2013 – Building Regions from Below: Regional Integration and Civil Society from Europe to the Rest of the World (RICS)
Regionalism 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. The RICS project aims to bring together well-known scholars, civic activists and practitioners to discuss how civil society has contributed and can contribute to shaping regionalism in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. Through a major international seminar led by members of the Research Unit for Euro-African Studies, the EU Studies Association of Southern Africa and the UNESCO Chair on Regional Integration (all based at the University of Pretoria), RICS will investigate the role of civil society in ‘building regions from below’ by providing a series of comparative studies. Particular emphasis will be placed on civic-driven responses to the current Euro-crisis and lessons that other regions can learn from these recent events.
Funding: EU Jean Monnet Programme.