A lot of people have asked my thoughts on fragile and failed states. I believe the following with regard to fragile and failed states:
The distinction between a fragile and failed state is often blurred - depending on what definition is being used to describe the state - and who uses it and for what purpose.
It is generally perceived that a fragile state is a state that lacks the ability and/or the capacity to secure its Pillars, govern its environs and as a result, risks dissolution or rampant lawlessness along with extreme poverty, hunger and starvation coupled to a very high rate of unemployment and a negative economic growth curve.
A fragile state is, however, not necessarily on its way to becoming a failed state as a state can evolve from a fragile state to a more stable and secure state. A fragile state is, however, often a precursor to a failed state and is indeed often a state that has reached that tipping point.
Africa has numerous examples of states that are regarded as either fragile or failed. This classification does, however, depend on who stands to gain what from their fragility or failure.
It is generally accepted that fragile or failed states occur when governance fails, law and order cease to function effectively and the armed forces are unable to fulfil their mandates. But, generally speaking, governance as perceived by the populace is only one element that results in fragility or failure.
There are both internal and external threat drivers that can result in fragility or failure of a state.
When the Pillars of the State have been sufficiently eroded, it results in instability of the state. Once sufficient erosion has occurred, one or more of the pillars can collapse resulting in a domino effect across the spectrum of the state and thereby result in collapse or failure.
Regardless of how we view the state, there are certain general characteristics common to those we have worked in. These include inter alia the following:
1. Lack of Grand Strategy or an unrealistic Grand Strategy
2. Lack of National Security Strategy
3. Fragmented, antagonistic political powerbases
4. Weak central government and lack of or deficiency in governance
5. Inability to implement policy
6. Rampant corruption
7. Poor to non-existent service delivery
8. Weak economic strategy coupled to poverty
9. Questionable loyalty of forces
10. Breakdown of Law and Order
11. Rampant transnational crime
12. Regional and international isolation
13. Increase in uncontrolled, heavily-armed and opposing militia groups
14. Local, regional and international media pressure (mainstream and social)
15. Weak intelligence structures/failing to listen to intelligence
16. No professional Civil Service
From a military point of view, we note the following characteristics usually abound:
1. Lack of military strategy
2. Mismatch between military strategy and national strategy
3. Lack of military leadership and C3I
4. Poor discipline
5. Poor training
6. Lack of salaries hence involvement in crime
7. Poorly maintained, unserviceable and often inadequate equipment
8. Inability to develop realistic, executable operational plans
9. Poor TTPs
10. Lack of trust or even fear from populace
11. Units are incorrectly structured to counter threats
12. Lack of coherent, workable doctrine
13. Unrealistic expectations of their abilities
14. Don’t understand the threat
15. Not political astute and are partisan
16. Largest ethnic group often dominates armed forces
17. Disunity between forces/units and other security elements ie police, etc
It is critically important that a government recognises the downward slide towards fragility or failure and takes immediate and drastic intervention. Such intervention may result in government having to reassess its situation, realise that it has made mistakes and take immediate corrective action. These mistakes can be identified and rectified by monitoring the Pillars of State and their impact on the situation.
A fragile area or region within the borders of a country can result in the fragility extending into other areas within the same state. This can erode a stable state and result in a fragile or failed state and impact negatively on neighbouring states. However, these fragile or failed “pockets” within the state do not necessarily constitute a failed state.
I will attempt to discuss how fragility and/or failure of a state can be rectified in my next posting.