ABSTRACT

Introduction Regions, regional governance and regional powers are, once again, a prominent topic in International Relations (IR) theory, as has been argued in the introductory chapter and in the chapter by Postel-Vinay. The renewed interest with regard to these topics – after the scientific market cycle of new regionalism has run out of steam – is related to the power shifts between regions, to the rise of so-called regional powers, to the still incipient discussion about the roles of regions in a more multipolar world and to the changing institutional architecture in some regions (such as Asia and Latin America). A quotation from the constitutive treaty of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), signed in 2008, is a good starting point for some topics that will be dealt with in this article.1 It states that the objective of the new regional organization is to construct a political consensus among the member states with regard to important topics in international politics, that is, to reinforce regional identity. A second quotation, taken from an article on hegemony and regional governance, argues about a contradiction between the functional necessity of regional cooperation and power interests.2 Therefore, the rise of regional powers may be an obstacle to regional governance. A last quotation hints at the growing complexity of intraregional relations, where different regional powers and regional projects compete.3 Regional governance structures create the territorial space that we call a region. They reflect the power relations within a region, and they create the arena for the power projection of regional powers and the counter strategies of minor powers. This chapter will take a closer look at both – the link between regions and regional organizations/governance and the relationship between regional governance and regional powers. Latin America will be the reference region for the illustration of some of the subsequent theoretical reflections. Due to the nature of our research topic, from the perspective of ‘analytical eclecticism’ (Katzenstein and Sil 2008) this article will combine realist and constructivist elements (with some liberal vestiges). The author agrees with Tussie (2009) when she argues that, ‘Regionalism in Latin America is not just a single tidy entity but has given way to many coexisting and competing projects with fuzzy boundaries.’ From the 1990s onwards,

Latin America experienced a proliferation of regional organizations that vary with regard to their scope (membership), purpose and structure. During this period, Brazil has consolidated its status as a regional leader, one which promotes regional organizations and forums. For example, in December 2008 the Brazilian government hosted four regional and subregional summits simultaneously (see Malamud 2009). Looking back at the beginning of the 1990s, Brazil was one of the two initiators of the MERCOSUR – together with Argentina – and, in the current decade, the Brazilian government was the driving force behind the constitution of the UNASUR (as well as of its forerunner the Community of South American States). For some time, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has been promoting his own regional project by also creating a range of different regional organizations (most prominently the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA)). In this context, it may be interesting to take a closer look at how regional powers and regional governance structures interact. From an IR approach, based on the distribution of power capabilities within a region, a recent study by Douglas Lemke (2010) provides empirical support for the hypothesis that the greater the relative power capability of the regional power, the greater the number of regional international organizations created. Lemke’s results seem to support the basic arguments of hegemonic stability theory (Kindleberger 1974; Keohane 1980; Snidal 1985), which claims that institutions designed to help states cooperate with each other are more likely to be created and maintained when there is a powerful state that is willing and capable of providing collective goods. We have, therefore, empirical evidence that the existence of a powerful state (with regard to the distribution of hard power resources) within a region has an impact on the regional governance structures, because there exist more regional organizations. However, we do not know how the causal relationship functions. Do regional powers create or support the creation of regional organizations? Do these regional organizations constitute a collective good for the region? Is the regional power the principal entity responsible for the maintenance and funding of these organizations? What about the interests of the minor powers and followers of the regional powers in the configuration and maintenance of regional institutions? Are regional organizations and governance structures an instrument for minor powers to engage the regional power and to hedge against hegemonic endeavours? Parting from the Latin American experience, we might also ask what the impact of a competing regional leadership is on the proliferation of regional organizations? Moreover, one might ask what the relationship is between regional governance, regional powers and an increasing multipolarity in global affairs? Latin America, or more specifically South America, might be an interesting case study of the relationship between regional powers and regional governance structures. On the one hand, there has recently been a growth in regional organizations. New organizations have been created, while older regional organizations still live on. Some regional organizations have lost importance; others have been transformed or have changed their roles and functions. There also exist some

competing regional organizations with overlapping memberships. Different regional actors articulate their interests through different regional organizations. Thus it will be interesting to take a closer look at where decisions of regional importance were, and are, made. This might be an indicator of the relative importance of different regional organizations within regional governance structures. While in South America there is a regional power – Brazil – and one selfdeclared competitor – Venezuela, neither country is strong enough to impose their position by force on to other countries in the region. As a result, they recourse to economic and soft power resources – and to regional organizations – to influence the behaviour of their neighbours. In IR theory, the discussion about regions is increasingly linked to the question of ‘how do regions produce order?’ (Acharya 2007: 637). Also, there is a new tendency among IR specialists to look at a region through the lenses of its institutional architecture (Aggarwal and Koo 2008). Nevertheless, there have been, until quite recently, surprisingly few studies on regional international institutions4 and regional governance (structures). Some of the few examples are: a recent reader on regional international institutions from a comparative perspective (Acharya and Johnston 2007), some studies on the institutional architecture and regional governance in Asia (Jayasuriya 2004; Aggarwal and Koo 2008; Thomas 2009a; Komori 2009), an article on modes of regional governance in Africa (Söderbaum 2004) and a study on regionalism and governance in the Americas (Fawcett and Serrano 2005). Other studies place their focus on the relationship between regional governance and global governance, or they analyse from a normative perspective the preconditions for good (regional) governance (Best 2006). However, the power-political aspects of regional governance have been relatively neglected in academic writing (Hurrell 2005a: 186, 2005b). This is especially true with regard to economic governance. In his seminal work on regional integration, Mattli (1999) states that two conditions need to be satisfied in order for (economic) integration to succeed: there must be demand for regional rules, regulations and policies and there must be a supply for the demand of regional institutions. The principal responsible for the supply is a benevolent leading country within the region seeking integration, who would shoulder most of the costs.5 One might argue that the same reflection could also be applied to regional governance structures. While I agree that there may be a demand-supply logic with the creation of regional governance structures, I think that this functional logic must be supplemented with a more power-based logic. Regional governance structures and processes reflect the power relations within the region.6 The author agrees with Hurrell (2005a: 195) that ‘international institutions are not just concerned with liberal purposes of solving common problems or promoting shared values. They are also sites of power and reflect and entrench power hierarchies and the interest of powerful states.’ Regional governance structures may be initiated from above as an instrument of dominance. However, international institutions may also serve the interests of minor states to defend their interests within global or regional power hierarchies.