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Failed States

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Failed States

"Failed states" redirects here. For the Propagandhi album, see Failed States (album). For the Noam Chomsky book, see Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.
"Failed government" redirects here. It is not to be confused with government failure.
"State collapse" redirects here. For the quantum mechanics phenomenon, see wave function collapse.

A failed state is a state perceived as having failed at some of the basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government. There is no general consensus on the definition of a failed state. The definition of a failed state according to the Fund for Peace is often used to characterize a state with the following characteristics :

Common characteristics of a failing state include a central government so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of its territory; non-provision of public services; widespread corruption and criminality; refugees and involuntary movement of populations; and sharp economic decline.[1]

The level of government control required to avoid being considered a failed state varies considerably amongst authorities.[2] Furthermore, the declaration that a state has "failed" is generally controversial and, when made authoritatively, may carry significant geopolitical consequences.[2]

Definition and its issues

A state could be said to "succeed" if it maintains, according to sociologist Max Weber, a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within its borders. When this is broken (e.g., through the dominant presence of warlords, paramilitary groups, or terrorism), the very existence of the state becomes dubious, and the state becomes a failed state. The difficulty of determining whether a government maintains "a monopoly on the legitimate use of force", which includes the problems of the definition of "legitimate", means it is not clear precisely when a state can be said to have "failed." The problem of legitimacy can be solved by understanding what Weber intended by it. Weber clearly explains that only the state has the means of production necessary for physical violence (politics as vocation). This means that the state does not require legitimacy for achieving monopoly on having the means of violence (de facto), but will need one if it needs to use it (de jure).

Typically, the term means that the state has been rendered ineffective and is not able to enforce its laws uniformly because of (variously) high crime rates, extreme political corruption, an impenetrable and ineffective bureaucracy, judicial ineffectiveness, military interference in politics, and cultural situations in which traditional leaders wield more power than the state over a certain area. Other factors of perception may be involved. A derived concept of "failed cities" has also been launched, based on the notion that while a state may function in general, polities at the substate level may collapse in terms of infrastructure, economy and social policy. Certain areas or cities may even fall outside state control, becoming a de facto ungoverned part of the state.[3]

The spread of the term "failed state" has been criticized by policy researchers for being arbitrary and sensationalist. William Easterly and Laura Freschi have argued that the concept of state failure "has no coherent definition", and only serves the policy goals of Western states to militarily intervene in other states.[4] The British writer Anatol Lieven draws a distinction between the "genuinely failed and failing" states of Sub-Saharan Africa with the states of South Asia, whose rulers he says "have not traditionally exercised direct control over... most of their territory and have always faced continual armed resistance somewhere or other". Although he concedes that Pakistan might be considered "failed" when compared to the industrialized states of Western Europe, he criticizes how commentators use the War in North-West Pakistan to brand Pakistan as "failed", while not doing the same for the proportionally more serious Naxalite insurgency in India or the Sri Lankan Civil War.[5]

Transnational crime and terrorism

According to Trial Attorney of U.S. Department of Justice Dan E. Stigall, "the international community is confronted with an increasing level of transnational crime in which criminal conduct in one country has an impact in another or even several others. Drug trafficking, human trafficking, computer crimes, terrorism, and a host of other crimes can involve actors operating outside the borders of a country which might have a significant interest in stemming the activity in question and prosecuting the perpetrator." [6] Research by James Piazza of the Pennsylvania State University finds evidence that states suffering from state failure experience and produce more terrorist attacks.[7] Contemporary transnational crimes "take advantage of globalization, trade liberalization and exploding new technologies to perpetrate diverse crimes and to move money, goods, services and people instantaneously for purposes of perpetrating violence for political ends." [8]

Moreover, "problems of weakened states and transnational crime create an unholy confluence that is uniquely challenging. When a criminal operates outside the territory of an offended state, the offended state might ordinarily appeal to the state from which the criminal is operating to take some sort of action, such as to prosecute the offender domestically or extradite the offender so that he or she may face punishment in the offended state. Nonetheless, in situations in which a government is unable (or unwilling) to cooperate in the arrest or prosecution of a criminal, the offended state has few options for recourse." [6]

See also


External links

  • International Review of the Red Cross (December 12, 1999)
  • Real-Time Event Monitoring for Failed States

For a critical approach, see:

  • The Washington Post, April 15, 2011.
  • Global Black Spots: Threats from Governance without Governments. By Dr. Bartosz Hieronim Stanisławski. The National Strategy Forum Review. Summer 2011. Volume 20. Issue 3.
  • Global Black Spots Approach (White Paper). By Dr. Bartosz Hieronim Stanisławski and John A. Conway.
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