INTRODUCTORY OVERVIEW OF CURRENT REGIONAL INTEGRATION PROGRAMS AND PERSPECTIVES
IN MERCOSUR AND SADC
This research exercise is important in order to 'set the scene' on the current 'state of play' in these two regions and in order to establish a broad framework within which the participants in this project can start out; that is, with
• pictures of their respective regions according to a common methodology and similar criteria, as a basis for their exchanges, comparative assessments and further cooperative engagements;
• overviews within which civil society organisations can begin to assess what is already happening in terms of cross-border plans and actual practical programs in their respective regions;
• bases from which they can begin to critique what is already underway or emerging in their regions, and discuss and conceptualise, create and promote alternatives;
• and a common basis from which they can develop cross-border exchanges, investigations and actions within their regions and with their counterparts in similar regions.
These introductory general regional surveys are essential because - however creative peoples movements are in developing their own alternatives 'on the ground' and in their own local or national practice - such initiatives do not take place in a vacuum. They are created in the context of existing and emerging governmental programs within their countries and, increasingly, in the context of inter-governmental plans and projects within their regions.
While peoples organisations are becoming better informed on municipal, provincial/state and national/federal government policies and performance, they are generally insufficiently informed on what their governments are planning and carrying out - even in localised cross-border governmental projects in many sectors - whereas these, too, can have immediate and long-term effects upon popular needs, aims and struggles at many levels.
At the same time, popular organisations and 'the general public' in these countries are equally uninformed about the regional operations of business organisations in many sectors in these regions. These business operations constitute, to a large degree, a form of de facto market-driven 'economic integration'. But private sector interests and their organisations also pursue de jure and legal(ised) frameworks, and they deliberately act and intervene to influence the nature and direction of inter-governmental negotiations in order to facilitate their own cross-border expansions and interests.
Thus, as an introductory survey to underpin civil society assessments of existing regional programs in MERCOSUR and SADC, and as a basis to motivate and support their own elaboration of alternative regional development strategies, this research exercise must provide
- some key quantitative indicators on the nature of intra-regional relations and cross-border processes, patterns and trends in the respective sectors;
- broad overviews of inter-governmental agreements and programs, in operation or planned, in major sectors [especially 2-6 below] in their respective regions;
- indications as to the positive and negative features and implications of such programs/plans in relation to equitable and sustainable development;
- plus brief descriptions of the main organisational/institutional arrangements in the respective sectors.
On the above criteria, this regional survey should include overviews in the following areas, on the basis of the key 'primary' questions indicated and, if considered necessary and feasible, including also some of the 'supplementary' questions, although these latter are included here largely 'for the record' and for future analysis and discussion. Some areas and questions will be easier than others to investigate and document in each of the regions, but wide comparative data and general information will be very useful.
1. GROUP MEMBERS AND MEMBERSHIP(S)
Brief overview of the regional member countries and the regional group memberships, including
1.1 Comparative population and GDP size of member countries, separately and in combination.
1.2 Comparative human development (or poverty) indicators, over and above simple per capita income data
1.3 Associate member countries around, and/or sub-groupings of countries within the two 'core' regions.
1.4 Overlapping memberships of other regional entities or agreements.
1.5 Political and economic continental groupings and initiatives within South America and Africa.
Although trade is not the most fundamental aspect of alternative regional development strategies, trade is currently playing a dominant and even determinant role in the definition and promotion of intra-regional relations. The main preliminary questions on trade patterns and policies to be identified are
2.1 What is the scale and content (or substance) of intra-regional trade, and compared to the scale and substance of external or international trade flows?
2.2 What are the main features (substance) and balance of intra-regional trade between stronger and weaker members within the respective groupings? (*)
2.3 What is the nature and the terms of the established regional trade agreement(s) within which cross-border trade takes place? (*)
2.4 Are there differential and preferential trade arrangements for weaker countries, vulnerable sectors or sensitive products within such agreements ? (*)
2.5 What are the other external trade agreements - bilateral or inter-regional - already in operation or under negotiation, and what are their terms and implications vis-à-vis the above ? (*)
2.6 What is the scale and what are the policy positions and practical provisions on 'informal' cross-border trade - legitimate or otherwise? [see also 8. below].
2.7 What are the other policy or practical supports [in addition to 4. below] to encourage intra-regional trade, either in operation or envisaged?
2.8 What are the understandings and positions, if any, between the member governments of these regions on the implications of the WTO's restrictive rules on regional trade agreements ?
Industry, mining, fisheries, forestry and agriculture are more fundamental than 'trade' in sound development, and are important components - per se and in combination - of national and regional production patterns and possibilities. These will be examined and discussed intensively in later phases and focused workshops in the project. At this point, the questions about the production profiles, policies and programs in each region are:
3.1 What are the quantitative indicators on the respective positions and weight of the industrial and agricultural sectors overall in the GDPs of the member countries?
3.2 What are the main commercial agricultural areas and sectors, and the investment and ownership patterns in the region overall ?
3.3 What is the nature and scale of the small-scale agricultural production sectors and ownership patterns in the respective regions?
3.4 What are the main manufacturing areas and sectors, and the investment and ownership patterns in the region overall?
3.5 What are the main mining areas and sectors, and investment and ownership patterns in the region overall?
3.6 Are there duplications, competition/tensions between producers/exporters in the member states in any of these sectors, and how have these been dealt with so far, if at all ?
3.7 Are there complementary and combined cross-border production programs and projects, or extended 'chains of production' involving companies operating in various of the member countries ?
3.8 Are there plans for supportive inter-governmental programs and public investment [in addition to 4 below] to promote and protect cooperative/combined or cross-border industrial development and diversification?
3.9 What are the position(s) of the respective governments, separately or in combination, in relation to the bilateral and multilateral pressures towards trade and tariff liberalisation, and the constraints on their national and intra-regional policy options in these areas?
4. INFRASTRUCTURES AND SERVICES
This sector includes various forms of infrastructures that are the vital supporting structures of all development and, together with many services, provide the sinews for national development per se. These are also especially important in the promotion of cross-border inter-linkages, cooperation and development in all sectors [as in 2. and 3. above, and see also 6. below], and across the longer distances within regional groupings. The main initial questions are
4.1 What are the current overall features and patterns of infrastructural and services inter-linkages within these regions?
4.2 What are the respective positions of infrastructural/services (as follows, for example) in the respective GDPs of the member countries ?
4.3 What are the main transport (road and railway, ports and shipping) infrastructures and services, and investment and ownership patterns in each region overall?
4.4 What are the main telecommunication infrastructures/services, and investment and ownership patterns in each region overall?
4.5 What are the main energy generation and transmission infrastructures/services, and investment and ownership patterns in each region overall?
4.6 What are the plans for combined/coordinated cross-border infrastructural development, and are these to be based on public investment or private ventures, and/or in public-private-partnerships (PPPs)?
4.7 What are the position(s) of the respective governments, separately or in combination, in relation to the national, regional and international pressures towards privatisation, deregulation and liberalisation of all such infrastructures and services?
5. FINANCIAL AND CAPITAL RESOURCES
Rounded and sustainable development depends fundamentally on the development of human and natural resources, and on the scientific and technological capabilities within countries and regions. But these also require the generation and application of financial resources. The main questions about regional financial resource mobilisation and application are
5.1 What are the scale and patterns/forms of foreign capital flows into each specific country, and as a proportion of overall national investment ?
5.2 What is the scale and what are the patterns of capital flows, in various forms, between the member countries of these regions, and compared to international inflows ?
5.3 Are there programs or plans for coordinated or combined regional policies to regulate or restrict international capital inflows and outflows into the region?
5.4 Are there plans or provisions for the internal generation of public regional development funds, and for a joint inter-governmental Regional Development Bank ?
5.5 Are there plans or provisions for redistributive funding programs towards underdeveloped localities or sub-regions or disadvantaged social sectors in order to promote more balanced development ?
5.6 Are there plans or proposals for coordinated or combined strategies to deal with external debt, and what is the scale of the respective national external debts of the member countries?
5.7 What are the regulatory provisions for cross-border financial flows between the member states, and do they have joint or competing foreign investment promotion programs?
5.8 Are there plans or proposals for macro-economic coordination and convergence, and towards the creation of a Regional Reserve Bank, and common currency ?
6. NATURAL RESOURCES
Together with the human resources of the countries of MERCOSUR and SADC [see 7 below], natural resources have been the most economically exploited and environmentally abused dimensions of all these countries and the two continents. Natural resources are also the most evident and natural of the 'cross-border' realities of these regions. With political borders as the most unnatural impediments to natural resource development, the following are the main preliminary research questions:
6.1 What are the overall patterns of distribution of key natural resources across these regions?
6.2 What regional agreements or cross-border arrangements are already in place or planned for the development, conservation and sharing of common water (inland and maritime) sources?
6.3 What regional agreements or cross-border arrangements are already in place or planned for the diversification, conservation and sharing of energy sources ?
6.4 What regional agreements or cross-border arrangements are already in place or planned for the development, protection and sharing of wildlife and fishery resources ?
6.5 What regional agreements or cross-border arrangements are already in place or planned for the development, protection and sharing of forest and bio-diversity resources ?
6.6 Are the plans for combined, coordinated and sustainable cross-border natural resources utilisation and protection to be based on public investment, or private ventures, or combinations of both (PPPs)?
6.7 How does the development of tourism in these regions relate to such plans for the utilisation/protection of natural resources/landscapes etc ? And how are these challenges being dealt with, if at all ?
7. HUMAN 'RESOURCES' AND RIGHTS
The populations of our countries and regions, as everywhere in the world, are the most important development 'resource', the central actors/agents and the fundamental objectives and purposes of local, national and regional development. In the context of people-based and people-driven alternative regional development strategies, the following are key demographic questions :
7.1 What are population patterns and distribution of languages and ethnic/cultural groups within the member countries and across the political borders within (and beyond) these regions?
7.2 What are the patterns of human migration within and across borders in these regions, whether as economic or political refugees, and are their civic and social rights guaranteed?
7.3 What are the regional policy and practical arrangements, such as broadcasting and other media, for the development and valorizacao of all languages and cultures?
7.4 What are the policies and programs for regional cooperation in education and training and equitable human development based on gender, class, ethnicity and other equity principles?
7.5 What are the policies and programs for regional cooperation in public health and disease monitoring and control, particularly endemic diseases aggravated by poverty and underdevelopment ?
7.6 What are the formal legal guarantees of labour and gender rights and all other fundamental human rights, and are there regional institutional provisions, such as labour/gender/human rights commissions/courts or other bodies for the protection of all such rights?
8. HUMAN SECURITY AND PEACE
With security perceived as the security of people, rather than the security of states, and with the security of people fundamentally dependent upon economic, social and environmental security and development, but these, in turn, dependent on national and regional, as well as international peace and stability, the main questions to be investigated in this sphere are
8.1 What are the main sources, causes and patterns of instability and insecurity within the countries and across the borders of these regions ?
8.2 Are cross-border forms of security cooperation motivated and shaped by currently dominant concerns with drug trafficing, gun-running, human trafficing and other negative patterns?
8.3 Are these linked to formal regional political peace-making and regional peace-keeping operations, and are the latter based on political and socio-economic or mainly militarised means?
8.4 Are the policies, programs and structures for regional/ cross-border security essentially internally determined and/or shaped also by international 'security' forces/interests and programs. ?
8.5 Are all the above under joint political control between the governments of the respective regions, and is there public information and engagement on these issues/processes/bodies [see also next]
8.6 Are there more political and economic sources of conflict and tension within and between the member states.
9. INSTITUTIONAL AND ORGANISATIONAL
All of the above areas of regional cooperation, coordination, planning and implementation require appropriate institutional and organisational arrangements to secure democratic and inclusive decision-making, transparency and accountability, and balanced and equitable outcomes. In this context the following are the key aspects to be outlined:
9.1 How or within what structures and bodies are the above research and planning programs carried out?
9.2 What are the central political structures for negotiations and decision-making between the participating
governments of these regions?
9.3 Are there provisions or plans for regional parliamentary bodies, directly or indirectly elected, and what are or could be their powers and roles?
9.4 Are there provisions for direct civil society or 'stake holder' interests to have direct or indirect access to regional planning, negotiations/deliberations and decision-making?
9.5 Are there institutional regional provisions, in operation or planned, for 'dispute settlement', and what would be their role in relation to other such multilateral (eg WTO) or international (eg UN) bodies?
SOME PRACTICAL/METHODOLOGICAL POINTS
Clearly, this is a very broad exercise, and each of the sections indicated above in and of themselves will require deeper research and analysis, wide engagement and the formulation of alternative proposals. These will be the subject of the planned workshops, as well as further supportive research, seminars, conferences and other exchanges in the coming year(s). As was stated at the outset of these guidelines, the above questions represent only the initial approach to these challenges. They are the preliminary bases on which to start the dialogue and the identification of the issues to then be followed up and the processes to be pursued.
Some of the questions above can be answered in a single sentence. Many need no more than a paragraph. While some of the more complex or more important may require up to a page of explanation. But, all in all, and in sheer quantitative terms, this research does not need to exceed about forty pages in length. This is a feasible project to undertake and complete within the two months available, March-April, and in time for the respective reports to be translated and distributed for the first inter-regional seminar to take place in mid-May.