State Fragility

This two-page Concept Brief introduces the concept of state fragility, a term that has been widely used but only fuzzily defined. It was written by DLP Research Fellow Dr Suda Perera, and addresses three main questions:

  • What is state fragility?
  • How is the concept used in international development?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of using the term?

A state that is unable to fulfil its social contract by providing protection and basic services for its citizens can be regarded as 'fragile'. Such states are vulnerable to conflicts, humanitarian crises and environmental shocks. One of the key goals of the development agenda, therefore, is to reduce state fragility and increase state stability or resilience.

Reducing endemic fragility has been framed as vital not only for the security of the 'fragile' state in question but also for global stability. As development has become increasingly securitized, the focus on so-called 'fragile states' has come to dominate the international agenda.

However, a focus on state fragility can divert attention from non-state governance mechanisms, and labelling a state as 'fragile' may have unintended consequences that affect its development.

About DLP

The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) is an international research initiative that explores how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development.

DLP focuses on the crucial role of home-grown leaderships and coalitions in forging legitimate political settlements and institutions that promote developmental outcomes, such as sustainable growth, political stability and inclusive social development.

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