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Global Response to Failed States

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 2660 words Published: 6th Oct 2017

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According to Max Weber, a modern functioning sate is an institution claiming a “monopoly of legitimate use of physical force in enforcing its order within a given territory” (Garner, Robert, Peter Ferdinand, and Stephanie Lawson, 2009, 27). Therefore, a state, in broad terms, is an entity that can support itself through the use of legitimacy to enforce its rule and to provide its population with the adequate “public” goods. Based on the definition of a strong state, a weak or failed state is a political being that, within the scope of international politics, supplies the state with both scare qualities and quantities of political “public” goods and simultaneously, no longer has abundant control over violence within their given boundaries. Failed states cannot provide basic rights or needs such as education, security, or governance. (Helman and Ratner, 1992) Often this failure to provide the institutions is caused by violence or poverty in certain areas of the state. These structurally and politically fragile institutions of government can cause internal and external problems. Internally, these governments are so weak or ineffective that they have little or no control over the majority of their territories as well as the lack of provision of “public” goods, leading to civil wars, rebellions, and full on warfare among separate factions within the state. Internationally, these areas can be both the cause and result of widespread corruption and criminality, refugees and involuntary movement of populations, sharp economic decline, and the potential of national security problems through the threat of terrorists and international criminals. However, the external threats not only come from the state but from outsiders as well. Occasionally, groups like the United Nations or a bordering state step into intervene and stop a disaster in the making (Langford, 1999). Although the intent is not to harm the states, these international powers can also be the cause of the problem. This paper explores the reasons that current responses are ineffective and how global powers could better respond to failed states in that it is far better for them to be created into a non-state society rather than have them become a state that is sustained by international intervention alone. The existing response of international superpowers to the issue of failed states is based on an assumption that the state in question was once actually a state, and can become a functioning entity again. Within the spectrum of the validity of these states comes the question of sovereignty. Even strong states face challenges from outside and inside of their borders, but these failed states have no sovereignty whatsoever because they cannot control their capacity or autonomy. Their authority is questioned and they require support to remain functional and it comes to question whether the states actually had any sovereignty to begin with. Due to this, the attempt of international world powers to transform the failed state back into a successful state through use of international resources and efforts with the assumption that they will be able to function without international support is a meager counter to the problem.


The level of a failed state is measured by the extent to which the states are susceptible to any form of challenges to its legitimacy, whether internal or external. Based on shared knowledge of values that define a state, legitimacy is the acknowledgment that a state has, or is assumed to have, a right to rule whether legally or morally. In history, a state existed was considered legitimate if it existed. Because of this definition, most states met the traditional requirements of statehood. As said by Weber, the foremost characteristics of a state was having the capacity to act internationally and to maintain a monopoly of force within their territories, but it was not limited to just that. A state was also to have defined borders, a government, and a permanent population. Although these are the criteria required to have statehood, most states gain their independence without one or more of these principles. These states are still recognized by the global community as state actors even though they could not fully meet the requirements that were set before them, including a percentage of their population disregarding both authority and legitimacy of the state itself. The state was presumed to be the only authority, despite whether or not the people believed it to be legitimate. Simply put, the assumption of legitimacy applied to all states by the fact that all states documented by the United Nations were believed to be legitimate.

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These fragile states have contributed to an incredibly dispersed world. In this world, struggles and violence are key players. Discourse has created chances for states that are more powerful to press the power held within their region. It is possible that the power stretches even further and these hegemonic states begin to exploit the weak states in order to form new types of coalitions, partnerships, and connections between different actors, both state and non-state, as well as a plethora of problematic challenges which they must struggle to fight for their future. Just as discourse creates chances, absent or declining legitimacy also creates causes for problems. Once the legitimacy of a state has been called into question, there is a rush for groups, movements, and other state entities to fight over which group will fill the void. In order to take control of the state and undermine its legitimacy, these state entities exert their power in both violent and nonviolent ways. In the majority of fragile states in the modern world, these battles are being lost to other actors because the weakened governments do not have the power to provide the security and core functions that the other actors can readily provide (Krasner, Stephen D., and Carlos Pascual, 2005). Once these states have entered into this conflict, the protections services within the state, such as those serving to keep the peace, have either stopped operating or have ceased to exist altogether. In other cases however, these services are being utilized for actions that they were never intended to be used for (Rotberg, 2002).

Global Responses

These efforts to remanufacture the failed states are clearly formed on political and economic views of the Western superpowers. The two essential areas of failed states, according to the aforementioned group, are the failure to provide political goods and the incapability to meet the plain economic essentials of the people. These hegemons seek therefore to shape and improve the state’s institutional capacity to respond to failure. The economic factors of rebuilding failed states place an emphasis on this capacity to build certain institutions, but the aims are completely different and come from a separate perspective. While political attempts to rebuild states focuses on strengthening state institutions such as the government, peacekeeping forces, the restore of rule of law, and the provision of security, the economic efforts try to diminish the government power by releasing the economy and freeing the market services. In general, the measures suggested by the groups involved in the attempts to end state fragility or failures vary in range that it compiles a rather large list of things to be done. The tasks center around economic, political, and security based things. However, the problem is that this task list runs off the assumption that these failed states can actually be revived by rebuilding them. The state in an isolated environment, as decided by Western policy makers and scholars, is the root of the problem. However, they also see it as the source to solve the problem. But the error with the opinion of the West is that it overlooks the issues of interdependence as well as any political or economic interactions (Garner, Robert, Peter Ferdinand, and Stephanie Lawson, 2009, 432). Systematic efforts have been lacking to study state fragility and failure in terms of interconnections and linkages between the West and these failed states. What drives the state building process in these areas is the occupying power and their political ideologies, values, economic interests and strategic perceptions. These are based on defective calculations and wrong policy priorities.

Alternative Methods

Several policy recommendations could come in handy when dealing with these problems. First, instead of focusing on state building along the Western lines, there should be a development of nation building. The idea of national identity is not just feeling making the population feel like citizens. It requires the involvement of all the separate things that make up society such as ethnic background, cultural tradition, and the different types of social or political views. All of these things need to be integrated into the society because they are the factors that make up the people who actually make the nation. In times when there is no unity in a failed state, it is hard to feel like an actual citizen, therefore there is no desire for the state to become normal again. In the throes of the clashes between the groups who feel alienated, state institutions can’t continue developing. These groups, despite the fact that the institutions are meant to improve the political and economic functions and production of goods, will eventually reject the institutions because they do not do anything for the general population because their development has ceased. Any efforts to actually rebuild the nation into any form of functionality is clearly lacking due to the internal absence of unity (King, Gary, and Langche Zeng, 2001).

Just as important is the basis for the need of a domestic economic base for the failed states. There should be a change in the way the economy works, instead of laboring for political points, there should be a push for the creation of a stable base for the economy. The current strategy, although supplying enough money to certain areas, such as the social and economic bases, is ineffective. The majority of the money that is donated goes to the already urban areas, instead of the rural places where it is needed most. Some of the funding skips the government completely, leaving it nonfunctional, and goes straight to the elites, giving more room for their power to grow. The goal is to ensure that the state, without the help of any international powers, is able to grow and function on its own, at least economically. Without this, there is no way for the state to function.

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A move towards understanding the roots of the conflicts and the different situations they are based in as well as an attempt at communication between the opposing groups is also imperative. So far, there have been no movements to actually understand the issues that have formed in the failed states. There should be a large push for any occupying power as well as any entity funding the state to figure out the roots of conflict. Things that need to be addressed are simple: why does this conflict continue in such a manner, why do the parties involved in the conflict have such different goals, and what incentive could be used in order to bring them together to compromise on a way to end the continuous warfare. This has been lacking approach has been lacking and some of the policies placed by the occupying power exclude certain opposing parties and it exacerbates the conflicts instead of resolving them.

At one point in time, a state could not be questioned on its authority, even with a temporary loss of power and authority over its territory. It was a theory accompanied by the practice of protection from violence if a state could no longer function correctly. This was international law. However, the people wanted the right to self-governance, as the basis for involvement within the global community, and it was pleaded for. This global community, or similar organization posing under the same name, understands the call for human rights. The right to govern themselves would ultimately allow the states to participate in their own internal affairs. They would be protected against any outside attacks from conquering entities, all for the sake of restoring the authority that was required by the state for a proper functioning of international ruling. Although the state has seen such as such has seen its presence justified, the issue of what methods can be used to revive the states at such levels remains to be answered. Because the causes of the problem are generally internal in the root of the problem, it would only be proper that the very same internal services would provide assistance in the recovery process.

There have been attempts, using their own practices, by the population of these failed states to build their state back over a course of time. In this manner, the voices of the people and the will of the state has the potential to rally behind a movement around various points for different purposes, such as education, local government, transportation, agriculture, or other methods and organizations, both public and private, which gives the people cause to move toward the common motivations which would further the cause of reconstructions. Equally, incomplete arrangements could also serve as a drive for enthusiasm in the creation of an inclusive public segment and institutions which serve to represent the people. In the long term, this would then allow the government, as a lone entity, to regain the legitimacy that is required of it.

The things that need to be realized are two things which are essential for the formation of a legitimate state. This state, although based on tolerance, encouraged by principle, and coupled with the ability to peacefully cooperate, has to enable the people to be within a political setting as well as maintain their sense of national identity. The two things, which are the combined efforts and remedies which allow human coexistence and the will to become a state bound by unity, must be achieved. The outside influences, such as global entities with different institutions, can only move to help the formation of self-improvement.


When considering the problem of failed states, it has become evident that to some powers and viewpoints, they are happenings that are to insignificant in the scheme of things to be considered important. Within the realm of these occurrences of failed states, it is difficult to place them into the category of legal ideology because it forms essential challenges. These challenges are placed to against law, both international and constitutional. Furthermore, the inquiry that needs to be asked is whether these instances of the failing of states, however infrequent they may appear, are actually the mere beginnings of a much more intricate threat posed towards civil society as it is known. Since there is potential for the destruction and dismemberment of law and order within these politically based civilizations, the question of whether such aggression is considered to be basic human nature is called into play.

The initial global responses approach the states with an attempt at equalizing the states strength as well as the power held. This is something that is incredibly generalized and is a factor in including states within the classification that is a failed state. It infers a certain dependence on the power of politics as well as a certain weakness that is permanent and cannot be changed. This theory, although efficient, give signs and examples without actually giving them any meaning whatsoever, making it incomparable to the weaker states within the area due to the vagueness of the actual meaning.


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