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Fragile States: A Challenge for Development Policy


Workers constructing a house. Copyright: BMZFragile states, in which the prin­ciples of good gover­nance are not being prac­tised, pose a risk to regio­nal and glo­bal secu­rity and under­mine inter­na­tional efforts to attain the Mil­len­nium Develop­ment Goals. Yet despite their bad gover­nance, the inter­natio­nal commu­nity must not ex­clude these coun­tries from all forms of co­ope­ra­tion but must work sensi­ti­vely to improve the situa­tion. Develop­ment policy plays a key role in this con­text. The major challenge arising in political dialogue and in designing cooperation programmes, however, is finding ways to enable development measures to take place in the country with­out legitimising or reinforcing bad governance.

Indicators of fragile statehood

There is no standard international definition of fragile statehood. Fragile states are those in which state institutions are very weak or at risk of collapse, and whose populations suffer from wide­spread poverty, violence and arbitrary rule. Women, children and ethnic or religious minorities are especially affected. A state's fragility may also correlate with a lack of legitimacy.

There are various indices which can be applied to evaluate a country's governance performance. All recipient countries of World Bank loans, for example, are evaluated using the Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA), which assesses the quality of a country's present policy and institutional framework. The CPIA criteria are grouped into four clusters: economic manage­ment, structural policies, policies for social inclusion and equity, and public sector management and institutions. According to the World Bank's definition, all low-income countries which score 3.2 or less on this index are classed as fragile states. This group of countries is also termed "Low-Income Countries Under Stress" (LICUS).

In 2006, 26 countries met the World Bank's criteria for classifi­ca­tion as fragile states, 15 of them in Africa. According to the World Bank, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Comoros, Liberia, Myanmar, Somalia and Zimbabwe face particularly severe difficulties.

If other political, economic and social indicators of bad gover­nance are included in the assessment, more than 50 countries worldwide would have to be classified as fragile. These countries are home to more than 1.2 billion people – almost one-fifth of the world's population.

In the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness adopted in 2005, donor countries pledged to build or reinforce legitimate public institutions in fragile states and to counteract state failure and collapse.

For further information, please see: Good Governance

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