Table Topics “International and Regional Organisations”

At their table, Léonie Maes (UNU CRIS) and Jorge Garzón (GIGA Hamburg) will talk about International and Regional Organizations and their role during the Cold War.

“There is no reason why a regional organisation of Europe should in any way conflict with the world organisation of the United Nations. On the contrary, I believe that the larger synthesis will only survive if it is founded upon coherent natural groupings.”

(Winston Churchill, Zurich, September 19th, 1946)


Léonie Maes (photo: private)

Following the end of the Second World War, two major governance innovations occurred that have since then shaped the world order, states Léonie Maes. At the global level, a set of new institutions for political and economic governance was established: the United Nations (UN) and the Bretton Wood institutions. At the European level, the dream of a united Europe became institutionalised with the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, the forerunner of the European Union (EU). Although the UN and the EU are today two independent realms of multilateral governance, the visions behind the creation of an organisation of “United Nations” and of a “United Europe” were influenced by the same historical events and equally rooted in a desire for solid and sustainable peace. While the bipolar Cold War context was not conducive to a symbiosis between both endeavours, the end of the Cold War has opened a new area of international cooperation. Over the years, the governance landscape has made room for new actors that have emerged with the aim of promoting specific purposes and goals. Among those, regional organisations have attracted special attention given their potential to contribute to more efficient global governance. This table discusses how both global and regional governance can be reconciled and reinforced.

For world regionalism – the political and economic organization of regions – the Cold War was ambiguous, Jorge Garzón says. On the one hand, regionalism was subordinated to the strategic imperatives of the superpowers. A wave of “security regionalism” took early the form of selective security pacts in almost every continent such as the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization (NATO), the Warsaw Pact, the Rio Pact, and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). All of these groupings had a regional basis but were patronized by an extra-regional superpower. In this sense, this regionalism was externally induced and an example of what has been called “hegemonic regionalism”. On the other hand however, during the Cold War, regionalism began for the first time to be actively used by developing countries of the Global South as a device to prevent superpower military intervention and reduce their economic dependency on the north. To this first generation of southern regionalism belonged new security organizations such as ASEAN and ECOWAS, which were primarily designed to generate a security consensus among members in order to diminish superpower meddling, as well as economic regional organizations such as  the Latin American Free Trade Asociation (ALALC) and the Andean Pact, which were brandished by Latin American countries in an attempt to break the logic of what dependency theorists identified as a continuous deterioration of the terms trade. Today regionalism does not reflect the economic and security asymmetries of the Cold War anymore but is still heavily influenced by the legacy of these Cold War experiences.

Max Weber Stiftung

The Max Weber Foundation promotes global research, focused on the areas of social sciences, cultural studies and the humanities. Our research is conducted at ten institutes in various countries across the globe with different and independent fields of focus. Through our globally operating institutes, we are able to contribute to the communication and networking between Germany and our host countries or regions. By promoting academic dialogue and merging academic and non-academic employees from several countries with different cultural backgrounds, the Max Weber Foundation is able to strengthen the internationalization of research.

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