Supranational regionalism has been one of the most crucial governance innovations of recent times. As more challenges transcend borders, we need new and better systems to deal with them via regional cooperation. Energy, common resources, environmental degradation, diseases and migration are just some examples of critical phenomena that do not respect national borders: a state-centred governance model is therefore ill suited to respond to these dynamics effectively. At the same time, regionalism itself is developing into a complex reality, with different models and levels of application. It has been traditionally analyzed through a top-down lens, generally emphasizing the role of governmental elites, political parties and – to a lesser extent – business associations and epistemic communities. By contrast, civil society has received limited attention by scholars of regionalism in spite of the critical role it can play in strengthening the legitimacy of regional governance. In the past few years, NGOs, social movements, advocacy groups, trade unions and civic associations have been able to exert a growing influence on decision-making at the regional level. This role has been amplified not only by the introduction of specific policy channels and tools (e.g. the non-state actors programme at the EU level, the African Peer Review Mechanism at the AU level, etc.) but also by the desire of citizens to make their voices heard in an arena traditionally dominated by technocrats and lobbyists. This research area includes our work in the field of regional governance, comparative regionalism, human migration, trade, EU-Africa relations, South-South cooperation and North-South relations.
30 years of ZOPACAS: Formation, Limits and Potential