CROP - The Comparative Regional Organizations Project

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CROP is a database project aiming to facilitate the systematic comparison of international regional organizations. It is linked to a research project exploring the influence of diffusion processes on the design of regional organizations. CROP has collected the founding and amending treaties of more than 80 regional organizations since 1945, and coded their institutional design and characteristics with a questionnaire of more than 300 items. It constitutes one of the largest and most detailled data gathering project on regional organizations to date.

The Comparative Regional Organizations Project (CROP) is a database project aiming to facilitate the systematic comparison of international regional organizations. It is linked to a research project exploring the influence of diffusion processes on the design of regional organizations. CROP has collected the founding and amending treaties of more than 80 regional organizations since 1945, and coded their institutional design and characteristics with a questionnaire of more than 300 items. It constitutes the largest and most detailled data gathering project on regional organizations to date.

 

CROP received initial funding for three-years from the German Research Foundation (DFG) (2015-2018). The project's funding was extended for another year and will then end in August 2019.

 

Exploring Insitutional Design Characteristics

The CROP database allows us to describe and analyse in detail the pattern of emergence and institutional development of regional organizations, as indicated by their agreements. It captures the institutional characteristics of regional organizations established since 1945. We are particularly interested in the formal institutional structure of regional organizations. ‚ÄúInstitutional structure‚ÄĚ refers to the institutions and policies mentioned in the regional organizations‚Äô founding and amending agreements. We understand these to be regional organizations‚Äô ‚Äúconstitutions‚ÄĚ, defined here as a ‚Äúset of institutions governing political decision-making‚ÄĚ (Weingast 1995: 2). Thus, every regional organization in this sense has its own ‚Äúconstitution‚ÄĚ, even if it does not necessarily bind its member states together in a meaningful way or does not meet more demanding criteria regarding the ‚Äėoptimal design of the constitution-making process‚Äô (Elster 1998). 

 

Papers and updates are regularly posted on ResearchGate: www.researchgate.net/project/Comparative-Regional-Organizations-Project-CROP

 

The Naming of RO Agreements

We start with the easiest measure of similarity in the design of agreements: the formal characteristics. How similar are the agreements when it comes to basic features such as word length or the names of agreements? Our four conceptual approaches have different expectations here: Regional integration and organization studies assume that formal characteristics would be determined by the functional demands that a legal agreement is required to regulate. Hence, similar issue areas (security, economics) might have their own requirements for labeling agreements and legal detail. Comparative regionalism studies would expect even formal characteristics to reflect the practices of regionally stratified international societies. And IPE studies would expect regions to be influenced at least to some degree by patterns associated with economic globalization. 

Using Section I of our codebook on formal characteristics of the agreements we find variation on how the agreements are being labelled and how long they are.

 

Table 1: Names given to Founding and Amendment Agreements

 

Treaty

Agreement

Protocol

Charter

Declaration

Convention

Others

Sum

62 (23%)

46 (17%)

33 (13%)

32 (12%)

27 (10%)

22 (8%)

45 (17%)

267

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Own compilation, based on CROP 2019

 

An interesting characteristic of these names is that no clear patterns emerge among founding and amendment agreements as to how they are being labeled. ‚ÄúTreaty‚ÄĚ is the most frequently used name, but only about one quarter of all agreements use it. A roughly equal share of agreements is variously called ‚Äúagreement‚ÄĚ, which can refer to trade agreements concluded among members of regional organizations (such as the North American Free Trade Agreement) as much as to broader agreements, such as the Agreement on the Establishment of the Arab Cooperation Council (1989) or the Cartagena Agreement establishing the Andean Community (2003). ‚ÄúProtocols‚ÄĚ, on the other hand, are more consistently used. They are usually additional agreements regulating the establishment of either new competences (e.g. Protocol relating to Mutual Assistance of Defense (ECOWAS, 1981) or new organs (e.g. Protocol on Tribunal in the Southern African Development Community (SADC, 2000)). Only 12 percent of all agreements use the ambitious term ‚ÄúCharter‚ÄĚ, like the Charter of the East African Union (2007), the Charter of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (2007) or the Charter of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (2014).

Agreements by regional organizations also vary substantially in their length. Figure 4 above provides a boxplot of the distribution of the length of documents by region. Across regions, the length of agreements varies substantially: Agreements from Asia (includes Asia-Pacific, Eurasia and Middle East) tend to be much shorter than European, African and American ones. There are exceptions to the rule, of course: The treaty of the Eurasian Economic Union is the longest in the dataset, followed by the NAFTA agreement (not included in Figure 3 above). A one-way ANOVA testing for regional group differences among the means of word length of these agreements shows these regional group differences to be statistically significant at the p<=0.001 level (Ōá2(3) = 196.7839, p<=0.001) . A Bonferroni test statistic shows that the four groups show significant differences in the means of agreement length, with European agreements having significantly higher means than American and Asian ones.

This is interesting insofar as this provides some evidence for the claim that European agreements tend to be more detailed and precise (adding to length), whereas especially Asian agreements tend to be much shorter and vaguer in language. If taken as dimensions of legalization (Abbott et al., 2000), our data supports the claim that European agreements are more legalized and ‚Äúformal‚ÄĚ than other regional groupings, and especially those of Asia (Katzenstein, 2005).


CROP - Figures and Tables

 

 

Figure 1 displays the number of regional organizations by year and region, 1919-2017.

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 2 displays the number of regional organizations by year and region, 1919-2017, including the overall number of regional organizations in the international system.

 

 

 

 

Figure 3 displays the distribution of the length of agreements (in words) across regions. Source: CROP