Regional Integration and Poverty: How do Southern Regionalisms Embed Norms and Practices of Social Development through Health Governance and Diplomacy?

Regional organisations are moving away from traditional market-based goals to embrace issues of welfare and social development, yet little is known what role, if any, regional organisations can play in policy formation that is conducive to embed alternative approaches to development into national and international strategies and normative frameworks. This paper explores how Southern regional organisations and regionalisms as advanced by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are framing and advancing pro-poor norms and goals. While not coherent citizenship-centred projects of regionalism, SADC and UNASUR have manifested new ambitions regarding poverty reduction and the promotion of welfare and are developing modalities conducive to embed these goals in national and global policy-making. The analysis focuses on the specific area of health, a proxy to poverty reduction in both regional organisations, to argue that Southern regional organisations, while neglected partners in global governance of development, are can promote and prescribe standards for social development and poverty reduction; and act as forum for the advocacy of equity and rights. In this context, there are three key messages from this paper: (i) poverty needs to be brought in to the study of regional integration and regional governance; (ii) the efforts of regional organisations to reduce poverty need to be taken more seriously in the literature and in practice; and (iii) regional organisations can be seen as engines of norms, spaces for advocacy and effective normative corridors affecting policy at national and international levels of governance.