Check out our newest blog post from our Get Educated, One Topic At A Time blog series! This week, get educated about the meaning behind a failed state and its connection with recent news. Also, check out our last three posts in the series: “Creating A Road To Democracy”, “A Historical Moment For Genocide” and “Two Sides To Invest”. Check back each Monday for another post!
Failed states have become a growing source of concern for the international community as breeding grounds for terrorist and crime syndicates as well as representing whole regions which are utterly devoid of law and order, living hells for those suffering in them. Foreign Policy Magazine has begun annually publishing the Failed States Index, listing the world’s countries from most failed to least.
Essentially, a failed state is a country whose government is unable to perform the basic functions required of a sovereign authority. In most cases, the governments of failed states are too weak to exert any control over their countries and so they cannot provide security or meet fundamental human needs. Somalia is the classic example of a failed state, where thecentral government controls a few blocks of the capital city and is powerless to prevent lawlessness, militant Islamic terrorism, piracy, or the current famine gripping the nation.
Human rights violations are rampant in failed states as well. Not only are living conditions atrocious in many of these countries, but the absence of legitimate judicial power often results in horrendous crimes. A recent report, for example, found that every hour, forty-eight women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are raped. With little or no development, failed states truly are anarchic nightmares.
Although there is continuing debate about the extent of the dangers posed by failed and failing states, they have been recognized as obstacles to US foreign policy. The US is currently involved in two states which are considered to be failed, Afghanistan and Iraq, and the US State Department has established an office specifically addressing state failure and reconstruction, the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization.
But the truth is, failed states are political quagmires which are too expensive for any one power to “solve.” Even the US, with all the wealth and might of superpower status, has been frustrated in its attempts to tame Afghanistan. Recognizing the need for international cooperation over failed states, the UN established the Peacebuilding Commission in 2005. Unfortunately, the Commission has been met with only limited success, in part due to its small budget and the fact that countries must invite it to operate within their borders. The Peacebuilding Commission’s activities have so far been restricted to cooperative, geographically small nations and failed states like the Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to remain open questions.