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Subregional Security Cooperation in the Third World

William T. Tow
ISBN: 978-1-55587-201-4
1990/155 pages/LC: 90-36363

"Tow offers a detailed and informative examination of the reasons for the establishment of subregional security organizations, the manner in which they are organized, the relative success of each of the five organizations examined, and their relationship with Western powers.... The material is both well written and well documented."—International Social Science Review


Within the past decade, traditional regional security organizations formed during the Cold War have gradually been supplanted by more indigenous groupings designed specifically to address local security problems. Professor Tow argues that these subregional security organizations (SRSOs) have provided their members with a new self-confidence, encouraging them to formulate their common security interests and to face the "outside" world in a more unified fashion. The strategic and economic vulnerability of the new associations, however, has not been overcome to the extent that their members originally had hoped, and their continued relevance in an environment of rapid international change remains uncertain.

Tow assesses the extent to which five SRSOs—the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Organization of East Caribbean States (OECS), the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), and the South Pacific Forum (SPF)—have succeeded in meeting commonly defined security threats, in ameliorating their members' political and economic vulnerabilities, and in compelling the major powers to accept the legitimacy of their regional security agendas. He also considers more general questions of "regional" vs. "subregional" security and the regime characteristics that have contributed to the formation of SRSOs. His final chapter focuses on the significance of SRSOs in the context of broader security issues.


William Tow is senior lecturer in international relations at the University of Queensland. The most recent of his numerous books and articles is The Limits of Alliance: NATO Out of Area Disputes Since 1949 (coauthored with Douglas Stuart.)


  • Sub-Regional Security Organization: Legitimacy Factors.
  • SRSOs' Effectiveness: Case Studies.
  • External Responses to SRSOs.
  • Conclusions for Western Policy Makers.