On Hybrid Political Orders and Emerging States: State Formation in the Context of ‘Fragility’




Boege, Volker
Brown, Anne
Clements, Kevin
Nolan, Anna

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Berghof Foundation


This article examines the rationale and underlying assumptions of the mainstream discourse on fragile states. The authors argue that the conventional perception of so-called fragile states as an obstacle to the maintenance of peace and development can be far too short-sighted, as is its corollary, the promotion of conventional state-building along the lines of the western OECD state model as the best means of sustainable development and peace within all societies. Too often, state fragility research and analysis as well as state-building policies are oriented towards the western-style Weberian/Westphalian state. Yet this form of statehood hardly exists in reality beyond the OECD world. Many of the countries in the ‘rest’ of the world are political entities that do not resemble the model western state. This article proposes that these states should not be considered from the perspective of being ‘not yet properly built’ or having ‘already failed again’. Rather than thinking in terms of fragile or failed states, it might be theoretically and practically more fruitful to think in terms of hybrid political orders. Such a re-conceptualization opens new options for conflict prevention and development, as well as for a new type of state-building. Drawing on the examples of East Timor, Bougainville and Somaliland, the report points out the shortcomings of external state-building, and presents some innovative approaches to state-building.



Fragile states, Fragility, Failed state, East Timor, Bougainville, Somaliland