Regional cooperation and conflict management: Lessons from the Pacific Rim

University dissertation from Uppsala : Institutionen för freds- och konfliktforskning

Abstract: Regional cooperation is increasingly important as a means to create peaceful relations and improve economic development. The problem today is not to initiate cooperation, but rather how to handle disputes and maintain good relations. This is done through conflict management mechanisms (CMMs) in most regional cooperation structures. However, the interaction between such structures and regional conflict management mechanisms is not sufficiently examined and, as a result, no coherent theoretical model that could explain this interaction has been constructed. This has meant that in many cases the interaction is incorrectly assumed, with negative social and economic outcomes. This thesis aims at creating a theoretical model that could explain the interaction between regions, regional cooperation and conflict management mechanisms. The study is conducted with a process-tracing approach that aims at discovering a set of variables that could explain the interaction. This is done in a regional context: the Pacific Rim. The study comprises 5 sub-regions and 9 cases (organizations) that form the basis for the theoretical discussion. The findings of the case-studies are the basis for the 19 assumptions that make up the main body of the theoretical model that aims at explaining the interaction between regions, regional cooperation and conflict management. The conclusion is that the interaction varies due to a specific set of variables that could be arranged into the following clusters: the structure of the organization; the interaction between CMM, organizations and the state; economic factors: geographical differences and culture; asymmetry; domestic and international factors. The results are not necessarily in accordance with the earlier assumed correlation between regional cooperation and conflict management. An important finding is the difference between the Americas and the East Asian regions in the Pacific Rim concerning their CMM structures generally and more specifically the need for (in)formality.

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