Comparative Regional Integration


  • In spite of an explosion of literature on regional integration, the “comparative” element remains largely underdeveloped. There is little agreement among scholars as to what constitutes “good” regional integration theory, which results in a fragmented field of study. This fragmentation comes from a lack of comparison and exchange of ideas between scholars, as well as a lack of dialogue between scholars using different theoretical perspectives. The Comparative Regional Integration Programme seeks to contribute to overcoming these two unnecessary divisions. Within the programme, two research areas are prioritized: the comparative study of regional organizations and their governance linkages and the comparative study of regionalisms around the world. This programme also aims to further the understanding of the dynamics of multilevel governance, interregionalism, and the role of regions therein, and aims to strengthen the methodology of comparative regionalism.

    Focal Point

    This programme is coordinated by Luk Van Langenhove, UNU-CRIS Director.


    This programme is very important for the UN and UNU systems because comparative regional integration is quite an unexplored area within the UN. At the same time, studying this topic represents an important tool for governments, international organizations and civil society. The possibilities regional integration gives to global governance, democracy and human security for example represent important sources of information for all these actors.


    The approach in this programme can be characterised by interdisciplinarity, comparative focus, and the use of a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods.


    Gender balance is taken into account in the development of the programme. UNU-CRIS aims to respect this cross-cutting challenge in the division of tasks within every programme and every research project.

    Target Audience

    The audience of this programme includes students, academics, national and regional policymakers, UN staff, and stakeholders.

    Intended Impact

    Impact: Rethink/revisit existing theories/policies
    Target: The target is to critically evaluate the modes of governance that are currently observable in the existing regional integration arrangements around the world and offer comparative analyses of these distinct governance models.
    How: This target could be achieved through high-level publications and academic and policy-relevant dissemination.

    Impact: Furthering knowledge in an academic field
    Target: The target here is to develop an inter-disciplinary conceptual understanding and explanation of regional governance models, in order to deepen an awareness and understanding of the political, economic, and social relations inherent in regional cooperation.
    How: This target could be achieved through high-level publications and academic and policy-relevant dissemination.

    Impact: Capacity development in developed/developing countries
    Target: The target is to use the research output to support capacity-building activities among diverse actors involved in managing regional integration and cooperation.
    How: This target could be achieved through the organization of training courses for students, scholars and professionals and PhD schools.

    Research Findings

    The research of this programme aims to underline that countries across the globe are seeking new cooperative solutions to existing problems through various regional integration arrangements. These arrangements improve collective decisionmaking aimed at resolving issues that cannot be dealt with by national governments acting independently. Globalization has opened up a space between the national and global levels of decisionmaking and policy-formulation, within which states and non-state actors can develop the processes and institutions (both formal and informal) that guide and restrain the collective activities of groups. Governance is here understood as a multi-faceted process of regulation, based upon laws, principles and norms, institutions, policies and voluntary codes of conduct — thereby including both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ regulation.

    Value Added

    UNU-CRIS creates a space within the UN system to reflect on the role of regions therein, and supports the collaboration between the UN and the regional organizations in the field.


    The output of the programme will be disseminated through public events (conferences, workshops, book launches, etc.), academic publications (including electronic publications), and policy reports.

    Timeline/Programme Cycle

    This is a continuous programme, consisting of a set of projects with specific timelines.


    The programme will be evaluated by the number and quality of UNU-CRIS publications, the capacity to attract SPF, the number of incoming PhD interns and visiting researchers, and by the recognition of competence in comparative regional integration.


    The most important challenge in the programme implementation is related to the growing number of institutes doing research on this topic. UNU-CRIS will continue to focus on particular niches for which it has a comparative advantage (interdisciplinary and comparative research, UN-related issues).

  • Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies

    C/o Grootseminarie Potterierei 72, 2nd floor
    8000 Bruges Belgium.
    T: +32 50 471100 | F: +32 50 471309