Davos 2012: The Rise of Regions in a G-Zero World

In response to the global power vacuum, we'll see a return to geography as a primary organizing principle, where a country's placement will determine its friends and enemies, trading partners, and foreign policy focus to an outsized degree. Countries are already coming together in new ways on a regional level, filling the void left by global institutions with smaller-scale governance within limited spheres of influence. We will see new institutions, organized geographically that promote and reflect regional interests, and new trends exposing the ascendancy of neighborhoods in a G-Zero world.

This rise of regionalism, at its core, arises from an accepted truth: nations are selfish. They act in their own interests. But they also acknowledge that the unbridled pursuit of those interests produces sub-optimal results, and coordinated policies can help drive national agendas forward. In order to provide leadership that extends beyond the national stage, there is a growing reliance on regionalism to stopgap this shortage of effective global decision-making.

All regions are not created equal, however. This trend is not simply localized globalization, where the free flow of ideas, money, information, people, and goods has fractured along regional borders. A host of factors and forces are promoting unique constellations of regional power around the world. Clearly, the nature and degree of regional cohesion will vary. Some groupings are more formalized -- the European Union is the most formal and mature integration of states, with significant institutional capacity at a regional level. Other regions will be more informally arranged, with sheer power dynamics driving cohesion; in this regard, the Caucasus and broader Middle East regions come to mind. In some cases, unity will be more symbiotic with voluntary participation -- in other cases, a coercive local hegemon may impose integration on neighbors that do not have the capacity to hedge their bets against it.

Likewise, the integrative forces that impel coordination -- whether it is formal or informal, voluntary or coercive -- will differ dramatically. What combination of security, energy, economic, political, cultural, and religious concerns will prompt or repel integration, and influence how it takes shape? To ascertain the impact of a world with regional models, we'll take a closer look to determine how they have and will cohere.

Presented by

Ian Bremmer & Steve Clemons

Ian Bremmer and Steve Clemons are both members of the World Economic Forum’s Council on Geopolitical Risk. Bremmer is President of the Eurasia Group. Clemons is Washington editor at large at The Atlantic.

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