well-integrated and harmonized, and where many member states are speaking with one voice.

On the other hand, "regional cooperation" seems superficial to me: it's like member states only cooperate, without doing it at the structural level. A quick search reveals no real definition of "regional cooperation". In fact, Google lists no less than 9,500,000 results, whereas on regional integration, we obtain 9,000,000 results.

Those results probably speak more of how more popular regional cooperation is than "integration".

On another level, there is the case of regional institutions and how regional groupings cooperate within them.

Let's just end with a definition from WIKIPEDIA on regional integration (interestingly, there is no such WIKIPEDIA piece on "regional cooperation"!):

Regional integration is a process in which states enter into a regional agreement in order to enhance regional cooperation through regional institutions and rules. The objectives of the agreement could range from economic to political, although it has generally become a political economy initiative where commercial purposes are the means to achieve broader socio-political and security objectives. It could be organized either on a supranational or an intergovernmental decision-making institutional order, or a combination of both.

If one remembers nothing at all (given that there are reputedly no less than eight requirements for regional integration systems), remember the first line:

Regional integration is a process in which states enter into a regional agreement in order to enhance regional cooperation through regional institutions and rules.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

While CARICOM is on my Mind, Meet the S-G La Rocque!

For the past couple of weeks, I've been getting "Google ALerts" on CARICOM, and almost always, it is something negative about CARICOM.

Apart from the fact that CARICOM made a statement supporting the rebels of the TNC in Libya, I continue to question the real relevance of CARICOM in the Caribbean region. Not because it does not count--far from it--but what exactly it is doing to assert itself these days.

I read that they have a new secretary-general--by name La Rocque. He has vowed, as per this article here, to do quite a number of things to dynamise CARICOM, including cutting down on international travel and using video-conferencing instead! Secondly, "overtime" is out of the window.

You would think that for an organisation that has been around since 1973, they would have a lot more going for them than free movement and a Caribbean Single Market Economy scheme. CARICOM turned 38 on 1st August, but I sense that it is difficult to really speculate on what concretely it might be remembered for. Even on free movement, I read that it is only a few days ago that a press release issued stated that Jamaicans can now travel hassle-free. This has come as a result of "incidences" involving Jamaicans -- apparently! How miscreants from a member state might affect the region's free movement is beyond me -- but that is just me.

I do not for any second want to castigate CARICOM or even compare it with ECOWAS or SADC (comparable only by member countries, where ECOWAS has 15 and SADC 14). But I am still itching to compare the free movement system currently in CARICOM and ECOWAS.

ECOWAS has had free movement of its citizens since 1979. Regrettably that has meant that during the inter-necine wars of Liberia(affecting the Mano River Union countries of Liberia/Sierra Leone/Cote d'ivoire/Guinea) of the early nineties, it meant that (child) soldiers and mercenaries could move freely through the sub-region's porous borders, as well reside in ECOWAS member states for minimum ninety-days without hindrance. That ECOWAS member states have yet to fully ratify supplementary protocols associated with free movement, including setting up committees to monitor free movement (no country has done that yet!) speaks to the considerable work on free movement ECOWAS still needs to do.

CARICOM, conversely, seems to be working hard, albeit slowly.

I cannot foresee, in the 21st century, any regional integration project that underplays free movement; it just does not work. So I want to implore that given Caribbean countries are small, and that they have the CSME working better for  them than what might be here in the ECOWAS sub-region, they get serious on the regional integration project of helping them manage globalisation and its many adverse impacts.

Statements supporting Libyan rebels are curious--at a time when even the African Union has been very slow to recognise them--and interesting: they will not make CARICOM grow to be the community it can become, so CARICOM, more grease to your elbows after your 38th anniversary on 1st August this year. But, surely, you can do better?

As to whether La Rocque can be the saviour to CARICOM observers want, we live in vain expectation!