Threat Posed By Failed States to Civilian Populations and Interstate Stability

Threat Posed By Failed States to Civilian Populations and Interstate Stability

Failed States Threat to Civilian Populations and Interstate Stability

The threat posed by failed states stems from their inability to discharge basic government responsibilities such as providing security, basic public goods, and civil services, and maintaining law and order and governing legitimacy. This power vacuum sparks crises that undercut global strategic interests includingcross-border crime as in the case of human trafficking in Eastern Europe and drug trafficking in Afghanistan and Columbia;proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East and Eastern European countries; restricting access to important natural resources as is the case in Congo; thethreat of terrorism from the Middle East and Somalia;and regional stability in Eastern Africa Countries. It also results in the civilian population falling victim to competing factions and crime. These are the channels through which failed states pose a threat to regional stability and civilian populations.

Failed states provide lush bases for harboring terrorist groups and insurgency since such states do not have hegemony within their borders. According to Seth(2008, 33-34), failed states promote the rise insurgence groups which pose a threat to the global community as well as the civilian population as was the case in Afghanistan and Taliban.Ungoverned areas make up an attractive point for terrorist. Terrorists use such states as recruiting and training ground, for poor and disillusioned youth who harbor religious or ethnic grievances. Failed states also provide avenues where terrorist groups have access to weaponry and economicsupplies, and they exploit porous borders and weak law enforcement to reposition weaponry, militants, and money around the globe, or to smuggle goods that fund their operations. Failed states also make available safe havens and operational bases for international terrorists to regroup and strategize.

Failed states also pose other threats. A significant share of the illegal drugs in circulation originates from failed states, whether cocaine from Columbia or opium from Afghanistan. Other forms of criminal dealings thrive under the cover of failed states. The black market diamonds of Sierra Leone benefited warlords and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Failed states with weak governance systems also threaten poverty reduction programs inside such states as well as human rights. This threat of failed states forms the most complex and challenging to address (Krishna-Hensel 2006, 130-131). State failure also has the effect of making the civilian population leave their countries. This creates massive refugee flows that destabilize neighboring countries and facilitates human trafficking. Such refugee flows also become a source of cultural conflict between different social configurations and fuel inter-ethnic strains (Goldstein and Finnemore 2013).

However, Rotberg(2002, 95-96) suggests that the threats posed by failed states can be addressed by preventing weak states from failing in the first place. The author states that empowering failure-prone states before they fail is a pragmatic policy and promotes world order, minimizing war and skirmishes, refugees, casualties, and abuse of human rights. The author adds that preventing state failure is less costly as opposed to reconstructing failed states. Strengthening weak states also eliminate the power vacuums that facilitate terrorism. This willeliminate the threat that failed states impose to the global community and the wellbeing of the local population.



Goldstein, Judith, and Martha Finnemore. Back to Basics: State Power in a Contemporary World. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Krishna-Hensel, Sai Felicia. Global Cooperation: Challenges and Opportunities in the Twenty-first Century. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2006.

Rotberg, Robert I. “The New Nature of Nation-State Failure.” The Washington Quarterly 25, no. 3 (2002): 85-96.

Seth, G Jones. “The Rise of Afghanistan’s Insurgence: State Failure and Jihad.” International Security 32, no. 4 (2008): 7-40.

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