Image and Substance Failures in Regional Organisations: Causes, Consequences, Learning and Change?

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Image and Substance Failures in Regional Organisations: Causes, Consequences, Learning and Change?


  • Meng Hsuan Chou Public Policy and Global Affairs Programme, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
  • Michael Howlett Department of Political Science, Simon Fraser University, Canada, and Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, Singapore
  • Kei Koga Public Policy and Global Affairs Programme, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore


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Abstract:  States often pool their sovereignty, capacity and resources to provide regionally specific public goods, such as security or trade rules, and regional organisations play important roles in international relations as institutions that attempt to secure peace and contribute to achieving other similar global policy goals. We observe failures occurring in these arrangements and activities in two areas: substance and image. To analytically account for this, we distinguish four modes of substance and image change and link these to specific types of failure and (lack of) learning. To empirically ground and test our assumptions, we examine instances of image failure in ASEAN (political/security policy) and substantive policy failure in EU labour migration policy. In so doing, this article contributes to several different fields of study and concepts that have hitherto rarely engaged with one another: analyses of policy failure from public policy, and regional integration concerns from area studies and international relations. We conclude with suggestions for ways forward to further analyse and understand failures at the international and supranational levels.

Keywords:  image failure; institutional change; learning; policy failure; regional organisations; substantive failure

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v4i3.619


© Meng Hsuan Chou, Michael Howlett, Kei Koga. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.