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Regional Institutions as Bypasses of States in the Provision of Public Goods: The Case of West Africa

  • Edefe Ojomo (a1)
Abstract

The idea of “West Africa” encompasses a medley of countries with diverse historical, political, and cultural features. However, their governance and development profiles are distinctly similar: the United Nations recognizes eleven of the fifteen members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as least developed countries. In this context, regional institutions are usually established to strengthen state capacity by providing resources to address national capacity deficits. Above all, they serve as systems of support that are supplementary to state institutions with distinct governance roles. However, regional institutions can—and should—play a second role: serving as alternatives to weak or fragile state institutions that are deficient in the supply of different public goods. By performing this second role, regional arrangements become international institutional bypasses.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
References
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1 See the discussion of “inefficiency by design” in political institutions in Oliver Williamson, The Mechanisms of Governance (1996).

2 Tine Hanrieder explains how the World Health Organization uses intermediaries to promote operations in disease surveillance beyond the scope of its mandate in order to bypass the control of states. See Tine Hanrieder, Who Orchestrates: Coping with Competitors in Global Health, in International Organizations as Orchestrators (Kenneth W. Abbott et al. eds., 2015).

3 Definitions of state fragility usually cover unwillingness and inability of states to perform basic functions such as supplying basic needs of their citizens. See Fragile States, OECD Glossary of Statistical Terms (2007). In instances of severe fragility, an international organization may intervene to perform governance functions, as has been the case with international transitional administrations. See, e.g., Richard Caplan, A New Trusteeship? International Administration of War-Torn Territories (2002) (discussing the role of transitional administrations set up by international organizations in postconflict societies with a wide range of governance roles, including law enforcement, public administration, and infrastructure development).

4 Thomas Risse explains the need for “functional equivalents” of governance actors in “areas with limited statehood.” See Governance Without a State? Policies and Politics in Areas of Limited Statehood (Thomas Risse ed., 2013).

5 State sovereignty allows states to claim authority over their territory, even where there is no real capacity to exercise such authority. This has led to the distinction between positive and negative sovereignty. See Robert Jackson, Quasi-States: Sovereignty, International Relations and the Third World (1993).

6 I refer to this as a potential bypass because states do not, when creating these institutions, recognize them as—or intend for them to be—bypasses. In the case of the West African Court, for example, the absence of limiting jurisdictional rules makes the ECOWAS Court of Justice a bypass institution, but even this does not appear to have been done on purpose and enforcement of judgments remains a challenge for the Court. See Edefe Ojomo, Competing Competencies in Adjudication: Reviewing the Relationship between the ECOWAS Court and National Courts, 7 Afr. J. Leg. Stud. 87 (2014); Karen Alter et al., A New International Human Rights Court for West Africa: The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, 107 AJIL 737 (2013).

7 The organization's name can be translated as the “Organization for Coordination and Cooperation in the Fight against Epidemics.”

8 Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) art. 2, May 28, 1975, 35 I.L.M. 660. The treaty was revised in 1993 to include a broader objectives section (Article 3) that recognized health as one of the areas of cooperation amongst member states, while Article 61 identifies health as one of the social affairs on which states are to cooperate.

10 One of the main differences between this supplementary role and the role of an alternative (i.e., the bypass role) is the fact that the latter involves more conflict and competition, while the former involves more coordination and cooperation.

This work was completed as part of the International Collaboration for Capitalizing on Cost-Effective and Life-Saving Commodities (i4C) that is funded through the Research Council of Norway's Global Health & Vaccination Programme (GLOBVAC Project #234608).

Funding information has been added since original publication. See 10.1017/aju.2017.78

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  • ISSN: -
  • EISSN: 2398-7723
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