Tag Archives: fragile states
For a fleeting moment during the final decade of the twentieth century, the general trajectory of conflict across the world seemed clear. With the Cold War over, the number of interstate wars was in free-fall and the dominant form of violence was internal, within fragmenting states no longer propped up by their superpower sponsors. The age of ‘total war’ between states had thus been largely superseded by a wave of civil conflicts, often characterised as ‘new wars’, fought for the most part in rural hinterlands and widely considered as limited in scope and scale.
Over a decade into the new millennium, however, the trajectory now looks far from straightforward. Like international wars, civil wars too have been steadily declining in number. Yet from Colombia to Cairo, Brazil to Baghdad and Kenya to Kandahar, each month brings new manifestations of what Arjun Appadurai (in)famously termed the ‘implosion of global and national politics into the urban world’. Although riots, gang crime, and terrorist attacks have afflicted cities for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, the increasing ubiquity of such events – even if not ‘wars’ in any conventional sense – suggest that the hallmark of the contemporary period is one of rising ‘urban conflict’ rather than ‘peace’. (more…)
Many fragile states maintain a very limited presence in large parts of their territory and lack the capacity to effectively govern even when present. Is there any way to improve governance in such places without depending on the government?
In other words, are there mechanisms to promote collective goods in areas where political institutions are too weak to adopt and enforce collectively binding rules?
Although governance is usually considered a product of government (the state), empirical evidence suggests that areas of weak or limited statehood do not necessarily have weak governance. “Governance without a state” is a reality in many parts of the world, including Somaliland, parts of the eastern DRC, and places where warlords, multinationals (MNCs), or NGOs provide some public goods.
Cross-posted from Global Dashboard.
There have been growing demands for greater independent evaluation of foreign aid for at least half a decade now. As William Easterly argued as far back as 2006:
We need independent evaluation of foreign aid. It’s amazing that we’ve gone a half century without this. . . . [Truly independent evaluation of aid would] give feedback to see which interventions are working and give incentives to aid staff to find things that work.
The Center for Global Development summarized the need in its report When Will We Ever Learn? Improving Lives Through Impact Evaluation:
Impact evaluations do not have to be conducted in-house. Indeed, their integrity, credibility, and quality is enhanced if they are external and independent.
This chart (based on an index produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Nuclear Threat Initiative) highlights why people working on security issues worry about fragile states. As the New York Times reports,
Experts warned that terrorists could buy or steal the makings for nuclear arms from the world’s secretive maze of atomic storage and production sites, which are said to number in the thousands. . . .
The report said nearly a quarter of the nations with materials that can fuel atom bombs scored poorly on social factors because of “very high levels of corruption.” And it warned that several of those “also scored poorly on the prospect of political instability over the next two years.”
That bleak combination, the study concluded, “significantly increases the risk that nuclear materials might be stolen, with help from corrupt insiders or in the midst of government distraction or political chaos.”
- Central Asia (including Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan)
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Kenya / Somalia
With the exception of #2, which fits into a more conventional state versus state conflict, all the others involve countries that are fragile states. Kenya is vulnerable because of its intervention in the failed state of Somalia.
All these fragile states suffer from sectarianism and weak government, the two primary drivers of fragility. Sectarianism is not limited to ethnicity and religion: clan divisions matter in places such as Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Weak government comes in many shades: Pakistan’s works reasonably well; Somalia has been without a state since 1991.
For some reason, Libya and Iraq are off the list even though both are vulnerable to a renewal of conflict in some form in the next 12 months. And the type of low level violence that infects parts of Russia, India, Africa, and Central America does not seem to be considered even though the number of dead may be greater than in many of these places.