Out of fragility – When, How and Why Fragile States Recover

This project is part of the CIPS Fragile States Research Network

Maral Kichian & Christoph Züercher

Fragile states are surprisingly prevalent. Depending on how one counts, up to one third of all countries are seen as fragile.

Fragile states create many “public bads”, and three stand out: First, fragile states often suffer from violence within their territories. This creates great harm to the population and results in refugee movements, mass migration and causalities. Second, fragile states lack the capacity to provide vital state functions to their own populations, such as providing basic security and basic services. They also have weak institutions and cannot uphold the rule of law. Third, fragile states pose a threat to international security: Violence may spill over to neighboring territories and destabilize a whole region; fragile states can become a hub for clandestine, illegal economic activities.

So how do fragile states find a way out of fragility, and what role, if any, do external actors play? While we have learned a lot about how states become fragile, we know very little about how the relatively rare cases when states find a way out of fragility.

The objectives of the project are threefold: (1) To significantly enhance our understanding of the processes which enable fragile states to recover and to move out of fragility; (2) To highlight the conditions under which external actors (such as other governments, multi-lateral organizations, aid donors etc.) can support these processes; (3) As a necessary requirement, to develop a novel, data-driven method for identifying all episodes when states have successfully (re-)built their state capacities.

We will employ a multi-method approach, consisting of structured qualitative comparative case studies and of data-driven statistical investigations in order to identify all episodes of short-time or sustainable state recovery and to identify factors and processes which made that possible.