In 2004, UNU-CRIS made substantial progress in becoming a sound and sustainable actor in the field of regional integration studies.
First of all, in June 2004 we moved our premises to Grootseminarie, one of the most beautiful historical buildings of Bruges. The UNU-CRIS staff, spread before in three different locations in Bruges, is now gathered in one. This will increase the communication, the exchange of ideas and the cohesion of the staff. Moreover, the number of working spaces available in Grootseminarie is considerably superior to the previous one, opening new perspectives for the expansion of UNU-CRIS activities.
We also opened a small office in the UN house in Brussels. This allows us to develop closer links to the international community in Brussels as well as with our colleagues from other UN agencies. Secondly, the UNU-CRIS Scientific Advisory Board was installed and a first meeting took place in Bruges, on 29th-30th April 2004. The members of the Board elected Mr. Ali Kazancigil (Secretary-General of the International Council of Social Sciences) as Chair for the next two years. Following the Scientific Advisory Board advice, the portfolio of UNU-CRIS activities and projects has been streamlined.
Thirdly, we have been able to step up our active involvement in research networks and our collaboration with colleagues from academia and policy-making.Next to our longstanding collaboration with the College of Europe in Bruges, joint projects have been set up with different universities in Flanders (KUL, University of Ghent, University of Antwerp, VUB). And the links with PADRIGU (Göteburg University) have also been tightened.
UNU-CRIS has been involved in the creation of two research networks in 2004, in areas related to the comparative study of regional integration worldwide. UNU-CRIS has been one of the initiators of a proposal to establish a network of excellence on “Global Governance, Regionalisation and Regulation: the role of the EU” (GARNET) between 44 leading research centres, which was submitted to the European Commission. The GARNET proposal, led by the University of Warwick CSGR, was positively evaluated, being ranked 1st out of 171 projects, receiving a grant of 5.4 million Euro. When operational, the network will create a large community of scholars and practitioners working on the issues of global governance and the regulatory framework and the place of regional integration in their management.
UNU-CRIS has also been one of the initiators of a proposal of 25 leading research centres for the creation of the European Union – Latin American Relations Observatory (EULARO). This Observatory will establish a network of networks among leading academic and policy oriented research institutions in the EU and Latin America, aiming thereby to promote a synergistic and policy-oriented work on EU-LA relations, and to bring to the international community an alternative vision of how integrating regions can mesh with and help to strengthen norm based, multilateral global governance. The project has been positively evaluated and a contract is currently under negotiation with the European Commission services.
As for academic activities CRIS is, in line with its mission statement, focused upon understanding processes of supra-and trans-state regionalisation worldwide and upon generating new ideas on the roles of regional integration and co-operation in global governance. Under the current strategic directions, six main questions are driving the UNU-CRIS research and training efforts:
(i) What is happening in the world – past, present and future – with regard to regional integration processes?
(ii) What governance structures are emerging through regional integration?
(iii) How can regional integration contribute to more peace and human security in the framework of the UN?
(iv) How can regional integration contribute to the economic development of LDCs?
(v) How do people and societies deal with regional integration?
(vi) How can regional co-operation/integration capacity be fostered in developing countries?
These questions have been translated into five priority themes:
Theme 1: Monitoring and Assessing Regional Integration Worldwide;
Theme 2: Regional Integration as a Political Project;
Theme 3: Interlinkages Between Regional Integration and Peace and Human Security Issues;
Theme 4: Interlinkages Between Regional Integration and Economic Development;
Theme 5: Socio-Cultural Aspects of Regional Integration;
The present report documents the activities and projects that have been deployed in 2004.
Among the main events UNU-CRIS has organized in 2004, I would like to highlight the following ones:
• On 21 January we presented the preliminary findings of the UNU-CRIS study on ‘Regional Security and Global Governance’ at the UN in New York. The meeting was attended by 150 people, both UN officials and officials from the permanent representations;
• On 12-13 July, UNU-CRIS co-organised together with the Kiel Institute for World Economics (IfW), and the University Association for Contemporary European Studies (UACES) the First Meeting of the Study Group on “Monetary Policy in Selected CIS Countries”, held in Bruges;
• On September 9-11, UNU-CRIS took part in the Fifth Pan-European International Relations Conference "Constructing World Orders" held in The Hague. UNU-CRIS was a convenor for two sections (“States, Regions and Regional World Orders” and “Broad Inter-Regionalism Effects on European Countries' Foreign Policies Towards Other World Regions”), chaired five panels and had six paper presentations. Additionally, UNU-CRIS staff kept open during the three days of the conference a UNU book exhibition welcomed by the vast majority of the 500 participants to the conference;
• On 17 December, UNU-CRIS and the London School of Economics organized in Brussels a workshop on ‘The interaction between levels of rulemaking in international trade and investment’.
As one can see from the above, the UNU-CRIS activities address many different audiences, from academic peers to policy-makers.
The main capacity building activities in 2004 were the activities by UNU-CRIS staff members in Malaysia, Ghana, Costa Rica, Senegal and Ethiopia. On September 20, UNU-CRIS together with COMESA and the University of Peace organised a visioning workshop in Lusaka on "Linking Peace, Security and Regional Integration in Africa: Capacity Building for Regional Organisations". The participants were high-level officials from regional organisations in Africa as well as national representatives.
At UNU-CRIS we have the ambition to deepen the understanding of how regional integration can contribute to a more effective and efficient governance. This implies the consideration of the regional level as the most optimal for the provision of certain public goods (development, security, democracy, …) as well as the critical study of the possible negative aspects of integration processes.
Luk Van Langenhove
Director of UNU-CRIS