Failed States: Realities, Risks, and Responses

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In fact, the Administration has been only selectively reluctant to engage. It has worked assiduously to avert wider conflict between India and Pakistan. Elsewhere, as in Somalia and Liberia, the Administration has done relatively little. In Congo and Sierra Leone, the Administration has perhaps wisely ceded the diplomatic initiative to regional states and to the UN but should offer more robust and timely support to their mediation and peacekeeping efforts. Yet, nation-building is a requirement about which the Bush Administration remains ambivalent.

Yet, along with other donors we will have to increase our assistance to Afghanistan and sustain it over the long term. Equally important is the need to bring greater security to the country. In each case, however, important nation-building tasks remain undone ranging from reintegration and re-training of ex-combatants to institution-building. Counter-Terrorism Assistance: The Administration seemingly has few plans to provide much counter-terrorism assistance to failing countries, where, arguably, it is most needed.


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Colombia is among them, as a recipient of the generous Plan Colombia program as well as of greater military assistance. Afghanistan also now receives significant security support from the United States. In Africa, the Bush Administration has stated its eventual intent to provide a few selected countries, such as Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia, with increased counter-terrorism assistance.

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To address credibly and effectively the threats to U. Many traditional development tools require adaptation, and specific attention needs to be paid to limiting the potential for failed states to serve as havens for, or resource-suppliers to, terrorist organizations. The specific programs crafted should take account of the particular circumstances of the recipient country, and some countries will merit more resources than others.

THE IDEOLOGY OF “FAILED STATES”. Susan L. Woodward at the EUSP

Nevertheless, there are common, initial elements of an invigorated U. Improve Intelligence Collection: First, the United States must understand better the specific risks inherent in each failing state. In this regard, we are severely under-resourced. In Africa, for instance, intelligence collection has steadily diminished since the end of the Cold War.

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The loss is particularly severe in the realm of human intelligence following the closure of a number of CIA stations. While collection increased somewhat after the U. Embassy bombings in and, again, presumably, after September 11, , there is little evidence of sustained efforts to improve collection and analysis in most parts of Africa.

As the Administration obtains additional funding for intelligence activities in the context of the war on terrorism, it should direct the Intelligence Community to elevate the importance of, and resources dedicated to, collection and analysis in Africa and in other areas prone to state failure. Collection ought to focus particularly on transnational security threats, such as terrorism, smuggling of precious minerals, proliferation both conventional and WMD , crime, narcotics flows and disease.

Take Risks for Peace: To deal seriously with failed and failing states, the Administration must overcome its reluctance to prevent conflicts and attempt to broker peace, even where peace is elusive. There are no guarantees of success in conflict resolution, but there is also little face to be lost in failing, where credible effort has been exerted. On the contrary, where a threat is identified, as in the case of failing states in the NSS, and little effort is made to address it, there is far more ground for faulting the policy and its makers.


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The Administration should engage early and aggressively across the board when conflict is imminent or persistent—from the Middle East to South Asia to Africa. The United States should continue its active efforts to defuse tensions between India and Pakistan and to resolve the conflicts in Colombia and Sudan. However, it should also resume urgently energetic involvement in the conflict in Burundi, which, lapsed after the Clinton Administration left office. There, the regionally-led peace effort is faltering while the security situation is deteriorating due in part to the return of armed rebels in the wake of Rwandan withdrawal from Congo.

The risk of massive killing is increasing, and the United States risks facing the consequences of its recent diplomatic neglect.

At the same time, the United States should provide substantial logistical and financial support to buttress the UN peacekeeping mission as well as disarmament and demobilization requirements in the Congo. Finally, the complex and difficult situation in Somalia now merits increased attention from Washington.

The U. If the agreement holds, the U. At the same time, the United States could employ targeted economic incentives to help secure more stable parts of Somalia, like Somaliland, with the aim of making them off-limits for terrorist and criminal organizations. Help Failed States Regenerate: Where tenuous peace agreements offer the potential to revive weak or failing states, the United States, working with others in the international community, should be prepared to make sustained and large-scale commitments to post-conflict reconstruction, including nation-building.

Despite negative perceptions of nation-building, there are several cases where strong U. Effective nation-building requires substantial investments in: disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and resettlement of ex-combatants; skills training and food for work programs; and, building transparent, accountable government institutions, particularly in law enforcement, the judiciary, the legislature and economic ministries. Without sustained U. However costly and long-term, these investments are essential to securing fragile peace.

Such funds would require an additional appropriation in the Foreign Operations Account separate from the proposed Millenium Challenge Account. Nevertheless, the successful rehabilitation of these failed states would pay considerable security dividends to the United States. At the same time, the United States would likely reap longer term economic benefits in the form of reduced humanitarian assistance and significantly increased trade and investment opportunities, especially in oil-producing Angola, Congo and Sudan.

Provide Aid, Trade and Debt Relief: Current development strategies leave little place for significant, non-humanitarian expenditures in failing states, much less in those that have already gone into the abyss.

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There are occasional exceptions in high-profile cases where the U. While the bulk of U. The resources for such programs should not be sought within the MCA but rather in the form of debt relief for countries emerging from conflict and enhanced country programs with flexible programming authorities, such as the Economic Support Fund ESF. Limited and well-targeted assistance could be usefully employed in parts of failed states, but rarely is. Helping to establish zones of relative security and economic opportunity within these states would make such areas less attractive to potential smugglers, criminals or terrorists.

Even as conflicts continue, the United States could invest such funds in micro-enterprise, education, sanitation and health projects in the more stable parts of Somalia and Congo; it could also increase assistance in parts of rebel-held Sudan. In these and many other relative no-go zones, U. The benefits of such interventions for the local populations are clear. However, given the transnational nature of health threats and the toll they take on development, scaling up such programs in conflict zones would also benefit neighboring countries.

In post-conflict states, the same pool of U. This has been the U. It should likewise be a priority in countries, where conditions are relatively favorable, as in Angola and Sierra Leone. Trade benefits should also be utilized to aid the rehabilitation of failing states. The United States has opened its markets to 36 African countries under AGOA, but the eligibility criteria clearly are intended to reward satisfactory political and economic performers.

Excluding failing states was logical, given the objectives of AGOA, but consideration should now be given to new ways to spur trade and investment in failing states as one of several means to assist in their long-term recovery. Subsequent legislation could afford at least partial or temporary market access to several failing states. Congo, Burundi, Angola, Sierra Leone, and parts of Somalia could benefit from increased access for certain agricultural products and value-added, light manufactured goods to the U.

Special trade provisions should also be implemented for other weak states in which we have a substantial security stake, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Colombia, with the aim of improving stability through accelerated growth and development. This makes good sense. All agreed that the new states needed economic assistance, and the U. But fundamental to the notion of decolonization was the idea that peoples could best govern themselves when free from the shackles, or even the influences, of foreigners.

New states might be poor, it was thought, but they would hold their own by virtue of being independent. While it lasted, the Cold War prolonged the viability of some of the newly independent and other Third World states. Countries with seriously underdeveloped economies and governments received hefty infusions of aid from their former colonial masters as well as from the two superpowers. The systemic corruption that characterized many of the new states did not stop the superpowers from sending foreign aid as they sought to buttress a potential ally in the Cold War.

Granted, most of the foreign aid recipients were not wholly dependent on it.

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Many — most countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, for example — have become thriving independent states. But clearly foreign aid was critical in sustaining a number of states, based on their real or imagined strategic significance in the Cold War. Over time, however, the hurdles faced by some young countries have proven overwhelming, and the assistance cuts that began in the late s brought home the full weight of their shortcomings. In states like Somalia, Sudan, and Zaire, discredited regimes are being challenged by powerful insurgencies.

The resulting civil strife is disrupting essential governmental services, destroying food supplies and distribution networks, and bringing economies to a virtual standstill; corrupt and criminal public officials only exacerbate the human misery. In Somalia and Sudan, natural disasters have compounded the suffering, killing large portions of the populations and forcing many others to migrate to already overcrowded urban areas or to refugee centers abroad. Of course, most states that have suffered economic hardships have not faced governmental collapse.

Most governments have been able to muddle through, although they have been heavily burdened by a stagnant standard of living. Third World countries are not the only ones that could fail. The disintegration of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia over the last two and a half years has created almost 20 new states, most of which have no tradition of statehood or practice in self-government. One hopes that most will succeed, but lack of experience in government, weak civic institutions, limited economic prospects, and ethnic strife will inevitably reduce some to helplessness — a condition in which Bosnia, with its civil war, now finds itself.

It is impossible to be certain that the political boundaries created under colonialism will, in the end, prove sustainable. Thus, there are three groups of states whose survival is threatened: First, there are the failed states like Bosnia, Cambodia, Liberia, and Somalia, a small group whose governmental structures have been overwhelmed by circumstances.

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Second, there are the failing states like Ethiopia, Georgia, and Zaire, where collapse is not imminent but could occur within several years. And third, there are some newly independent states in the territories formerly known as Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, whose viability is difficult to assess. All three groups merit close attention, and all three will require innovative policies.

For some non-self-governing territories, the U. Charter — and the Covenant of the League of Nations before it — created a system of trusteeship under which member states or even the international organization itself was charged with promoting the political, economic, social, cultural, and educational well-being of the inhabitants.

The Charter regarded the obligation to advance those interests as a "sacred trust. Plans for other U. The Council for Namibia did, however, help lay the groundwork for the Western members of the Security Council to draft an independence plan, which was finally implemented in The Western Sahara may constitute another example of the U.

For independent states, the world community has employed conventional remedies to promote the political and economic development of people in distress. The United States undertook not only to restore the economies of its defeated enemies, but to reorganize the Italian, Japanese, and West German political systems along democratic lines. The result was the restoration of states that have proven to be economically productive, politically stable, and strongly supportive of a peaceful international system.