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Regional Governance and Global Governance: Links and Explanations.

IN THIS ARTICLE, I EXAMINE THE POSSIBLE LINKS BETWEEN REGIONAL GOVERnance (RG) and global governance (GG) from a regional perspective. Regional arrangements may not fit neatly into existing global arrangements, but neither are they "islands" isolated from the larger context of global governance. (1) The global projection of regions is directly related to the regional-global nexus (i.e., the possible links between regional and global governance). Contemporary global governance includes regional governance as an essential building bloc of it, though not necessarily the most relevant one.

I ask two questions. First, what are the possible linkages between schemes of regional governance and general frameworks of global governance? Second, what explains those particular linkages? To answer those questions, I develop a typology of linkages that include: (1) irrelevance; (2) conflict; (3) cooperation; and (4) harmony. Moreover, I suggest three explanations that are not mutually exclusive, but rather complement each other, to make sense of these linkages as a function of: (1) the nature of the issue area of regional and global governance; (2) the role of pivotal states; and (3) the importance of ideational factors and the diffusion of norms.

Since the late 1980s and early 1990s, we have seen the reinvigoration of various forms of regional cooperation. Regionalist activity has been particularly intense in the Global South, where several overlapping bilateral, sub-regional, and regional economic and security arrangements emerged. In such complex realities, there is not a clear hierarchy among the global space (usually occupied by multilateral organizations such as the United Nations), the national space (occupied by sovereign states), and the regional level (of international organizations). (2)

This article is organized as follows. First, 1 define the key relevant concepts to articulate the links between regional governance and global governance. Next, I present the theoretical framework, in terms of the taxonomy and the possible explanations. Finally, I succinctly refer to the Latin American experience as an illustration of the nexus between RG and GG.

Defining the Key Concepts of the RG-GG Nexus

Governance and Global Governance

Governance refers to the different ways that organizations, institutions, businesses, and governments manage their affairs. Governance is the act of governing and thus involves the application of rules and regulations but also of customs and practices, and ethical standards and norms, and it is characterized by the fragmentation of political authority. A framework of governance allows us to theorize beyond the state, including a multiplicity of different kinds of actors and different and nonhierarchical modes of steering and policymaking. Thus, governance includes the various institutionalized modes of social coordination aiming at the creation and implementation of collectively binding rules and regulations, to provide collective goods in specific issue areas. (3)

Similarly, we can define global governance as the possible regulation of the global sphere and the multiplicity of spheres of authority and nature of actors, both public and private, involved in the regulative process and the production of public global goods, in an effort to resolve pressing shared problems that defy solutions by any single national government. (4) We grasp the concept under the slogan of "governance without government," or as a kind of intermediary stage between the management of global problems through traditional interstate politics and the operation of a world government. Examples of global governance include the so-called global international institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO), as well as the Group of 8 (G8) and nowadays the Group of 20 (G-20), as an amalgam of both wealthy and emerging economic powers dealing with global economic issues.

Regions, Regionalism, and Regionalization

Regionalism and governance potentially share a common vocabulary. Not only is there a strong indication that regions should be looked at as an appropriate level of analysis for the organization of governance (i.e., regional governance), but the variation in governance structures also raises the question of how parallel but unequal regional transformations might affect global governance in specific issue areas. (5)

Regionalism generally refers to processes of regional integration as well as to the more inclusive process of regionalization (formation of regions). It can also refer more specifically to the ideology of region building as a political project. (6) Regionalism also relates to the proneness of the governments and peoples of two or more states to establish voluntary associations and to pool together resources to create common functional and institutional arrangements. In sum, regionalism is conceptualized as a broader project of governance whereas authority and legitimacy are exercised in bounded but postsovereign spaces. (7)

Similarly, regionalization can be conceived as the growth of societal integration within a given region, including the undirected and spontaneous processes of social and economic interaction among the units. As a dynamic process, it can be best understood as a continuing process of forming regions as geopolitical units, as organized political cooperation within a particular group of states, and through schemes of regional governance such as regional pluralistic security communities. Regionalism and regionalization then find expression essentially in the economic and security domains, including convergent motivations toward security and economic forms of regional integration and regional governance, alongside the normative or ideational cultural domains.

Regional Governance: Relevance and Issue Areas

At the regional (rather than global) level, governance has primarily been used since the mid-1990s to describe the complex, multilevel, and multilateral decisionmaking and implementation processes within the European Union (EU). (8) By regional governance we refer to institutionalized modes of social coordination to produce binding rules or public goods and services in one or several issue areas at the regional level, as a regional process of setting rules and creating rules enforced by regional organizations in a given geographical space. (9) Thus, the regional governance framework integrates both state-led regionalism with society and market-driven regionalization. (10)

The EU is the paradigmatic manifestation of regional governance, though there are other schemes of RG that can be traced in different regions of the world, including Latin America and the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and Africa. We usually examine these schemes of regional governance through their comprehensive multipurpose regional organizations, which can take advantage of spillover effects and linkages among economic, political, and security issue areas, developing a higher and more relevant degree of actorness."

Regional Security Governance

Together with the expansion of the discussion of governance as order-producing mechanisms and steering by states and non-state actors, the concept of security governance also entails an expanding understanding of the notion of security.

"Peace and security" encompass one of the most important issue areas of global and regional governance. Regional powers and regional organizations have increasingly become more relevant actors in some issue areas of peace and security, including disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, peacekeeping, and counterterrorism. There is an important policy-relevant debate whether in the regional-global nexus the region is simply an intermediate actor (between the nation-states and the global community) that undertakes security tasks determined at the global level. According to this perspective, regional security governance is supposed to contribute to a multilateral (global) system dominated and controlled by the UN Security Council. (12)

Yet contemporary realities of global security governance politics reflect a nonhierarchical order where regions fulfill a more relevant role than the traditional hierarchical approach implies. Several regional actors, including the EU, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the South African Development Community (SADC), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and the Mercado Comun del Sur (Mercosur), have developed institutionalized mechanisms of security governance and conflict management that do not derive from above (the UN), but rather from within or from below (the cooperating states and their emergent regional civil societies). In many cases, for instance, regions can better deal with their own conflicts than can a distant and sometimes paralyzed United Nations. (13)

Economic Regional Governance: Trade, Investment, and Development

In terms of economic regional governance, regionalization and regionalism refer to an economic process in which trade and investment within a given region grow more rapidly than the region's trade and investment with the rest of the world. (14) At the same time, issues of regional economic governance should be conceived as political processes inherently linked to the region's prevailing power structures and the way power is being exercised. (15)

Today's schemes of economic regional governance are the consequence of the interplay between exogenous and endogenous forces as well as top-down and bottom-up processes. Governance in the global political economy is characterized by transnationalization, creating additional formal and informal structures of authority and sovereignty beyond the state. (16) Thus, economic regional governance may be driven by transnational corporations, whereas the politics of regional integration and cooperation can be understood as a convergence of interests between state elites and firms in response to changes in the international economic structure.

Since the mid-1980s, there has been an exponential growth in the number of regional trading arrangements. This has included a proliferation of bilateral as well as regional and even interregional or transregional trading arrangements around the world, especially in the Americas and in the Asia Pacific region. Even if the multilateral trading system can be considered as rather successful in historical terms, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and World Trade Organization (GATT/WTO) scheme of global economic governance has proved quite ineffective in dealing with the current challenges of the global economy. (17)

In recent years, regional powers have become paramount trade partners and axes of economic webs, joining the United States, Europe, and Japan. In addition to Brazil and India (original members of the global economic governance), China and Russia joined the WTO, increasing the leverage of rising powers in the global economy. It has been in response to the stalling of the Doha talks about global trade negotiations that regional trade arrangements have proliferated, enhancing the importance of regions in economic terms. Similarly, we can witness the relevance of schemes of development governance at the regional level. (18)

Political Regional Governance: Promotion of Democracy and Human Rights

Regionalism and regional governance are not simply a response to security, functional, and economic needs. Regionalism is a fundamentally political exercise that takes place in a context of conflict and cooperation, so that we should also be aware of the political aspects of regional governance. (19)

It is evident that, in regions such as Europe, Africa, some parts of Asia, and the Americas, regional governance systems are all aiming toward a shared pursuit of governance that can be considered not only effective, but also democratic, inclusive, and legitimate. Although democracy is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for integration and for regional governance, the aim of preventing its reversal has been at the root of many democratizing regimes' decisions to cooperate with their neighbors. In this sense, we can argue that peace and stability help to promote democracy rather than the other way around, whereas regional cooperation, integration, and schemes of regional governance can be considered as key for regional peace. (20)

The Nexus Between Regional Governance and Global Governance

As mentioned above, the intensification of processes of globalization (leading to the need for global governance) as well as the development of regionalism (wielding schemes of regional governance) are the two key drivers in the development of the contemporary world order, along with the persistent forces of nationalism. The tension between the territorially based system of political organization, in the form of states, and the dynamics of globalization, embodying the market principles, creates a complicated dis-juncture in governance, at both regional and global levels.

The major research question that concerns us here is: What are the possible linkages between regional and global governance? This question is important since I argue that the effectiveness of regional governance is directly related to the nature of the interaction between schemes of regional governance and global governance. More specifically, I suggest that when and if the nexus is more cooperative, and even harmonic, that might improve the effectiveness of regional governance. Conversely, if that link is nonexistent or conflictive, regional governance might be ineffective. We understand effectiveness as a function of the fulfillment of declared goals, the level of institutionalization of regional governance, and the degree of peace and stability in the region.

Links Between Regional Governance and Global Governance

There are several perspectives regarding the nexus between RG and GG. One perspective regards regionalism as a state-led project that facilitates the implementation of the neoliberal ideology. Another perspective, more along the lines of the dependency approach, regards schemes of RG as a deliberate defensive and revisionist response to the economic and competitive pressures posed by economic globalization and the emergence of GG. In other cases, regional integration, cooperation, and RG might be viewed as an intermediate cooperative step in the direction of full participation in the global economy and in GG. Finally, RG can also be interpreted as an attempt to provide less developed, marginalized countries with a viable alternative and opportunity to confront the global multilateral level, grounded in a particular historical background and political culture. (21)

In normative terms, there has been a lively discussion about what ought to be the most desirable division of labor between RG and GG. For example, regarding international peace and security, Chapter VIII of the UN Charter clearly establishes the supremacy of the Security Council over regional arrangements, organizations, and agencies. As suggested in the previous discussion of security regional governance, some scholars promote the merits of a more horizontal, egalitarian, and balanced combination of regional and global institutions to promote global security governance. (22) For instance, Miriam Prys and Daniel Simons reject the extreme arguments in favor of isolable institutions (at the global and regional levels), as well as the case for vertical interaction and subordination of the regional to the global level. In their analysis, regional institutions are embedded in the global system, so there are simultaneous two-way interactions at the global-regional nexus, which eventually blurs the presumed dichotomy of the two different levels of analysis. (23) In this sense, I tend to agree with them about the need to emphasize the regional dimension of multilayered global governance.

In my own taxonomy, the possible links between regional governance and global governance are positioned along a continuum consisting of: (1) irrelevance; (2) conflict; (3) cooperation; and (4) harmony.

Irrelevance: the expansion of global governance might limit regional governance, making it increasingly superfluous. According to this logic, when global schemes of governance offer satisfying measures and regularities--for instance, in the issue area of trade through the regulations of the WTO--then there is not much incentive for establishing new, or nurturing existing, regional schemes of governance. Thus, countries in a given region might prefer to establish direct links to schemes of global governance rather than developing or strengthening regional schemes by themselves.

When the global economic crisis erupted in 2008-2009, global governance schemes had been underdeveloped since markets were regarded as stable. Given the thinness of global governance in the face of the transformed international economy, there was a surprisingly relative success in terms of international cooperation at the global level. (24) Global governance reforms have included commitments to increase the influence of the largest developing economies in the G-20, the IMF, and the World Bank. (25) Interestingly, parallel actions have not been taken at the level of regional governance, perhaps with the exception of the European Union.

For instance, in the Latin American case, a limit to regionalism might be the increasing availability of international groupings whose common rationale is issue area based rather than geographic proximity based. Thus, at the global governance level, common interests might stem from similar levels of development or concerns for specific subjects, rather than belonging to a specific geographical region, where different levels of development, economic strategies, and political positions intermingle. (26) Thus, the co-optation of Chile and Mexico into the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the strong economic interdependence of Mexico and the United States within the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) emphasize the relevance of GG mechanisms at the expense of Latin American RG.

Alternatively, we can argue not only that GG might develop with few regional links, but also we might witness the development of RG with few global links. Like two ships that pass each other in the night without establishing contact, there have been regional societies that developed schemes of regional governance without significant links to broader schemes of GG. For instance, Thomas Legler, Sharon F. Lean, and Dexter S. Boniface argue that the inter-American promotion of democracy has not necessarily been associated with a global governance framework. (27) Similarly, I have argued elsewhere that a normative regional framework in Latin America led to the creation of a system of regional security governance, promoting norms of peace and security, well before the European case. (28)

Conflict: regional governance as a challenge to global governance. In a conflictual link, the impetus toward regional governance might stem from a reaction and challenge to what is regarded as the amorphous, undemocratic, and inexorable economic rules of globalization and their concomitant mechanisms of global governance. This reaction can be motivated either by nationalist or by humanistic concerns or, in some cases, simultaneously by both motivations. It includes the attempts to create autarkic regional regulatory institutions that will ease the dependency on schemes of global governance. Hence, the logic of RG contradicts the rationale of GG.

In the first place, by creating schemes of regional governance in the form of trade blocs and integration frameworks based on mercantilistic premises, schemes of RG seem to oppose the neoliberal "harmony of interests" in the world economy, favoring instead national and regional loyalties and frameworks. Moreover, the drive toward the formation of regions and the shaping of RG might also be motivated by the denial of a single universal cosmopolitan culture, and by the promotion of alternative forms of social and political organizations at the regional level, with specific regionalist and nationalist features grounded in a common regional identity.

A number of scholars have given particular attention to the construction of frameworks and mechanisms of RG as expressions of resistance to global processes and arrangements. (29) In this context, there is an argument to make that, in the developing world at least, the notion of regionalism as resistance is not a new idea, but rather a well-known historical theme since the end of World War II, in the form of decolonization and opposition to imperialism and to neocolonialism. (30) Thus, much of the regional activity is about devolving power to the region and filling required spaces that global structures in the form of GG do not want or cannot fulfill. Thus, promoting regional cooperation and establishing schemes of RG would appear to be a rational policy choice for developing countries as a way of demonstrating greater independence and self-sufficiency in the context of North-South relations. From this standpoint, schemes of RG might enhance the capacities of states in the region to manage the negative externalities of globalization, though there is no guarantee that RG will successfully cope with the challenges of globalization better than individual states. (31)

In the Latin American case, the logic of regional and subregional integration leading to schemes of RG such as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and Mercosur embodied attempts to better deal with the consequences of globalization and GG. Yet there is disagreement between optimist and pessimist scholars in the region regarding the effects of those heroic attempts in presenting a posthegemonic regionalism in Latin America, and a real alternative to multilateral schemes of GG as posed by the World Bank and the IMF. (32)

Cooperation and overlap between regional governance and global governance. A third possible link is that RG and GG might act as overlapping processes in the two issue areas of security and economics. According to this logic, the challenge is to construct feasible arrangements in which the two schemes partially overlap with each other, perhaps through interregional and transregional arrangements that support the principles and values associated with the concept of multilateralism. This type of relationship should focus on instrumental and utilitarian linkages such as the external projection of influence of regional powers on GG forums through regional groupings such as the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Pacific Alliance in the Latin American context. (33)

According to this logic, the regional and global schemes of governance are engaged in a process of constant interaction; they are interdependent and coevolving systems. It becomes evident that global and regional approaches can potentially be competing authority structures; hence, the challenge here is to build institutional arrangements in which the two logics can cooperate and complement each other. The complementary, overlapping, and cooperation between RG and GG remind us of the mechanism of delegation, according to which nation-states are ready to delegate certain tasks and responsibilities to international organizations rather than acting unilaterally or cooperating directly. (34)

When we refer to the world economy, we might identify parallel processes of regional governance and global governance along several dimensions such as trade, investment, migration regimes, development, and the regulation of multinational corporations. For instance, in the trade issue, RG and GG might interact in complex ways. The multilateral principles and rules of the WTO might set the initial conditions for regional trading arrangements. At the same time, if rules within regional trade arrangements converge with the general multilateral rules (of the WTO), they might also reinforce the multilateral system in a kind of virtuous circle. (35)

By contrast, in the international security arena, it seems more complicated to assess the (co)existence of regional security communities, regional security governance, and security complexes with broader dimensions of global security, due to the focus on national and regional security. At the same time, the United Nations and regional organizations need each other and they should assume shared responsibilities for resolving common security problems, so there is room for cooperation between schemes of RG and GG. (36) An example of that coexistence might be the functioning of peacekeeping forces such as the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) under the joint cooperation between Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. Moreover, in the nuclear issue area there is a fruitful cooperation between the regional agency for nuclear cooperation (for peaceful purposes), the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). (37)

Schemes of RG suggest that the management of global issues might become more efficient and less expensive at the regional level than at the global one, due in part to the logic of collective action, according to which a smaller n allows for better and more effective cooperation. Once collective action problems are resolved at the level of RG, coordination problems among regions might lead to interregional cooperation, as another layer or level in a multilayered system of global governance. (38)

Harmonic relations: regional governance as a component of global governance. From a harmonic perspective, schemes of regional governance are regarded as a component, subset, or chapter of globalization; hence, RG could be seen as a building bloc, and as a desirable and necessary part of any GG architecture. (39) From this standpoint, by helping national economies to become competitive in the world market, regional integration and other schemes of RG might lead to multilateral cooperation on a global scale, to the adoption of liberal premises, and to the global opening of the local economies. Thus, schemes of RG become part and parcel of the mechanisms of the liberal international economic order embodied in schemes of GG.

The argument that RG is a component of GG is reminiscent of the principle of subsidiarity that has been central to the project of European integration. According to that subsidiarity principle, governance activities take place at the most effective level, whether local, national, regional, or global. For example, the appropriate regional unit within the larger context of global governance will provide the public goods relevant to a region. With respect to governing globalization, the World Commission on the Social Dimensions of Globalization advocates that regional integration should be a necessary stepping-stone toward global governance. (40) Similarly, according to the UN Development Programme, "The challenge... is to ensure 'coherent pluralism' so that institutions at all levels work in a broadly coordinated fashion." (41)

According to this type of relationship, we witness a symbiotic relationship between RG and GG whereas globalization leads to regionalism, and regionalism, by facilitating countries' insertion into the world economy, further promotes globalization by enforcing and allowing its logic. Therefore, the goal should be a multilayered and multilateral governance based on a harmonic relationship among different levels and categories of actors. (42)

As schemes of governance develop at the local, regional, and global levels, we find a recurrent liberal vision of a potential harmonic partnership across these different levels. The normative concepts highlighted here are usually delegation, policing, subsidiarity, and mutual reinforcement. The idea of delegation is quite common in the security arena, assuming that regional bodies can perform better than an overburdened United Nations, ensuring greater legitimacy within the region (e.g., in the deployment of peacekeeping forces), and serving the same overall global interests in a harmonic way. An example in this regard is the scheme of Responsibility to Protect (R2P), whereas in its main "constitutional" text there is a quite harmonic mechanism that links regional and global frameworks for assuming humanitarian responsibilities, including humanitarian military intervention, in the case that states do not fulfill their obligations to protect their own citizens and subjects. Similarly, in the economic issue area, there is an assumption that the WTO should monitor the proliferation of regional economic arrangements, assuming the existence of a harmony of interests. In the real world, though, this type of harmonic or symbiotic relationship between RG and GG is far from obvious.

If we apply the principle of subsidiarity in the relations between RG and GG, we might reach the conclusion that Latin American schemes of RG are building blocks of the overall picture of global governance. In this vein, Mercosur, UNASUR, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and especially the Organization of American States (OAS) are another layer of stones in the overall architecture of global governance.

Explanations for the Links Between Regional Governance and Global Governance

Under which conditions will we witness different types of links between regional governance and global governance? The type of link might be a function of several alternative explanations, including the nature of the issue area, the role of pivotal states at the intersection of RG and GG, and the flow and diffusion of ideas and norms across regions and between the regional and global levels.

The nature of the issue area. The type of link between RG and GG might be a function of a specific issue area. For instance, there seems to be more harmonic relations across different levels in functional rather than political issues. Similarly, there seems to be more cooperation across different levels in economic issue areas rather than security issue areas, though that is not always the case.

As in explanations for the rise of multilateralism, accounts of variation across issue areas could focus on the distribution of power (in the region and in the global system as a whole), interdependence, and domestic politics, as important determinants of states' preferences. Thus, complementary interests in one issue area (i.e., trade and development, environment and society) might contrast with conflicting interests in another issue area (e.g., security issues).

For instance, in the security issue area we should ask ourselves, what is the optimal relationship between regional agencies and global bodies to foster international security? As mentioned above, the traditional view of the regional-global relationship in security matters has premised a kind of symbiotic relations, whereas a dominant United Nations delegates tasks to subordinate regional institutions, making the schemes of regional governance an intermediate actor that is subservient to the global level. (43) Still, there is a significant variation across regions in the organization of security governance. For instance, while there is a global trend toward international peacekeeping, a regional breakdown of the data shows that Africa accounts for almost 55 percent of peacekeeping activities, whereas Latin America and Asia are not significantly affected by this trend. Likewise, nuclear nonproliferation is an important political issue for discussion in East Asia and in the Middle East, but no longer in Africa or in Latin America where zones free of nuclear weapons prevail.

Similarly, there is a trend toward the regional governance of human rights and democratic stability, but that trend varies widely across regions, affecting less the Middle East and East Asia than other regions of the world. In the political issue area, we might find historical instances of gaps and irrelevance between RG and GG (as in the case of Latin America), conflict and confrontation (East Asia vs. the West), and mixed cases of cooperation (in other regions of the world).

Finally, in the economic realms the liberal assumption is that of a harmony of interests between RG and GG, or at least a Grotian cooperative framework as formulated in terms of regional and global international societies. At the same time, though the economic issue area in our age of globalization rules out the possibility of self-sufficiency and autarky, we might witness the emergence of regional frameworks of economic regional governance as a form of resistance to global economic governance.

The Latin American case might challenge the working assumption that it is easier to cooperate in economic issues than in security ones. There seems to be a larger compatibility, cooperation, and overlap among different subregional, regional, and hemispheric security mechanisms of RG, within the overall context of the UN GG schemes, than in issues related to trade, finance, and economic development. Perhaps the explanation to this peculiar empirical observation is the fact that in Latin America, issues of economic concern are considered more difficult to tackle in a cooperative or harmonic way, even more than traditional international security issues because of the prevalence of regional interstate peace, especially in South America, since 1881.

The role of pivotal states (regional powers). At least in part, the prospects for establishing significant links between regional and global governance depend on how regional actors, first and foremost pivotal states, behave. Their actions contribute to whether regional and global governance evolve in disconnected, zero-sum, overlapping, and cooperative, or positive-sum, harmonic directions. Thus, regional projects and the regional powers that promote them are important drivers and spoilers of regional cooperation and integration and, by extension, important determinants of the types of links between RG and GG. In their pursuit of greater global influence, these regional powers maintain one foot in regional politics and the other one in global politics. Their regional preponderance appears to be an important requisite for their enhanced authority and legitimacy at the global level, allowing them to project their regional power into GG spaces. (44)

Regional powers seem to be interested not only in shaping the global agenda (through GG), but first and foremost in designing the regional agenda through regional cooperation in their respective neighborhoods (through RG). The regional powers' policies, such as Brazil's engagement with Mercosur and UNASUR in South America or China's involvement with ASEAN in Southeast Asia, reflect their need to guarantee stable and peaceful regional environments for the projection of their rising global presence. Thus, regional powers are the primary providers of regional order and regional governance by definition while simultaneously participating in schemes of GG.

Strategically situated at the intersection of regional and global spheres, these regional pivotal states are instrumental in the construction of regional and global governance linkages, where multiple dynamics collide. By regional linkages, I mean governance processes promoted by regional actors that stem from the regional level and establish schemes of RG. Furthermore, global linkages project the political influence of regional powers into schemes of global governance. We can also identify transversal linkages (RG-GG), where these regional powers intentionally link regional and global governance processes. (45) To maintain their regional power base, they need to invest resources in schemes of regional governance. At the same time, it is one of their main interests to convert their regional power base and capabilities into global power, obtaining international recognition as a global player. Hence, they must also actively engage in global governance. Thus, regional powers simultaneously shape international institutions at the regional and global levels, navigating the nexus between these two.

For instance, the creation and promotion of regional organizations might help to substantiate rising power claims for an enhanced role in global leadership. The membership of these regional organizations might provide the regional powers with backing in decisionmaking processes in global institutions such as the United Nations and the WTO, or new crucial global decisionmaking forums such as the G-20, all involved in global governance. Along these lines Brazil promoted Mercosur (in 1991) and UNASUR (in 2008) to enhance its status and stature in the world. (46) Similarly, regional powers from the Global South have pioneered a new Southern multilateralism such as the creation of the India, Brazil, and South Africa (IBSA) forum in 2003.

In the Latin American context, the lack of a clear fulfillment of Brazilian leadership in the region poses an interesting paradox to explain the possible links between RG and GG whereas Brazil might enjoy an enhanced international image in the realm of GG, much more than in the context of RG. It is clear that Brazil plays, or should play, a pivotal role. Yet it is somehow difficult to discern the actual motivations and increasing diffusion of soft power by Brazil in the construction of UNASUR as a mechanism of political coordination to regulate and mediate intraregional politics whereas it might also act as a consolidated bloc in international multilateral arenas, in the context of GG. (47)

Ideational factors, including the diffusion of norms and identity. Ideational factors, including common regional and global norms and identity, play an important role in defining the type and quality of the links between RG and GG. Ideas, institutional frameworks, regimes, and norms spill over from region to region, from global schemes to regional ones, and even from one issue area to another, through mechanisms of diffusion. (48) Thus, when we research regional and global transformations, including schemes of governance, we cannot assume that those different governance systems emerge independently from one another, but should rather adopt a more horizontal perspective, one that focuses on instances of interdependence, voluntary, and noncoordinated decisionmaking. (49)

For instance, if there is a normative convergence between the regional and global levels, or if the regional identity fits within a larger cosmopolitan identity framework according to a top-down normative interaction from the global to the regional, then one might expect stronger and more positive links between RG and GG in the form of cooperative or even harmonic links. Conversely, if the global-cosmopolitan identity is perceived as threatening to the ontological security of regional states, powers, and regional frameworks per se, then the regional identity and norms might diverge from the global one, strengthening an antagonistic and even zero-sum relationship between schemes of RG and GG.

Ideational factors, including norms and identity, are related to the dynamic phenomena of diffusion across the globe, between regions, among schemes of regional governance, and from RG to GG and back (in both directions). In this context, there are two stylized explanations for regional cooperation and integration: independent decisionmaking within a specific region, or interdependences between regions through the diffusion of policies and institutional models. (50) Similarly, I argue that the diffusion of ideas and norms might be an important determinant in the type of linkages between RG and GG.

In the case of Latin America, the ideational and ideological picture is dynamic and fluid, so we should differentiate among several schemes of RG, including the OAS, UNASUR, Mercosur, ALBA, CELAC, and the Pacific Alliance. Some of these schemes of RG sustain regional norms and identities that converge toward a more Western and cosmopolitan model (of GG)--namely, the OAS and the Pacific Alliance--while others, such as CELAC, Mercosur, and ALBA, oppose that. In the case that there is a normative convergence between the regional and the global, there will be a strengthening of the linkages between RG and GG in the direction of cooperative and harmonic links. That is not the case in Latin America, with a remaining strident opposition to the US hegemony (in normative, not practical terms), concomitantly with an attempt to forge relevant normative and practical links with Europe and East Asia, especially with China, as well as with Russia and even Iran.


In this article, I explored in theoretical terms the possible linkages between schemes of regional governance (RG) and general frameworks of global governance (GG). Furthermore, I briefly illustrated how the linkages between RG and GG have played out in the Latin American context in the past three decades, indicating possible explanations for those links.

I presented and developed a typology of the possible links between regional and global governance that include: (1) irrelevance; (2) conflict; (3) cooperation; and (4) harmony. Moreover, I suggested three alternative explanations to make sense of the type of linkage, as a function of: (1) the issue area in question; (2) the role of regional powers in RG and GG; and (3) ideational factors such as the diffusion of common norms.

There is an analytical and empirical need to assess the possible links between schemes of regional and global governance (the RG-GG nexus). This is imperative in theoretical terms, but it is also needed in empirical and policy terms, to make sense of the international and transnational relations of regions in the developing world. Understanding regionalism and regionalization in this context requires an understanding of their relationship with globalization and global governance. (51) We can then design a matrix to illustrate the potential explanatory value of this theoretical framework for frames of regional governance in different regions of the world, where the explanations might weight differently across various regions of the world. For instance, in the case of Latin America, due to its relatively marginal participation in schemes of global governance and the relative low intensity of the links between RG and GG, the effectiveness of its regional governance in terms of levels of institutionalization and fulfillment of its declared goals has been negatively affected. Thus, the relative marginalization or irrelevance of the links between Latin American RG and GG contribute to the rhetorical gap between the lofty goals of Latin American integration and their practical effectiveness. In this case, the links and explanations between RG and GG would look like those in Table 1.

In sum, the nexus between regional governance and global governance remains an uncharted territory in both theoretical and empirical terms. I tried in this article to address that important lacuna. In theoretical terms, there are not many studies that explore this important nexus. In the context of Latin America, in juxtaposition to the most favorite example of RG (the EU), there is neither much description nor analysis of that empirical nexus, perhaps due to the traditional peripheral role attributed to Latin America in relation to global governance. The theoretical framework briefly applied here to Latin America could be implemented as well for other regions that might be relevant for the architecture of global governance (e.g., East Asia and Southeast Asia). Yet there is an enormous heuristic value in discussing the relevance of the nexus between RG and GG in the Global South, beyond the obvious and paradigmatic example of Europe, which serves as the ultimate illustration for regional governance and still stands at the core of global governance.


Arie M. Kacowicz is the Chaim Weizmann Chair in International Relations and professor of international relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The author would like to thank Keren Sasson, Daniel Wajner, and Exequiel Lacovsky for their research assistance, and Fredrik Soderbaum, Galia Press-Bar-Nathan, Thomas Legler, Andres Malamud, and Myriam Prys for their comments and suggestions in previous drafts of this article. He also acknowledges the generosity of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation for supporting this research in 2013-2015.

(1.) See Alice Ba and Matthew J. Hoffmann, eds., Contending Perspectives on Global Governance: Coherence and Contestation (New York: Routledge, 2005), p. 195.

(2.) See Laura Gomez-Mera, "How 'New' Is the 'New Regionalism' in the Americas?" Journal of International Relations and Development 11, no. 3 (September 2008): 279-308, at 280; Bjorn Hettne and Fredrik Soderbaum, "The UN and Regional Organizations in Global Security: Competing or Complementary Logics?" Global Governance 12, no. 3 (July-September 2006): 227-232, at 229.

(3.) See Thomas F. Legler, "The Shifting Sands of Regional Governance: The Case of Inter-American Democracy Promotion," Politics and Policy 40, no. 5 (October 2012): 848-870, at 849; Richard Higgott, "The Theory and Practice of Global and Regional Governance: Accommodating American Exceptionalism and European Pluralism," GARNET Working Paper No. 01/05 (Coventry, UK; University of Warwick, November 2005); Ba and Hoffmann, Contending Perspectives on Global Governance, pp. 4-5; Wilkinson Rorden, The Global Governance Reader (New York: Routledge, 2005), p. 70; Ramesh Thakur and Luk van Langenhove, "Enhancing Global Governance Through Regional Integration," Global Governance 12, no. 3 (July-September 2006): 233-240, at 233.

(4.) See Higgott, "The Theory and Practice of Global and Regional Governance," p. 578; Thomas F. Legler, "Global and Regional Governance in Latin America," paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, San Francisco, April 2013, p. 4.

(5.) See Detlef Nolte, "Latin America's New Regional Architecture: Segmented Regionalism or Cooperative Regional Governance?" paper presented at the International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association, Washington, DC, May-June 2013, p. 3; Andrew Hurrell, "One World? Many Worlds? The Place of Regions in the Study of International Society," International Affairs 83, no. 1 (January 2007): 127-146, at 130; and Thakur and van Langenhove, "Enhancing Global Governance Through Regional Integration," p. 234.

(6.) Higgott, "The Theory and Practice of Global and Regional Governance," pp. 15-16.

(7.) See Jean B. Grugel, "Regionalist Governance and Transnational Collective Action in Latin America," Economics and Society 35, no. 2 (September 2006): 209-231, at 209; Andres Malamud and Gian Luca Gardini, "Has Regionalism Peaked? The Latin American Quagmire and Its Lessons," The International Spectator: Italian Journal of International Affairs 47, no. 1 (March 2012): 116-133, at 130.

(8.) See Elke Krahmann, "National, Regional, and Global Governance: One Phenomenon or Many?" Global Governance 9, no. 3 (July-September 2003): 323-346, at 327.

(9.) See Monica Serrano, "Regionalism and Governance: A Critique," in Louise Fawcett and Monica Serrano, eds., Regionalism and Governance in the Americas (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), pp. 1-23.

(10.) See Thomas Risse and Tanja Boerzel, "Introduction," in Thomas Risse and Tanja Boerzel, eds., Oxford Handbook of Comparative Regionalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 3-15.

(11.) See Fredrik Soderbaum, "Rethinking Regionalism and the Regional Dimension of Global Politics," paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, New Orleans, February 2015.

(12.) Ibid., pp. 4-5.

(13.) Ibid., pp. 5-7.

(14.) Serrano, "Regionalism and Governance," p. 9.

(15.) See Pia Riggirozzi, "Region, Regionness and Regionalism in Latin America: Towards a New Synthesis," Latin American Trade Network Working Papers, no. 130 (April 2010): 1-17.

(16.) Ba and Hoffmann, Contending Perspectives on Global Governance, p. 52.

(17.) See Soderbaum, "Rethinking Regionalism and the Regional Dimension of Global Politics," p. 9.

(18.) Ibid., p. 12.

(19.) Ba and Hoffmann, Contending Perspectives on Global Governance, p. 195.

(20.) See Higgott, "The Theory and Practice of Global and Regional Governance," pp. 17-18; Andres Malamud, "Latin American Regionalism and EU Studies," Journal of European Integration 32, no. 6 (November 2010): 637-657, at 646; Louise Fawcett, "Regionalism in Historical Perspective," in Louise Fawcett and Andrew Hurrell, eds., Regionalism in World Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 28.

(21.) Gomez-Mera, "How 'New' Is the 'New Regionalism' in the Americas?" p. 285.

(22.) See Soderbaum, "Rethinking Regionalism and the Regional Dimension of Global Politics"; Hettne and Soderbaum, "The UN and Regional Organizations in Global Security"; Thomas F. Legler, "The Nexus Between Regional Governance and Global Governance," Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City (unpublished manuscript, 2014).

(23.) Miriam Prys and Daniel Simons, "Complexity at the Nexus of Global and Regional Governance: Lessons from Regional Power Research," paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, New Orleans, February 2015.

(24.) See Daniel W. Drezner, "The Irony of Global Economic Governance: The System Worked," Working Paper No. 9 (New York: International Institutions and Global Governance Program, US Council on Foreign Relations, October 2012).

(25.) See Miles Kahler, "Economic Crisis, Emerging Economies, and Multilateral Governance," paper presented at the conference "Myths or Reality? The Promise of Economic Multilateralism," Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, December 2010.

(26.) See Malamud and Gardini, "Has Regionalism Peaked?" p. 128.

(27.) See Thomas Legler, Sharon F. Lean, and Dexter S. Boniface, eds., Promoting Democracy in the Americas (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007).

(28.) See Arie M. Kacowicz, The Impact of Norms in International Society: The Latin American Experience, 1881-2001 (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005).

(29.) For instance, see Richard Higgott and Nicola Phillips, "Challenging Tri-umphalism and Convergence: The Limits of Global Liberalization in Asia and Latin America," Review of International Studies 26, no. 3 (July 2000): 359-379.

(30.) Ba and Hoffmann, Contending Perspectives on Global Governance, p. 193.

(31.) See Serrano, "Regionalism and Governance," p. 18; Ba and Hoffmann, Contending Perspectives on Global Governance, p. 193.

(32.) See Thomas F. Legler, "Post-hegemonic Regionalism and Sovereignty in Latin America: Optimists, Skeptics, and an Emerging Research Agenda," Contexto Internacional 35, no. 2 (July-December 2013): 325-352.

(33.) See Legler, "The Nexus Between Regional Governance and Global Governance."

(34.) See Darren G. Hawkins, David A. Lakem, Daniel L. Nielson, and Michael J. Tierney, eds., Delegation and Agency in International Organizations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

(35.) See Soderbaum, "Rethinking Regionalism and the Regional Dimension of Global Politics," pp. 10, 13.

(36.) See Hettne and Soderbaum, "The UN and Regional Organizations in Global Security," p. 231; Soderbaum, "Rethinking Regionalism and the Regional Dimension of Global Politics," p. 7.

(37.) See Exequiel Lacovsky, "The Quest for Regional Security Governance: The Latin American Experience," Hebrew University of Jerusalem (manuscript, 2016).

(38.) See Weiqing Song, "Regionalization, Inter-regional Cooperation, and Global Governance," Asia Europe Journal 5, no. 1 (March 2007): 67-82, at 69.

(39.) See Ba and Hoffmann, Contending Perspectives on Global Governance, p. 193; Rorden, The Global Governance Reader, p. 54.

(40.) See World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, A Fair Globalization: Creating Opportunities for All (Geneva: International Labour Office, 2004).

(41.) UN Development Programme, Human Development Report 2013: The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World, 1-14, quoted in Legler, "The Nexus Between Regional Governance and Global Governance," pp. 1-2.

(42.) See Thakur and van Langenhove, "Enhancing Global Governance Through Regional Integration."

(43.) See Hettne and Soderbaum, "The UN and Regional Organizations in Global Security," p. 227.

(44.) See Legler, "The Nexus Between Regional Governance and Global Governance," p. 5; Andrew Hurrell, "Hegemony, Liberalism, and Global Order: What Space for Would-be Great Powers?" International Affairs 82, no. 1 (March 2006): 1-19; Nolte, "Latin America's New Regional Architecture," pp. 18-19.

(45.) See Legler, "The Nexus Between Regional Governance and Global Governance."

(46.) See Andres Malamud, "A Leader Without Followers? The Growing Divergence Between the Regional and Global Performance of Brazilian Foreign Policy," Latin American Politics and Society 53, no. 3 (Fall 2011): 1-24; Hurrell, "Hegemony, Liberalism, and Global Order"; Hurrell, "One World?"; especially, Legler, "The Nexus Between Regional Governance and Global Governance," pp. 3-5; Prys and Simons, "Complexity at the Nexus of Global and Regional Governance," p. 16.

(47.) See Riggirozzi, "Region, Regionness and Regionalism in Latin America," p. 9; Malamud, "A Leader Without Followers?"

(48.) See Thomas Risse, "The Diffusion of Regionalism," in Thomas Risse and Tanja Boerzel, eds., Oxford Handbook of Comparative Regionalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 87-108.

(49.) See Anja Jetschke and Tobias Lenz, "Does Regionalism Diffuse? A New Research Agenda for the Study of Regional Organizations," Journal of European Public Policy 20, no. 4 (November 2013): 626-637, at 634.

(50.) Risse, "The Diffusion of Regionalism."

(51.) See Andrew F. Cooper, Christopher W. Hughes, and Phillippe de Lombaerde, eds., Regionalization and Global Governance: The Taming of Globalization? (London: Routledge, 2007).
Table 1 Regional Governance and Global Governance: Links and
Explanations in the Latin American Case

Explanations/Links       Irrelevance         Conflict

Nature of issue area     Democracy and       Economic issues
                         human rights

Role of pivotal states   Argentina (minor)   Venezuela (mostly
Ideational factors and   CELAC (autarky;     ALBA, Mercosur
diffusion of norms       norms of peace      (against US
                         and security)       hegemony)

Explanations/Links         Cooperation           Harmony

Nature of issue area       Security issues       Functional
                           (in international     issues
Role of pivotal states     Brazil (potentially   Mexico
                           relevant)             (pragmatic)
Ideational factors and     Pacific Alliance,     OAS
diffusion of norms         UNASUR                (Western
                           (convergence)         Hemispheric

Note: CELAC: The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States;
ALBA, Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America; Mercosur,
Mercado Comun del Sur; UNASUR, Union of South American Nations; OAS.
Organization of American States.
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Author:Kacowicz, Arie M.
Publication:Global Governance
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Date:Jan 1, 2018
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