There are over 80 regional organizations globally, addressing issues from trade and security cooperation to trans-border water management and migration. Their rising number notwithstanding, it is the growing mandate and ambition of regional organizations, which is becoming a key feature of international relations.

In the current global context, regional organizations are fast becoming the “vehicles of choice” for countries to address pressing challenges, which require international cooperation. This development seems to be a reaction to the continuous gaps in global governance and also to the rather incremental evolution of the Breton Woods institutions. The latter are still to fully reflect key global trends such as the rebalancing between Global North and South, the significance of emerging markets and the overall multi-polar nature of the world’s power architecture.

The key question is how can the potential of these organizations be maximised to improve the state of the world’s regions while as the same time acting as catalysts for enhanced global cooperation. This is the reason why the World Economic Forum is bringing leaders of major regional organizations to Dubai for the Inaugural Global Meeting of Regional Organizations. This Meeting will take place on November 12-13 , in conjunction with the 2012 Summit on the Global Agenda.

We will focus on three main areas:

  1. The first one relates to the identity of regional organizations. We will address the mandate and purpose of regional organizations in the 21st century, given the evolving global environment and the various transformations shaping regions from within.
  2. The second set of questions relates to regional responses to human security. Although some of these organizations are working in different areas to reduce the multiple dangers to human security, the results are mixed when it comes to armed conflicts. Why have regional initiatives not been more successful in the prevention and management of armed conflicts, and how can regional organizations contribute more effectively to guarantee human security?
  3.  Finally, trade will feature prominently on the agenda. Specifically, we will ask decision-makers to think about how regional trade integration mechanisms, for example in the areas of customs, border administration, procedures and tariffs, can be utilised and adapted to offer a roadmap for the reinvigoration of a global trade regime.

In all these areas, the Forum will leverage the presence of the hundreds of thought leaders who will be present in Dubai during that time as part of the Summit of the Global Agenda. The Inaugural Global Meeting of Regional Organizations therefore promises to be a key opportunity for advancing international cooperation and global governance.

The meeting’s main outcomes will be summarized in a report that will be published after the summit. Stay tuned.

Authors: Miroslav Dusek is Director and Head of Middle East and North Africa at the World Economic Forum. Victor Willi is Project Adviser for Middle East and North Africa & Regional Organizations at the World Economic Forum.

Image: Two men are seen walking past a projection of the globe. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth