As a matter of fact, we are inhabitants of a world in permanent transformation, where time barriers have been erased in the information exchanges field, as a result of the new technological developments. Not a single thing is permanent and immovable, rather the contrary: notions, information, even regions are malleable and constantly mutating in this Globalized World of ours.
In this way, to find a proper way to classify the distinct types of regions that exist in the 21st century is far from being simple. There have been many scholars that have attempted to accomplish this task successfully, such as R. C. Ostergren and J. G. Rice, who in the work “The Europeans. A Geography of People, Culture, and Environment”, are capable to formulate a simple and coherent classification of the World Regions nowadays.
We can distinguish between:
-Denoted Regions: The regions included in this category are created for academic purposes, so it is not a region neither internally nor externally perceived population, but only on the academic area.
-Naively Perceived Regions: Those are regions that were not officially founded, and are usually perceived as a cultural common ground and as a territory that shares some specific values. There’s not a common organization that comprehends this territories.
-Instituted Regions: those are the regions that present an organization created by authorities, recognized as an existing entity once instituted and presents clearly demarcated boundaries. It also involves different levels of governance (hierarchical organization).
Once defined the different kinds of contemporary World Regions, and with a deeper connaissance on the subject, we can finally address ourselves to the issue of analyzing particular cases of regions properly and even dare to establish comparisons between them.
Therefore, we will focus ourselves on the African Union; a continental union consisted of 54 countries. The African Union, established in 2001, can be best defined as an Instituted Region, since it presents the main features of this kind of regions: it is an organization created by authorities, recognized as an existing entity once instituted and presents clearly demarcated boundaries. It also presents a hierarchical organization, the entities that embody the organization, in this case all 54 African Union state members (all African countries except Morocco), are subordinated directly to the African Union.
As the purpose of this essay was to establish a fitting comparison with a distinct Region of the same geographical zone, it occurred to me that a magnificent example would be the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), another region that can clearly be defined as an Instituted Region.
ECOWAS was created in 1975 with the Treaty of Lagos, where 15 African states signed their agreement in some values in and duties, such as economic integration and promotion of peace and democracy.
There are quite a few differences between both organizations, but also similarities, considering that all of the countries that constitute the ECOWAS also pertain to the African Union:
Both countries are indeed in a strong compromise towards democracy, security and peace. However, it’s worth being mentioned that the originator of the AU, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), created in 1964, didn’t pursue any democratic objectives, and it was occasionally seen as “the dictators forum”, only by the creation of the AU, that a firm defendant attitude towards democracy and human rights was adopted.
In economic terms, ECOWAS is one of the pillars of the African Economic Community (an African Union organization) and seek to create greater economic competitiveness, by creating a common market, harmonizing fiscal policies and by coordinating sectorial policies.
The African Union, as ECOWAS, also pursues the creation of a free trade area and a single market. In addition, the AU intends to be far more ambitious as it aspirates to institute a central bank and a common currency, thereby establishing economic and monetary union. The current plan is to establish an African Economic Community with a single currency by 2023.
Moreover, Justice is also a major concern both in the AU and the ECOWAS. ECOWAS members also agreed to establish a Community Court of Justice, which allows rulings on disputes between states over interpretations of the Revised Treaty (1993). It also provides the ECOWAS Council with advisory opinions on legal issues. Like the European Court of Human Rights, it has jurisdiction to rule on fundamental human rights breaches.
As the ECOWAS, the African Union also counts on a judicial institution, the African Court of Justice and Human Rights. Created in 2004 by the fusion of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights and the African Court of Justice, it is the primary judicial agency of the African Union. The court has two main chambers: One for rulings on the human rights treaties and one for the general legal matters. The court is based in the city of Arusha, Tanzania. Both organizations are determined to defend the human rights, still an unaccomplished mission in lots of African countries.
Due to the different dimensions that these organizations have, the frequency in with what the names appear in the media is not the same, as the African Union has much more importance in the international agenda than the ECOWAS. In this way, the African Union appears in the media for mostly issues like conflict mediation, like in Lybia, or for human rights violation affaires, such as the child slavery in milestones in Mauritania. So, having news about the AU-in European media- usually has a negative meaning.
News related to ECOWAS can also have a negative connotation, for example in the articles related to the Boko Haram terrorist group, which operates in the African West Coast. However, it deserves being mentioned that there’s a remarkable number of news referring to economic development issues, such as Liberia hosting the ECOWAS Annual Monetary Zone Forum, still a minority though.
Ostergren, Robert C. and Rice, John G. 2004 The Europeans. A Geography of People, Culture, and the Environment. Chap 1
African Union Official Webpage (2016), Available in https://www.au.int
ECOWAS Official Webpage (2016), Available in http://www.ecowas.int/