Regionalism, regional groupings and integration processes are an important influence upon constitutional transformation. We understand regional groupings to primarily mean associations of states in a geographic region (such as the European Union, ASEAN, Mercosur, the ANDEAN Community or the Southern African Development Community), but the concept may also extend to groupings of states bound by cultural or historical ties (such as the Commonwealth or Francophonie). Regional groupings are formed for a range of different reasons, including economic integration, peacebuilding and defence. Over time, however, regional groupings have come to engage with other shared concerns and there are now a large variety of regional laws, mechanisms and institutions crossing economic, legal and social issues.
Arrangements at the regional or international levels might become integrated to a point where they assume forms that might be described as ‘constitutional’ in character in the sense that they organise and limit the powers of regional organisations and their member states. This has potential to create a form of constitutional pluralism, in which states are bound by norms stemming from domestic and international sources. It also prompts the development of a new understanding of the concept of a constitution itself.
International norms clearly influence the content of constitutions. Regional arrangements arguably have an even deeper impact on the constitutional systems of their member states. They can be especially creative laboratories for experimentation, as member states will often share a set of common cultural traditions, customs and ideologies. This influence is seen most clearly in relation to human rights provisions which in some cases are prescribed, interpreted and enforced by institutions at the regional level. It is also apparent in constitutional provisions regarding trade, economic policy, security and corruption. Issues potentially arise as to the hierarchy of constitutional, regional and international laws.
Regional integration has had a deep impact on constitutional transformation in domestic states. The geographic proximity and shared geopolitical concerns within a region mean that neighbouring states are likely to be interested and engaged in domestic constitution-making in the region. Constitutional systems in some regions might share a particular vision of constitutionalism and constitutional culture, informed by shared religion, cultural values or historical experience.
Our work aims to explore how a regional approach to constitution-making which emphasises the value of experiences, expertise and interests from within the region can enhance and sustain constitutional transformation.
Asian approaches to international economic law: Jurgen Kurtz is undertaking a new research project exploring the distinctiveness of Asian engagement with international economic law. In collaboration with Sungjoon Cho (Chicago-Kent College of Law), Jurgen is researching the pluralistic and idiographic form of legalization in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its potential to build legitimacy through both alignment (with constitutional norms of ASEAN’s member states) and resistance (to imposed forms of economic liberalization by external (developed) states).
How can regional comparative law help to address the challenges of the Central-American Integration System? Carlos Arturo Villagran’s PhD thesis analyses the problems of Central-American integration in light of competing historical pressures within and beyond the region. The thesis draws on comparative regional experiences in order to identify potential responses to the problems of institutional and material fragmentation within the integration enterprise and the normative tension between regional and constitutional conceptions of integration.