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In: Economy, Politics and Governance Challenges ISBN: 978-1-63484-013-2

Editor: Víctor M. González-Sánchez © 2016 Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

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Chapter 1


Detlef Nolte*
GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies,
Hamburg, Germany

The point of focus of this chapter is the growing importance of regions in
international relations. The chapter adopts an institutional social constructivist approach,
wherein international regions are considered the political constructs of states. After a
discussion of both the advantages and the shortcomings of the complementary concepts
of ‘regional integration’ and ‘regional cooperation,’ the chapter then argues that the
concept of ‘regional governance’ is the most adequate term for capturing the variations in
regionalism. Regional governance is a sufficiently broad and flexible concept that it can
be satisfactorily used to grasp the variable interaction patterns between different regional
organizations. Since most regions feature more than just one regional organization, these
institutions will often overlap with regard to their mandates and/or membership – which
can lead to either conflict or cooperation. With the objective in mind of systematizing the
study of the interaction patterns between regional organizations, the chapter develops an
analytical scheme and a taxonomy to differentiate between various types of regional
governance – synergistic, cooperative, conflictive and segmented.


Regions and regionalism have by now become important features of world politics,
specifically in a multipolar international system wherein the West is only one region of a
‘decentred globalism’ (Buzan, 2011) constituted of several regional cores (or ‘regional
worlds’; Acharya, 2014, 79-105). In this context, it is important to understand how regions

2 Detlef Nolte

are politically organized and governed, because both the concept of ‘region’ and the
institutional architecture of a given region are closely interlinked. As Herz indicates, ‘the term
“region” in fact originates from the idea of rule, as in regere, command, and we shall be
looking into regions as the locus for the production of norms, public policy, and dispute
mechanisms as a result of the choices by governing elites in the countries that form the
region’ (2014: 237).
While regions are porous social entities (Katzenstein, 2005) open to external influence
through processes of norm diffusion or through the foreign policies of great powers, local
actors meanwhile can use regional organizations to create rules – with a view to protecting
their autonomy from dominance or abuse by more powerful actors (Acharya, 2011). Regional
organizations can make a region less porous by functioning as filters between the region and
the international system (including global governance structures). The creation of regional
organizations constitutes and consolidates a region, inasmuch as these institutions give the
region an identity (or ‘actorness’).1 One might label this approach ‘institutional social
constructivism,’ wherein international regions are seen as the political constructions of
nation-states (Powers & Goertz, 2011: 2388).2
A regional organization can be defined ‘as an international organization composed of
three or more geographically proximate states having a continuous institutional framework’
(Marks et al., 2014: 7).3 Regional organizations delimit the region as a subsystem within the
overarching international one, and serve to structure the relations between states within the
region. From this perspective, regional organizations have two specific functions: they
manage regional externalities (which could be related to trade, security or other issue areas)
and/or articulate the common interests of the region to actors situated outside of it. The same
institutions can alternatively also be used either as instruments of regional cooperation or as
ones of discrimination and exclusion vis-à-vis other states.
There have been two waves of regionalism in the post-World War II period thus far
(Goltermann et al., 2012; Mansfield & Milner, 1999). The more recent one of these started in
the 1990s, and has been characterized by a proliferation of regional and sub-regional
organizations. Most regions feature more than one regional organization. Often, these are
complementary and perform different functions. Some are sub-organizations of other or
broader regional organizations. However, regional organizations can also overlap (for Africa,
see De Lombaerde, 2011: 37; Genna & De Lombaerde, 2010: 591–592; for Latin America,
Malamud, 2013; Malamud & Gardini, 2012; Weiffen et al., 2013)4 with regard to mandates
and membership (see Weiffen et al., 2013). The proliferation and overlapping of regional
organizations is frequently described with, and symbolized by, the metaphor of a spaghetti

As former Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim once claimed, with regard to the creation of the Union of
South American Nations (the acronym for it in Spanish/Portuguese is UNASUR/Unasul), ‘Unasul [UNASUR]
has given South America a face’ (2010: 229–230).
‘Regions are not defined by geography per se, but through the decisions of state leaders to create institutions
within a limited geographical area, typically contiguous states, to deal with a variety of economic, social, and
political problems’ (Powers & Goertz, 2011: 2388).
This definition is based on other ones articulated by different authors, such as Haftel (2013: 394) and Power &
Goertz (2011: 2396–2397).
The discussion of ‘overlapping regions’ (Genna & De Lombaerde, 2010: 591–592) should be qualified on the
basis of an analysis of whether competing regional organizations really do construct different regions.
However, states may be members of multiple regions (Powers & Goertz, 2011: 2389).
Regional Governance from a Comparative Perspective 3

bowl. Spaghetti is, as such, dished up in African, Asian, Latin American and even European
Because of this proliferation and overlapping of regional organizations, it makes no sense
to look at regional organizations in isolation. To do so would mean ‘neglecting the specific
properties of an institutional architecture (that is, how different regional organizations are
assembled together) and the impact that these properties have on regional order’ (Hofmann &
Mérand, 2012: 133–134). In the end, the whole architecture – that is, the combination and
interaction of different regional organizations – is more important than its constituent parts –
that is, individual regional organizations – are. Focusing on one isolated regional organization
might lead to inaccurate conclusions being made about the current state of regional
integration. Therefore it makes more sense to discuss the entire regional architecture, rather
than to investigate only separated out individual regional organizations. In this vein Van
Langenhove persuasively argues in favour of widening the research agenda on regional
integration, with the objective of directing attention towards the study of intraregional
processes because ‘unlike states regions and regional arrangements can overlap. This has
consequences for regional integration as several of such processes may occur simultaneously
in a given geographic area’ (2012: 26).
How, though, should the analysis of this regional architecture and the processes of
intraregional interaction between different regional organizations be ideally conducted? Are
there different patterns of interaction occurring, and what are the factors that structure the
regional architecture? These are some of the key questions that now require our much closer


Regionalism is generally accepted as being an overarching concept referring to,
respectively, ‘the formation of interstate associations or groupings on the basis of regions; and
in the doctrinal sense, the advocacy of such formations’ (Nye, 1968: vii), ‘the policies and
practices of state-based permanent organizations with membership confined to a limited
geographical area’ (Fawcett 2013: 4), ‘the policy and project, whereby state and non-state
actors cooperate and coordinate strategy within a particular region or as a type of world order’
(Söderbaum, 2009: 479) or ‘a state-led project to organize a region along particular political
and economic lines’ (Phillips & Prieto, 2011: 117). While there is a basic consensus on the
concept of regionalism, there is, however, much less consensus on how to conceptualize
different forms of regionalism. Most authors will agree that regional integration is a narrower
sub-category of regionalism, one that is principally based on the European post-World War II
experience. Börzel (2013), for example, differentiates between regional cooperation and
regional integration. She contends that regional integration ‘involves the setting up of
supranational institutions to which political authority is delegated to make collective binding
decision,’ whereas regional cooperation refers to ‘the joint exercise of state-based political
authority in intergovernmental institutions to solve collective action problems related to
economic, political or security issues’ (2013: 508). Although Börzel (2013) argues strongly in
favour of clearly differentiating between regional cooperation and regional integration, one
might also conceptualize regional integration as a special type or subset – albeit ‘not the most
4 Detlef Nolte

successful, or even the most frequent’ (Malamud, 2013: 2) – of regional cooperation. Börzel
(2013), however, perceives regional (intergovernmental) integration and regional
(supranational) cooperation as two opposite ends of a continuum of regionalism.
However, regional integration can also be defined in a more encompassing and flexible
way. The concept might be ‘used as synonymous for regionalism and/or regionalization’ (De
Lombaerde, 2011: 38) or defined as ‘a historical process of increased levels of interaction
between political units (subnational, national, or transnational), provided by actors sharing
common ideas, setting objectives and defining methods to achieve them, and by doing so
contributing to building a region’ (Dabène, 2009: 215). Van Langenhove, meanwhile,
conceptualizes regional integration as ‘the formation of supranational spaces of cooperation
between states’ (2012: 18). Later he differentiates between the three major types of action that
lead to regional integration: ‘removing economic obstacles towards integration; building
adequate institutions or regulations that favour the delivery of regional public goods; and,
presenting the integrated region as a unit with some level of sovereignty’ (2012: 21). This can
lead to three different major varieties of regional integration: ‘a single market; a provider of
services and policies; and, an international actor with a certain degree of actorness in global
affairs’ (Van Langenhove, 2012: 28).
In contrast to economic liberalization and trade agendas, which have dominated the
discussion about regional integration in the past, some authors have recently started to
introduce the concept of ‘positive integration’ (see, for example, Sanahuja 2012a). This they
do as a new sub-category of regional integration based on political consensus building, the
promotion of regional interdependencies and on an increase in cooperation on non-trade
issues (for example, energy, infrastructure, finance and regional security). The concept of
positive integration is strongly related to that of ‘regionalism’ (at least as used by some
authors),5 and is compatible with different regional projects covering different issue areas in
different regions.
The discussion and positions summarized above indicate a certain disaffection with the
narrow definition of regional integration posited by scholars thus far. However there are still
good arguments to be made in favour of a clear-cut differentiation between regional
integration and regional cooperation. One might accept the stringent definitions of regional
integration given by Malamud & Schmitter (2011) and Börzel (2013), as well as the strict
differentiation between regional cooperation and regional integration – because supranational
institutions produce a transnational polity (Schmitter & Kim 2008) and transform the logics
of politics in the corresponding regional space (in the direction of some form of multi-level
governance). As a consequence of that narrow definition of regional integration, though, the
analysis of regionalism outside of Europe would have to drop the concept and instead work
with that of regional cooperation.
Moreover, while accepting regional (intergovernmental) integration and regional
(supranational) cooperation as two opposite ends of a continuum of regionalism, one might
ask whether too much emphasis is being placed on only one end of the continuum (that is,
regional integration). This is especially pertinent given that there is only one flawless example

‘I will use “regionalism” in this article to mean a set of policies by one or more states designed to promote the
emergence of a cohesive regional unit, which dominates the pattern of relations between the states of that
region and the rest of the world, and which forms the organizing basis for policy within the region across a
range of issues’ (Hurrell, 1992: 123).
Regional Governance from a Comparative Perspective 5

of this category: the European Union. On the other hand, the terrain between these opposite
poles hitherto remains largely unexplored. Moreover, it seems that the terrain between
regional cooperation and regional integration is more populated than the regional integration
corral is.
Hence, one may ask whether there is now a need for a different concept (or concepts) to
replace those of regional integration and regional cooperation in the comparative analysis of
regionalism. Any such concept should capture the formation of supranational spaces of
cooperation, the actorness of a region with regard to parties situated outside of it, the pooling
of sovereignty without the necessity of building supranational institutions, the provision of
regional public goods and the existence of overlapping regional organizations and competing
regional projects. What, then, are the possible alternative concepts to regional integration and
regional cooperation that can be used to chart the field of regionalism and to classify different
forms of regional interaction? One option would be ‘regional architecture,’ a term that is
often used but seldom defined. More recently, regional architecture has been described as ‘a
reasonably coherent network of regional organizations, institutions, bilateral and multilateral
arrangements, dialogue forums and other relevant mechanisms that work collectively for
regional prosperity, peace and stability’ (Weixing Hu 2009: 14). One could also adapt the
concept of ‘global governance architecture’ – which has been defined as ‘the overarching
system of public and private institutions that are valid or active in a given issue area of world
politics’ (Biermann et al., 2009: 15) – to the regional level. While the first definition makes
no reference to rule setting and rule enforcing in a territorial (regional) space, the second
refers to governance architecture ‘as the meta-level of governance’ and is focused on a
particular issue area (Biermann et al., 2009: 15f.). If we accept that regions are social and
political constructs, and that regional organizations perform regulatory functions within the
corresponding region, then the regulations and political institutions that construct the
territorial space of a region should be at the core of any concept that distinguishes between
different varieties of regionalism.


This chapter argues that the concept of regional governance is the most adequate term for
capturing the variations in regionalism and in regional projects. This idea is not new;
‘regional governance’ is a term frequently used in textbooks (Herz, 2014), but it is often not
clearly defined or conceptualized. How is regional governance best defined then?
Schimmelfennig defines it as ‘a regional space of political order and regulation’ (2006: 154).
Söderbaum, meanwhile, draws on Rosenau (1997), and thus defines regional governance ‘as
spheres of authority at the regional level of human activity which amount to systems of rule –
formal and informal, public or private – in which goals are pursued through the exercise of
control’ (2004: 422). Powers & Goertz for their part refer to ‘the creation of institutional
governance in regional space’ (2011: 2397). Although Fawcett & Serrano (2005) do not
provide a clear-cut definition themselves, they do appear to adhere to a dynamic concept of
6 Detlef Nolte

regional governance6 that refers to a process of setting and creating rules that are then
enforced by the institutions existing within a given geographical space.7
Riggirozzi (2012) uses the concept of regional governance in the sense of models of
governance that manifest a different logic of the ideal structuring of a region with regard to
the institutionalization of norms and practices in support of a regional community. Jayasuriya
also makes reference to ‘regional governance projects’ (2004: 21–22). His encompassing
definition fixes the parameter that regional governance projects should be composed of four
core elements: (1) a stable set of international economic strategies; (2) a distinctive set of
governance structures that enable regional economic governance; (3) a set of normative or
ideational constructs that not only make possible a given set of regional governance structures
but also make possible the very definition of the region; and, (4) a convergence of domestic
coalitions and political economy structures that facilitate the coherent construction of regional
projects. In another article, and without the strong economic component of his earlier
definition, Jayasuriya defines regional governance more broadly as ‘the management of the
conflicts created through growing interdependencies within a specific – albeit ideologically-
constructed – geographical region through the creation of institutional forums, policy
instruments and networks of private and public actors (2009: 321).8 He further adds that
‘regional governance encompasses those institutions, instruments and mechanisms that
allocate power, influence material stakes and shape the ideological representation of the
region itself’ (2009: 321).
To summarize, regional governance refers to international institutions/organizations and
normative/ideational constructs – as well as to the processes that create these institutions and
norms in the first place.9 Regional governance is essentially, but not exclusively, based on
intergovernmental regional organizations. It is not restricted to a single organization, but
rather refers to the entire set of relevant regional organizations and their patterns of
interaction. One may define regional governance as the overall configuration of the
(intergovernmental) regional organizations that frame the regional discourse of member states
and generate the norms and rules for the region in different policy areas, thereby contributing
to the solution of collective problems and/or to the realization of common benefits. Thus
regional governance as well as regions are best analysed from the perspective of ‘institution
construction’ (Power & Goertz, 2011: 2403).
The concept of regional governance is broad and flexible enough that it can be used as a
way to adequately grasp the variable interaction patterns between regional organizations,
which can alternate between conflict and cooperation. This chapter will develop an analytical

‘The real game of governance lies in defining the rules before playing them’ (Serrano, 2005: 19). A dynamic
concept of regional governance makes sense also because a concept of the region based on regional
organizations is itself quite dynamic (Powers & Goertz, 2011: 2402).
Adler and Greve define governance as an ‘order-creating mechanism’, and security governance ‘as a system of
rule conceived by individual and corporate actors aiming at coordinating, managing and regulating their
collective existence in response to threats to their physical and ontological security. […] Mechanisms of
security governance are a more or less clearly delineated set of rules, norms, practices and institutions that
coordinate security relations between actors in the international system’ (2009: 64–65).
Komori (2009), in his concept of a ‘multi-layered’ form of regional governance, also includes non-state actors –
even though national governments remain the dominant actors.
This conceptualization of governance is congruent with Keohane & Nye’s own definition: ‘By governance, we
mean the processes and institutions, both formal and informal, that guide and restrain the collective activities
of a group’ (2000: 12).
Regional Governance from a Comparative Perspective 7

scheme and a taxonomy to differentiate between various types of regional governance. The
analytical approach taken draws some of its orientation and concepts from the literature on
regime complexes and institutional interplay (Alter & Meunier, 2009; Gehring & Faude,
2013; Gómez-Mera, 2015), as well as from the more recent work on the interactions of
international organizations (Biermann, 2008; Brosig 2010, 2011, 2014). While most of the
literature on institutional interplay (within regions or between international organizations) has
a positive bias, due to it looking for some kind of cooperation pattern or division of labour
and focusing on the relative autonomy of regimes and international organizations (with regard
to the participating states), this chapter also takes into account the interests of the states
behind these institutions – and thus possible conflicts of interest that exist between different
regional organizations and their member states.
Adler & Greve (2009) attribute the ‘temporal/evolutionary overlap’ of regional
organizations (in their case, regional security organizations) primarily to history and the
endurance of institutions created in the past. However there is also an alternative, or at least
complementary, explanation for this. Regional organizations either survive or are newly
created because they serve the conflicting interests of different state actors (Hurrell, 1998).
The ‘“balance of practice” within regions may be as important as the balance of (material)
power, or balance of interests’ (Adler & Greve, 2009: 82). From this perspective, regions,
which are socially and politically constructed, are areas open to contestation (Riggirozzi &
Tussie, 2012: 6). Alluding to the title of Alexander Wendt’s famous work, Riggirozzi and
Tussie write that the ‘region is what actors make of it’ (2012: 3). This chapter shares the view
of these authors that one should take seriously the statements, declarations and proposals of
actors involved in regional projects. Regional powers (see Nolte, 2010, 2011) and their
regional projects represent important drivers behind the creation of new regional
(intergovernmental) organizations. However, as the experience of Asia demonstrates, minor
powers can also initiate and create regional organizations as part of their strategy for hedging
and binding major regional powers (Goh, 2013; Acharya, 2014).
This chapter departs, though, from the assumption that ‘the state continues to play the
predominant role in most regional arrangements’ (Fawcett, 2004: 433), especially in contexts
with weak supranational regional institutions – as is the case in most regions lying outside of
Europe. So an analysis of regional governance has to take into account: regional hierarchies
with regard to status and power resources (major, secondary and minor powers); the values
and norms promoted by different state actors; these actors’ regional projects; and, the
relationship between both regional powers and minor powers and the corresponding regional
organizations (Nolte, 2011). The structure of regional governance may respond to strategies
of dominance or institutional binding, especially from the perspective of secondary powers
(Flemes & Wehner, 2015).
Moreover, regional organizations do not all have the same weight or importance vis-à-vis
regional governance. Young (1996), for example, developed the interesting idea to
differentiate between unidirectional or reciprocal overlaps, and between symmetrical and
asymmetrical ones too. The degree of centrality of a regional organization within a regional
governance complex is also of importance. Centrality refers ‘to the power, influence, and
prestige of an organization’ (Biermann, 2008: 170). From this perspective, regional
organizations are in a process of positioning themselves in relation to other organizations.
Central regional organizations are institutions that are highly valued and closely integrated by
most major players within a socially constructed region. As such, these are the pivotal
8 Detlef Nolte

organizations in regional governance, because they overlap in membership with many other
(minor) regional ones and because they generally have a mandate that covers several
important policy areas. These central organizations are usually multi-functional or multi-
purpose ones. This quality is of special importance, because it means that these central bodies
have the capability to build bridges between different regional organizations.
It is possible to differentiate between centrifugal and centripetal elements, between forces
of integration and forces of disintegration, and between bridging and dividing factors in
regional governance. What are centrifugal forces, though? The creation of new regional
organizations and their proliferation are centrifugal elements; they increase the risk of
fragmentation and competition over membership and mandates. Organizations with
overlapping mandates but without overlapping membership (direct or indirect, via associated
membership) carry with them a higher risk of conflict. There is also a higher risk of conflict
when major powers support different organizations.10 Additionally, there is a higher risk
factor when the member states of different regional organizations adhere to divergent core
values. In the case that regional organizations have the capacity to exercise a genuine and
autonomous authority in the making of international law, conflict over core values may lead
to a normative fragmentation of the regional legal order (Prost & Clark 2006).
And, what are the bridging elements? Cross-cutting membership is a centripetal element.
It might help to avoid open conflict between organizations as a result of them sharing the
same membership base. In this way, norms can be diffused from one organization to another
and then emulated. The categories of ‘associated member’ or ‘observer status’ might be of
importance in this regard, because non-members or organizations that are not full members
are nevertheless still connected to a given organization – and thus exposed to its norms. The
chances for cooperation are higher in those cases where one central organization that includes
all – or nearly all – states (especially the major ones) in a region exists. Central organizations
can help to build bridges when different institutions are in conflict; they can either constitute
a forum of interaction or mediate for otherwise unconnected states/organizations.
To create a typology of regional governance, this chapter adapts an interesting research
approach originally developed for the analysis of global climate governance (Biermann et al.,
2009). Given the fragmentation within this type of governance, the authors created an
analytical scheme to capture the possible effects of that fissuring. They employed three
criteria (or analytical dimensions) to differentiate between degrees of fragmentation, which
can be adapted for the analysis of regional governance complexes too: (1) institutional
integration and the degree of overlap between decision-making systems (in our case, regional
organizations); (2) the existence and degree of norm conflict (in our case, between regional
organizations); and, (3) the types of actor constellation, which in the case of regional
governance refers particularly to the interests and regional projects of national governments
(and especially of major regional powers). Just as Biermann et al. (2009) differentiate
between three different kinds of fragmentation (synergistic, cooperative and conflictive), this
One should also take a closer look at the type of organizations involved in overlapping. Different kinds of
organizational nature may lead to different patterns of conflict and/or cooperation. Various authors
differentiate between programmatic and operational organizations (Rittberger & Zangl, 2006; Prost & Clark,
2006), and place international/regional organizations with these respective functions on the two opposite poles
of a continuum. Between purely operational organizations, conflicts may arise over the implementation of
norms. Programmatic organizations may also disagree over the content of norms (for example with regard to
democracy clauses), and in the case of regional organizations over comprehensive regional projects.
Regional Governance from a Comparative Perspective 9

chapter adapts these categories to distinguish between the different patterns of interaction
occurring between regional organizations and state actors within a region. This is done in
order to classify different types of regional governance – synergistic, cooperative, conflictive
and segmented. The chapter adds in the last category as there might be fragmentation without
cooperation, or there might alternatively be conflict that ultimately results in the creation of a
new (sub-)region or regions. Regional governance is not static, as it can oscillate between
these different sub-types. There might be also variations within the sub-types, as for example
with cooperative regional governance – with elements of conflict – or with conflictive
regional governance co-existing with elements of cooperation.

Table 1. Types of Regional Governance

Synergistic Cooperative Conflictive Segmented

Institutional Central regional Central regional Central Different,
integration organization organization and regional largely
and other other regional organization unrelated,
regional organizations and other regional
organizations are loosely regional organizations
are closely integrated.
are in part
integrated, in
part in
and mandates.
Norm conflicts Core norms of Core norms are Core norms are Core norms
regional not in in may or may not
organizations conflict. conflict. be in conflict.
are integrated.
Actor (state) All relevant Not all major Major actors Major actors
constellations actors actors support support support
(governments) the same different different
support the same regional regional regional
organizations, organizations, organizations organizations
including the but they do
and promote and promote
central regional cooperate with
organization and and support the different different
the regional central regional regional regional
project related to organization and projects. projects.
this the regional
organization. project related to
Some minor this
actors might still organization.
be outside of the
organization but
cooperate closely
with it.
Source: Adapted
Adapted fromfrom Biermann
Biermann et
al. (2009), and further
and further developed
developed by thebyauthors
the author of chapter.
of this this
10 Detlef Nolte

In the case of synergistic regional governance, a central regional organization and other
regional ones are closely integrated with each other. There is a consensus with regard to the
core norms maintained by the central organization, which are not contested by other regional
organizations. All relevant actors (governments) support the same organizations, including
the central regional organization and the regional project related to this organization. Some
minor state actors might still be outside of the central organization, but nevertheless cooperate
closely with it.
Cooperative regional governance is defined as a regional architecture that includes a
central regional organization that is at least loosely connected with other regional ones. The
core norms supported by the central institution are not contested. It is not necessary that all
major actors support the same regional organizations, but only that they cooperate with and
support the central regional organization and the regional project related to it. Thus
overlapping membership (including associated members) – as an element of norm diffusion
and consensus building – is combined with a tendency to divide tasks between existing
organizations. Cooperative regional governance is compatible with – or characterized by – a
‘variable geometry’ and ‘institutional elasticity’ (concepts taken from Hofmann & Mérand,
2012) with regard to the membership and mandates of the different regional organizations.
Conflictive regional governance is characterized by a constellation wherein the central
regional organization(s) (the status of the central organization can be challenged) and other
regional organizations are loosely integrated with each other. In part they compete with
regard to membership and mandates. The core norms represented by these central
organizations are contested, and there might exist also norm conflicts between other regional
ones – which is related to the fact that that the major state actors involved support different
regional organizations and promote different regional projects.
In the case of segmented regional governance, the major state actors support different
regional organizations and promote different regional projects within a (macro) region.
Consequently, a variety of – largely unrelated – regional organizations simultaneously co-
exist. Their core norms may or may not be in conflict. As a result, in extreme circumstances a
region might become divided into several clearly demarcated sub-regions or a new region
might even emerge as the outcome of a splitting off.
Based on this approach the EU represents synergetic regional governance, South America
features cooperative regional governance, Latin America upholds cooperative regional
governance with a tendency to segmentation while the Americas constitute a form of
conflictive regional governance marked by elements of both cooperation and segmentation.
Based on a cursory overview of the literature, in Africa and Asia meanwhile a cooperative
type of regional governance seems to predominate. However, this initial perception still has to
be corroborated by a more thorough comparative analysis of different world regions. The
prevalence of a cooperative type of regional governance might explain why the organizational
entanglement in different world regions that is depicted by the metaphor of the spaghetti bowl
has apparently not created major problems for regional governance.
Regional Governance from a Comparative Perspective 11

Given that regions have become increasingly more important in international politics, it is
crucial to understand how regions are politically organized and governed. The chapter
adopted an institutional social constructivist approach wherein regions are taken to be the
political constructs of states. States create regional organizations, and by these means build
and consolidate a region. Due to the proliferation and overlapping of regional organizations, it
was argued that it makes no sense to look at regional organizations in isolation from each
other. The whole architecture of a region – that is, the combination and interaction of
different regional organizations – is more important than its atomized constituent parts are
(that is, individual regional organizations).
The discussion about the prevailing concepts used for the analysis of the institutional
architecture of regions revealed certain shortfalls, specifically with regard to a narrow
definition of regional integration (as differentiated from regional cooperation). While there
are good arguments to be made in favour of crafting a clear-cut distinction between regional
integration and regional cooperation, this chapter argues that in any case the concept of
regional governance is ultimately a more adequate term by which to capture the variations in
regionalism and in regional projects. Regional governance has been defined as the overall
configuration of the (intergovernmental) regional organizations that frame the regional
discourse of the member states and generate the norms and rules for the region in different
policy areas, thereby contributing to the solution of collective problems and/or to the
realization of common benefits.
The chapter demonstrated that regional governance is a valid concept for analysing and
comparing the institutional architecture of regions. It is broad and flexible enough that it can
be used to grasp the variable interaction patterns between regional organizations and state
actors within a given region. Based on three analytical dimensions that refer to forces of
integration and forces of disintegration, to bridging and dividing factors, the chapter
elaborated a taxonomy by which to differentiate between four sub-types of regional
governance: synergistic, cooperative, conflictive and segmented. The concept of regional
governance and the different sub-types thereof might usefully be further elaborated upon in
future, and also applied to the comparative study of regionalism. Based on the taxonomy
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