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Presentation on Understanding Fragile States. Delwar Hossain, Ph.D. Associate Professor Dept. of International Relations University of Dhaka Dhaka 1000, Bangladesh. Outlines of the Presentation. Introduction Changing Nature of State in the Post-War Era The Debate on Fragile States

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Presentation onUnderstanding Fragile States

Delwar Hossain, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Dept. of International Relations

University of Dhaka

Dhaka 1000, Bangladesh

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Outlines of the Presentation

  • Introduction

  • Changing Nature of State in the Post-War Era

  • The Debate on Fragile States

  • The Key Attributes of Fragile States

  • Implications of Fragile States

  • Global Response: Salvaging and Revitalizing Fragile States

  • Looking Ahead

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Objectives of the Presentation

  • to shed light on different views on conceptual understanding of fragile states and to show how conceptions of fragile states are reflected in the grand narratives of donor agencies and nations.

  • to foreground specific challenges posed by fragile states to the global community and what global response is available to salvage and revitalize fragile states.

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Changing Nature of State in the Post-War Era

  • Cold War Dynamics

  • Decolonization/Post-colonial societies (state formation, dominance of elites)

  • Post-Cold War Era

  • Post-9/11 Period

  • Limits on State Behavior (internal and external)

  • Key Areas of Changes and Continuity

  • State Sovereignty

  • Territorial Integrity

  • Core Functions of State

  • External Environment

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Box-1: The ten core functions of the state

  • legitimate monopoly on the means of violence

  • administrative control

  • management of public finances

  • investment in human capital

  • delineation of citizenship rights and duties

  • provision of infrastructure services

  • rule of law

  • management of the state’s assets (including the environment, natural resources, and cultural assets)

  • international relations (including entering into international contracts and public borrowing)

  • formation of the market

  • Source: Ghani et al, 2005.

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Box-2: External environment

  • Global trade system

  • Global aid system

  • Global security system

  • Global and regional corporations

  • Global civil society networks

  • Global media

  • Global and regional networks of knowledge

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The Debate on fragile states

  • Politics of defining states

  • Cold War Era (Superpower, great power, middle power, small power, strong power, and weak power; Rich, poor, industrialized, newly industrializing, developed, developing, underdeveloped, high income, low-income, least developed, last of the least developed, and so on.)

  • Post-Cold War Era (‘failed’, ‘collapsed’ ‘crisis’, ‘fragile’, ‘rogue’, ‘weak’, ‘ineffective’, ‘murderous’, ‘vulnerable,’ ‘poorly performing’, ‘ineffective’, or ‘shadow’, ‘neo-patrimonial’, ‘warlords’, ‘quasi’, a ‘country at risk of instability’ or ‘under stress’, or even a ‘difficult aid partner,’ ‘competition’, and so on.)

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  • Donors’ view on fragile states

  • DFID (Capacity and political willingness)

  • USAID (broad meaning, challenges, strategic options)

  • JICA (fragility and its three dimensions – functionality, outputs and relationships with donors)

  • Critics of donors’ view (static, a-historical, technical and functionalistic; tendency to focus on index or indicators; and aid policy oriented)

  • Beyond the donor driven framework

  • As a precursor to collapsed or failed states

  • Different theoretical traditions (more relevance of constructivism)

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  • Fragile states and nation-building

  • Process to build nation

  • Third world syndromes (Ayoob, Behera)

  • Defining Fragile States

  • Combination of donors’ views, academic stream of thought and nation-building process

  • A fragile state is defined as a state facing a condition of statehood where the state in question substantially loses its domestic and international agential powers to organize its collective action.

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Figure-1: Directions of States


Emergence of a State Failed/collapsed


Figure-2: The Fragility Continuum

Fragility Solid

Low High

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The Key Attributes of Fragile States

  • Who are Fragile States?

  • Africa: Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, Dem Rep of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Kenya, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rep of Congo, São Tomé & Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, and Zimbabwe

  • Asia: Cambodia, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Burma, Nepal, , Indonesia, Lao PDR, Tajikistan, Timor Leste, Uzbekistan

  • The Pacific: Tonga, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu

  • Others: Yemen, Georgia, Dominica, Guyana, Haiti, (Macedonia, Serbia-Montenegro, El-Salvador by USAID)

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  • Causes behind fragility (cases of Afghanistan and Nepal, formation of post-colonial states, neo-liberal globalization, roles of WB, IMF and WTO)

  • Indicators Developed by Donors (DFID, JICA, USAID)

  • Major Characteristics of Fragile States

  • Political element

  • Territorial context

  • Incapable of delivering public goods

  • Poor legitimacy at home and abroad

  • Combined pressures from geography, geopolitics and demography

  • Weak or nearly absent civil society

  • Prolonged rule by non-democratic regimes and absence of democratic culture

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Implications of fragile states

America is now less threatened by conquering states than by failing ones. We are menaced less by fleets and armies than catastrophic technologies in the hands of an embittered few.

US National Security Strategy, September 2002

  • Issues

  • Politico-Security (civil wars, terrorism, drug trafficking)

  • Economic (Poverty, development, growth distribution)

  • Socio-cultural (MDGs, criminalization, trafficking)

  • Contexts

  • Post-cold war (unipolarity, ethnic upsurge, emerging powers)

  • Post-9/11 scenarios (global war on terror, reborderization, identity politics)

  • The process of globalization

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  • Levels

  • National (instability, underdevelopment, security vulnerabilities, human security, image crisis)

  • Regional (security, drug trafficking, refugees, migration and IDPs)

  • Global (terrorism, violence, human security, violation of human rights, aid effectiveness, organized crimes)

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Global Response: Salvaging and Revitalizing Fragile States

  • Short-term measures

  • Forcible Humanitarian intervention

  • Non-forcible Humanitarian Intervention (aid and relief, others)

  • Long-term measures

  • Preventive strategy

  • Political stability through democratization

  • Economic development

  • Improving governance

  • Increasing Aid

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  • Politics of humanitarian intervention

  • Matrix of humanitarian intervention – motivation and outcomes

  • Humanitarian motives, non-humanitarian outcomes – The UN intervention in Somalia from May 1993-Feb. 1995

  • Humanitarian motives and outcomes – Northern Iraq in April 1991

  • Non-humanitarian motives and humanitarian outcomes – Vietnam’s Cambodia in December 1978

  • Non-humanitarian motives and outcomes – Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979.

  • Selective intervention/engagement (No to Rwanda, Sudan, Burundi, Chechnya, Colombia, Yes to Somalia, Kosovo, Northern Iraq, Bosnia-Herzegovina)

  • Dilemmas and contradictions

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Looking Ahead

  • Nation-state is still a powerful actor

  • Avoiding reductionism and linearity

  • Changes in donors’ driven framework (DFID and USAID)

  • Need for a Long view

  • More academic engagement on fragile states needed

The End