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  • Kilian Spandler

TRANSFORM: Regional Cooperation and the Transformation of National Sovereignty in the Global South

Regional cooperation is often promoted by both academics and politicians as a way for states to address important development challenges. However, the willingness to cooperate on different issues varies greatly across different policy fields. The TRANSFORM project seeks to understand these divergences by studying how different states connect ideas about national sovereignty to initiatives for regional cooperation.


The research project speaks to different stakeholders in international development cooperation. State and non-state actors from the West are currently funding thousands of regional cooperation projects around the world. This support can be counterproductive when donors design their aid policies based on their own experiences and ideas of regional integration. They are used to thinking of national sovereignty as a monolithic basis of power that states will cede when there is sufficient demand for regional integration. But the expectation that strong institutions and global norms will push governments to cooperate is often not fulfilled when we look at the way states in regions like African and Southeast Asian states try to manage different development challenges.


Due to different historical legacies and the lasting influence of colonialism, political actors in the Global South have different understandings of national sovereignty, which is why Western recipes for the promotion of regional integration rarely work. Against this background, TRANSFORM explores the connection between political elite conceptions of the state’s purpose and responsibilities regarding particular development challenges, and their inclination to engage in cooperation with neighboring governments.


The project is funded by the Swedish Research Council (2019-2022) and carried out in collaboration with Prof. Fredrik Söderbaum at the University of Gothenburg.


Current working papers and publications can be found on the ResearchGate project page.