“Regionalism” is a polysemic term that represents both a subfield of international relations (IR) that studies regions of the world and a process of formation of regions themselves. Its meaning and content have evolved substantially from its inception in the 1940s to its most recent contributions in the early 21st century. More precisely, the field of regionalism was severely marked by neofunctionalism theory and an economic reading of international relations in the years of the Cold War and then embraced new contributions from post-positivist and critical theories and methodologies from the 1990s onward, which featured not only different manifestations and causes but also different normative meanings. Regionalism has progressively moved away from Europe over the years (both as a site of production of research and as an empirical case study) to explore non-European and, more widely, non-Western and postcolonial domains, challenging Eurocentric theoretical and epistemological assumptions in IR. In addition, the two subfields of comparative regionalism and interregionalism have become prominent. The field of regionalism is more dynamic than ever, developing, self-innovating, and becoming more conceptually aware, while at the same time being susceptible to weaknesses, blind spots, and potential for further improvement and deeper dialogue with IR theory.
Filippo Costa Buranelli and Aliya Tskhay
Research on regional organizations in Southeast Asia began to form during the Second World War. Although not always explicit, realist assumptions informed most of this early scholarship. From the organization’s foundation in 1967 until the end of the Cold War, research focused almost exclusively on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In the 1990s, new regional initiatives led to a broadened empirical scope and encouraged the adoption of new perspectives from broader debates in International Relations theory, such as liberalism and constructivism. However, this increasing pluralism was still highly Western-centric in terms of its theoretical underpinnings. Since the 2000s, there has been a conscious effort, driven by scholars from inside and outside the region, to draw on critical and indigenous traditions of political thought in accounting for the distinctive features of regionalism in Southeast Asia. Despite the diversity of research questions and approaches, researchers keep returning to three central, long-standing themes: ASEAN’s institutional features, its effects and relevance, and its relation to the broader regional and global context. By exploring these issues, scholars of regional organizations in Southeast Asia have not just passively adopted insights from broader International Relations research but also driven conceptual and theoretical innovation, most notably regarding the development of non-Western approaches in International Relations.
Federalism refers to the compound mode of government, combining a general government (the central or “federal” government) with regional governments (provincial, state, cantonal, territorial, or other sub-unit governments) in a single political system. Its distinctive feature is a relationship of parity between the two levels of government established, as exemplified in the founding of modern federalism of the United States of America under the 1787 Constitution. Federalism differs from confederalism, in which the general level of government is subordinate to the regional level, and from devolution within a unitary state, in which the regional level of government is subordinate to the general level. Instead, federalism represents the central form of the pathway of regional integration or separation. Leading examples of the federation or federal state include the Russian Federation, the United States, USSR, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, and India. Some also characterize the European Union as the pioneering example of federalism in a multi-state setting—a concept termed the federal union of states. Traditionally, federalism was defined as a simple league or inter-governmental relationship among sovereign states based upon a treaty. Whereas modern federalism is a system based upon democratic rules and institutions in which the power to govern is shared between national and provincial/state governments.
Latin America is often hailed as “the most peaceful region in the world.” In both academic and policy circles, this view has taken root under the common perception of the region as a “zone of peace” where war and interstate armed conflict have largely disappeared and are now unthinkable. The region, however, continues to showcase high levels of intra-state violence despite the absence of war among states. In the IR academic debate of the long peace in Latin America, as well, several areas of discord and intense disagreement among the multiple works continue to challenge any encompassing explanations for this rather paradoxical regional phenomenon. In this context, for those interested in conducting further research in this area, there still is plenty of space for making meaningful contributions to both the theoretical study of regional peace dynamics as well as the unravelling of Latin America’s paradoxical coexistence of intra-state violence amid enduring inter-state peace.
Yannis A. Stivachtis
To understand the global and regional dimensions of the contemporary international society, one must become familiar with the English School literature related to the historical expansion of the European society of states and its gradual transformation to the global international society of today. There is a distinction between an international system and an international society. English School scholars have accepted that this distinction is valid, but the boundary line between the two concepts is problematic. According to the English School literature, before and during the establishment of the European society of states, the world was divided into many regional international systems/societies—each with its own distinctive rules and institutions reflecting the dominant regional culture. The global international society of the early twentieth century was the result of the expansion of the European international society, which gradually brought other regional international systems/societies into contact with one another. However, World War I led to the destruction of the European society of states. Moreover, the emergence of a bipolar world in conjunction with the imperial Soviet policies during the Cold War led to the division of the global international system into two separate international societies. Nevertheless, with the end of the Cold War, a united global international society emerged. Within the confines of the global gesellschaft international society, one can find several gemeinschaft types of regional international societies—some of which are more developed than others.
The essay discusses the origins and development of the idea of international society in the discipline of International Relations (IR). It locates the concept in the English School tradition, providing a summary of the classic statements as found in the writings of Wight, Bull and Manning. It engages with more recent writing, including Buzan’s reconceptualization of international society and explaining the pluralist-solidarist distinction. The essay traces key debates surrounding the concept, such as the expansion of international society, humanitarian intervention and the standard of civilisation. The final part presents the main criticisms of the concept and explores the ontological status of international society.
On the African continent, a commitment to Pan-African unity and multilateral organization exists next to a postcolonial society whose 54 Westphalian states interpret the commitment to unity and integration to different degrees. The tension between a long-term Pan-African vision for a unified continent that prospers and is economically self-empowered, and the national concerns of governing state-centered elites with immediate domestic security and political and economic interests, lies at the heart of the politics surrounding African integration and affects both the continent and its regions. The politics of integration demand that a patchwork of regionalisms be consolidated; states give up on multiple memberships; and designated regional economic communities (RECs) take the lead on integration or subordinate themselves to the strategy and complement the institutions of the African Union (AU). In the interest of widening the social base of regional organization, politics needs to recognize and give status to informal regional actors engaged in bottom-up regionalism. Of issue in the politics of integration and regionalism are themes of norm adaptation, norm implementation, intergovernmentalism and supra-nationality, democracy, and authoritarianism.
Valeria Marina Valle, Caroline Irene Deschak, and Vanessa Sandoval-Romero
International migration flows have long been a defining feature of the Americas and have evolved alongside political and phenomenological shifts between 2009 and 2018, creating new patterns in how, when, and why people move. Migration is a determinant of health, and for the nations involved, regional changes create new challenges to defend the universal right to health for migrants. This right is repeatedly guaranteed within the global agenda, such as in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations; the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights; and the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 3 regarding health and well-being, and SDG 10, which aims to reduce inequalities within and among countries. The 2018 Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration confirms a worldwide partnership highlighting protection of migrants’ right to health and services. The literature reviewed on migration and health in the Americas between 2009 and 2018 identifies two distinct publication periods with different characteristics in the Central and North American subregions: 2009 to 2014, and 2015 to 2018. The first period is characterized by an influx of young adult migrants from Central America to the United States who generally traveled alone. During the second period, the migration flow includes other major groups, such as unaccompanied minors, pregnant women, disabled people, people from the LGBTIQ+ community, and whole families; some Central Americans drew international attention for migrating in large groups known as “caravans.” In South America, the 2010–2015 period shows three defining tendencies: intensification of intra-regional cross-border migration (with an 11% increase in South American migrants from 2010 to 2015 and approximately 70% of intra-subregional migration), diversification of countries of origin and extra-regional destination, and the persistence of extra-continental emigration. Social determinants of health have a foundational relevance to health and well-being for migrants, such as age, housing, health access, education, and policy environment. Guiding theories on migration and health include Push-and-Pull Theory, Globalization Theory, Transnationalism, Relational Cultural Theory, and Theory of Assimilation. Migration and health was analyzed through the lens of five disciplines (Management, Social Work, Communication, Education, Information Science & Library Science, Law): clinical medicine, social sciences, health (general), professional fields, and psychology. There is an overrepresentation of literature in clinical medicine, demonstrating a strong bias towards production in the United States. Another gap perceived in the literature is the minimal knowledge production in South America and the Caribbean, and a clear bias towards publication in the North American continent. At the regional level, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)’s agenda serves to highlight areas of success and opportunities for future research, particularly in two areas: strengthening partnerships, networks, and multi-country frameworks; and adopting policies, programs, and legal frameworks to promote and protect the health of migrants. As these strategic lines of action aim to provide the basis for decisions regarding migrant health in the region, they should be considered two important avenues for further academic exploration.