The concept of a failed state, also known as a fragile state, emerged about three decades ago, but politicians and researchers have not reached unanimity in defining and interpreting this issue. Generally, states are considered to be failed when they have lost control over considerable parts of their territory (Lynch 2016, 24). The economic, humanitarian, and political outcomes of state failures are considered not only for them but also for other players in the world political field.
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A crisis is viewed as a moving point in a variety of situations in all countries of the world, not only failed states (Lemay-Hébert 2019, 77). When one system fails, another one attempts to replace it, and the results of such a change cannot be predicted. Hence, the problem of failed states is necessary to address since the issues in the countries that lost control over their territories affect not only these states but also their neighbors, as well as other world countries.
The core reason why failed states are considered a massive burden is that they impact the state of security in the world. Specifically, it is believed that state failures can put international peace under threat and undermine security (Woodward 2017, 12). These concerns have been raised since the end of the Cold War in 1991, hence the emergence of the term ‘a failed state.’ The aftermath of some states’ fragility may include civil war, terrorism, and nuclear expansion.
Without controlling one’s government, the failed leaders of such states cannot cope with sustaining peace within and behind their borders. As a result, civil wars may break out, which are impossible to resolve by the state’s government since it is not functioning properly. To alleviate the issue, failed states may address international organizations, whose involvement does not always bring the desired positive effect for the citizens of fragile states. Nuclear proliferation and terrorism also have ample opportunities to spread and prosper since there is no one to control or cease them.
Additionally, colossal violations of human rights may occur, which leads to increasing numbers of refugees and shelter claimants. People start migrating, and they may not always find where to settle down (Woodward 2017, 12). Families become broken since complicated living circumstances do not leave any choice for a happy and calm lifestyle. Those refugees who are lucky to be accepted by some other states’ governments can be divided into different camps, and parents may not see their children after the division.
Furthermore, the conditions in shelters are far from being perfect, which may cause another problem with failed states: the promotion of serious diseases’ spread, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, HIV, or Ebola (Woodward 2017, 12). Without proper sanitary means and poor access to food and fresh water, as well as due to the lack of high-quality health care, people living in or running away from failed states do not adhere to the required hygienic norms, which results in increased exposure to infectious diseases.
Finally, a severe outcome of failed states is the trafficking of illegal goods or, more tragically, people. These problems have always prevailed in developing countries, but the states that lost control of their government and people are more likely to contribute to the spread of such phenomena (Woodward 2017, 12). When there is no proper regulation of the citizens or roads, it is easier for kidnappers to catch their victims and transport them. Terrorism also receives an opportunity for flourishing if there is no control over the political system, the media, and the people.
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The abovementioned reasons are sufficient to explain why it is important to address the issue of failed states. However, it is necessary to bear in mind that all of these aspects refer not only to the fragile states themselves but also to other countries and international affairs in general. Despite the evolution of diplomacy, international affairs, and peace corps activities, it is rather difficult to maintain political order in failed states (Malejacq 2016, 86).
Such fragile states as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Somalia pose a direct threat to the national security and the national interests of the USA (Malejacq 2016, 85). Due to the prevalence of alternative governance forms in the failed states, the endeavors of international organizations to establish sustainable peace and build democracy in fragile states have not been successful.
One of the most dramatic examples of state failure in Afghanistan, which lost its authority in 2008. The reasons why external interventions to return the power to the government are numerous. These include security issues, moral hazards, faulty values, as well as the lack of commitment and resources (Malejacq 2016, 86). However, the majority of analytics agree that the problem is in the inadequate interpretation of the power division.
Whereas the prominence is given to domestic affairs within the failed state, the role of international effects is often underestimated. Hence, as Malejacq (2016) argues, it is wrong to view failed states only through the prism of domestic politics (86). Furthermore, due to misunderstandings in the political goals of state and non-state actors, international attempts to improve failed states’ stability typically are ineffective.
The U.S. administration has struggled to resolve wars in several other failed states, such as Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen. However, it is argued that instead of attempting to solve the problems using military interventions, the USA should promote military de-escalation and increase the opportunity for the failed states to develop their democracy (Lynch 2016, 24). The mentioned countries of North Africa and the Middle East collapsed under the devastating effect of the Arab Spring uprisings in 2010, which led to destructive humanitarian and economic outcomes. Thousands of people were killed in each of these fragile states, and millions were displaced from their homes (Lynch 2016, 25). It is impossible to overestimate the detrimental effect of state failure on citizens.
However, the processes going on in the failed states had an upsetting impact on many other countries and affairs. Terrorist groups, which took hold of some of the failed states, used their territories and people to aim at both vulnerable neighboring countries and faraway developed states (Lynch 2016, 25). Still, the best response to such activities, according to Lynch (2016), is not a military intervention but an attempt to rehabilitate the failed states (25). Taking into consideration the aftermath of state failure on citizens, neighboring countries, and international affairs, it seems viable to agree with such a suggestion. Quite possibly, by helping fragile states to regain their authority, international organizations will not only create better conditions for the citizens of these countries but also maintain peace and order throughout the world.
Lemay-Hébert, Nicolas. 2019. “From Saving Failed States to Managing Risks: Reinterpreting Fragility Through Resilience.” In Governance and Political Adaptation in Fragile States, edited by John Idriss Lahai, Karin von Strokirch, Howard Brasted, and Helen Ware, 75–101. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.
Lynch, Marc. 2016. “Failed States and Ungoverned Spaces.” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 668, no. 1: 24–35.
Malejacq, Romain. 2016. “Warlords, Intervention, and State Consolidation: A Typology of Political Orders in Weak and Failed States.” Security Studies 25, no. 1: 85–110.
Woodward, Susan L. 2017. The Ideology of Failed States: Why Intervention Fails. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.