South America

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Lessons from Regional Responses to Security, Health and Environmental Challenges in Latin America – review

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/05/2024 - 8:47pm in

Lessons from Regional Responses to Security, Health and Environmental Challenges in Latin America explores these three areas in terms of governance challenges post-COVID-19. Editor Ivo Ganchev brings together diverse regional perspectives that critically analyse US influence in the region, regional versus national approaches and alternative tools for governance. While its contemporary focus may risk obsolescence, the book is a valuable resource for understanding and addressing current challenges in Latin America, writes Tainá Siman.

Lessons from Regional Responses to Security, Health and Environmental Challenges in Latin America. Ivo Ganchev (ed.). Vernon Press. 2024. 

Lessons from regional responses book coverThis volume edited by Ivo Ganchev presents an assessment on the current challenges for governance in Latin America in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, considering three under-researched topics in Latin America: security, health and environment. These three topics were not selected randomly, but on the basis of the results of a survey among 78 political scientists asking which themes lacked further research in the Latin American context. In a compelling introduction dividing scholarship on regionalism in Latin America into three different groups – optimists, sceptics and innovators – Ganchev sets out the volume’s aim of reflecting on appropriate governance tools to regionally address common challenges in the protection of borders (security), lives (health) and land (environment) (iv).

The choice to address these issues at regional versus national levels is the core point discussed in most of the chapters. Why should countries opt to solve problems by cooperating with regional organisations? Or why should they opt for dealing with them at the national level? These reflections address why these paths were chosen and why they failed or succeeded, span the three broad topics almost equally (security has four and health and governance have each three chapters).

Why should countries opt to solve problems by cooperating with regional organisations? Or why should they opt for dealing with them at the national level?

Considering the context of Post-Hegemonic Regionalism, signifying weakened US hegemony in Latin America, Ganchev’s opening chapter examines coups and coup attempts from a security perspective. Coups and coup attempts are a recurring theme throughout Latin American academic literature, even under the framing of democracy clauses. Democracy clauses are tools that foresee sanctions or suspension of members that have experienced coups or democracy breaches. This topic is usually taken under the discussion of regional politics or appropriateness in institutional design, so framing it as a security issue is innovative. A significant aspect of this perspective deals with relations to the United States (US) and Organization of American States (OAS) responses (or lack thereof). Each coup and coup attempt is scrutinised to determine whether it served US interests to intervene, considering the potential outcomes (success or failure of coup attempts), as well as the US interest in activating or not regional organisations.

In the section of chapters focusing on health, Ruvalbaca (Chapter Six) presents a significant reflection of how the COVID-19 crisis impacted the power of Latin American countries in the international arena. Alongside analysing internal political and economic dynamics, Ruvalbaca discusses how each country’s response to COVID-19 impacted its international overall power performance along three dimensions: material, immaterial and semi-material. The chapter gives an interesting account of how some countries experienced economic crises but performed relatively well in dealing with the pandemic (Costa Rica and Cuba), others performed well economically while (not) dealing well with the pandemic (Ecuador). However, it lacked a clear categorisation that would allow measurement of how greatly the pandemic contributed (or not) to the gain or loss of relative power at the global level.

Ruvalbaca discusses how each country’s response to COVID-19 impacted its international overall power performance along three dimensions: material, immaterial and semi-material.

Situated within the volume’s dedicated third section on the environment, Chapter Ten by Combs and Buganza reflects about Mesoamerican regional constructions concerning the environment. They provide insight into the beginnings of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor as a non-institutionalised initiative, describing how its development progressed, in an interesting twist, to being incorporated as part of a regional organisation. A series of accomplishments, such as its decades-long further institutionalisation, as well as challenges, such as lack of financial resources for funding, enable a reflection on the level of structuring, formalisation and effectiveness of environmental transnational policies.

Two important characteristics makes this book stand out. The first is that the chapters do not merely cover regional organisations, though they are well-discussed, being the most common arena to debate regional issues. Other chapters highlight transnational solutions (Villa, Braga, Alaya in Chapter Three) international funds (Gomis in Chaper Four), and transgovernmental networks (TGNs) (Segovia, Mugica, Chapter Five). It makes us reflect, as the title suggest, that when we talk about “regional responses” we should think broadly about what format these solutions will take and the best approach to each specific challenge. It presents a broader sample of tools for regional governance instead of the common solution of regional organisations.

when we talk about ‘regional responses’ we should think broadly about what format these solutions will take and the best approach to each specific challenge.

The second positive feature is the wide range of regions and sub-regions in Latin America that are addressed. such as the Andes (Chapter Three), the Caribbean (Chapters Four, Núñes in Chapter Seven and Borzona in Chapter Eight), Mexico (Chapter Ten) and South America in relation to Continental America (Chapter One). The final chapter also has a recommendation of exercises on policy transfer between regions, arguing that it would be useful to have a mechanism similar to the Escazú Agreement into African countries (Mballa, Chapter 11). Having authors with diverse backgrounds and coming from a diversity of regions also gives some freshness on how the issues are framed. Considering external factors impacting the region, such as the Ukraine and Russia war, China and NATO (Konolvalova and Jeifets, Chapter Two) and Africa (Chapter 11) give us some ideas of how wider issues interfere with regional Latin-American challenges.

In times of post-hegemonic regionalism, it shows that the US still shapes regional architecture, whether to interfere as an actor, or to cause ruptures or disagreements between countries in regional initiatives.

Something that’s present in most of the chapters is the influence of the US in Latin American regional affairs. In this sense, what stands out is the US’s contribution to these challenges. In times of post-hegemonic regionalism, it shows that the US still shapes regional architecture, whether to interfere as an actor, or to cause ruptures or disagreements between countries in regional initiatives. Even in cases where chapters don’t explicitly discuss ties between Latin American states and the US, the analysis of intra-regional intergovernmental relations still shows how these relationships were affected was still very highly connected with the government’s alignment or non-alignments with the US.

If there is a con to this book is that, since its framing has a highly contemporary component to it, its lessons may become outdated relatively soon. However, it serves as a diagnostic collection, highlighting what has proven effective and areas in need of improvement. Ultimately, its relevance will only diminish if we fully move past these problematics, and diagnosing these problematics is the initial step to overcome them. Another issue is that the volume lacks a conclusion which would have been a useful means of drawing together discussion points and themes across the chapters and looking ahead to the future of the region. That said, the volume examines a diverse range of pressing issues across Latin America from the COVID-19 pandemic onwards, and will be worthwhile reading for anyone interested in Latin America, regionalism (in terms of international institutions) or in one of its three specific agendas (security, health and environment).

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Image credits: Banco Mundial América Latina y el Caribe on Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

International dockworkers meet in Liverpool with message for UK unions: stop hiding over Gaza

‘Peace IS union business’, leading trade union figures tell UK unions there’s no excuse for claiming it’s not their core purpose to prevent genocide – and that having members in the defence industry is no bar to taking action

Maritime Union of Australia deputy national secretary Warren Smith at Liverpool’s Casa on Saturday

Leading trade unionists from Australia, Asia and South America gathered at Liverpool’s famous dockworker-founded Casa on Saturday to discuss international action, solidarity, the dangers facing trade unionists in many countries and, especially, support for Palestinians against Israel’s genocide. And there was a strong message for UK trade union leaders: get behind the people of Palestine and stop making excuses, and that having members in the defence industry is no excuse for not taking action.

Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) members and officers gave inspiring accounts of how their union – and the ex-pat Palestinian communities in Australia – have played a leading role in protests against Israel’s genocide in Gaza and have successfully impeded shipments to Israel, despite Australian laws criminalising protest at major facilities, and pledged that they would continue to do so. And they spoke of the plea from union activists in Palestine to get behind the boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) campaign against Israel’s occupation and apartheid. The union is holding a day of action on 25 May in every major Australian port in solidarity.

The union representatives also told of their government’s shame in its decision to suspend anti-discrimination laws so it can enact laws specifically targeting Australia’s First Nation people – and how they have agreed, as part of the AUSUK defence treaty the union is fighting, to take nuclear waste from the UK and US that will be dumped in First Nation territory.

And the common thread through all these stories was summed up in a refrain taken up by several speakers:

Peace is union business.

Leaders of several UK unions have been criticised for their lack of support for the Palestinian people against genocide, occupation and apartheid – often against the democratic decisions of their members – and for prioritising defence jobs over the imperative of preventing mass murder.

If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.

Privileges of Misery

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 26/04/2024 - 9:59pm in

The Obscene Bird of Night turns the upstairs-downstairs genre upside down.

Politics and Public Space in Contemporary Argentine Poetry

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/03/2017 - 11:26pm in

Book at Lunchtime event. This book addresses the connection between political themes and literary form in the most recent Argentine poetry. Ben Bollig uses the concepts of “lyric” and “state” as twin coordinates for both an assessment of how Argentinian poets have conceived a political role for their work and how poems come to speak to us about politics. Drawing on concepts from contemporary literary theory, this striking study combines textual analysis with historical research to shed light on the ways in which new modes of circulation help to shape poetry today.

The book's author, Professor Ben Bollig (Medieval and Modern Languages, University of Oxford) explored the issues raised with:

Maria del Pilar Blanco (Professor in Spanish American Literature, University of Oxford)
Eduardo Posada-Carbo (Professor of History and Politics of Latin America, University of Oxford)
Leigh A. Payne (Professor of Sociology, University of Oxford)

The session was chaired by Bart van Es (Professor of English Literature, University of Oxford).