The following is a guest post by my colleague Miles Kahler, senior fellow for global governance at the Council on Foreign Relations and distinguished professor at American University’s School of International Service.
Regional institutions and initiatives have proliferated in the twenty-first century. This latest wave of regional innovation raises, in new guise, a long-standing conundrum for global order and U.S. foreign policy: When is regional organization a useful, even essential, complement to the ends of global governance—financial stability, an open trading system, sustainable development, robust protection of human rights, or the end of civil wars—and when does it threaten or undermine the achievement of those goals? The new regionalism presents the prospect for new benefits for global order as well as new risks. How those challenges and risks are addressed, by the United States and by other member states, will determine whether a fragmented global order or more effective global and regional governance emerge over the next decade.
In a new discussion paper series published by the Council on Foreign Relations, I join five authors in examining these dilemmas across five issue areas: finance, trade, development lending, human rights, and peace operations. In each issue area, regional actors and institutions have emerged that reopen and recast earlier debates about regionalism and its effects on global order. In four of the five issue areas, a single, established global institution contends with new regional alternatives: the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Bank, and the United Nations. In the domain of human rights, the newly redesigned UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) does not enjoy a similar, central position; global human rights conventions set the normative frame for regional human rights commissions and courts. The new regionalism is led in some cases by China and other rising powers; in other cases, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the United States has promoted its own regional options. Each author suggests ways in which the new regionalism can be harnessed to serve global purposes and the contribution that U.S. policy can make to those ends.
Read the full discussion paper series here.