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Translating organizational objectives into timely security outcomes: the case of UNASUR

Open Panel

Abstract

This paper attempts to answer two of the proposed questions for the panel, mainly about translating organisational objectives and strategies into outcomes and whether the complexity and sensitivity of many security issues reinforce or undermine IO agency, autonomy and legitimacy, by focusing on the prompt multilateral action taken by a regional organization, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), in order to mediate a situation of sharp domestic conflict. The new democratic environment of Bolivia and its fragile institutions were unable to accommodate mounting tension deriving from fast-paced political reform at the state level and demands for increased local autonomy. On 11 September 2008 violence escalated to a peak, with a bloody clash between peasant groups supporting President Morales and the opposing locals. There were fears of secession and of a coup d’état in the country. In an unprecedented high-level emergency meeting, the then few-months old UNASUR convened leaders of the region four days after the events. Before any established organization made a move, UNASUR had a full-fledged plan of action, involving the establishment of three commissions for political dialog, fact-finding and institution support. The approach chosen by UNASUR for its timely non-violent intervention in Bolivia was analyzed as a tentative case of conflict transformation and its legitimacy tested in terms of the Responsibility to Protect and against the core values of the organization itself. This case study proves relevant for the analysis and policy-making of other regional organizations, most of which are engaged in international intervention.