The Experience with Regional Economic Cooperation Organizations: Lessons for Central Asia


Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Central Asia has witnessed repeated efforts to strengthen regional integration through cooperation with the establishment of a number of regional organizations with Central Asian participation. In this paper, we review the experience with regional cooperation initiatives and organizations in Central Asia and the rest of the world. Using a typology of regional organizations that we have developed for this paper, we review the functions and performance of selected regional organizations and compile evidence more generally on the experience with regional cooperation around the globe. Based on this we draw some lessons to help Central Asian countries, their partners and their regional organizations respond effectively to the opportunities and challenges of regional cooperation and integration. Central Asian countries need to realize that effective cooperation is not easy. It takes time and requires a flexible, constructive approach of all major partners. It also requires effective leadership by key countries, institutions and individuals and a careful selectivity for membership and for the mandate of the organization. Where multiple regional organizations overlap in membership and mandate, it is essential to address the risk of costly duplication. The paper concludes with an assessment of the specific implications for the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Program.