next Monday' session is about Fragile States and International Relations. To this end I wish you think conceptually about what we might mean by the phrase 'Fragile state' - what features constitute 'fragility'?

And moreover, we might have a mull on how one might explain the process of becoming fragile - what a theory of 'becoming a fragile state' could look like - its dynamics! (remember what I said last Monday (when discussing explanations of coups) about multivariate regression anlysis!

a) Which - interacting - variables count?

b) What is the (process of) the sequence of variables  (e.g. when A&B are present in the first place (T1),  then C occurs at T2)


c) How much (degree of influence/causation of A & B upon C etc) in relation to each other? (e.g. when A & B are co-present, have key but recognise their different complementary competences,  and do not continue to act as  rivals... then C.  (e.g. electoral success).
Think of how the Tony Blair/Gordon Brown relationship back in 1995 looked and broadly was at the time...)

Attached are three items:

1) First read the Clapham item to get a grip on the conceptual issues of what is a 'fragile state'

2) The ISS paper which addresses the fragility of borders - and you may wish to look at my lecture notes on borders (as a rather crude outline of the issues tracing matters back to the Berlin Conference of 1884-5.)

And then:

3) Harbeson volume - all papers in here are relevant and good. BUT... the key chapters are:

Ch 1 Intimations of an African Renaissance: Recent Progress, Long-Term Challenges  p.3

Ch 5 Promising Democratization Trajectories in Africa’s Weak States  p.109

Ch 8 The Privatization of Africa’s International Relations p.190

Ch 14 Reconciling Sovereignty with Responsibility: A Basis for International Humanitarian Action, p.345

Fragility of States in the context of IR





Internal 'positive' conceptions ofthe state, robustness and fragility.



What is the 'state'?



Can we divorce States from the activity of politics?



Is 'state' entail an idea of stability  or is it a space of politics which in its nature is competitive, dynamic, involving struggles for power and the distribution of power?


Thus politics will always disrupt anymore settled idea of what a state should be?


And then, there is a relation between Government and the State -



Is the state simply a succession of governments?..with an underlying broad constitutional framework allowing for some measure of accountability?



How might this idea affect relations with other states and the AU or he UN?

And where there has been state collapse?



"Buzan, as the 'idea of the state'. States in this sense must be 'constructed' in the minds of at least some of those who form them, including minimally those who run them. This construction is in particular required in order to provide the state with legitimacy, or in

other words, with a basis in morality rather than merely force.


It most significantly involves an attempt to find some answer to two questions: the first is why the state should exist in the form that it does = territorial legitimacy; the second is why the group of people who rule it should have any right to act on behalf of those who are merely its subjects or citizens =  as governmental legitimacy."


"Northedge  as 'a territorial association of people recognized for purposes of law and

diplomacy as a legally equal member of the system of states/5 Though a state may be able to control its territory, and even to achieve the loyalty of its population, it none the less needs this recognition in order to participate in the international transactions"


"The weaker the state, in terms of its size and capabilities, its level of physical control over its

people and territory, and its ability or inability to embody an idea of the state shared by its people, the greater the extent to which it will need to call on external recognition and support."


But if the latter and perhaps the worse the form of government/leadership, what is the bargaining power of such a state like? Weakness of leadership in the eyes of the world (shame) suggests that any support will be offered on terms with which the supplicant state cannot argue..and even in a world of competition to be seen as sponsors, there are some states who almost beyond the pale..but are desperate so will accept terms (if only to let the leadership survive)...and any support state would act similarly (i.e. would not offer a discount on terms.)



Fragile state as a mere titular power structure whose grip on power and thereby effective governing is negligible.


And then fragmentation via ethnic or other cleavage (Africa and the UK (now))



And with the latter, is not the purposes of flags, anthems, symbols of legitimate structured hierarchy connecting the top to the bottom essential to managing cleavages and bringing the nation together...along with ideology (Nkrumah/Nyerere?)


State legitimacy is measured by the public faith in the regime and not some rational-legal sense?










What are the various senses of 'Fragility' of states.


Perhaps simply because of the history, it has been easy to capture the measure of it as essentially the likelihood of democracy being over-turned by say, a coup, an armed intervention of some other type or one-party state/patrimonial or simply personalist leadership


but perhaps it should go wider than this


a) because fragility is more than a disruption to democracy




b) because it is not simply to be understood within the terms of the performance of 'this' state alone but as a characterisation attached to this or that state by other states and agencies - that is to say, as a construction AND as an identification/recognition of  fragility.



International politics affects these states and people in ways that often differ appreciably from the ways in which it affects the people and governments of more powerful states. In particular, even though states are central to the understanding of international relations in the

'Third World' as elsewhere, states themselves are often very different kinds of organisation from those that the conventional study of international relations tends to take for granted. Their interactions, both with their own populations and with other parts of the international system, correspondingly differ as well.... A view of international politics from the bottom up may therefore help, not only to illuminate the impact of the global system on those who are least able to resist it, (Clapham, p.3)




how these states managed to survive - for a period of some thirty-five years, in most cases, after formal independence - within a global order dominated by states which were evidently vastly more powerful than they (ibid. p.4)


So Fragility is to be diacritically determined by its relation to the measures the african states took to survive in the circumstances. But Clapham invtes us to distinguish between States and Leaders as to the agencies who increased or decreased survivability in a hostile world.


As such fragility dos not necessarily entail failure when viewed in IR context, but rather fragility is an incentive to  resist failing.


And there may be a reason for this: state survival is leadership survival


"In the great majority of cases, rulers seek to assure their personal survival by seeking the survival and indeed strengthening of their states. They can on the whole best protect their own security by preserving and enhancing the power of the states...." (op. cit. p.4)


But this may lead to a conception of the state (by the leaders) that is one seen as necessarily rooted in control and power with an underlying if not explicit system of security designed to ensure leadership survival. (Clapham's 'shadow state')



But then state failure becomes a simple matter of keeping afloat rather than going anywhere and thereby,


 the classic ideas of state effectiveness and indeed, even for African politics where the goals have been set since the 60s by bearers of foreign aid and later on, structural adjustment programmes


have been seen as a function of modernisation and development and not simply 'any alternative to chaos'.


But at the level of the state itself as a recognisable territory - there is a curious seeming paradox which is that the worse the state of the state, the more it may attract international attention and moreover intervention. (Zimbabwe)


unless is it so difficult to get at (DRC) b UN/journalists etc) that no matter how bad, it goes by the wayside).


Clapham seems to rather interestingly point to fragility in terms of what might be seen as weak sorts of 'foreign relations' - non-state versions of it such as education abroad, refugee crises and so forth..which draw responses from other nations. As such the weak state may gain from its weakness in the form of recognition and support....whilst still being categorised as 'fragile'.




Fragility not just internal with external response but subject to history...


"...the stresses in superpower relations of the 'Second Cold War' of the 1970s, which were particularly marked in their effects on the Third World, the evident economic triumph of the capitalist states in the 1980s (with its knock-on effects on Africa in the form of

structural adjustment programmes), and the collapse of the Soviet Union and its allies after 1989. The overall effect of these changes, both inside and outside Africa, was to make it increasingly difficult for African rulers to use international support as a means of maintaining

both their states and their personal power, in the way that they had been able to do with considerable success during the decade and a half or so after independence." (op cit. p.7)



Statehood and its recognition may be decided by changing attitudes mixed with foreign policy considerations


The case of Rhodesia v Biafra - from no to some recognition though both were identifiable states.





"Quasi-states are states which are recognised as sovereign and independent units by other states within the international system, but which cannot meet the demands of 'empirical' statehood, which requires the capacity to exercise effective power within their own territories, and be able to defend themselves against external attack. Such states have 'negative' or 'juridical' sovereignty, in that sovereignty is ascribed to them by other states, but do not possess the 'positive sovereignty' which derives from effective control." (p.15)


These states tend to attract foreign support, especially  if they are believed to be able to stand on their two feet with a bit of support.





"international support for the independence of weak states was necessary to realise the principle of self-determination - broadly corresponding to territorial legitimacy... welcome to the superpowers, as a mechanism for undermining the previously dominant Western European colonial powers, and bringing into existence a large number of new states over which they could seek to gain influence....


Those who formed the government of an internationally recognised state were able to make alliances with other states, and to use their own domestic statehood as a bargaining counter with which to attract resources, such as weapons or development aid, which could enhance their ability to retain domestic control. They were also in some degree insulated against the danger of attack by their neighbours, and against the possibility that dissident groups within

their own territories might gain international support."


" the case of African states, survival was best assured by a state firmly attaching itself to a great power ally or protector. At other times, the best strategy was to seek a balance - or in recent terminology 'non-alignment' - between the major external forces..."


and Insurgency:


State decay in Africa: as the growth of armed opposition movements against the state, posed a challenge not just to individual states, but to the African international order as a whole.



Guerrilla movements, liberation struggles, or indeed as private armies, terrorists or secessionist bandits = insurgencies.


Two regions of the continent, the Horn and southern Africa, were particularly affected by insurgent warfare, and in each case fostered a mass of competing movements which interacted with the states of the region to exercise a powerful effect on its international relations.


Insurgent warfare in other states, including Chad, Uganda, Rwanda and Zaire in central and eastern Africa, and Liberia and Sierra Leone in West Africa.


A small but significant number of African governments came to power as a result of insurgency; and two states, Liberia and Somalia, were destroyed by insurgent movements which, fragmenting into numerous different factions, were unable to establish any effective regime.


The United States provided some aid to the FNLA in Angola before Portuguese withdrawal, this was due simply to the need to find a counterweight to the Soviet-supported MPLA, rather than to any commitment to liberation in itself.