From Post-Colonial to International Relations: The Growth of Multi-Ethnic, Multiracial Intergovernmental Organizations

By Srinivasan, Krishnan | UN Chronicle, March-May 2006 | Go to article overview

From Post-Colonial to International Relations: The Growth of Multi-Ethnic, Multiracial Intergovernmental Organizations


Srinivasan, Krishnan, UN Chronicle


THE EUROPEAN EMPIRES were an amalgam of independent, semi-independent and dependent territories held together by economic, strategic, political, demographic and cultural ties with the metropolitan country that varied greatly in strength and character. The transfer of sovereignty during the decolonization process did not conclude the European ambitions for a continuing role in their former colonies. For the United Kingdom and France, the colonies and the widespread influence they represented for the metropolitan country were economically and militarily exhausted. Both therefore sought a means of advantageous association with their colonies war, although the adverse international climate, metropolitan weakness and nationalism in the colonies all militated against the reimposition of colonial rule and unreformed colonialism in particular.

The British-centred Commonwealth is one of the oldest international organizations, having started at the end of the nineteenth century. Its character as a multiracial, multi-ethnic association, however, came into being with the independence of India, Pakistan and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1947-1948 and their incorporation as members. The Commonwealth grew rapidly--currently with 53 members--with the transfer of power to several former colonies in the 1960s. The British did not or could not craft durable ties with each colony before independence, but looked to the Commonwealth as the main conduit for providing desirable links and retaining influence after independence. Accordingly, Great Britain had a much more arms-length relationship with its ex-colonies than France.

French decolonization went on until 1962, with the most emotional case coming at the very end of the process. Neither the 1946 French Union nor the 1958 Community provided a successful machinery of association between France as the metropolitan power and its dependencies, and the Algerian crisis brought about the end of the Fourth Republic and the start of the Fifth, when the French were able to chart a new course after 1960 in the pursuit of constructing a new architecture for European unity.

Senegal's President Leopold Senghor's original concept of la Francophonie was influenced by the Commonwealth, but his idea was based on cultural harmony, combining negritude with French civilization and culture and francophone solidarity. His proposal was for an association that would lead to a great community of peoples sharing the same ideals while having their own particular interests and civilizations preserved. However, the French Government strongly preferred the route of bilateralism with its former dependencies to secure its objectives of creating the Franc Zone, ensuring raw material supplies and concluding defence agreements and technical cooperation accords. Rather than encourage la Francophonie, France chose to concentrate first on Europe. The original Francophonie summit eventually took place in 1986--ten held thus far--and in 1997 an official Organisation de la Francophonie (OIF) was established. By 2006, OIF comprised 53 members and 10 observers; thanks to its composition, the organization has become a substantive forum with a broad agenda.

Communidade dos Paises de Lingua Portuguesa (CPLP)--the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries--began even later, since it was conditioned by decolonization and came long after Portugal's decolonization process has been completed. There was some inspiration drawn from the Commonwealth's example, and its foundation followed Mozambique's admission to it. CPLP was established in Lisbon in 1996 to promote concerted political and diplomatic action among seven members--Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, and Sao Tome and Principe--with the aim of strengthening cooperation and helping members to expand their influence in international organizations. Timor-Leste joined as the eighth member in 2002 and there are two observers.

Organizacion de Estados Iberoamericanos (OEI) para la Educacion, la Ciencia y la Cultura--Organization of Iberian-American States for Education, Science and Culture-began in 1949 as the Office of Latin American Education. …

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From Post-Colonial to International Relations: The Growth of Multi-Ethnic, Multiracial Intergovernmental Organizations
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