Failed state

Failed state

A failed state is a state whose central government is so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of its territory. The level of control required to avoid being considered a failed state varies considerably amongst authorities.cite journal|title='Failed' States and Global Security: Empirical Questions and Policy Dilemmas|last=Patrick|first=Stewart|journal=International Studies Review|publisher=Blackwell Publishing|id=ISSN search link|1079-1760|year=2007|volume=9|pages=644–662] Furthermore, the declaration that a state has "failed" is generally controversial and, when made authoritatively, may carry significant geopolitical consequences.


A state could be said to "succeed" if it maintains, in the words of 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." This 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 the means of violence (de facto) but will need one if it needs to use it (de jure).

The term is also used in the sense of a state that has been rendered ineffective (i.e., has nominal military/police control over its territory only in the sense of having no armed opposition groups directly challenging state authority; in short, the "no news is good news" approach) and is not able to enforce its laws uniformly because of high crime rates, extreme political corruption, an extensive informal market, impenetrable bureaucracy, judicial ineffectiveness, military interference in politics, cultural situations in which traditional leaders wield more power than the state over a certain area but do not compete with the state, or a number of other factors.

Crisis States Research Centre

The Crisis States Research Centre defines a “failed state” as a condition of “state collapse” – e.g. a state that can no longer perform its basic security and development functions and that has no effective control over its territory and borders. A failed state is one that can no longer reproduce the conditions for its own existence. This term is used in very contradictory ways in the policy community (for instance, there is a tendency to label a “poorly performing” state as “failed” – a tendency the Crisis States Research Centre rejects). The opposite of a “failed state” is an “enduring state” and the absolute dividing line between these two conditions is difficult to ascertain at the margins. Even in a failed state, some elements of the state, such as local state organisations, might continue to exist.

Failed States Index



thumb|right|300px|Failed States according to the "Failed States Index 2007" of "Foreign Policy"

146 states were included in the 2006 list, of which 28 were classified as "alert", 78 as "warning", 27 as "moderate", 13 as "sustainable". The worst 20 states are shown below. Change in rank from 2005 is shown in parentheses. [cite web | url=| title= Failed States list 2006 | publisher = Fund for Peace | downloaded=2007-06-19 ]


thumb|right|300px|Failed States according to the "Failed States Index 2005" of "Foreign Policy"

2005 was the first year that the Fund for Peace published the list. 76 states were analyzed, of which 33 were classified as "alert" and 43 as "warning" (ratings better than "warning" were not done in this year). The worst 20 are shown below. [cite web | url=| title= Failed States list 2005 | publisher = Fund for Peace | downloaded=2007-08-25 ]


See also

*List of countries by Failed States Index
*Rogue state
*Crisis state
*Fragile state
*Crisis States Research Centre

External links

* [ Center of Defence Information Resources on Failed States]
*Red Cross article: [ The "failed State" and international law by Daniel Thürer]
*Jack Straw speech: [ Failed and Failing States, A speech by Jack Straw, the former British Foreign Secretary]
*Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace research: * [ The Failed States Index]
*Crisis States Research Centre at the London School of Economics: * []
*An interview and podcast from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: * [ The Failed States Index: A Discussion with Pauline Baker]
* [ The "failed State" and international law] , International Review of the Red Cross, december 12, 1999
* [ Global Power Barometer]

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