Skip to main content

Alternative Regionalisms in an Age of Globalization. The Role of Civil Society

Final Report Summary - ALTERNATIVE REGIONS (Alternative regionalisms in an age of globalization. the role of civil society)

This project's main goal was that of identifying which are some of the proposals put forward by civil society actors as alternatives to economic liberalisation emphasis on contemporary regionalism and how some of these are democratically practiced. In so doing, the project examined concrete proposals developed by indigenous social movements and anti-capitalist networks in Latin America opposing three official mechanisms of regional governance that involve Northern and Southern counterparts: the European Union New Strategic Partnership for Latin America and the Caribbean (EU-LAC), the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP
AFTA plus).

One of the most important findings is that some of the alternatives to neo-liberal/open regionalism policies that are been promoted include: the community's stewardship of natural resources as opposed to privatisation of natural resources (especially water, land and seeds), a non-reciprocal treatment status between unequal partners in bi-lateral and multilateral negotiations as opposed to national treatment, and performance requirements and controls on short-term capital inflows as opposed to agreements for the protection of investments.

However, these proposals are far from be a 'set of principles' or 'a homogenously agreed agenda' on counter/alternative regionalisms. Research has shown that these proposals are informed by:
a) a mixture of criticisms to neo-liberal reforms, different degrees of rejection to capitalism and to any form of centralised authority; and
b) the emergence of a principle of cognitive justice, mainly understood as the political visibility of views and aspirations on development and regionalism that otherwise remained ignored, such as those advanced by indigenous groups on the rights of 'mother Earth'.

Planned objectives and outcomes

This project had the following two interrelated main objectives, to identify:
a) the specific proposals put forward by civil society actors as alternatives to overcome socio-economic deficits embedded in contemporary regionalisms; and
b) the practices of governance that are been proposed for the democratic implementation of these alternatives.

Overall, these two objectives were accomplished as well as four of the five originally planned deliverables (a 80 000 words single-authored book; two journal articles; a proposal for an edited collection on alternative regionalisms). A four-pages policy briefing on the conclusions of a workshop on alternative regionalisms will be produced once the funding for the workshop is secured. At the moment of writing, funds for this workshop are sought from OXFAM-NOVIB in the Netherlands and the Center for Globalization and Development at Goteborg Universitet in Sweden.

Nonetheless, it is important to consider that the number of publications and activities performed exceeds by far the original planned ones, thanks to the research synergies created with ongoing research programs dealing with closely related issues. In the following paragraphs, it is briefly explained:
(i) the objectives,
(ii) results,
(iii) the work performed, and
(iv) the impacts achieved by this research.

i) Objectives

1. Indentifying the specific proposals put forward by civil society actors on alternative regionalisms
This first objective was about developing a systematic mapping of key proposals put forward by civil society groups in Latin America as 'alternatives' to mainstream agendas on regionalism promoted by official sub-regional, regional and multilateral institutions. Three key proposals were identified, the community's stewardship of natural resources, a non-reciprocal treatment status between unequal partners in bi-lateral and multilateral negotiations, and performance requirements and controls on short-term capital inflows, being the first and the third the most contentious ones under conditions of financial and energy crises and the second one, conceptualised as a factor contributing to such contentiousness. The relevance of this work is that it takes into account the conditions of non-consolidated and deficient national democratic systems in which these proposals have been put forward.

The work performed for the accomplishment of this objective included:
- A thoughtfully review of my PhD dissertation and previous publications to develop a 80 000 words book manuscript to be published by Routledge in December 2010 (see http://www.routledge.com/books/networked-Activisms-and-Regionalism-isbn9780415575157 online).
- Researching and writing a chapter on these contested issues from a feminist perspective on democracy and development and taking as case study the women moment in Latin America.

2. Identifying the practices of governance that are been enacted for the democratic implementation of these alternatives
The second objective aimed to identify key mechanisms and practices of governance that have been implemented or push forward by civil society groups to address in a democratic way their proposals on alternative regionalisms. This objective was carried out in three steps:
- First, a literary review on regionalism and development theories was conducted and transformed into publications.
- Second, this literary review served as a framework to develop an institutional level analysis of the official mechanisms created in the EU, FTAA and SPP to 'bring in' civil society into policy decision-making which also had publishable outcomes.
- Third, it was conducted a critical analysis of concrete practices and mechanisms for the implementation and/or promotion of civil society alternatives to trade/services liberalisation in regionalism in which greater levels of subsidiarity in decision-making have (or have not) been successfully promoted. The outcome of this analysis were four different publications.

The work performed for the accomplishment of this objective included:
-Researching and writing a chapter on Latin American regionalism and development for the Globalization and Security: an Encyclopaedia (New York: Praeger Press)
- Researching and writing a paper on international political economy debates on regionalism and civil society for the Journal Pensamiento Propio,
- Researching and writing three different papers on the EU, FTAA and SPP' democratic deficits,
- Researching and writing four different papers on 'bottom-up' mechanisms of civil society engagement in regionalism.

iii) Furthermore, these two objectives were accomplished through the following activities:
- Fieldwork activities were conducted including semi-structured interviews and participant observation in diverse events, workshops and social summits organised by civil society networks in La Habana, San Jose de Costa Rica, San Cristobal de las Casas and Mexico City; Ciudad de Guatemala and Santiago Atitlan-, Managua, San Salvador, and Puerto Espana. A workshop with activists from diverse Latin American countries was coorganised with the Institute of Development Studies in La Habana-Cuba.
- Research synergies were promoted with academics and practitioners involved in the HIVOS-ISS Knowledge Program based at ISS, the Building Global Democracy Program (BDG) based at Warwick University, the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and the University of East Anglia, both in the UK; Flacso-Argentina, and UNU-CRIS in Belgium.
- Dissemination of research findings in seminars, conferences and workshops was actively done in the following events/venues: the Annual Conference of the Centre for the Study of Globalization and Regionalization (CSGR) at the University of Warwick in the UK; Upsala University in Sweden; UNU-CRIS, Bruges-Belgium; The International Forum of Montreal (FIM); the International Studies Association; The University of West Indies-Trinidad; The International Congress of Americanists; The CEDLA in Amsterdam University, and some others.

iv) Impacts
This research contributes to an emergent IR/IPE agenda on critical governance studies, which seeks to understand mainstream narratives and orthodoxies on global governance, especially its underlying Washington and post-Washington consensus and good governance principles. A vast audience of academics and practitioners across Latin America was reached through the activities that were conducted, and in some cases the publications produced have been widely distributed among civil society practitioners thanks to research synergies established with the Transnational Institute at Amsterdam (see http://www.alternative-regionalisms.org/?p=943 online).