Revisiting the Discourse on State Failure: Towards a Conflict Resolution Trajectory




Yamin, Saira

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This research is a comparative case study of eight states in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East assessing the impact of external military interventions in response to the perceived threat of state failure in the post Cold War, post 9/11 landscape. The study is guided by the concern that prominent Western literature on state failure and fragility is focused on endogenous sources of state weakness and precludes the importance of the regional and global context. It contributes to the literature by presenting a comprehensive multi-level diagnostic framework to effectively guide viable third party interventions in weak, fragile and failed states. Theoretical inquiry is guided by a small-N approach to explore the context of state fragility and failure in a range of weak, fragile and failed states. Additionally, the research brings to the fore divergent and converging perspectives on the failed states problematique extant in the Global North and the South, integrating them in the proposed theoretical framework. The study notes that predominant Western discourses on state failure associate the problem with an acute perception of threat to Western security particularly from states of strategic concern, frequently supported by reactive and zero-sum responses. It test the hypothesis that in the post Cold War, post 9/11 landscape external military interventions in failed and fragile states are more likely to be driven by the security objectives of key global actors and less by humanitarian and development concerns for vulnerable populations. It claims that external military interventions often exacerbate and prolong the dynamics of state instability, compounding the threat to regional and global security. Research findings suggest that the viability of external military interventions in failed and fragile states will depend on the extent to which they are integrated in an overarching conflict resolution process involving bottom-up multilateral interventions at the levels of the state, civil society, region and the wider global community. Another compelling finding of the research suggests that weak and failing states subjected to the least amount of external intervention are more likely to self-stabilize and embark upon sustainable trajectories of peace. To conclude, the study integrates the findings of the literature review, expert interviews and comparative case studies to make policy recommendations for multilateral collaborative interventions to transform the environment of state fragility and failure.



Failed State, State Fragility, Military Intervention, State Stabilization, Global Security, Conflict Resolution