Institutional design in comparative regional organization (InDeCRI)

Funding organization: MINECO/Spanish Research Agency CSO2016-76130-P

Duration: From 01-01-2017 to 31-12- 2019


Tabs group


Why do regional organizations adopt certain institutions in their design? This project responds this question. For this, it analyzes the cases of six different institutions (democracy protection clauses, supranational citizenship/electoral rights for the direct election of regional parliaments; domestic constitutional reception of integration commitments; electoral observartion bodies, South/South cooperation and institutions for security and defence) in four Latin America integration organizations (Mercosur, Unasur, Comunidad Andina-CAN- and SICA). The project inquiries on the reasons for the creation of these institutions by drawing hypothesis from different theoretical approaches: diffussion approach and the functional/rationalistic approach. Process tracing provides the best methodological option since it permits to integrate and discuss several hypothesis. This is highly instrumental for a project whose main assumption is that different institutions within the same organization may result from different causality paths. Hence, the project will allow to generalize explanations on institutional design in regional organizatins that can integrate that plurality.

Latin America is, after Europe, the geographical area where integration/regionalism has developed more and this makes it the ideal target for research on institution building. The study of regionalism and regional integration in Latin America has a long history that focused on whether it had a specific character or not in comparison with the European model. This approach connects with the concerns of the new regionalism and both the approach and new regionalism also share a certain lack of interest in dealing with a level of micro analysis that would allow gaining precision and theoretical parsimony. Of course, there have been excellent works that have focused on the study of "organs", with courts and parliaments taking center stage. But other less obvious institutions (such as those proposed in this project) have not been explored. The same can be said of the domestic level, which studies of Europeanization covered in Europe: for the moment, we know very little about the precise effects (beyond commercial / economic) of integration processes in Latin America on member states; their policies, institutions and policies. This vacuum offers a unique opportunity to explore and exploit new empirical evidence to substantiate theoretically informed theses, since this level of analysis (i.e. concrete institutions) avoids the frustrating debate on precisely what constitutes regional integration. According to the exhortation to bring regionalism to the mainstream of political science, as it had already happened decades ago with the European Union, this project will apply theories, hypotheses and methodologies applied with general character in the discipline.

This project will investigate several cases following the methodological requirements of process-tracing. For each theory that provides relevant explanations for institutional design, we will infer hypotheses (and "observable implications") as if each of the causal mechanisms predicted by each of them actually existed. From this matrix of possible hypotheses, the empirical evidence will be used to discriminate between explanations.