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Functionalist Regional Cooperation: South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation for Peace in the Region


Nayani Melegoda ,

University of Colombo, LK
About Nayani
Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies
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Chaminda Padmakumara

University of Colombo, LK
About Chaminda
Department of International Relations, Faculty of Arts
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South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is one of the prominent regional organizations in the world in many aspects such as the largest population and the biggest workforce. Since its inception in 1985, SAARC follows the principles of making decisions by consensus; and non-discussion on contentious bilateral issues. According to the SAARC Charter member states are ‘desirous of peace, stability, amity and progress in the region through strict adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter and Non-Alignment (Ahmed and Bhatnagar , 2008). Somehow, one of the greatest barriers for the SAARC has been recurring inter-state conflicts between member states, which have posed significant challenges (ibid).They are the dilemmas such as overlapping goals and conflicts among its members that make regional cooperation a challenge. The SAARC countries at present experience various security challenges. Peace and Security for the region is one goal that all members would want to achieve amidst insecurity, terrorism and environmental challenges in this century. However, what the 18th SAARC Summit evidently shows is the desire of SAARC to achieve deep cooperation through functional areas.

Although vast literature on regional integration has been established, most of them are Eurocentric. Therefore it is worthwhile to examine how such theories can be discussed from the non-European perspectives. In this context, Functionalism has great relevance to understand regional settings out of the Europe. Functionalism as a theory supports the idea of growing interconnectedness and interdependence between nation states located in a specific region (Singh, 2017). David Mitrany, the pioneer of Functionalism specifically mentioned world peace can be achieved through efficient administration of limited resources and use of experts than politicians. More importantly, the core assumption of functionalist theory in this sense is that, as nation’s states gets interdependent and interrelated to each other the possibility of bilateral or even regional conflict between nation states gets reduced or even eliminated to a large extent.

With the growing geostrategic, geo political importance of the region, it is important to revisit the working of SAARC and embark on an academic discourse on how to make regional cooperation more effective. The Indian Ocean today has become the gateway not only to Asia but to the rest of the world. SAARC as a functionalist organization for Peace would achieve what we need most in the region, deep peaceful cooperation .Primarily, based on the above key theoretical assumption of Functionalism; this paper aims to investigate its application to study the role of SAARC in maintaining the regional peace and security. Further this paper draws insights from its last summit; 18th SAARC Summit to further scrutinizes the functional utility of the organization.

How to Cite: Melegoda, N., & Padmakumara, C. (2018). Functionalist Regional Cooperation: South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation for Peace in the Region. Colombo Journal of Multi-disciplinary Research, 3(2), 1–28. DOI:
Published on 01 Nov 2018.
Peer Reviewed


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