Features of developmental regionalism

The key features of developmental regionalism are discussed in this section. These broadly include the seven following elements, which are elaborated upon in subsequent sections:

  • 1 A strong institutional architecture and capacity to drive the regional integration agenda;
  • 2 A clear articulation of goals, objectives, essence, nature and direction of the regional integration project, and the benefits of regional integration as mechanism for facilitating regional development;
  • 3 Ensuring peace and security as a composite and foundation of a regional integration agenda;
  • 4 Evolving complementary and symmetrical benefits for all member states involved in the regional development project;
  • 5 Articulation of regional public goods and development priorities necessary for facilitating economic transformation in the region including on infrastructure, trade, agriculture and food security, private sector development and industrialisation;
  • 6 Evolving a bond of common regional citizenship and identity' necessary' for regional human capital mobilisation; and

7 A regional development financing mechanism that is inward looking and self-sustaining.

Strong institutional architecture and capacity

A strong institutional architecture and capacity is central to facilitating developmental regionalism without which regional development plans, policies, andpriorities cannot be effectively implemented. Institutional architecture requiresan audit of the kind of structures and processes needed and the human andmaterial capital required to drive the regional development agenda. This mayinclude building a strong, effective and resilient bureaucracy to be recruitedbased on merit and results, taking cognizance of the issues of diversity' andrepresentation. The institutional architecture of regionalism may go beyondthe formal interstate structures to include the non-state institutions like thebusiness networks, civil society and different interest and coalition groups thatmay relate and interface with the regional body in advancing the development prospects of the region. The notion of “regionalism from below” is underscored by the capacity of regional institutions to tap into and make use of the vast array of regional resources, networks and capacity that may constitute part of the architecture of regional development.

Oftentimes, the strategic goal defined and the nature of the regional institution established (whether of interstate cooperation or supranational nature), which determines the kind of institutional architecture that is put in place. For mere interstate cooperation regional bodies, a more flexible institutional architecture may be considered, but for supranational institutions with the mandate to facilitate the building of a regional community and drivers of regional development, a more institutionalised architecture—both at a technical and political level—may be required. The former may demand a professional bureaucracy of a centralised organ or of decentralised agencies, but with the necessary relative autonomy, capacity and resources to undertake regional strategic planning, implementation of key projects and priorities and catalyse the process of regional development.

Articulation of goals and objectives of regional integration for development

Regional integration involves trade-offs between economic sectors, groups of citizens and short- and long-term benefits. The reasons for pursuing regional integration need to be clearly spelt out, given that regionalism may not necessarily be developmentalist and can be co-opted by interest groups for private ends or thwarted if not well defined. A fundamental principle of developmental regionalism is that the process should be oriented for the development of human and economic capacities for the widest possible societal benefits.

Therefore, the rationale for pursuing such an agenda should be made clear. The objectives, goals and priorities have to be clearly articulated. The strategic direction of the regional project must be well defined in the short, medium and long term, and a monitoring and evaluation system put in place to ensure the tracking of progress, challenges and prospects of future efforts.

The net benefits of regional integration are based on long-term improvements in welfare, however, there are short-term costs, making it politically difficult for governments to justify such policies. Acknowledging that reducing barriers to trade or taking a regional approach to supply chains could entail losses for certain domestic constituencies, governments may need to plan accordingly in addressing the concerns of those constituencies or supporting their efforts in other ways and also for the regional institution to have policy initiatives and interventions that will target those constituencies in mitigating their losses. A key component of this is conducting preliminary analyses that assess how developmental policies will impact various segments of society and the economy to determine natural partners and champions as well as to mitigate some of the negative impacts greater regional integration can have through compensatory policies.

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