Regional roles in global shocks explored in workshop

04 April 2024

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The Oxford Martin Programme on Changing Global Orders recently held a workshop on the role regional bodies play in managing shocks to the international system (e.g. the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East or the effects of the global pandemic) in collaboration with the United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies.

Organised by Louise Fawcett, Professor of International Relations and Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Politics and International Relations and co-director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Changing Global Orders, the workshop explored the evolving nexus between global (or ‘universal’) and regional institutions and argued that the latter were vital and often under-recognised elements in shock management and mitigation.

The aim of the workshop was to bring together scholars in the field to discuss the fast-changing landscape of international institutions and generate both academic and policy relevant findings and publications about the critical importance of the ‘regional-global nexus’ in shock management.

Professor Amitav Acharya, UNESCO Chair in Transnational Challenges and Governance and Distinguished Professor at the School of International Service, American University, Washington, opened the workshop by suggesting that we were living in a ‘multiplex age’. He argued that multiplex orders were characterised by the involvement of multiple influential actors beyond states including international organizations, NGOs, corporations, and social movements operating at regional and cross regional levels.

Other notable contributions came from the programme’s co-directors.

Patricia Clavin, Professor of Modern History, focused on the character of shocks, the emerging world order and the role played by regions around the First World War. She explored the effects of shocks such as the imposition of a world-wide blockade, particularly in Europe, and their longstanding influence on global order.

Professor Andrew Hurrell, Senior Research Fellow in International Relations, examined the interplay between regions and the global order, raising questions about the roles of dominant regions, forms of regionalism, and the impact of shocks and crises.

Andrew Thompson, Professor of Global and Imperial History, introduced the origins of a global refugee system through Africa as distinctive and globally significant. In particular, he highlighted how the 1951 Refugee Convention initially only extended protection to Europeans fleeing totalitarian persecution before the creation of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) marked a shift towards a global refugee regime.

Discussions focused on various conceptual, spatial and historical dimensions of regionalism and regions, including the disputed role of NATO as a so-called protector of the ‘liberal international order’, among other topics.

Professor Louise Fawcett said: ‘We were delighted with the high-quality papers and discussions on the changes that regions are introducing to the landscape of global order. We will follow up with a co-authored Working Paper, and a Journal Special Issue incorporating a selection of our workshop papers. The output of this workshop will feed into the larger summative event envisaged for our project in its final year.’