The European Union (EU) is an economic and
political union of 27 member states, located
primarily in Europe. Committed to regional
integration, the EU was established by the Treaty of
Maastricht on 1 November 1993 upon the
foundations of the preexisting
Community. With almost 500 million citizens, the
EU combined generates an estimated 30% share
(US$18.4 trillion in 2008) of the nominal gross
The EU has developed a single market through a standardised system of laws which apply in
all member states, ensuring the freedom of movement of people, goods, services, and capital.
It maintains common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development. A
common currency, the euro, has been adopted by sixteen member states that are thus known
as the Eurozone. The EU has developed a limited role in foreign policy, having representation
at the WTO, G8 summits, and at the UN.
The EU operates through a hybrid system of supranationalism and intergovernmentalism. In
certain areas, it depends upon agreement between the member states; in others, supranational
bodies are able to make decisions without unanimity. Important institutions and bodies of the
EU include the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the European
Council, the European Court of Justice, and the European Central Bank. The European
Parliament is elected every five years by member states' citizens, to whom the citizenship of
the European Union is guaranteed.
The EU's work is divided into three areas of responsibility, called pillars. The original
European Community policies form the first pillar, while the second consists of Common
Foreign and Security Policy. The third pillar originally consisted of Justice and Home
Affairs, however owing to changes introduced by the Amsterdam and Nice treaties; it has
been reduced to Police and Judicial Cooperation
in Criminal Matters (other matters were
transferred to the Community). Broadly speaking, the second and third pillars can be
described as the intergovernmental pillars because the supranational institutions of the
Commission, Parliament and the Court of Justice play less of a role or none at all, while the
lead is taken by the intergovernmental Council of Ministers and the European Council (which
operate more by consensus then majority in these pillars). Most activities of the EU come
under the first, Community pillar. This is mostly an economically oriented pillar and is where
the supranational institutions have the most influence.
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The EU receives its political leadership from the European Council, which is composed
of one representative per member state—its head of state or head of government—plus
the President of the Commission. Each member state's representative is assisted by its
Foreign Minister. The Council uses its leadership role to sort out disputes which have arisen
between member states and the institutions, and to resolve political crises and disagreements
over controversial issues and policies.
The Council is headed by a rotating presidency, with every member state taking the helm
of the EU for a period of six months during which that country's representatives chair
meetings of the European Council and the Council of Ministers. The member state holding
the presidency typically uses it to drive a particular policy agenda such as economic reform,
reform of the EU itself, enlargement or furthering European integration. The Council usually
meets four times a year at European Summits.
Since its origin, the EU has established a single economic market across the territory of
all its members. Currently, a single currency is in use between the 16 members of the
eurozone. If considered as a single economy, the EU generated an estimated nominal
gross domestic product (GDP) of US$18.39 trillion (15.247 trillion international dollars
based on purchasing power parity) in 2008, amounting to over 22% of the world's total
economic output in terms of purchasing power parity, which makes it the largest economy
in the world by nominal GDP and the second largest trade bloc economy in the world by PPP
valuation of GDP. It is also the largest exporter, and largest importer of goods and services,
and the biggest trading partner to several large countries such as India and China.
The African Union is an intergovernmental
organisation consisting of 52 African states.
Established on July 9, 2002, the AU was formed as a
successor to the Organisation of African Unity
(OAU). The most important decisions of the AU are
made by the Assembly of the African Union, a semiannual
meeting of the heads of state and government
of its member states. The AU's secretariat, the
African Union Commission, is based in Addis
Ababa, Ethiopia. During the February 2009 Union
meeting headed by Libyan leader Gaddafi, it was
resolved that the African Union Commission would
become the African Union Authority.
Among the objectives of the AU's leading institutions are to accelerate the political and socio
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economic integration of the continent; to promote and defend African common positions on
issues of interest to the continent and its peoples; to achieve peace and security in Africa; and
to promote democratic institutions, good governance and human rights.
The African Union is made up of both political and administrative bodies. The highest
organ of the African Union is the Assembly, made up of all the heads of
state or government of member states of the AU. The Assembly is currently chaired by
leader of Libya, elected at the tenth ordinary meeting of the Assembly
in January 2009.
The AU covers the entire continent except for Morocco, which opposes the membership of
Western Sahara as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. However, Morocco has a special
status within the AU and benefits from the services available to all AU states from the
institutions of the AU, such as the African Development Bank.
Organisations of the AU
The African Union has a number of official bodies:
Parliament is to become the highest legislative body of the African Union. The
seat of the PAP is at Midrand, South Africa. The Parliament is composed of 265 elected
representatives from all 53 AU states, and intended to provide popular and civilsociety
participation in the processes of democratic governance.
Assembly of the African Union
Composed of heads of state and heads of government of AU states, the Assembly is currently
the supreme governing body of the African Union. It is gradually devolving some of its
powers to the Pan African Parliament. It meets once a year and makes its
decisions by consensus or by a twothirds
African Union Authority
African Union Authority is the secretariat of the African Union, composed of ten
commissioners and supporting staff. In a similar fashion to its European counterpart, the
European Commission, it is responsible for the administration and coordination
of the AU's
activities and meetings.
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African Court of Justice
The Constitutive Act provides for a Court of Justice to rule on disputes over interpretation
of AU treaties. A protocol to set up the Court of Justice was adopted in 2003, but has not yet
entered into force: it is likely to be superseded by a protocol creating a Court of Justice and
Human Rights, which will incorporate the already established African Court of Justice and
Human and Peoples' Rights and have two chambers—one for general legal matters and one
for rulings on the human rights treaties.
Executive Council is composed of ministers designated by the governments of member
states. It decides on matters such as foreign trade, social security, food, agriculture and
communications, is accountable to the Assembly, and prepares material for the Assembly to
discuss and approve.
Permanent Representatives' Committee
Permanent Representatives' Committee is consisting of nominated permanent
representatives of member states; the Committee prepares the work for the Executive
Peace and Security Council (PSC)
Peace and Security Council (PSC) is proposed at the Lusaka Summit in 2001 and
established in 2004 under a protocol to the Constitutive Act adopted by the AU Assembly in
July 2002. The protocol defines the PSC as a collective security and early warning
arrangement to facilitate timely and effective response to conflict and crisis situations in
Africa. Other responsibilities conferred to the PSC by the protocol include prevention,
management and resolution of conflicts, postconflict
peace building and developing
common defence policies. The PSC has fifteen members elected on a regional basis by the
Economic, Social and Cultural Council
An advisory organ composed of professional and civic representatives, similar to the
European Economic and Social Committee. The chair of ECOSOCC, elected in 2008, is
Cameroonian lawyer Akere Muna of the PanAfrican
Lawyers Union (PALU).
Specialized Technical Committees
Both the Abuja Treaty and the Constitutive Act provide for Specialised Technical
Committees to be established made up of African ministers to advise the Assembly. In
practice, they have never been set up. The ten proposed themes are: Rural Economy and
Agricultural Matters; Monetary and Financial Affairs; Trade, Customs, and Immigration;
Industry, Science and Technology; Energy, Natural Resources, and Environment; Transport,
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Communications, and Tourism; Health; Labour, and Social Affairs; Education, Culture, and
African Central Bank – Abuja, Nigeria
African Investment Bank – Tripoli, Libya
African Monetary Fund – Yaounde, Cameroon.
These institutions have not yet been established, however, the Steering Committees working
on their founding have been constituted. Eventually, the AU aims to have a single currency
The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, in existence since 1986, is
established under the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (the African Charter)
rather than the Constitutive Act of the African Union. It is the premier African human rights
body, with responsibility for monitoring and promoting compliance with the African Charter.
The African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights was established in 2006 to supplement the
work of the Commission, following the entry into force of a protocol to the African Charter
providing for its creation. It is planned that the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights
will be merged with the African Court of Justice.
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations,
commonly abbreviated ASEAN in English, is a
and economic organization of 10
countries located in Southeast Asia, which was
formed on 8 August 1967 by Indonesia,
Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and
Thailand. Since then, membership has expanded
to include Brunei, Burma (Myanmar),
Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Its aims include
the acceleration of economic growth, social
progress, cultural development among its
members, the protection of the peace and stability of the region, and to provide opportunities
for member countries to discuss differences peacefully.
In 2005, the bloc spanned over an area of 4.46 million km with a combined GDP of about
USD$896.5 billion growing at an average rate of around 5.6% per annum. Nominal GDP had
grown to USD $1.4 trillion in 2008.
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ASEAN was preceded by an organization called the Association of Southeast Asia,
commonly called ASA, an alliance consisting of the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand that
was formed in 1961.
The motivations for the birth of ASEAN were the desire for a stable external environment (so
that its members' governing elite could concentrate on nation building), the common fear of
communism, reduced faith in or mistrust of external powers in the 1960s, as well as the
aspiration for national economic development; not to mention Indonesia's ambition to
become a regional hegemony through regional cooperation and the hope on the part of
Malaysia and Singapore to constrain Indonesia and bring it into a more cooperative
framework. Unlike the European Union, ASEAN was designed to serve nationalism.
The ASEAN way can be traced back to the signing of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation
in South East Asian. "Fundamental principles adopted from this included: mutual respect for
the independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity, and national identity of all
nations; the right of every State to lead its national existence free from external interference,
subversion or coercion; noninterference
in the internal affairs of one another; settlement of
differences or disputes by peaceful manner; renunciation of the threat or use of force; and
effective cooperation among themselves".
All of these features, namely noninterference,
informality, minimal institutionalisation,
consultation and consensus, nonuse
of force and nonconfrontation
have constituted what is
called the ASEAN Way.
Since the late 1990s, many scholars have argued that the principle of noninterference
blunted ASEAN efforts in handling the problem of Myanmar, human rights abuses and haze
pollution in the region. Meanwhile, with the consensusbased
approach, every member in fact
has a veto and decisions are usually reduced to the lowest common denominator. There has
been a widespread belief that ASEAN members should have a less rigid view on these two
cardinal principles when they wish to be seen as a cohesive and relevant community.
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Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, often
referred to as the Commonwealth and
previously as the British
Commonwealth, is an
intergovernmental organisation of
independent member states.
Most of them were formerly part of the
British Empire. They cooperate
a framework of common values and
goals as outlined in the Singapore
Declaration. These include the promotion of democracy, human rights, good governance, the
rule of law, individual liberty, egalitarianism, free trade, multilateralism and world peace.
The Commonwealth traces its origins to the Statute of Westminster 1931. It is not a political
union, but an intergovernmental organisation through which countries with diverse social,
political and economic backgrounds are regarded as equal in status. Its activities are carried
out through the permanent Commonwealth Secretariat, headed by the SecretaryGeneral;
biennial Meetings between Commonwealth Heads of Government; and the Commonwealth
Foundation, which facilitates activities of nongovernmental
organisations in the socalled
The Commonwealth's objectives were first outlined in the 1971 Singapore Declaration, which
committed the Commonwealth to the institution of world peace; promotion of representative
democracy and individual liberty; the pursuit of equality and opposition to racism; the fight
against poverty, ignorance, and disease; and free trades To these were added opposition to
discrimination on the basis of gender by the Lusaka Declaration of 1979 (which mostly
concerned racism), and environmental sustainability by the Langkawi Declaration of 1989.
These objectives were reinforced by the Harare Declaration in 1991.
The Commonwealth's current highestpriority
aims are on the promotion of democracy and
development, as outlined in the 2003 Aso Rock Declaration, which built on those in
Singapore and Harare and clarified their terms of reference, stating: "We are committed to
democracy, good governance, human rights, gender equality, and a more equitable sharing of
the benefits of globalisation."