Statehood – Between Fragility and Consolidation

A state has to ensure the security of its citizens, provide public utilities, and prevent arbitrary actions and corruption. If it does not, it is considered as fragile. In such cases, it is the local people who suffer most. However, violence spurs migration, and regions beyond state control offer a perfect breeding ground for terrorists. That is how state fragility can end up affecting even geographically distant societies. Therefore, standing on the sidelines is not an option for Germany and Europe – not only from a humanitarian perspective, but also for reasons of self-interest.

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Statehood – Between Fragility and Consolidation

  • Editorial

    A state has to fulfil certain basic criteria if it is to be considered a functioning state. It has to ensure the security of its citizens, provide public utilities, and prevent arbitrary actions and corruption. If we take a look around the world, it is clear that – unfortunately – many countries are still far from achieving this. In extreme cases, they cannot even guarantee a minimum level of law and order, and the state’s monopoly on the use of force is replaced by terrorist groups, warlords, or organised crime. In other countries, the situation is less clear-cut. They may be functioning states in certain areas, but are failing to adequately fulfil their duties in others. There is a broad continuum between consolidation and disintegration.

    by Gerhard Wahlers

  • A New Epicentre of Terrorism?

    West Africa in a Downward Spiral of Extremism and Fragile Statehood

    The interplay of fragile statehood and the spread of extremism and organised crime is destabilising more and more countries in West Africa. While most Western actors are predominantly focused on Mali and Niger, terror and instability are spreading southward. The example of Burkina Faso shows just where this can lead.

    by Anna Wasserfall, Susanne Conrad

  • Of the Child Who Never Learned to Walk

    South Sudan’s Statehood: A Story of Failure

    When South Sudan became the 55th African country to march into independence in July 2011 following five painful decades of conflict with (North) Sudan, there was a great sense of euphoria. But less than three years later, South Sudan was the frontrunner in an unfortunate category: the 2014 Fragile States Index ranking identified it as the most fragile state in the world. In the meantime, a brutal civil war broke out after the first government collapsed. It was not until 2018 that the warring parties were able to agree on a shaky peace treaty, the implementation of which continues to be difficult to this day. South Sudan’s statehood is a story of failure. A search for explanations.

    by Mathias Kamp

  • Symptoms and Outcomes of a Fragile State

    Myanmar before and after the Coup d’État

    When on 1 February 2021, the Burmese army – the Tatmadaw – seized power in yet another coup d’état, the event caught some observers by surprise. Yet it did not emerge out of the blue. Resulting from state fragility only superficially concealed by economic growth and a top-down political liberalisation, the military’s seizure of power in turn eroded what was left of stability in Myanmar’s state institutions.

    by Annabelle Heugas

  • A Gridlocked State

    Bosnia and Herzegovina between EU Aspirations and Politically Induced Paralysis

    Bosnia and Herzegovina was essentially given its constitution from the outside in 1995. As part of the Dayton Peace Agreement, its main aim was to keep the peace by dividing power along ethnic lines – at the expense of efficiency. The state functions to the extent that its political elites want it to. The recent years and months, however, have been marked by blockade and increasing ethno-national egoism.

    by Pavel Usvatov, Mahir Muharemović

  • “Justice” in a Lawless Space

    The “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk as Examples of Dispute Resolution in Rebel Areas

    For the people living in areas of Ukraine controlled by separatists since 2014, beyond the sphere of influence of Kiev’s state power, rule of law is a pipe dream. The “people’s republics” can try as they might to construct the façade of an orderly legal system – behind it is the arbitrariness of Russia’s whims, while human rights violations are systematic.

    by Brigitta Triebel, Hartmut Rank, Daria Dmytrenko

Other Topics

  • Different and Yet the Same?

    Prospects for a New Start in Israeli-Turkish Relations

    Relations between Turkey and Israel are thawing. Historic visits by foreign ministers and Israel’s president have highlighted the desire of both countries for rapprochement. However, this process may be impeded by domestic politics and the Middle East conflict. Turkey, as the driving force, has a strong interest in an energy partnership, whereas Israel is approaching the Turkish charm offensive with a degree of caution. However, if the rapprochement succeeds, both Brussels and Berlin should be supporting this process.

    by Philipp Burkhardt, Nils Lange

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Dr. Gerhard Wahlers



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