GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Regional organization in the Gulf – clones or innovators?
Paper Proposal Text :
The past decades have seen regional cooperation emerge as a powerful tool for states to coordinate policies with their neighbors and shape their socio-economic environment. Such regionalism has accelerated both in quantity and quality: today there are more than 70 regional organizations (ROs) worldwide, and the integration between their members has never been deeper. Rather than be an exception to this trend, the Gulf rather was a pioneer of regional integration with its participation in the creation of the League of Arab States (AL) in 1945. Since then, the Gulf states have fostered their micro-regional cooperation mostly in the form of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which has successfully created a customs union and an intergovernmental military force, begun work establishing a common market, and is planning a monetary union. With leaders’ statements even supporting the idea of a “Gulf Union”, the endpoint of this regional cooperation does not seem to be in sight. Despite the history and ambition of Gulf cooperation, it remains an understudied area.
The paper will look at the AL and GCC as regional venues for cooperation, but focus exclusively on the international level. Its purpose is threefold: firstly, show how these two RO’s agendas and governance have changed over time, and how the distance between their approaches has increased or decreased; secondly, examine how they have reacted to, and interacted with, other ROs; thirdly, and most importantly, analyze how the cooperation models and policies championed by both AL and GCC compare to those of other ROs. The overarching question is whether there is a “Gulf style” of regional cooperation – has the Gulf produced some unique institutional designs, or does it follow the pathways established by other, more advanced ROs such as the European Union? And can this indicate whether regional cooperation in the Gulf will remain at the status quo, head towards a more fully realized union, or even collapse under the weight of member states’ expectations?
Taking into account the Gulf’s rich and unique socio-political traditions, the paper argues that the similarities between Gulf regional cooperation and cooperation elsewhere can best be understood by diffusion. Diffusion is a situation of interdependent, uncoordinated decision-making that is characterized by the voluntary adoption of specific institutions and policies. The concept rejects the notion that actors take their decisions in isolation and hence independently – instead, they observe each other and react to decisions made by their peers. Whether or not this interdependence arises is contingent on the level of interaction occurring between ROs. Diffusion can occur through several mechanisms such as social learning, legitimacy-driven mimicry, or soft coercion. The paper argues that these mechanisms can account for institutional similarities between the Gulf and elsewhere, and that identifying which ROs have predominantly served as the inspiration for the institutional design of Gulf regional organization allows us to predict which form this cooperation will take in the future.