Entityâ€™s designation as a â€śregional organizationâ€ť
To warrant inclusion in our dataset, we tentatively adopt the following criteria for an entityâ€™s designation as a â€śregional organizationâ€ť:
It has been established by at least two contiguous states, who define their membership
therein on a regional basis (e.g. â€śAfricanâ€ť, â€śMiddle Easternâ€ť);
It is multipurpose in scope; that is, it focuses on more than one issue area.
It is sufficiently institutionalized to require regular meetings and rules governing decision-making.
This definition is more inclusive than the standard definition of the updated Correlates of War project (Pevehouseet al. 2004) or the latest Formal Intergovernmental Organizations (FIGO) project (Volgy et al. 2008: 851; see also Beohmer et al 2004), which adopt similar criteria, such as formal entity, states as members, possession of a permanent secretariat, and autonomy. Accordingly, a regional organization is an international organization with a regionally defined membership â€“ i.e. all states have to come from the same region. Our proposition is rather to also include those entities initially having no permanent secretariat, as we believe that they constitute a distinct type of decentralized organization â€“ as represented, for example, by the EFTA in the 1960s. EFTAâ€™s institutional design has been adopted by other regional organizations. Our definition thus excludes recently concluded bilateral free trade agreements (because they focus on a single issue), but include multilateral organizations that consist of only two members and that often form the nucleus of larger organizations, such as, for example, the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) as established between Venezuela and Cuba.
Our dataset will consist of â€śagreement eventsâ€ť, denoting when a regional organization was established or changed and what specifically has been amended in the case of the latter. Each case in the dataset (regional organization agreement) will contain basic information about: the regional organization and the agreement, the significance of changes, information on the number of members who have signed the agreement, the specified institutions for policy-making, the mentioned principles of cooperation, the number, and fields, of cooperation and membership rules, among other things. The dataset will be generated using a specifically designed questionnaire. Additionally, we will collect key data on these organizations (average economic growth, number of interstate conflict onsets), on their institutionalized links to other organizations (as indicated by their observer status and institutionalized dialogues), on their openness to global trade and on the characteristics of member states (average score of democracy, average level of per capita GDP).
We would like to acknowledge the contribution of a number of students in our seminar "Textual Analysis and Coding" in summer 2014 and winter 2014/2015 that have helped with a pre-test of the data, and provided vuluable feedback on issues of questionnaire construction: Lars Berker, Hannah Buschmann, Lisa Frerichs, Andre HĂ¶ttges, Madeline Kaupert, Conrad Leicht, Matthias Rachel, and Tilman RĂĽsch.