Relational Multilateralism: An Analysis of ASEAN's multilateralism and its implications for the EU's interregional policy
Notwithstanding an increasing number of studies on multilateralism since the Cold War, many of them seem to rely on the rules-based multilateralism model. Through this lens, non-Western multilateralism is particularly seen as showing weaker institutionalization, imperfect mimicry of the EU’s model, or an ineffective regional governance.
However, this paper starts from the rules-based versus relational multilateralism dichotomy, as captured respectively by the concepts of legalization by Kenneth W. Abbott et al. (2000) and relational governance by Qin (2009, 2011). On the one hand, in the mainstream view of both realists and institutionalists, multilateralism is usually described in a highly institutionalized form governed principally by rules, reflected in the high degree of obligation, precision and delegation. On the other, informed by social constructivism (i.e. processual constructivism), several multilateral frameworks consider the governing of harmonized relationships based on relational norms, e.g., mutual respect and commitment as, the core principle of relational governance.
This paper will question the prevalence of the rules-based model by examining the significance of the relational multilateralism: How does the latter promote cooperation and strengthen order in international relations? It elucidates this matter by contending that relational multilateralism could prefer acculturation – a distinct socialization mechanism which embodies processes of cognitive dissonance and social pressures – to coercion and persuasion. By engaging such practices of acculturation as communicating best practices and employing group pressure through relationship, relational multilateralism has made some meaningful evolutions in regional governance.
The paper uses process-tracing to present a within-case analysis of ASEAN – to a large extent, a relational multilateralism – to examine ASEAN’s multilateralism features (in terms of (1) legal and normative framework, (2) decision making process, (3) mechanisms of implementation and dispute settlement), socialization mechanisms, and outcomes. The paper focuses on the policy fields of environmental protection (ASEAN Agreement on Trans-boundary Haze Pollution and Indonesia’s ratification and implementation) and human rights promotion (ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights and Myanmar’s democratic transition), with the data obtained since the incipient ASEAN 2007 Charter.
The findings of the case would have implications for questioning and refining the EU’s current interregional policy towards Asia which is much dominated by the use of political conditionality and transposition of its internal rules without apprehending the others.
Abbott, K. W., Keohane, R. O., Moravcsik, A., Slaughter, A.-M., & Snidal, D. (2000). The concept of legalization. International Organization, 54(3), 401-419.
Qin, Y. (2009). Relationality and processual construction: Bringing Chinese ideas into international relations theory. Social Sciences in China, XXX(3), 5-20.
Qin, Y. (2011). Rule, Rules, and Relations: Towards a Synthetic Approach to Governance. The Chinese Journal of International Politics, 4(2), 28. doi:10.1093/cjip/por008