The concept of Fragile State

The strength of states is measured by the services they provide to their people in terms of services that satisfy the citizen and make his life safe, dignified and luxurious, in addition to other determinants related to sovereignty, military power, political administration, legislation and laws in which the system can only be upright. The state in its modern sense has been a subject of discussions and reviews aimed at reaching exemplary definitions of the strong, weak and failed state, and other definitions that are based on determinants or indicators in the event that they are applied to a country. This fragile state was officially used by the Global Peace Fund in 2014 in its annual report issued in cooperation with the American Foreign Policy Journal, after it had for years used the term for failed states in its previous reports that it began in 2005.

Fragile state in language:


The state, in the tongue of the Arabs, is the name of the thing that is in circulation, and it is also the verb and the transition from state to state, and it is derived from the verb dal, dol, and the indication is the meaning of victory. And we discussed the matter: we took it in the states. And they said: There are many, i.e. deliberation on the matter, and Sibawayh said: And if you wish, I carry it as a sign that he has fallen into this situation, and the days have come to pass, and God handles them among the people. 


The fragility in the tongue of the Arabs, it is the weak and fast Khawar, which is also soft and soft. Ibn Manzur said: The fragility and fragility of everything that has looseness and softness in it. It is said that bread fragile and the like in the sense of thinning and dried until it became quick to break, and fragile the person, that is, he became a weak mucosa.


Fragile state idiomatically:

Interest in the concept of a failed state began by academics and policy makers since the beginning of the eighties, but political promotion for it appeared in the early nineties in the speech of the representative of the United States of America at the United Nations, in the context of mobilizing international efforts to help and save Somalia. This was followed by the promotion of the concept through the use of the term by both Gerald Hills and Stephen Ratner, through a study published in 1993 in the journal Foreign Polic, published in the United States of America, and then the study prepared by William Zartman on the collapsed state in 1995. .

After the era of the Cold War, the vocabulary of the state’s weakness, failure, and then its fragility multiplied in research and reports on politics and international relations, when dealing with its overall performance and the extent of its ability, in particular, to face problems such as poverty, civil war, various forms of violence and corruption, or the advancement of comprehensive development tasks.

The term “fragile states” is theoretically incoherent, and its use was found in popularity, at first, by international institutions, such as the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and organizations concerned with complex situations in countries that suffer fundamental problems. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development believes that “a fragile state has weak capacities to carry out basic governance functions and lacks the capacity to develop mutually constructive relationships with society. Fragile regions or states are also considered more vulnerable in terms of internal or external shocks such as economic crises or natural disasters. .

As for the International Monetary Fund, it defines the fragile state negatively, by defining its opposite, which is: the functional state, which it describes as “the state capable of performing ten major functions, on top of which is the classic function of the state, which is the legal monopoly of the means of violence or oppression within society. The public finances of the state in a rational manner, investing in human capital, managing the basic services of the state, as well as the function of the multiplicity of the state’s approaches to enforcing the rule of law, as well as the ruling elite’s own submission to the rule of law, and how the ruling elite manages the state’s capabilities. Mechanisms efficiently at the individual and collective level. ” On the contrary, a fragile state is defined, according to the previous International Monetary Fund’s understanding, as “that state that does not provide the required services to its residents effectively, in one or more of the aforementioned jobs”.

In defining a fragile state, the World Bank sees it as “those countries that face challenges in development, represented by weak institutional capacities, their lack of good governance, and the presence of a state of political instability that may qualify them to some level of internal violence, or that state may be instability. Inherited from an internal conflict in the recent past, and it suffers from low income as well. “


Indicators of fragility:

In 2005, the Global Peace Fund issued an annual report, in cooperation with the American Foreign Policy Journal, for failed states, and in 2014 the report used for the first time the term fragile states instead of failed states, relying in its assessment of state fragility on three main indicators: economic, political and social. Of those other indicators sub-index, this article will focus on the most important, but not all, of them.


Firstly, economic indicators:

 A- Economic decline and poverty: 

The economic regression index takes into account the factors related to the economic deterioration within the country and looks at the patterns of the gradual economic decline of society as a whole as measured by per capita income, gross national product, unemployment rates, inflation, productivity, debt, poverty levels or business failure, and it also takes into account the sudden decline In commodity prices, commercial revenues, or foreign investment, and any collapse or depreciation of the national currency, the economic regression index also takes into account responses to economic conditions and their consequences, such as severe social difficulties imposed by economic austerity programs, or perceived collective disparities, and focuses An economic regression indicator on the formal economy – as well as illicit trade, including drugs and human trafficking, capital flight, or levels of corruption and illicit transactions such as money laundering or embezzlement.

B- Unequal Economic Development:

The Economic Development Index not only takes into account actual inequality, but also addresses perceptions of inequality, realizing that perceptions of economic inequality can fuel grievances as much as true inequality, and can reinforce societal tensions or national discourse, as well as measure economic inequality, The index takes into account the opportunities available to groups to improve their economic situation.

C – The human journey and the depletion of the brains:

The Human Journey and Brain Drain Index takes into account the economic impact of human displacement (for economic or political reasons) and the consequences that this may have on the country’s development. On the other hand, this may involve the forced displacement of professionals or intellectuals who flee their countries due to persecution or actual oppression or Fear, and specifically the economic impact that displacement may have on the economy through the loss of skilled professional employment.

Secondly, political indicators:

A- The legitimacy of the state:

The State Legitimacy Index looks at the level of confidence of the population in state institutions and processes, and assesses the effects in the absence of this trust, which is manifested through mass public demonstrations, continuous civil disobedience, or the emergence of armed rebellions, the nature of political transitions, and where there is an absence of democratic elections. The degree of government representation of the population it governs, and the index takes into account the openness of the government, specifically the openness of the ruling elites to transparency, accountability and political representation, or on the contrary, levels of corruption, profit, marginalization, persecution or exclusion of opposition groups. The index also takes into account the state’s ability to exercise basic functions that infer the residents’ confidence in its government and institutions, such as the ability to collect taxes.

B- General Services:

The public services index refers to the existence of basic state jobs that serve the people. On the one hand, this may include the provision of basic services, such as health, education, water and sanitation, transportation infrastructure, electricity, energy, internet and communication, on the other hand, it may include the ability of the state to protect its citizens, such as terrorism and violence, through envisioned effective police. The index takes into account who – whether the state narrowly serves ruling elites, such as the security services, presidential employees, central bank, or diplomatic service, while failing to provide similar services. Levels of service for the general public – such as rural residents versus urban residents, the index also takes into account the level of public infrastructure and its maintenance to the extent that its absence may adversely affect the actual or potential development of the country.

C – Human rights and state sovereignty:

The Human Rights and Rule of Law Index takes into account the relationship between the state and its population to the extent that basic human rights are protected and freedoms are respected and respected. This indicator examines whether there has been widespread violation of legal, political and social rights, including those of individuals, groups, and institutions (such as harassment of the press, politicization of the judiciary, internal use of the army for political purposes, and repression of political opponents). The index also takes into account instances of outbreaks of policy-inspired violence (as opposed to criminal violence) perpetrated against civilians. It also examines factors such as the denial of legal procedures consistent with international norms and practices for political prisoners or opponents, and whether there is a current or emerging authoritarian, dictatorial or military rule in which constitutional and democratic institutions and processes are suspended or tampered with.

Third, social indicators:

A- Demographic pressures:

The demographic pressures index takes into account the pressures the country is exposed to from the population itself or the surrounding environment. For example, the index measures population pressures related to food supplies, access to safe drinking water, and other resources that maintain life or health, such as the spread of diseases and epidemics. The index takes into account demographic characteristics, such as pressures resulting from high population growth rates or skewed demographic distributions, such as “youth bulge or age”, or sharply disparate population growth rates between competing community groups, while recognizing that these effects can have an impact. Deeply sociable. Beyond the population, the index also takes into account the stresses caused by natural disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes, floods or droughts) and the pressures that residents are exposed to from environmental hazards.

B- Refugees and internally displaced persons:

The Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons Index measures the pressure on states resulting from the forced displacement of large communities as a result of social, political, environmental or other reasons, and it measures displacement within countries, as well as refugee flows to others. The index measures refugees by country of asylum, recognizing that population flows can place additional pressure on public services, and can sometimes create broader humanitarian and security challenges for the receiving state, if that country does not have the capacity to absorb and sufficient resources. The index also measures internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees by country of origin, indicating internal state pressures as a result of violence, the environment, or other factors such as health epidemics.

C – External intervention:

The External Intervention Index takes into account the influence and influence of external entities on the country’s performance, especially security and the economy. On the one hand, external interference focuses on the security aspects of participation by external actors, whether covert or overt, in the internal affairs of the state at risk by governments, armies, intelligence services, ethnic groups, or other entities that may affect the balance of power (or conflict resolution) within Country. On the other hand, external intervention also focuses on economic participation by external actors, including multilateral organizations, through large-scale loans, development projects, or foreign aid, such as ongoing budget support, control of finances, or management of the state’s economic policy. , Creating an economic dependency. External intervention also takes into account humanitarian intervention, such as the deployment of an international peacekeeping mission.

Sources and references:

Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-Arab, Dar al-Ma’arif, Cairo, Volume 2, without history, p.1456.

Dictionary of Meanings – Lisan Al Arab.

Wael Mahmoud, Failed States Between Concept and Standard, Al-Jaish Magazine, 1/1/2017.

The Civil War, The Syrian Track Magazine, Issue No. 8, September 2017.

What are Fragile States, the National Strategy for the Development of Statistics (NSDS).

Dr. Ali Abu Farha, 1/3/2018 AD, The Fragile State in Africa in the Light of Political Sociology, Afriqiyah Readings Magazine, 8/8/2020 AD.


SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Relations in addition to a Master's degree in International Security Studies. Alongside this, I have a passion for web development. During my studies, I acquired a strong understanding of fundamental political concepts and theories in international relations, security studies, and strategic studies.

Articles: 14402

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *