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engaging fragile states - Woodrow Wilson International Center for ...

cannot either institute a strong autocracy or consolidate democracy. It thus gets

locked into a basically dysfunctional situation. As Goldstone observed, “Quite

frequently, democratic governments are themselves the source of state fragility

when they are ineffective because of paralysis, deadlock or corruption among the

democratic parties or leaders. States from Weimar Germany to Nepal have seen

democracy lead to worse things because the democratic government is unable to

carry out its required functions.”

If a state does not learn how to respond to changes in its environment, its lack

of resiliency paves the way for a sudden and drastic negative turn of events. As

Marshall described, “A cycle of deterioration can result, whereby a state’s conflicts

feed back into further fragility, and they in turn are fed by fragility, in an interlocking

spiral. Fragile states often remain fragile—they cannot manage change

properly. Mismanagement of the situation causes further deterioration…So state

fragility, political instability, and state failure can lead to one another and feed

back into one another.” Carment corroborated the notion of a cumulative, cascading

process. “Tracked over time, many countries’ scores on authority, legitimacy,

and capacity decline more or less in tandem. Except for a handful cases like Sri

Lanka, when one element of fragility weakens, others do, too.”

Total collapse most often occurs with the outbreak of violent conflict, for "that

tends to tear everything else down,” Marshall remarked. Similarly, Carment finds

that total failure occurs most frequently where there are challenges to authority and

capacity structures, such as in Sudan and Iraq. Interestingly, the scenarios leading

to ultimate collapse can emerge in varied contexts. According to Goldstone, five

main pathways lead to ultimate failure:

1 Ethnic conflicts reach the extreme point of genocide, where specific groups

are targeted, such as in Rwanda;

2 Crony or predatory states witness their leaders becoming solely interested

in obtaining economic wealth and security for themselves, such as in the

former Zaire;

3 Ongoing guerrilla rebellions or acts of terrorism disrupt overall order, such as

in Chechnya;

4 Democracies become ineffective due to paralysis, deadlock or corruption

among political parties, such as occurred in Nepal; and

5 Succession crises arise, where struggles for power among contending leaders

produce social instability, such as in Guinea.

Understanding State Failure and Resilience: A Global Scan | 21

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